Two Steel Rings and a Heart of Gold
"There isn't enough money left." said Mrs. Stevens in hushed tones inside the kitchen.
"I know. The company isn't paying any salary this month either." whispered Mr. Stevens. He wasn't the only one facing this in the midst of a pandemic.
"If we miss the next payment, we'll lose the house." said Mrs. Stevens as she broke into tears.
"We don't have enough food either." said Mr. Stevens. "That was the last of our bread."
"I'm sorry." said Sara to herself as she put back the second piece of bread back in the empty basket. She tried not to overhear the conversation in the kitchen, but years of foster care had given her many unwanted skills, such as stealth in shoplifting and eavesdropping.
"What should we do?" asked Mr. Stevens sounding utterly defeated. "We'll be homeless."
Only about a year ago, Sara used to scavenge the streets for food. Her previous foster family often forgot she existed other than to do chores. She ate out of dustbins when hunger pushed her to it. Sometimes she would nick a few snacks from the store. She didn't have that much of a conscience, but she felt stolen food never filled her stomach.
She could do it again, however. She could go to the grocery store and steal something for dinner. Maybe get some of the expensive cheese and meat.
"But at least we are together." said Mrs. Stevens, her voice breaking as she hugged her husband. "Thank goodness, Sara is with us and not all alone in this terrible time."
And suddenly, Sara couldn't anymore.
She went back to her room and shut the door, thoughts racing. She needed money for her family. She was thirteen years old. There had to be something she could do to help.
She rummaged through her scarce belongings until she finally found it. Her biological mother's wedding ring. It was gold plated and studded with a small gemstone. Her father had died in the war and mother had died while giving birth to her. Sara rested in the knowledge that she was born out of love and greatly cherished her only proof.
Mr. and Mrs. Stevens had saved her life. Sara was deeply malnourished and sick when she was rescued. She hadn't had the will to live anymore. But her new family wasn't like the rest.
They gave her a small room, hot home-made meals, they talked to her every single day, and they cared, cared ever so deeply about her that she cried.
Mrs. Steven's soft round face made her feel so happy and seeing Mr. Stevens come home from work with a smile, made her feel emotions Sara deemed were worth much, much more than the ring in her hands.
Clutching it close to her chest, she ran back to the kitchen, heart thumping as she spotted her adoptive parents sipping tea.
"Hello Sara." said Mr. Stevens with a smile. His mustache rested easily over his kind face. "I see you didn't complete your meal. Take a seat and finish up."
Mrs. Stevens poured a fresh cup of tea and handed the bread basket to Sara, a genuine smile on her face.
"We-can-sell-this." said Sara in a rush, as she produced the ring and laid it on the tiny table. "The lady at the orphanage said we could get 3000$ for it."
"Oh Sara!" said Mrs. Stevens as she hugged her daughter tight. "We can't sell that."
Sara said reluctantly, "Why not? It's mine and I want to sell it."
Mrs. Stevens looked back at her husband wearily. She wore a thin steel band on her finger like her husband. They'd sold off their own rings months ago.
"Are you sure Sara?" asked Mr. Stevens furrowing his eyes.
"Yes. Please, sell it as soon as you can." said Sara as she split the bread into three parts and handed one to each parent before biting into her own piece.
Perhaps it was the pureness of her action that did it. Perhaps it was because the Stevens were so kind. Or perhaps the world decided that things would get better and they did.
The ring sold for 3500$ on eBay and Mrs. Stevens bought a cart full of the cheapest foods. They would not be hungry again as long as she lived.
Sara helped her bake muffins and cakes and packed them in paper so the local grocery store could sell them. It wasn't much money, but enough for them to stay afloat.
Mr. Stevens got a job as a food delivery man. It didn't matter that he used to be a financial analyst. It didn't matter he had two degrees. His little daughter had sold off her mother's ring.
He worked longer hours. He trudged through on days when the weather was bad. He would do whatever it takes to buy it back.
Sometimes the only price to pay, is your ego and the Stevens had already got rid of that.
Sara thought of her biological parents sometimes. It struck her sometimes, to realize she had nothing to remember them with anymore.
But every night when Mrs. Stevens tucked her in to bed, she knew their love lived on.
It’s only sauce.
I like his smile.
I think he’s sexy.
I’d like to go on a date with him.
″...accused of murder in the first degree...”
He’s kind of cute.
Now that his wife is out of the way.
″...evidence clearly left behind the scene of the crime- a sock and two sets of fingerprints is enough to identify Mr. Jonathan Samuels as guilty of murder.”
I wish they’d hurry up with this trial. I’d like to run away with him.
He’s looking at me. He’s got nice green eyes. I wonder how his hands would feel all over me...
His lawyer's voice cut through my daydream.
″...the defendant was watching a football match in the living room when he heard a noise. He went to the garage and found his wife on the ground. She had slit her throat and was dying.
He tried to stop the blood flow with his sock and left some prints on the door before he called the hospital and the police. Mr. Samuels is devastated he lost his wife.”
I could make him forget her.
He’s tall. Taller than I’d dated before. He’s got a strong jawline. I can tell he’s very authoritative.
The fat presecuter started to speak again snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Mr Samuels has a history of domestic violence cases against him. In 2011 he was found guilty of punching his then girlfriend Amanda Miskin, in 2013 he was accused of shooting his neighbour’s dog, in 2014 he was booked for throwing a flower pot at his ex-wife Ms. Morena Gray. In 2016 he was fired from his job due to anger issues by Comet Company Ltd. where he worked as a manager. Since 2017, there have been rumours in the neighbourhood that Mr. Samuels regularly beat up his wife, as confirmed by ten friends of the victim Mrs Mary Samuels. The marks on her throat as verified by a qualified doctor clearly show she could not have inflected those wounds on herself.”
A man full of rage.
I could handle that.
I’d handled that before. I’d even stood in court and testified five years ago.
The jury found him not guilty. They let him go. His lawyer was too good.
He almost killed me when he got out. But died in a car crash a day later.
I still find people like him insanely hot.
The other jury members looked solemn. My jury hadn’t looked like that. What had I done differently? Maybe they didn’t believe my story because I was still alive.
″...court dismissed till 3 pm.” said the judge.
We all stood up to go to the cafeteria. I listened in on the other jurors.
“He’s guilty.” said the woman in a blue tunic. Self righteous and so utterly mistaken. She thinks the world is full of good people and bad people. She’s the kid who never had to settle for the grey crayons in kindergarden.
“I agree.” said the man in a brown suit. He was the accountant at the bank I always avoided. Always smiling, happy, son-of-a-bitch.
The nine other jurors nodded in agreement as they sat down at the table, plates of spaghetti in front of them.
It was fascinating how, if you put enough sauce, it would look like splattered blood on your clothes by the time you finished your meal.
“He’s innocent.” I said suddenly.
The table paused to listen to me explain, if only because their mouths were full.
“He’s got anger issues for sure, but he isn’t a murderer.” I said.
My abuser hadn’t killed me. He’d always liked to see me suffer.
“I think someone else did it.” I said taking a fork and twirliing it around my plate of spaghetti. “He wouldn’t have slit her throat because he knew he would get caught. It wasn’t him.”
“But the evidence points straight at him.” started old Mr. Harris. He was a good guy, had three grandkids, lived an easy life. Couldn’t be bothered to know how I, back then, living across the street, got such frequent black eyes.
“It’s been planted to make it look like he did it. But he didn’t.” I said firmly. “Believe me, there is someone else involved. A scorned former lover, a wellwisher, a hateful friend---even a robber.”
I hadn’t had anyone. Maybe that’s why I lived.
We returned for the afternoon session shortly after, my eyes meeting Mr. Samuels as I entered. He was more good looking than I had imagined.
He was neatly shaved. I could almost imagine the scruffy beard growing in a few weeks, reeeking of alcohol and overburned cigerettes.
″...just received CCTV footage from across the street, Mrs Mary Samuels is seen with a man, who is clearly not Mr. Jonathan Samuels. This man on the 53rd second mark, slits her throat and runs away after an argument. This clearly shows Mr. Jonathan Samuels is not guilty. Police are looking for a middle aged man, 5 foot 11 inches tall...”
The jury looked at me and nodded.
In a couple of hours they would all agree with what I had told them.
“The jury finds Mr. Jonathan Samuels not guilty.” was announced precisely at 5 pm.
As we left the room I quickened my pace, so I wouldn’t turn around and ask Jonathan Samuels for a drink. I had to get back and see my therapist.
But he was at the door speaking to every jury member as they filed out of the empty courtroom.
“Thanks.” he said to me with a charming smile. The bastard was smirking now.
I’d seen that look so many times before. I ran out of the building, before I kissed him.
He knew his wife had an affair. He knew her lover was abusive too. He knew he would eventually kill her for him.
He knew. He knew.
I thought of those haunting green eyes turning red. He’d be more careful next time.
And now he was free.
Just like me.
I boarded the cab and held my head in my hands.
But was I really?
The Last Day of April
Avril was born in the midst of a curfew, in her grandmother's bathtub. It had been uncomfortable, but was the least of her worries.
Many things happened mere moments later, as men and women in outfits she didn't recognize, stormed into the small home. First, they took Avril away, holding a report and saying that her mother was infected. The house was emptied of its inhabitants, and the little baby girl taken to another hospital.
There she grew, mere centimeters on the formula milk they fed her. Her eyes opened and shut themselves at the sight of light. She wasn't ready yet. She wanted to go back to the womb, to swim again in the protected waters.
She did not get her wish. Instead, she felt the days roll by, hinted by the yellow light on the window, that came and left as often as her sleep.
The people bustling around sometimes dropped fluffy toys of strange creatures into her cot. Strange smiling faces often appeared in front of her, cooing at the utter cuteness of Avril's obvious discomfort. They spoke of how the timing was unfortunate and how the world was forced onto it's knees. They talked of morose things like death and shared prophecies promising the same.
They said the year was cursed and that this month simply wasn't meant to be. Avril looked on innocently at the hurrying nurses and the busy doctors and wondered if perhaps, her life had simply been mistimed?
But there were many benefits to being born in April. One of them was that it was spring time. It was green and full of flowers outside and if Avril tried a little hard she would catch a whiff of the roses on the desk in front of the room. Sometimes when the windows were left open in the nursery, a little butterfly would enter or Avril could hear a swallow chirrup from the tree outside. A pale trickle of sunlight would tease through the curtains and land on her light brown eyes, a soft warm wind tickling her plump cheeks.
Avril was curious, as much as she could be. Spring was about discoveries and she was no different. Her brown eyes grew wider as the days dragged on. She taught herself to raise her legs, and wave her arms and even turn a little in her cot. Perhaps, one day she would learn to crawl and then she would find her way home. She didn't cry much, or command much attention, as though already wisened by the tragedy surrounding her.
She did not know how many days she stayed in the crowding nursery or why so often the nurses she liked disappeared. Everytime that happened, for a brief moment she always wanted to go back, to the soft warmth of her mother's womb.
And then one day, they surprised her by saying she could.
A tall man in a white coat, stuck a cold stethoscope on her chest and declared her fit and fine. Avril would have scoffed if she could, but smiled instead. She had long since learned that many adults didn't know what to do with creatures who cried.
They put her in a little pram and tucked her into a car. The wheels hit the tarmac and for the first time in her life Avril looked out into the streets. Brilliant, loud music played as people cheered on the road. They wore bright colourful clothes and sported big, bright smiles. Some of them whistled and hooted as though they were celebrating.
Everyone stood a little far apart, a tune on their lips as they clapped, with no intentions of stopping soon.
Were they clapping for Avril?
She found herself smiling despite not knowing.
Balloons filled the clear sky, white with freedom and colours of the country. There were people in uniforms, looking tired and zealous at the same time. Their badges shone brightly in the morning sun, the glint reaching their eyes. They saluted every vehicle that went past them and Avril waved back with her tiny fist.
People were standing on their balconies, holding their hands in prayer, as they looked on at the celebrations. The roads were filled with streamers and shining glitter as an occassional cab swept past. Everyone had somewhere to be, and they were merrymaking as they went. And yet Avril spotted in the corner of the streets, a few people, with tears streaming down their wrinkled faces, a smile gracing their lips. She didn't know what it was called, but what she saw was gratefulness and relief.
The humming car engine finally stopped at a dead end road and honked loudly several times.
A woman, with brown eyes like her own, opened the door, and picked Avril up instantly. She fit in her arms perfectly and smelled sweet, like home.
Her arms were strong and gentle at the same time, the way most mothers are. Avril hugged her tight burying her face in her mother's bosom as the woman thanked the driver repeatedly.
The first time Avril looked into her mother's eyes, she saw utter joy. She had been weakened by an illness, but somehow survived. Her skin brightened as it touched Avril's and a soft blush speckled both their cheeks. Her heart was full as she realized, the world had fought a war, and won. Here, in her arms lay her reward.
Her soul lit up as she carried her little girl hom e, whispering over an over again, how a child born on the last day of April, brought love and luck to the world.
All you need is hope
Defeated, she finally asked,
"Do you believe in miracles?"
"Of course. I believe in you."
Come Back Later
We used to be friends,
My life and I.
I think it was almost love,
Real and benign.
For a large portion of two decades,
This was not a facade.
But some relationships crumble,
At the face of death,
As did I --- breaking every rule,
I set up for life itself.
Death looked bright and full of hope
Desperate, I bought a sturdy rope.
The shaking stopped soon,
The weight dipping down.
A tall blackness sheathed me,
A quiet pain bequeathed to me...
But Death knew me well.
And knew I'd make it out---
Breath filled my lungs,
Blood throbbing against my forehead,
I collapsed, but didn't die.
They pulled me up, they said I'd live.
They asked me to hold on,
And begged me to forgive.
Perhaps I had always known,
I would heed their advice;
That I would rebuild my life and outlive---
the broken stems of heartbreak, the slow torture of the world,
The promise of pain, I thought I knew death well.
But Death had known me better.
#It isn't time yet
#Life is your friend
Before the Rust Sets in
It cuts a little at a time,
Wrists rounded by a string of red;
The handcuffs don’t let you pull away.
If you persist long enough,
The cold steel warms underneath the crusting blood.
And yet, you do not stop shivering.
The sunsets fade into the night; the starlight reflects in your eyes.
But you do not reach up; you cannot touch.
Nearby, so close, but never yours or mine.
They say the key is around here somewhere,
It is too dark for you to see.
The pain is familiar, but this fear isn’t mine.
The pulse slows and the bones weaken; you search and search.
The bracelet gleans off your sallow skin.
Until, one day, you pull --- and the metal remains.
You are nothing without your anchor.
Nothing without the rage.
Insignificant without the bloodied hands and yet...
Untethered, burning sand beneath your feet, you walk.
blinded no longer, by the dust in your eyes, you weep.
The tortured hands slowly open,
Revealing weak, faded lines.
Chained by circumstance, released by fate.
You stand in wilful silence, and think of all that remains.
The healing soul, the calming mind,
The pain that dulls at last.
And in that moment, the body ressurects,
Because the life within you can see,
The prison is gone and you are free.
#shackle and chsin
I think I took too long to get here.
That’s why he left.
But the skirt I wore is rather short,
and it is quite windy today.
So, yes, “I’ll take the coffee to go,
With a chocolate muffin thrown in.”
The cars stop as I cross,
And the sun kisses my skin.
There’s a sweet stickiness on my lips;
Heels tapping on the sidewalk.
I feel taller as I wear my sunglasses,
And sexy as I hail a cab home.
In the end, there are only 3 ways to fold a piece of paper.
A shiny paper rose- my love for you when we first met.
A paper boat- floating on a puddle, our child holding our hands.
The crumpled divorce paper in the dustbin- inking us when you left.
"...Love you. xoxo Rachel."
He patted his chest pocket and fired.
Alone. Handcuffed and chained, on death row.
Free. Walking the streets. Another victim.