Tag Archives: draft

It begins. Working Title – Chapter 1.

(Text and images by Ana Spoke. All rights reserved).

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CHAPTER 1

I know terrible things. Big, awful secrets that I can’t unknow, no matter how long I lie awake at night, rolling them over in my mind, sweating over the fantasies of going back in time and undoing all the wrongs, even though I would be powerless to change anything. I “what if” and “I wish” and I wipe away angry tears, but they keep on coming. I wish I was someone else. I wonder what would have happened if my father was never conceived. I cry over what could have been. But most of all, I wish I could go back to the last year, to the day I bought that paint set, so that I could set fire to the damn thing.

*

I moved back in with Pa and the cats thinking it was going to be only temporary, until the divorce came through. I didn’t yet know Alex was on the war path, determined to waste every cent of his and my money on proving that I was some evil, manipulative monster responsible not only for the demise of our marriage, but also for his mental health, life goals and his ability to be gainfully employed. I was sure then that things were about to get better, and how could they not, after a decade of living with an abusive drunk.

Pa couldn’t be happier about his little girl moving back home. He never said anything, but I knew he was secretly relieved that Alex was gone and so were my desperate attempts to cure my husband from his many addictions. He was happy to have my company, too – Pa loved his cats, but the conversations with his flock of strays were mostly one-sided. I would often catch him chattering away as he loaded their bowls with canned food, furry tails of all colors rubbing against his legs. They would meow back occasionally, but once their bellies were full they would move on to licking themselves and generally ignoring Pa and the whole world. Ungrateful creatures. Once I told him so.

“Zey are innocent, Rozochka,” he said. “Zey are like children, don’t know any better. And you know I do it for me. I like feeding.”

He did. Pa was a feeder. I blamed him for my thighs when I was young, before I knew about refined sugar and self-restraint. But when I got married and moved out my thighs got even bigger and it wasn’t until the day Alex picked up our wedding photo and said “boy, you really let yourself go, haven’t you?” that I had to admit it was all me. I can’t even blame Alex for the bout of bulimia that followed. I knew what I was doing. It was hard to show that self-restraint, though, when I found myself back in Pa’s loving care, showered with attention and casseroles.

“I can’t eat this much,” I said one day, sitting down to a plate full of carbs and unidentifiable fat. “This is not healthy, Pa. You need to eat more vegetables.”

“Potatoes are vegetable.”

“But not the butter you’ve drowned them in.” I poked around in the mound, trying to find anything that had not been fried.

He smiled at me, a wrinkly grey angel. “But you love butter, Rozochka.”

“I do.” And I did. But I loved him even more.

*

Come to think of it, my entire life I have searched for a man like Pa to take my hand and wrap me in a warm blanket of love, and care, and protection, and all those things that you expect from a relationship. Twice, I thought I found such a man, but each time they morphed into needy, greedy, gross, lazy, addicted, dependent Peter Pans. They morphed into my father.

I don’t know if I ever loved my father. Every now and then, when he came around and was sober enough to talk to me, he tried to tell me stories of how we used to play together when I was little or about all the times he took me fishing. I never could remember us playing, but I do remember at least one fishing trip when he yelled at me because I wouldn’t sit still in the boat. I remember how he forgot to pick me up from school once and I just stood there, cold and alone, until my mother rolled up, tires screeching and tears streaming down her face. I remember her hugging me for a very long time, and how she kept saying sorry over and over. I don’t remember my father apologizing. But then again, I don’t remember much of him at all. Mom didn’t suffer fools for nearly as long as I did – it was over between them by the time I was in the second grade. From then on it was the three musketeers – Pa, Mom and I. We were happy, so I didn’t understand then why she got married again. I understand now, but when she said we were going to move to Perth to live with Richard, I cried hysterically until it was decided that it would be better for everyone if stayed put. I had nothing personal against Richard, he is still a decent man. I just couldn’t leave Pa. So technically, from the age of eleven I was an orphan.

Eventually Mom had two more kids, and so – again, technically – I have two siblings, but not the kind of siblings with whom I can share the life’s burdens. I have a brother and a sister, but they’d never even met my father, so I can’t talk to them about Dad’s drinking. My brother is fourteen years younger than me, so I can’t ask him to scare off my no-good husband. My sister is even younger, and never been married, so she can’t relate to the seven-year itch. I have been visiting them at least once a year, in summer, but they never came to visit me. I never asked, but I got close to when I moved back in with Pa. I needed someone to share Pa’s obsessive attention.

Other than cat-saving and cat-feeding, some gardening and an occasional trip to the hardware store, Pa didn’t have any other interests. He’d kept mostly to himself his whole life and now there were no buddies to play bridge or whatever else the oldies do when they get together. He never travelled, would not go to restaurants or even movies because everything outside his four walls cost too much. Which I imagine it would if you had close to a dozen dependents at any given time. I never thought about how he’d managed while I was married and preoccupied, he certainly never complained about being lonely. Or anything at all. I only realized that he must’ve been once I was back – every day when I came home from work, he was on the front porch, in one of the rocking chairs, waiting for me.

“You must be tired, Rozochka,” he would say. “I made dinner for you.”

He did. He made dinner for me every single day. But he didn’t stop there. He was never a good sleeper, so he was usually up with the birds, waiting for my alarm to blare, so that he could come to my room and give me my coffee.

“Pa, you don’t have to. Really.”

He would just smile at me and shuffle off back to the kitchen, where I knew he was already making my lunch.

“I put something nice in for you, pet.”

Every day there was something nice. At first it was candy, then after I told him I don’t eat sugar, he started making fruit salad from scratch. Sometimes he’d put in a note, in summer it would be a flower from the garden. Once he put in a book because he thought I might want to read on my break. I should have been happy, and I was, but it was too much. I could never reciprocate enough, not that he expected me to. He never expected anything, but he followed me around like a shadow.

“You want to watch movie, Rozochka?”

“Cup of tea, Rozochka?”

“Rozochka?”

“Rozochka?”

I should have watched more movies with him. I should have hugged him more often, longer, closer. I should have said “thank you.” Instead, I bought him a paint set.

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Look what the cat dragged in

Ok, look what I found lurking in the dark corner of my harddrive – a first chapter of a dating chicklit book I never finished. Ok, never wrote – all I have is a couple of chapters. Who wants to read another dating book, anyway?

This is not a true story. Ok, it is loosely based on some of the terrible experiences I’ve had dating a few years back. Thankfully it’s all behind me now, so I can just laugh at it…hope you do too.

Prince Charming

“How could she do this…this…to me?” Matt slurred. The late hour and an unknown number of long island ice teas were taking their toll. “She was everything to me!”

“I am sure it was for the best,” I said once again.

Matt looked at me for a moment. I thought he was about to disagree, but instead he just hiccupped.

“Eek!”

Great. As if the night could not get any worse.

“Well,” I said, “I really, really do need to go now. It was very nice…”

“All I ever wanted was to love her…eek…to come home to her…eek..to…to…aaahh!”

With that, Matt dissolved into a stream of hiccups and sobs. It was hard to imagine that this caricature was a well groomed businessman just a few hours ago. He slumped over the table, knocking over an empty glass and the check tray that has been quite suggestively brought by the waiter about half an hour ago. It was time to go.

“C’mon Matt, let’s get you a taxi, you’ve got to get some sleep,” I tried to pull him up by the elbow, but succeeded only in dragging him down to the floor.

He kneeled in a heap next to his chair, still sobbing. I bent down to try one more time to pick him up, when he suddenly threw up all over my shoes. Brand new, soft as butter, suede boots that I wore for the first time. I felt fury and nausea all at the same time. It was late on a school night, my date and my shoes were ruined, and I obviously had to pay the tab for both of us. I was done playing either the nice girl or the psychologist.

I marched over to the bar, where an icy cold waiter was cleaning up for the night.

“Excuse me” I said with forced calm, “could you please call two taxis, for me and my friend here?”

Ice Man gave me his most demeaning, sub-zero look as if to say “I am not here to clean up your mess, hun”. Then he looked over at where Matt was still worshipping his chair and must have realized that getting us both out of the joint was in his best interest.

“With pleasure” he said through clenched teeth, picked up the phone and punched in a number with a little too much force. I smiled my fakest smile and walked back to the table. Behind me, I could hear Ice Man trying to convince someone on the other end to deliver two cars to “Laika” as a special favour to him.

Matt was doing a little better. While I was gone, he managed to get himself back to the seat and was wiping his face and hands with the edge of the tablecloth. Oh well, at least the night was about to be over. My whole body ached from the sheer effort of the last hour. I could not wait to go home, take a long hot shower, climb into bed, and forget, forget this night all together.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, wondering why I still bothered.

“Much better, thanks” he sounded a little sobered up, and quite a bit ashamed. “Thank you for listening to me…you are very sweet”. He was looking down at the ruined tablecloth.

“Glad to help.” Instead of telling him that I was actually boiling with rage, I picked up the check from the floor, pulled a couple of bills from my purse, and put them under an empty glass.

“You really are…I mean it…” he looked up at me with his wet puppy eyes. Thankfully, Ice Man was suddenly beside us. Apparently, someone did owe him a favor, because two taxis were already outside, in less time that it would have taken the cops to respond. Very impressive.

“Thank you,” I said, realizing that it was the first truthful statement of the night.

“My pleasure,” Ice Man said, while grimacing to indicate otherwise.

Matt managed to get up on his own and put his arm around my shoulders. The torture was not yet over – apparently he expected me to drag him out into the street. It did not bother me as much as it should have, probably because our every step brought me closer to the shower. Outside, I gratefully sucked in a full breath of fresh air. After five hours in a smoky bar with an emotionally unstable drunk man, the sudden surge of oxygen made me lightheaded.

It must have had a similar effect on Matt. He slowly turned and brought his face close to mine, as if he suddenly saw me for the first time.

“You are a sweet girl,” he slurred again. The stench of vomit made me gag.

“Yeah, that’s just great…” Thankfully, the driver of the first cab came around and opened the door for us. I staggered two more steps, pushing Matt closer to the cab.

“Sweet…so sweet,” he kept muttering.

“Well, good night then,” I said.

Mentally I was already home, so it took me by surprise that instead of peacefully sinking into the back seat, Matt lunged at me. He grasped my head with both hands and attempted to swallow half of my face in presumably a goodnight kiss. I tried to scream in horror and protest, but he mistook my muffled squeals for groans of passion and thrust his tongue so far into my mouth, that for a moment I thought I was going to choke. Finally, I was able to shove him away and he hit the side of a cab.

“I love you, Nasty,” he seemed unfazed. “You are the best thing that ever happened to me”. He tried to reach for me, but lost his balance and fell back against the cab.

“It’s Nastia! Anastasia, you drunken idiot!” I screamed, finally losing it and shaking all over with anger and humiliation. “You are the worst date I’ve ever had!” I shoved him, hard, turned around and stormed to my cab.

“Carlisle and Burke, please” I said to my driver.

“Don’t you want me to follow your boyfriend?” the driver said, laughing. He must have witnessed the whole catastrophe.

“He is not my boyfriend!” I screamed. “Just drive, or I swear to God, I will lose it up in here so bad, they will never find your body!”

“Whatever, I am just trying to help,” the cabby looked offended, but drove off. Good. I was done being nice for the night.

I fell back against the filthy cushions and closed my eyes. My head was pounding and the only thought still running through it was, “How did I get myself into this mess?”

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