I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction since I was a dorky preteen watching Sailor Moon and writing feverish fanfic. I studied creative writing at San Jose State University, and obtained a Master’s Degree at the University of Leeds, where my body of work focused primarily on scripts for film and television.
A small sample of personal stories.
Below is a collection of my fiction work. This list will be updated in future as I find more of my older stories. Since my career had to shift to non-fiction and writing scripts for games, these pieces are a little on the older side. For my portfolio of gaming news and other non-fiction editorial pieces, please head to my public portfolio.
Table of Contents
Games I Worked On (A list)
Please keep in mind that the stories below were adaptations from a pre-existing story, or that I added/created scenes and content for adaptations that already existed. I cannot take sole credit for the entire creative process.
“Play My Heart”
A user-generated story about a young actress who unexpectedly lands a lead role in a blockbuster film opposite a hunky Hollywood celeb. My role in developing this script was rewriting several blocks of dialogue and adding more dynamic scenes.
On The Skin
EXT.DAYLIGHT – A QUIET SUBURBAN STREET
KEVIN and AMY, both around 17, are walking down the same street, but are not filmed together while doing so. Every line of dialogue switches shots from one speaker to the other. You only ever see the respective three quarters of each person’s face. Shots should not be full frontal, but can be full profile as needed. Regardless, when each character speaks, it should be clear to the viewer that they are quite besotted with whom they’re speaking to. KEVIN has a loud, carrying voice, whereas AMY’S is quieter, softer.
Think you’ll be free Friday night?
Yeah, I should be. Why, did you get tickets?
Yeah, Ryan and his girlfriend had to sell theirs. Apparently someone slashed his tires, so he needs the money to replace them. Mom always gives me money whenever I want, so I bought them no problem.
That’s awful. His loss though. I’ll talk to my mom later and ask if I can go. You can pick me up, right?
Of course. Concert should end by ten, but uh…let’s tell your mom that it ends at eleven. Or twelve if you really want.
AMY giggles, displaying all the usual trappings of a besotted high school girl.
Of course. We can tell her it goes on all night if you want to.
CUT TO INT of the DRUMMOND house. MR. and MRS. DRUMMOND sit in their living room, pictures of Amy in the background. They’re a typical middle-aged couple, not particularly remarkable, but seem somewhat nervous in their movements and speech.
Amy was always a good girl. Very well-behaved…we learned pretty early on that it was best to just let her keep to herself.
Oh yes, she is very smart. A little shy, yes, a little uh…nervous, I guess, especially with boys, but that’s pretty normal.
Cut to EXT Daytime. AMY sits alone on a park bench, her phone in her hand. There’s a shot of KEVIN set as the background. She smiles at it, before she starts typing out a text message.
MRS. DRUMMOND (V/O)
When she first started dating Kevin, we were a little worried, of course. She’s our only child, so right away, you get a little nervous about her hanging around boys.
MR. DRUMMOND (V/O)
But I guess it helped her feel better about herself. She was always kind of down on herself because all of her girlfriends were dating and I think she felt a little left out. She’s still kind of moody, kind of secretive about the whole thing…but I suppose that’s just what girls that age are like.
AMY now sits alone on the bench, as if being interviewed. She keeps her phone in her hands, checking it periodically, as if waiting for a response. She wears a silver heart-shaped locket around her neck.
Kevin’s such a cool guy…I never thought he’d want someone like me. He’s smart, he’s on like, every sports team in the school, a lot of girls really like him But I was the one he wanted. Makes me feel kind of special, you know? I guess part of it was because we lived down the street from each other for so long, but whatever it was, I’m happy with how it turned out. We walk home from school together every day.
She reaches for the locket and opens it up. Inside, there is a picture of Kevin on one side, and a picture of her on the other. She looks at it fondly.
Kevin bought me this when we first started going out. I don’t wear it to school or anything, I’m always terrified that I’m going to lose it. So I wear it when I’m around the house, or when we’re not together. It’s like having a little piece of him to carry around with me wherever I go. I love him so much…and I know he loves me too.
Cut to INT shot of a different living room, where MR. LATCHERIE and MRS. LATCHERIE sit on their couch. In comparison to the DRUMMONDS, they’re fit, young, healthy-looking, exuding confidence and charisma. Their living room is decorated with pictures that are just out of focus, featuring Kevin primarily, and the walls are full of trophies and medals.
We always knew Kevin was gonna be a winner. He’s always been one of those kids that just succeeds at everything he does.
That’s right. But he’s also smart, and every day, we thank God for that. He’s such a go-getter! We’re really proud of him.
Yeah, we are. And I mean, we always knew he’d be popular with girls, and he’s had his fair share of girlfriends since he was, what, thirteen?
Oh yeah, I remember the first girl he brought home, even though Kevin always seemed to have a new one every other week. She lived up the street, and it didn’t last very long, you know, young kids and relationships. But he always brought them home to meet us, and with this last one, well, we knew he’d found someone special. Talks to her all the time, talks about her all the time. They’ve been together for a while now, almost a year if I remember right.
Oh yeah, I think so. Says a lot about her, but I can see why. She’s a good girl. Real smart, real charming, loves him to death. We like her a lot. Kevin’s always kind of gotten whatever he’s set his mind on
Cut to INT Daytime. KEVIN sits alone in his room on his bed. Like his living room, it’s full of medals and sports paraphernalia. His phone goes off, and he picks it up, smiling as he types out a response.
My girlfriend and I have been dating about eleven months. She was uh…a little hesitant about going out with me when I first asked her, but I guess I won her over.
Cut to shot of him on the phone, talking happily, in a relaxed pose. It’s clear his girlfriend is on the other line.
KEVIN (on phone)
Yeah, they said it’s fine….no I’m on my regular phone, my Bluetooth is charging….I know, he told me I could borrow the car as long as I kept it clean….(laughs) yeah, they don’t even pretend to ignore what I get up to…..I know baby, I miss you too….yeah, I’ll see you at school…
Cut to shot of KEVIN on his bed, texting on his phone.
I’ve known her for a while… she was dating someone else when I first got to know her, so when they broke up, I knew I had to jump in on that, you know? But I always knew I wanted her. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, and we have the same taste in music and movies, and we can talk about anything. She’s awesome. I bought her a locket when we first started going out, but it got stolen, or I lost it…can’t remember, but it was the first time I’ve ever bought jewelry for a girl.
CUT TO: EXT – DAYTIME. Same quiet suburban street. AMY and KEVIN are walking and conversing in similar fashion as before. Same shot rules apply – we never see the right side of Kevin’s face, and once again, the two of them are never featured together in the same shot.
Your parents said it was okay for you to come Friday, right?
Yeah, they’re cool with it. Dad took some convincing, but since it’s you, he said it’s okay
Good, I got everything set. It’s just you and me, right? No one else you know is going to this concert?
No, just us. Just you and me.
Nah, I wanted to invite them, but Greg’s got some family thing, and it’d be weird inviting Lily without him. Should be fun just the two of us though, right?
Oh yeah, definitely.
CUT TO shot of the DRUMMONDS in their living room. They’re looking increasingly more nervous and unsure of themselves
Amy has always been…well, like I said, she’s a good girl, but she tends to get a little obsessive, I suppose. We usually just find it’s better to leave her be.
That’s why we weren’t really surprised about how much attention she was giving Kevin. But it’s a little odd that she’s never invited him over
Well, I asked her about that…uh…she seemed really defensive about it. She hasn’t really given us a reason why she hasn’t brought him around yet. When she gets angry, she’ll go into her room and slam the door. We usually just let her cool off.
CUT TO the LATCHERIE’S living room. MR. and MRS. LATCHERIE are still sitting on their couch, looking pleased and proud. in stark contrast to the worrisome expressions of the DRUMMONDS.
Yeah Kevin brings Elizabeth home all the time, at least once a week. And her parents are wonderful people. We’ve had them over a few times, they’ve had us over once or twice. It’s nice to see a girl like her with our boy.
CUT TO shot of KEVIN’S phone. There’s a picture of him and another girl in the background, their arms around each other. He’s walking down the street, looking at his phone. Once again, shots of the two alternate with the speaker.
I can’t wait for this concert…
I know, it’s gonna be awesome.
Oh, before I forget, Lily’s parents are going out of town next weekend and she’s throwing a huge party. Her house is awesome, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it. Wanna go?
AMY (Louder than usual)
Of course I do!
Kevin turns around, and for the first time, we see the Bluetooth on his right ear, and that AMY is actually walking several feet behind him.
KEVIN (to AMY)
I’m sorry, were you talking to me?
AMY shakes her head a little excessively.
No…no, I was uh…just on the phone with someone.
(Looking a little confused) Oh…okay. (He turns back around, touching the bluetooth.) Sorry, there’s a girl behind me that I thought was talking to me. Anyway, you wanna go to Lily’s party next week?
AMY follows him, looking despondent. In her hand, we see a silver chain, hanging from her clenched fist.
MRS. DRUMMOND (V/O)
I worry a lot about her sometimes though. She’s been really secretive and she won’t answer too many questions about Kevin.
CUT TO INT AMY’S room. The wall is plastered with pictures of Kevin. We can see that several of them are cut, as if someone has cut them out of books, newspaper clippings, or other photos. There’s a picture similar to the shot of Kevin and the other girl that Kevin has on his cell phone on the wall, but the other girl is cut away. AMY stands in her room, looking over all of the pictures, the locket still dangling in her hand. On her desk, there sits a single concert ticket, for that Friday at 7pm
Kevin doesn’t seem to understand how much I love him. I don’t think he realizes how hard I try to make him happy. But it’s okay. If you love someone enough, they’ll fall in love with you eventually. That’s what I believe.
AMY sits on her desk, and brings out a knife from her dresser. She lifts up her sleeve, and we see scars criss-crossing down her arm, all in the shape of a letter ‘K’. She begins to carve a new one, the locket in her hand as the blood snakes down her skin and drips onto it.
Someday, I’ll prove to him how much I love him…and when that happens, he won’t ever want to look at another girl. I’ll make him mine forever. Someday.
The Girl Who Would Be King (Personal Project)
Panel 1: Long shot of a castle. There’s a date in the corner.
Servant (O.S): It’s a boy!
Panel 2: A crying infant. He’s small, and appears to be pretty frail.
Panel 3: The queen, holding the baby. Her expression is both exhausted and worried.
Panel 4: Niles and the King from the mouth down, with the queen and baby in the background.
Panel 5: The King looks towards us
Panel 6: He looks away. His expression is troublesome.
Shasta (VO): It is said that when my older brother, Everest, was born, my father could not look at him for a month.
PANEL 7: The baby stops crying and falls asleep.
Shasta (VO): He was sickly, they said, and small for a child of DeMonte’s royal family, and that was enough to determine that he had no hope of attaining our father’s crown.
Panel 8: Wide shot of the city surrounding the castle. It’s lit up with festive celebrations, marking the birth of a crown prince.
Shasta (VO): The city rejoiced with the traditional feasts, jousts, and follies, for the birth of a prince is always cause for celebration
Panel 9: The king looks out over the celebration through a castle window, his face stern, removed from any trace of joy.
Panel 10: Close up of the king’s face
Shasta (VO): But for my father, the knowledge that passed wordlessly between him and my mother caused him too much grief to leave room for joy.
Panel 11: Some sort of scenery that lets us know time has passed. A change in season.
Panel 12: The queen is now heavily pregnant, watching as 1 year-old Everest walks clumsily to his governess, a tired smile on her face.
Shasta (VO): It is said that my parents’ instincts and Everest’s disposition were what rushed my mother to conceive a second time
Panel 13: Close-up of young Everest. He is still quite small and weedy-looking, but determined.
Panel 14: Close-up of the queen’s tired, but proud face.
Panel 15: Her face suddenly contorts in pain
Panel 16: She doubles over, clutching her stomach and nearby support.
Shasta (VO): That resulted in my birth, not long after my brother’s first birthday.
Panel 17: The queen lies in a bed, with a nursemaid standing beside her, holding a baby in a bundle of blankets
Panel 18: The king is looking into the room, Niles beside him. He is disappointed
Panel 19: The queen is looking back at him through weary eyes. She knows what he is feeling.
Panel 20: Close-up of the baby. Compared to Everest at birth, she is chubby, pink, and healthy
Shasta (VO): But my father wouldn’t look at me either. Like my brother, I was born faulty. He was weak, and I was a woman, which, in the eyes of elders, was the same thing.
Panel 21: The queen’s eyes shift to her newborn, and there is a faint smile on her face.
Panel 22: Shift to view of the queen from behind to focus on the baby
Shasta (VO): My mother loved us as dearly as she could, but her devotion as a wife and her duty as a queen meant that a worthy heir must come, at any cost.
Panel 23: The queen is now heavily pregnant, watching as 2 year-old Everest plays with his now 1-year old sister.
Panel 24: She doubles over, clutching her stomach and nearby support.
Shasta (VO): It is said that my parents conceived a number of times after me
Panel 25: Close-up of her hand. It’s covered in blood.
Panel 26: She collapses to the ground. Servants rush to help her.
Panel 27: Close-up of a tiny coffin in the earth.
Shasta (VO): But the gods no longer favored them with healthy children.
Panel 28: The king and post-natal queen, holding their children, stand before a sapling that is buried with the small coffin at its base.
Panel 29: The tree is soon surrounded by similar plantings.
Shasta (VO): And to my mother, every death was the breaking of the promise she had made to my father.
Panel 30: The king, queen, and now pre-teen children, stand before the group of saplings. The queen is looking frail and wan.
Shasta (VO): It’s the oldest story in the world: a king who longs for a strong son, a promise of security to keep his progeny in the highest seat in the land
Panel 31: Long shot of a castle. There’s a date in the corner, dated 10 years after Everest’s birth, plus some months.
Servant (O.S): They’re boys! Two boys!
Panel 32: Two nearby servants are holding two infants, both bawling and healthy boys.
Shasta (VO): And my mother was no less determined than any queen in any history to fulfill that promise.
Panel 33: The queen is weak, exhausted, but smiling with the knowledge that she had at last succeeded, and at great cost.
Shasta (VO): But the gods were determined that healthy children would come at a price, and my twin brothers, Rainier and Elias, came at the highest price that my mother could pay.
Panel 34: She closes her eyes, still smiling in death.
Panel 35: Everest and Shasta, aged 11 and 10 respectively, watch from the doorframe, mournful and sad as their mother slips away
Panel 36: The king is collapsed on his wife’s death bed. The servants are holding his sons to the right.
Shasta (VO): It is said that when my mother died, my father died with her.
Panel 37: A tombstone, with the Queen’s name and death date upon it, surrounded by flowers.
Shasta (VO): Perhaps he had finally learned, too little and too late, the cost of such promises.
Panel 38: 10 year-old Shasta, holding one of her infant twin brothers, Everest on her right with the other. All are dressed in black mourning clothes.
Panel 39: The king stands before the grave, determined not to look at his children.
Shasta (VO): For he could look upon none of his children with pride –
Panel 40: Close-up of Shasta’s face. It’s stern, and hard.
Shasta (VO): Every single one of us was his bane.
The Girl Who Would Be King (prose sample)
The Prince’s Gambit
The morning sun crept over the mountains that surrounded the kingdom of DeMonte, and through the windows of its shining castle. Situated high upon the tallest peak in the Denali range, the castle was a magnificent fortress, carved into the very stone of the mountain itself. In its shadow stretched the vast kingdom of DeMonte, from the castle’s footsteps to the gentle green sweep of valley below. It cut an impressive figure to those who travelled there from afar, but from Everest’s view, the castle was only a prison gilded in marble and jewels.
Everest looked up from his reading as the first rays of golden light permeated his curtains, and felt a heavy leaden weight settle upon his heart. Morning had arrived. The councilmen would be summoning him within the hour, and by noon, his decided fate would be sealed. He sighed heavily, running his hand over his jawline, where a fresh layer of stubble had appeared in the night. His mood was not improved as he examined himself in a mirror – he wore the look of sleeplessness as potently as a mask, dark circles beneath his brown eyes, his skin pallid. Shasta would certainly have a comment or two when she arrived to tend to him, as was traditional for crown princes on their commencement day.
He had no time to dwell upon these thoughts, as there came a sudden, sharp rapping on the door. The girl was nothing if not punctual.
“Come in,” he said. The door swung open, and Shasta briskly entered the room, freshly washed and dressed, followed by a small entourage of attendants. His dressers. A meeting like today’s, a meeting that would seal the entire course of not only his fate, but his family’s, and surely, the whole kingdom’s, merited his finest appearance.
“I am surprised to see that you are awake,” Shasta remarked as she led the servants into her brother’s quarters. She stopped as she got a good look at Everest’s face. “Or rather, I shouldn’t be, as it seems that you didn’t sleep at all, correct?”
Everest grinned sheepishly, raking his fingers through his tousled brown hair. “I’d rather hoped that you wouldn’t notice.” Shasta shook her head.
“I suppose a reprimand would be pointless, as we are pressed for time. Father expects you by the end of the hour.”
“Of course. What of Elias and Rainier?” he asked as Shasta flurried around the room, pulling articles of clothing out from wherever they were kept.
“They are not needed, so I ordered them be allowed to sleep.” She paused briefly, staring intently at her brother. “They are aware of the gravity of this situation, though how, I cannot be certain. I thought it best to spare them any undue stress. They are, after all, only children.”
Everest nodded solemnly. “Agreed. This burden is mine to bear, not theirs… and neither should it be yours.” Shasta shook her head.
“The burden is mine to take because I choose to take it. I am ever your ally, Everest, as well as your sister.”
Everest approached her with an odd look on his face, an expression whose unfamiliarity made her feel slightly unnerved. When he spoke, his voice was low, even and steady, which only served to unbalance her further. “Then allow me to ask, my sister and ally. If you were to have the chance to take my place, to partake in the trials, to sit upon the throne of our country as leader and king – would you take that chance?” Shasta said nothing at first, her gray eyes locked on Everest’s brown ones, searching them for any trace or clue of his intentions. But there were none to be discerned.
“There is no chance of that,” she replied in a murmur.
“But if there were, would you take it?”
She hesitated, but only for a moment. “…yes. I would.” The certainty of her answer surprised her a great deal. She’d considered his question many times, to be sure, but never before had she allowed herself to commit to the determination that she would rule if given the chance. Something in Everest’s eyes had jarred her, set her resolution unexpectedly firm.
He nodded. “I thought as much.” He looked over at one of the servants, a maid no older than Shasta, who was busying herself with the untidiness of his room. “Islwyn, spare yourself the tediousness, the state of my room has no bearings on the outcome of the day. Kindly draw me a hot bath with oils, and see to it that my barber is sufficiently prepared.” The servant obeyed, and Everest turned back to his sister with a sly sort of half-grin that did nothing to ease her discomfort. Whatever had brought on Everest’s strange behavior was nothing she would be explained for the moment. “I don’t suppose you brought me any breakfast?”
She stared at him blankly. “Heddwyn will be bringing up your tea, I wanted to give you sufficient time to dress first. If you take too long, better to be dressed and starved than satiated and in naught but your smallclothes.” Everest chuckled his assent, but rather than going straight to his bath, he crossed the room over to his small writing desk beneath the window, and hastily scrawled something upon it that Shasta could not see from where she stood. The tension in the room eased almost as quickly as it had emerged, but Shasta still eyed her brother suspiciously as he looked over the parchment with approval, before he disappeared behind a partition to undress. Everest’s voice drifted over the partition along with the sweet smell of lavender oils that filled the air in swirls of pungent steam and the sound of water sloshing as he slid into his perfumed bath.
“Shasta, I don’t suppose you’ve summoned Professor Niles as well, I need him to notarize my final request.”
She blinked, before annoyance washed away her remaining confusion. “Are you mad, Everest?! You were supposed to have that finished by now!” His laughter bubbled sweetly through the air in response.
“Oh dear sister, when have I ever been punctual about these things? I had a few last details to work out before I decided upon it, but now everything is in order. Could you be a dear and summon him here? I’ve already written the damnable thing, I just need his witness.”
Shasta, having largely recovered from the shock of the day’s revelations, resumed her busying around the room. “You wrote it yourself? That’s rather out of the common way. The King’s Scholar is traditionally given that task.”
“Yes, Shasta, I know how learned you are in the protocols of this ceremony, but I confess I rather didn’t want to waste the time. And it was rather refreshing to be able to make an important decision for myself for once.”
Shasta had no response, but to send one of the servants off to fetch Professor Niles. Everest was humming a little tune to himself as he bathed, as if the stress of the day was not even touching him. This breach of character worried her more than anything else, than whatever trial the council saw fit to subject her peculiar brother to. Her gaze shifted to the parchment he had been writing on only a moment before, which was undoubtedly his final request – even from a distance, the ink still glistened wetly, written in Everest’s loopy, yet careful script. Curiosity gripped her – it would be such a simple thing, to walk over there and see for herself what he had written, to find out what his final request could possibly be. In her mind’s eye, she could still see and feel the intensity of his gaze as he had asked that strange question, the satisfaction he had gotten from her response almost palpable. Could it be he had been waiting for her response before finishing it? Could her reply have been him seeking some sort of permission? The answer to those questions was there, written on a sheet of paper with nothing to stop her from seeing for herself. She hesitated – it was a serious breach of protocol that a Final Request be seen by anyone else’s eyes before it was sealed, only to be read if the worst should happen during the trials. Reading it beforehand was considered an ill omen, if you believed in such superstitious nonsense. Shasta was not such a person to heed this sort of propaganda, but nor was she one to willingly defy tradition or disrespect her brother’s privacy. But just as the temptation was coming to its peak, Professor Niles entered the room with the servant who had fetched him in tow. The King’s Scholar met the Princess’s eyes, as if reading her ambitions, and the opportunity was thus lost, forever.
Shasta’s impeccable timing had ensured that when Everest stood before the council, Niles at his side, he was neither hungry, nor in his smallclothes. She had ensured him a proper princely grooming, and a light breakfast of fruit, bread, and tea – doubtless she was afraid anything heavier would be ill-served by his inevitable nerves. However, Everest felt remarkably at ease, contrary to what he had expected and doubtless what all others had expected for him, given the circumstances. He had so long been disposed to a worrisome and anxious nature that his utter lack of nerves was a surprise even to himself. His conversation with Shasta before he had completed his final request had seemingly served to quell his usual temperament. The request in question was in the hands of the King’s Scholar, which had been signed by whom and sealed in purple wax with the Denali coat of arms impressed into it. The seal would only be broken in the event of his failing the trials, whether his failure denoted his living or his dying. In the history of the Denali line, only twice before had the Final Request been opened – otherwise, the deepest secrets and desires of all former Kings of his line had remained hidden, never to be realized, until the end of time.
Mailbox on the left. Trash bin on the right. And me, at the end of the block, a single envelope in my hand. I’m gripping it so hard that if the letter had a heartbeat, I’d have crushed it into silence. The words it contains are still coursing through my mind, a fresh torrent that only an hour ago, I’d succeeded in translating to paper.
If my fingers were capable of taste, that sentence would’ve left a bad one in their mouths. I hadn’t referred to the woman as ‘Mom’ in years. Writing it had almost seemed like a betrayal to my pride. ‘She’s your mom,’ my husband had said. ‘She’s been trying to contact you, she wants to make amends. Is there really no part of you that has it in you to forgive her?’
Common misconception: Mother = Saint. Often perpetuated by the products of perfect, stable homes, the ‘blood is thicker than water’ crowd. Forgivable, damnably maddening. They never understand that they’re constantly getting that quote wrong.
I hope this letter finds you as well as can be expected. Aunt Jean has been keeping me posted the past few months on your life.
‘You still won’t talk to her?’ Jean asked, leaning back in her chair, lighting up a cigarette and tossing me the lighter. We’re in her backyard, and all I can keep my attention on is the intricate web of spider veins on her bare calves, the blue lines snaking across her white, paper-thin skin. I should probably try to walk around more at work, I’m thinking. I hear sitting all day can cause them too.
‘I can’t think of a single good reason why I should,’ is the answer I settle on as I light up my own cigarette, which has been dangling forgotten in my mouth. The initial blast of nicotine clears my mind, settles it. The price we pay for clarity.
‘She ain’t doing so well, kid,’ Jean admonishes, looks at me over the rims of her cheap, supermarket sunglasses. ‘You and David got three beautiful kids she ain’t ever seen, and those kids ain’t got a grandmother. You know she’s sorry for what happened.’
‘Sorry’ doesn’t fix all the bullshit she put me through. Doesn’t take back all the years of drinking and the drugs and the boyfriends. Doesn’t take back what that last son of a bitch did.’ I don’t cry about it. I stopped crying about it years ago and I have no intention of starting now. My psychiatrist is always giving me grief about that. Bitterness is often more potent without tears to water it down.
‘Your ma didn’t have anything to do with that, kid,’ Jean says between drags. There’s no sympathy in her eyes, not anymore. She was one of the few who understood that sympathy is just the salt that is rubbed into all of the places where you’re torn and bleeding. ‘She testified against him and that sonofabitch is rotting in prison where he belongs. She didn’t know what he was gonna do to you.’
‘She brought him home, just another deadbeat shitheels who treated her and me like scum. Well, Roy didn’t rape her, so I guess she got something right.’ I take another pull, holding the smoke in my lungs as the nicotine races through my blood. ‘And it isn’t just Roy. After Dad left, she acted like I didn’t matter. Oh no, let’s forget about the twelve-year-old girl who’s missing her daddy too, we’ve got cocaine and vodka! She can figure out how to get to school every day when I’m so wasted I can’t move. She’ll learn how to clean up the puke and lie to the neighbors. She’ll figure out where to get fast food because I can’t cook or go to the grocery store. Don’t feed me that bullshit Aunt Jean, there was plenty of other things besides Roy.’
Jean takes one more drag before snubbing her cigarette out and stares at me again. I always hated how I could see my mother through Jean’s face – through the wrinkles and grey hair that I didn’t stick around long enough to see on my mother, she stared out at me plain as day. It took me a year or two of therapy to stop the urge to slap her when my eyes saw my aunt and my brain saw my mom.
‘People ain’t perfect,’ she said. ‘Your ma made mistakes like anyone else, just happened to make the same kind a few times more than she ought have. But you can’t let it erase every good thing she ever did. She was a damn good mother afore the drugs got into her, and she’s clean now. I ain’t saying you have to give her another chance, kid. I’m just sayin’, she ain’t got all the time in the world anymore, and you don’t want to make a decision you’ll regret.’
Mailbox on the left. Trash bin on the right. And me, walking toward them, a single envelope in my hands. That word keeps ringing in my ear. Regret. Jean uses the word like a weapon, a coercion. Nothing in the world is worse than regret, you’d think. It’s the threat that can convince people to do anything. Except I’ve never made a decision I’ve regretted in my life. I didn’t regret going to the cops after Roy assaulted me. I didn’t regret packing a bag and walking out of my mother’s house to stay with my father until I went to college. I didn’t regret accepting a date with David after years of living in fear of men. I didn’t regret marrying him, fucking him, giving him children. There’s no room in my life for regret.
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say in this letter. I thought it would be easier than calling or emailing you, somehow. I know you’ve been asking about me and my kids. They’re all doing well. My oldest is turning six next week. David keeps dropping hints that he wants another baby…
‘How come you never talk about your mom?’ David asks me. We’re college seniors, two months from graduation, two months into dating. I almost said no to him when he first asked me out, but talked myself into it for the fact that he was cute, he was safe, and he always had a dime bag of marijuana when you needed it. I went out with him once for his weed, dated him steadily for his cock, and married him for his stability. I love him too, of course, but people need to stop thinking that love is the foundation for a good relationship. Love is just the cement that holds the bricks together. David kept all of his bricks in place, whereas my mother just kept prying them loose and chucking them at my head until the whole damned building fell down like a game of Jenga. Love didn’t save shit when that happened.
None of that was crossing my mind at the time. The only thing I was interested in was rolling a joint for a hearty, post-coital smoke. My flirtation with Mary Jane those first few years after I left my mom was an irony that was not lost upon me. David was naked on the bed when he’d asked me the question, which was almost indecent, really. ‘Naked time is not personal conversation time,’ I remind him as I seal the joint and promptly light it. I take a few short sips of it before handing it to him, feeling a buoyancy pass over me so suddenly, it was if I were suddenly weightless, like a sudden breeze could send me floating around the room. He takes the joint, but not a hit.
‘Hey, I’m serious,’ he persists. ‘You only ever talk about your dad and your aunt. Did something happen to her?’
I snatch the joint back from him and take another drag, contemptuously. ‘She’s alive,’ I say shortly. ‘Least the last time I checked.
‘So you don’t talk to her?’
‘So she was a really terrible mother, huh?’
I sigh. He isn’t going to let it go, I can tell. ‘She was a saint,’ I reply. ‘Treated me great when I was a kid. She kissed every scrape, baked me a cake for every birthday, sang me to sleep whenever I wanted her to. She was everything you’d want in a mother.’
‘Then what happened?’
I take another drag off of the joint, aching for that buoyancy again, aching to lift off like a balloon when a kid lets go of the string. It doesn’t come. He’s held me to Earth, a planet full of sharp objects to stab yourself on, to deflate you. ‘Then she wasn’t.’
I’ve been debating for some time about sending this letter, whether I wanted to make peace for the past for your sake or my own. I know you didn’t mean for Roy to do what he did to me. My shrink keeps saying forgiveness is part of the healing process, but I also hate that I have to have a shrink at all. I’ve moved past that night as best I can…
Even thirteen years later, I can still feel it. I tell David, my aunt, my dad, my shrink that the nightmares are over, but it’s a lie, one of the few I’ve ever told, at least in my adult life. I don’t regret that either. All four of them know that I’m not telling the truth, but it keeps their damned mouths shut and that’s just fine by me. If I have to have another discussion with anyone about the night that Roy broke into my bedroom, I’d probably kill myself. Or them. Or both.
‘Keep your goddamned mouth shut, you little whore,’ he whispers in my ear between grunts. His hands are sweaty, his mouth livery and rubbery against my skin. Mortar and pestle, key and lock. Thrusts, ruptures, pain I didn’t know could exist. My body and my consciousness seem to separate, to act independently. My body obeys out of fear of further hurt – my mind screams heedlessly at it to fight back, goddamn it. But it doesn’t. My hands don’t claw or punch, they only grip the bed sheets, and inexplicably, I think to myself that I’m too old for pink sheets.
I know in the back of my mind that I’m waiting for my mother to come in and save me.
But she never does.
Oh, she’s all fire and brimstone afterwards, of course. After the cops show up after I call them. After I barricade myself in my room with a kitchen knife until one of the officers manages to talk me out. After the trip to the hospital, the rape kit, the warrant, the DNA test that matches the semen to him, the photos of the bruises on my wrists and legs, the blood on those ridiculous pink sheets. Until the DNA test matches positive to Roy, there’s a part of her that doesn’t believe it, or maybe couldn’t believe it. It’s that part of her I sense in every hug, every squeeze of my hand, every stroke of my hair, not the worried mother consoling her wounded, weeping, raped child. It’s the woman who doesn’t believe it happened because it would mean admitting that she’d allowed it to happen that I see behind those gestures. She’s waiting for me to tell her it wasn’t her fault, for me to absolve her from sin. That’s too bad though. I no longer believe in absolution.
I know times weren’t always bad with us, Mom. I’m not so wounded that I’ve forgotten what life was like before Dad left, before the drugs. I remember it.
‘Blow out the candles sweetie! Make a wish!’ I close my eyes and come to a decision – wishes when you’re eight are valuable commodities, not to be thrown away on something trite. I’m pretty sure that year I wished for a pony. I open my eyes and blow. The candles puff out like a dream. The cake is chocolate and strawberry, my favorite, which Mom makes for me faithfully from scratch every year. She’s twenty-seven this year, and she’s beautiful. Her smile is radiant, without any hint or shadow of what it will turn into four years from now. She has no idea that her high-school-sweetheart husband will be unfaithful and leave her, that her daughter will be raped, that her only happiness will come from an endless parade of opiates, cocaine, liquor, and men. Dad is filming me with a smile, never betraying his secrets. The affair had only started a month ago – he’s still careful to keep any hint of it under wraps. But for that moment, at least, everything is perfect. I’m eight years old, my parents are happy, and they love me. My mother loves me. I’m weightless.
My home address is on the envelope if you want to write back or visit. If you want to call, my number is…
But I have a daughter now. She’s four, and she has my eyes, and I may have already failed her. I can stand here and pretend that David and I will live happily ever after, that he’ll never get fed up and leave, that I’d never bring home a boyfriend who’d do to my daughter what Mom’s boyfriend did to me. But I’ve already started down that road. I take pills, drugs that bear very little difference to what my mom took except mine come with a doctor’s note. Migraines, depression, anxiety…what did she do cocaine for if not for the same things I take that litany of pills for? My daughter is four. She has my eyes, my hair, and my build. Does she also have my future? It scares the shit out of me every single day, the prospect of her coming home with a boy who will rape her, beat her, or abuse her. I remind myself that she’s only four, that it’s too far in the future to worry about. But when I was four, my mother loved me, protected me. When I was five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. She loved me with all of her heart. I was raped anyway.
Forgiveness is part of healing, they all say. Do I need to send a letter to forgive? Do I let my daughter, my two boys, meet their grandmother who sat by and let her daughter get raped? Do I take the risk that she’d show up to meet them high as the kites I’d watch them fly in the parks, running and laughing in their innocent ignorance of the ugliness of the world? That she’d bring with her another man who has the capacity to abuse? Where does my duty as a mother end and my faithfulness as a daughter begin? I often wonder how many children in the world have to ponder that question. I’m not so sure if there’s any answer.
But part of me yearns to be that eight-year-old girl again. No one made chocolate strawberry cake like my mother did. I want to taste it, and experience her love again. My innocence. I want to see my mother’s smile melt away the ugliness of the years between the rape and the now. I’ve only painted over that ugliness with a husband, and a family, but the ugliness is like graffiti; it always shows through, no matter how many coats you apply.
So what’s the choice?
Mailbox on the left. Trash bin on the right. And me, standing in front of them, a single envelope in my hands. I gather my nerves, breathe out the fear, and the choice comes to me, so clearly, so powerfully, it almost seems silly that there was an option in the first place. Relief from a choice made wrenches the grip of fear from my heart, soothes it, the balm of decisiveness. I’ve never regretted a single choice I’ve ever made. My record stays intact. I drop the letter in. Smiling, I walk away.