I previously posted an excerpt for Waiting On Hope, but decided to post the whole first chapter. Of course, you can also read a sample on Amazon & Barnes & Noble & Smashwords
She stepped to the ledge of the balcony, welcoming death—and the mercy it offered.
Three more steps and she would be free. One. Two.
The sudden bang on the door made Lexie jump. She stood, her toes curling over the cool, rough, concrete, only inches from the edge of descent.
Gripping the chair next to her, she tried to concentrate. She raised her arms straight out from her sides like an airplane. The morning air, cool on her skin, wrapped around her in a soft caress. She visualized the jump, the slap of wind on her face and in her hair. She didn’t flinch from the thought of the agony of impact, which may come before the blessed numbness. After all, she was no stranger to pain.
Opening her eyes, she glanced down at her feet. Without a railing, the unguarded slab of stone made for easy access to the waiting street below. She straightened her toes, no longer supported by the balcony.
The banging on the door persisted, making it hard for her to think. She tried to ignore the interruption, but the caller’s persistence made blocking out the sound impossible. Behind the pounding she heard a voice—one she recognized.
“Lexie, open up. Let me in. What the hell are you doing out there? You’re going to get yourself killed. Lex?” Sienna continued to call through the door.
Lexie glanced from the inside of her apartment back to the street below. Traffic loomed, along with the occasional pedestrian. She cursed Sienna for interfering. Why did she show up now?
All she needed was one more step, but the insistent banging outside her door thumped in the background of her mind, jarring the still thoughts of death from where they perched. She would have to wait. With Sienna right outside, plunging off the balcony was not an option. Enough agony would be caused to those she left behind, without any of them having to witness her demise. When the time came, however, she would leap at the chance to end the world in which only a fog of pain enveloped her.
She stepped off the balcony, into her apartment. Despite the sound of Sienna’s voice, she peered through the peep hole, confirming her visitor’s identity. She unlocked the chain bolt and three dead bolts she installed after “the incident” two months ago—the effort on her part, a fruitless one. She knew all-too-well you couldn’t lock the devil out. He seldom arrived undisguised.
Sienna didn’t wait for Lexie to open the door. The second the dead bolt snapped, she threw the door open, rocking Lexie on her feet where she stood. She took inventory, looking around Lexie’s apartment, her gaze hovering over the barrage of locks. Raising one golden brow, she narrowed her eyes at Lexie, who remained silent.
“What’s going on Lex? You’re not returning any of my calls. And what’s with the horror movie locks?” Sienna asked. Her forehead wrinkled into a dozen lines.
Lexie shrugged. She hadn’t told Sienna what happened yet, and even when she did, she couldn’t tell her the whole truth. The facts for her would be too devastating. Then again, she probably deserved more credit than Lexie gave her…
Nevertheless, letting Sienna in on the events of the last two months was the right thing to do. After all, Lexie’s affinity for lying was weak, and besides, Sienna had an ability to see straight through a person, to cut through the crap.
Sienna stood, arms crossed in front of her chest, her platinum hair pulled back from her face, waiting for a response, for some enlightenment to explain Lexie’s recent behavior.
“Um. They’re just a precaution,” Lexie said.
“Precaution? Lex, you’re scaring me. I’ve been calling you for two months, without so much as a reply. You’ve skipped out on all our Friday girls’ nights. You stood me up at the photography convention on Sunday, the one you begged me to attend with you. And this morning, I called Pittsburgh Magazine, only to find out that you haven’t been at work in over a month, that you’re taking some time off for personal reasons.”
Sienna continued to talk, following Lexie from the foyer to the couch in her living room.
Lexie tried to make herself comfortable, but found it impossible—a notion inexplicably apparent in her life as of late. She fidgeted on the white sofa, which seemed to signal to her a glaring beacon of purity—suddenly out of place in the room.
Lexie sighed, fanning her hands out in front of her, trying to find the words. “I’m just…I’m going through something right now.”
After a moment’s silence, Sienna said, “And you can’t tell me? Since when do we keep secrets from each other?”
The pain in Sienna’s rich chocolate eyes was palpable, a confirmation of sorts of why her own pain, her own shame, should be kept to herself. How did she find the words? Part of her wanted to say it. She envisioned opening her mouth and letting them flow, forming her lips around the vowels, I was raped. The thought alone, stung like venom on the tip of her tongue.
“I…I….” Lexie tilted her head back. She gazed at the ceiling, the tiny vein-like cracks in the otherwise smooth plaster. Why couldn’t she say it? She willed the words from her mind, but still they would not come.
She looked back at Sienna, the hurt in her eyes latched onto the lacerations of her soul, bringing with them a new burden. Not only did she carry her own shame, but also guilt for the anguish imposed on Sienna by her silence.
Lexie said the only thing she could, a poor substitution for the truth. “Listen, I’m going through something right now that I can’t talk about. I just can’t…” Her voice cracked slightly. She managed to suppress a sob before continuing. “I need a little time. Please.”
“Do you promise me you’re going to be okay? You’re scaring the hell out of me, girl. I mean, blowing me off is one thing, but your job? You haven’t taken so much as a sick day in the ten years since I met you.”
She couldn’t bring herself to mutter the words, I promise. Promises were for a groom on his wedding day, vowing to be faithful in good times and bad. For mothers who tucked their kids into bed at night, assuring them safety was inexplicably theirs—that no monsters hid beneath the covers. Well, she knew all about monsters—not only did they exist, but they were all around us. She knew all about promises too. By definition, they were impossible to keep. Because among the assurance belies a certainty, which carries with it the measure of impossibility, because a promise is a guarantee. What was the saying her mother always used to say? In life, there are no guarantees.
Sienna sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know what else to do but give you time to sort this thing out, since you won’t talk to me. I’m telling you though,” she said, jabbing a finger at Lexie. “If you don’t snap out of this soon, or tell me what’s going on, I’ll hog tie you, drag you to my place, and hold you hostage until you squeal.”
Lexie . Several things about her statement hit a little too close to home. For her friend’s benefit, however, she tried to smile.
“Finally, something other than a frown. By the way, if this has to do with a man you’ve been secretly seeing behind my back, you owe me ten Pilates classes.”
Lexie groaned. Pilates was the bane of her existence. Every time she turned around, Sienna dragged her to a class. They remained the best incentive, the highest stake, something to chain her with, like an anvil around her leg.
Lexie shook her head. “It’s nothing like that. You know if I were seeing someone, you would be the first I’d tell. Enough about me though,” she said, trying to direct her focus elsewhere. “Since I haven’t seen you in a while, fill me in. What’s new?”
Even asking Sienna about her life was a risk because the question brought with it the good chance she may mention her husband, Brent. Lexie recognized, however, no other way of getting her to leave so soon without her actions seeming suspect.
“I missed you these last two months.” Sienna looked down at her hands; a small tremor ran through her voice. “A few weeks ago, my period was late. My enthusiasm couldn’t be contained. I thought for sure I had finally done it, you know? After three years of trying, I was pregnant. I waited to take a test though. Deep down, I was afraid that I would test negative. I wanted to hold onto the hope that my time had come.”
This is how they always talked with each other. They shared everything, and in the past couple years, Sienna had agonized over her fertility issues. She and Brent had been trying for three years to conceive, to no avail. Doctors said she had an inhospitable womb—whatever that meant. Despite this diagnosis, however, Sienna continued trying. She kept waiting for a miracle.
Normally, Lexie would bend her head towards hers, wrap an arm around Sienna’s shoulders, and whisper words of consolation, reassurance, and encouragement even—but a thick fog surrounded her mind like an impenetrable membrane. She had nothing to give.
The mention of Brent’s name created a physical response. Terror and panic rose inside of her like an awakened beast. She tried to choke her emotions down, but the effort only resulted in a sweeping chill over her entire body.
Sienna continued talking, unaware of the change in Lexie’s demeanor. “I’m done crying over my inability to have a baby. Being a mother is all I ever wanted, but I need to finally accept that I may never be a mother. I’m torturing myself. Brent keeps telling me to let it go, but how do you let go of something so important, so primal? My clock is ticking…”
Brent. His name swirled around Lexie like toxic gas. She closed her eyes and trembled, as she struggled to draw oxygen into her lungs. He shouted at her, his voice calculated, anger and menace flowing from his wine stained lips. Shut the fuck up or I’ll kill you. You’ve wanted this all along. I’m only giving you what you need, what you deserve.
Her breath hitched, and her hands clenched by her side. She was vaguely aware of Sienna’s voice in the background. She grasped for balance, for some way to clear her mind, but the effort was akin to catching dandelion snow. Every time she reached out, grasping at the fuzzy parachutes, the air in the atmosphere around her changed, and they eluded her.
Suddenly, a sharp clatter sliced through her thoughts. She opened her eyes. Able to take a clear breath, she stared straight ahead, trying to orient herself to the sound.
Sienna stood in front of her. She held her open purse, the size of a carpetbag, and after taking one last look inside, chucked it onto the floor next to Lexie.
“I’m done. You can have all of them. No more trying. No more sorrow over failing at something that was near impossible for me in the first place,” Sienna said.
Lexie’s gaze moved to the large oak coffee table, the one her father made for her as a going away present when she left home. On it laid the source of the noise. What looked like half of Wal-Mart’s pregnancy test inventory lay scattered across the silky table top.
“What’s this?” Lexie asked, still disoriented.
Sienna narrowed her eyes at Lexie, concern rimming the brown of her irises. “I just told you. They’re all of the pregnancy tests I had stashed.” She sat down next to Lexie on the sofa. Then lightly brushed the mahogany hair from the side of Lexie’s face.
“Every time I went shopping, if the store had a baby department, or carried pregnancy tests, I was drawn to them like a magnet. I’d torture myself over the tiny blue and pink clothes, the scent of powder and lavender. Then I would go buy a couple more tests to continue the cycle of torture. I’ve been hopeless, Lex.”
She looked Lexie in the eyes. “I’ve been waiting for something that’s never going to happen, killing myself over my obsession with having a baby, and week after week, you were there for me. You were there to lift me up, to dry my tears. You’ve been the best friend in the world. And that’s why I’m going to be here for you now. Well, that and I love you. You say you can’t talk about what’s going on now. I’ll accept that because I have no choice, but sooner or later, you need to tell me what’s going on, and I’ll be there for you. I’ll help you through whatever’s haunting you, just like you helped me.”
* * *
After locking the door behind Sienna, Lexie returned to the living room, where she loomed above the coffee table, staring at the pregnancy tests. She held her arms tightly against her sides, angling her body slightly away from them, as if they were a bed of coiled snakes.
Her skin pricked and the hairs on her arms stood up. Something about the tests bothered her. Or maybe in the deep-seated recesses of her mind, it was intuition. The scattered boxes beckoned her.
On a hunch, she picked one up with a trembling hand and stared at it. She couldn’t remember the last time she had her period. Then again, much of the past two and a half months were a blur, a fog of pain and fear.
Before she could think, she sprinted to the bathroom. Ripping the test out of the box, she took the lid off, and then dropped her pants. She squatted over the toilet, peeing on the plastic stick, dribbling a small amount of urine on her hands in her haste. She put the cap on, then placed the test on the back of the toilet.
She picked the box up off the floor, her hands quaking. She read the directions—probably something she should have done before taking the test. Her frantic gaze glanced at the clock, noting the time. She had to wait three minutes. Two pink lines symbolized a positive result—pregnancy. A single blue line meant she was not pregnant.
She tossed the empty container in the trash, gripping the sides of the pedestal sink, and stared at herself in the mirror. She looked like hell. Her once lustrous mahogany hair, the envy of all her female friends and co-workers, hung limp and lifeless below her shoulders, instead of in its usual thick waves. Her skin was pale, and purple crescents shadowed her eyes.
She stared at herself, her mind racing with a singular thought: It’s not possible; however, beneath her inner monologue, hibernated another thought, one which collided with the superstition that Sienna was meant to come over today, to bring those tests with her and leave them, because it was possible.
Lexie glanced, once again, at the clock, and although only two minutes had passed, she went to the toilet and retrieved the test. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting the oxygen fill her lungs, her bloodstream, calming her. She tilted her head down, ready to see the results. When she opened them, several seconds passed before her vision sharpened, and she was able to comprehend what she saw. Two pink lines. Positive. The test was positive.
Over the next four hours, she was crazed. She drank countless glasses of water, juice, and coffee, anything she could get her hands on. Test after test, (pink plusses, pink lines, yes’s, and the last test, a little blue smiley face) came back positive.
The blue face, the smile, mocked her. She gripped the stick in both hands, letting out a gut-wrenching scream, as she snapped it in half, and then flung the broken debris across the room. She felt like she was going mad, and maybe she was.
She ripped the shower curtain aside. Her hands tore at her clothing, until no part of her was covered. She stepped inside the shower stall and turned the water on full blast, the temperature as hot as it would go, scalding her skin, turning her pale flesh into a soft shade of scarlet.
She took the bar of soap and washcloth, scrubbing herself raw, until her skin burned and puckered with goose bumps as the water turned cold. The problem remained that no matter how long or hard she scrubbed, she didn’t feel clean. She couldn’t erase the memories, the rough rope that bound her wrists, cutting into her flesh, his hard fist smashing into her face, or his body, heavy on hers, violating her.
She sunk to her knees and cried, the water pooling around her legs before draining—the water that would never again be clean.
She cried for the woman that died the night of her rape, the woman she felt for certain, she wanted to get back, but couldn’t
Where can you purchase Waiting On Hope?
Smashwords: eBook in all formats