Bonded and chained
Stuck where you don’t belong
Agonized screams reach to the ceiling
But, you tell me you are strong
And that this prison won’t last long
I see through you, you are pained
Despite all that, you remain headstrong
You are killing all your emotions and feeling
Caught in this throng all day long
Singing and believing in that silly, stupid song
The true, real you has waned
I knew it would happen all along
You know, unless you start to seek healing
This agony and sorrow will only go on
And you'll always be stuck in this never-ending throng
at the bar
what I was
the unabridged journals
of Sylvia Plath
and put his hand
on the small
of my back
she killed two people
but that can’t
I sat complacent
ordered a beer
and wondered what
I was doing
Pen to the Paper 12
"Put your right foot in, you take your right foot out. Put your right foot in and you shake it all about. You do the Hokey Pokey… See, Nick, I have no idea what the Hokey Pokey is anymore. Is it this?" I asked, putting my hands on my hips and doing one of SpongeBob's techniques for proper bubble blowing.
"Can you do that again?"
I did, swiveling my hips in a circle.
"No, not at all," Nick said with a chuckle.
"It has been on my mind all week. I've done it hundreds of times, and now I just can't seem to remember."
"Well, it's like this. You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about," Nick said, turning around slowly while pointing both fingers in the air.
"You sure? That doesn't seem right."
"Pretty positive. I went to a wedding last week. I was the maid of honor."
"What? Whose wedding were you at that you, a super muscular man with a full beard at the age of seventeen, were the maid of honor?"
"Oh, Maya and her new boyfriend got hitched. So, who's the winner this week?"
"It starts today," I said. "Also, do you have pictures?"
"Yeah, man. So here's me trying on my dress--it was too tight. I flexed and the arms ripped. Here's me learning how to walk in heels. This is the bachelorette party. Tell you what, man, watching a bunch of chick-flix and eating pizza all night--no better way to celebrate. Here we are getting ready. I had to help put make-up on one of the bride's maids, and here is the youngest bride's maid putting make-up on me…"
"Oh, she's absolutely adorable," I said.
"I know, right? Cutest little thang you ever done did see," Nick replied. "Here's me crying while handing Maya the ring (there wasn't a ring bearer). And this is me catching the bouquet."
"Dang, looks like you had a fun time."
"Oh, yeah, man. Oh! I almost forgot!" He took his phone back out of his pocket and found another photo. "This is me bench pressing everyone who attended at the same time."
"No, this is showing off," Nick said, picking up my desk and spinning it on the tip of his finger. Putting it down, he said, "I hope you don't mind, but I brought my older brother in to help today. I can't be here the entire time. Me and the girls are going dress shopping. We gotta stay in contact, you know? Figured what better way than to all go to the mall and buy dresses!"
"Sounds like a plan, Stan."
"He prefers Stanley."
I looked at Nick, confused. "Who does?"
"My brother. Anyways, I'll see you later. I need to grab my purse before I leave."
After he left, I said to myself, "What have they done to him?"
Looking at my watch, I straightened my tie and headed towards stage. As I approached the stage, I heard it. Incessant cheering and chanting. Stepping onto stage, I noticed cracks forming in the ceiling above me and dust falling from it. A small chunk of ceiling hit my shoulder and bounced to the floor. Everyone was jumping around and chanting, "Caleb! Caleb! Caleb!"
"Wow," I said, grabbing the microphone. "This is amazing. WHO'S EXCITED FOR PEN TO THE PAPER TWELVE!?!?!?"
The entire audience erupted in screams. The dust from above intensified.
"Well, you came to the right place, because today's the day!"
More cheering, more screaming, followed by a thunderous crack and a large chunk of ceiling falling directly on top of me.
Everyone gasped in shock, the room went silent. Slowly, I stood up from the rubble, covered in dust.
Throwing my hands in the air, I yelled, "PEN TO THE PAPER 12, BABAAYY!!!"
The audience began cheering and clapping again, and I left stage pretending that I didn't break every bone in my body.
"Hey, Stanley," I said, walking towards him. "Can you drive me to the hospital?"
"Ye, I gotchu, bro." He picked me up, threw me over his shoulder, and ran faster than an Olympic athlete to the hospital.
This was it. The last murder.
Elijah Rhodes leaned into the conference room’s plastic chair with a sigh of relief. He was almost free. The very thought of being done with it all made his chest feel lighter somehow. As the door sounded behind him, Elijah sat up, bracing himself for whatever came next.
“Congrats on the case, Rhodes,” Steele gripped the hitman’s shoulder with a heavy hand,
“You never cease to amaze me.”
Elijah Rhodes nodded, eyeing the file between Steele’s thick fingers. He wanted more than anything to just get this last job done and be finished for good. Elijah shoved his hands in and out of his coat pockets impatiently, fingering the little silver ring that inhabited his right pocket.
The over-stuffed file dropped on the conference room’s table as Steele gestured toward it, “This next one is a bit on the rough side. We’ve got a foreign case, external employers, and severe government interest involved. I know you’re on your way out, but this can be your last big case.”
Elijah couldn’t help frowning a little; external employers were a huge setback. An unsettling feeling gnawed at his stomach, “Who are we talking about?”
Steele cleared his throat loudly and tugged at the end of his striped tie, “Well, Russia Bandello.”
At the sight of Elijah’s shocked expression, he raised his hands, “But it’s nothing you can’t handle! They’re just after your everyday conman. Seems the guy was somehow able to break down Bandello’s system and cross the border with some cash.”
Flipping through the thick file, Elijah rolled his eyes, “Some cash? Steele, it says right here that we’re dealing with an estimated $ 25 million dollars. In K's. This is a highly sensitive case.”
Steele shrugged his bulky shoulders, “So what? I know you can handle this. You’ll be going out with a bang, y’know?” He stabbed the open page, pointing at the target information, “It’s all set up too. Those Bandellos really know how to make a job easy. Look, the guy’s getting married this week; all you have to do is show up in your Sunday best and take him out. Couldn’t be any easier.”
Leaning in to read the background check page, Elijah froze in shock. He tore the paper out of the file, rereading the top names desperately. ‘Target: Alec Harmon. Significant Other: Kristina Stewart.’
The room went silent. Elijah felt an icy shuder run down his spine at the sight of the two pictures attached. The page blurred before Elijah’s eyes. “I can’t do this,” his voice sounded shaky.
“What do you mean? This is your last case, you have to do it!” Steele slammed the table with his hand, demanding Elijah’s attention.
Forcing himself to breathe, Elijah looked up. “I said I can’t do it. I won’t take the case, Steele, find someone else.”
The older man grumbled, “I can’t, you’re already contracted.”
Elijah gripped the page tighter, fighting to ignore the way his heart was sinking. This was Kristie...this was no anonymous family he would be destroying.
“Dammit, Rhodes, you have to!” Steele shoved the file onto Elijah’s lap, “This is a serious mess, I don’t want to know what they’ll do if you break the contract. I’m already on eggshells with Russia himself from our last encounter. There’s no backing out now.”
In a daze, Elijah collected the pages, folded them into the file, and stood up stiffly. The empty, white office spun around him.
“I need to go,” he managed to choke out. Any words that Steele yelled after him were muffled by the fear roaring in Elijah’s ears.
It was a bad night for Elijah. It always was when he got caught up thinking about Kristie again. After so long, he was finally beginning to heal. The abrupt mention of Kristie’s name had sent him spiraling back into the familiar pain. But it was more than that this time. She was getting married; she was happy without Elijah in her life. Worse, Kristie was marrying the very man that Elijah had been ordered to kill.
A nauseating heat burned in Elijah’s stomach at the thought of it. By impulse, his hands reached for the liquor cabinet. They fell into the well-known pattern of filling and draining the glass. Elijah shot a couple back, welcoming the comforting buzz. He fell back, exhausted, onto the sofa. Painful memories swirled around in his head as he drifted in and out of sleep. The sudden too-loud ringtone of his phone jolted Elijah back to consciousness. In a haze, he picked up without checking the caller I.D. first. “Yeah?”
Static whirred in his ear, followed by a strangely low voice, “Rhodes.”
He blinked in confusion, “Yeah, who’s this?”
“This is a warning. You will complete this mission without hesitation or face the aftermath,” The voice continued in a raspy accent, “Are we understood?”
Elijah sat up quick, coming to his senses in a sudden jolt of dread. “Who is this?”
He controlled his breathing and strained to hear any background noises.
Only the low, accented voice followed. “We are watching, Elijah. We hope you are able to complete the…extermination…without any difficulties. If you cause any disruptions, there will be consequences. We are aware that you seem to have a special connection with the target’s fiancé. Perhaps, that is motivation enough for you to complete your orders, to keep her alive.” The voice let out a slithery breath. Then, the line clicked.
Elijah dropped his phone, gripping the ends of his hair tightly. Fear wrapped around his throat with chilling fingers. Kristie was in danger. Again.
Memories flashed behind his eyes of Kristie, smiling, laughing, talking. He remembered with fresh pain the way her eyes had looked when he broke their relationship off. She hadn’t known that Elijah was doing it to protect her. But it hurt, just the same. And he had thought she would be safe, out of his life, free to live her own. It seemed that the past had come back to haunt him now. There was no doubt about it; he had to go through with the mission.
Elijah failed to hold back the sob that tore at his chest. He pressed tight fists against his eyes and cried. For Kristie and her fiancé, Alec. And for himself; his own unrealistic hope for a future with Kristie, destroyed. After struggling his entire life with the guilt of his own sins, Elijah knew without a doubt in his mind: he was a terrible, horrible man.
The wedding day arrived on schedule, just like any other mission day, and Elijah treated it thusly. He dressed, packed, and left the cold apartment with the routine stiffness that masked his features before every mission. This case was the same as any other, he reminded himself, as if the terrors of the night before had never happened. It was merely a name to cross out, nothing more. Strike, leave, repeat. Tomorrow will be different.
Elijah refused to let himself think beyond repeating the phrase over and over. He kept his eyes on the road as he drove, blinking away the memories that threatened to resurface. His phone buzzed, breaking the silence. Elijah reached for it. The familiar notification that lit up his screen sent Elijah’s stomach sinking. Would he accept the mission? The ‘confirm’ button waited patiently for his decision. He reminded himself of Kristie, and of the way the voice on the phone had threatened on her life.
That was enough. There was no longer any hesitation in Elijah’s decision; he pressed the glowing button, and dropped his phone to the console. The mission’s button was replaced by a time count, slowly ticking away the milliseconds. It was time for action.
From up on a second-level balcony, Elijah took in the overwhelming sight below him. The wedding was breathtaking. Elijah smiled despite himself, knowing that this was exactly the type of wedding Kristie had always dreamed of. There were flowers and lights strung in an arch across the entire room and little candles leading down the classic aisle. People arrived in swarms, seating themselves in the beautifully ribboned chairs and waiting silently for the ceremony to begin.
Elijah scanned his own surroundings briefly, popping open the lid of the heavy case that leaned against his leg. None of the people below would be able to spot him standing between the enormously tall, columned arches. Light from stained-glass windows stretched its way across the room, towards the center, leaving Elijah in a heavy shadow. The crowds below began buzzing with conversation as more people were seated. Elijah noticed the pastor making his way to center stage, shaking hands with a tall man in black. It was the man from the file picture, Alec Harmon. Kristie’s husband-to-be and Elijah’s target. He walked with an air of importance, laughing with broad shoulders and a strangely perfect smile. Elijah wondered what parts of the man Kristie had fallen in love with, what parts made him better than Elijah. But more than that, he wondered if Kristie knew who this man really was.
An organ’s piercing notes sounded suddenly, jolting Elijah back to the present. The music swelled and every seat below went silent, anticipating the bride’s arrival. The wide doors swung open and Elijah swallowed around the sharp knot in his throat.
Oh, God. There she stood, glowing like an angel in the colorful light of the stained-glass. His heart swelled at the sight of her smile. From the upper balcony, he watched her take slow steps forward, matching the sweeping tune of the organ. She only had eyes for what was in front of her, unaware of his presence. Elijah’s heart ached at the sudden thought that it could’ve been him, standing at that altar, beginning a new future with Kristie.
The music was fading, which was his cue to begin. Elijah checked his phone, watching the minutes slip away. Shaking away all the heavy emotions weighing him down, he finished assembling the suppressed rifle and rested its end against the edge of the balcony. Breathe in, breathe out. Just like any other time. Aligning the crosshairs, Elijah took a few deep, motionless breaths. He watched the ceremony up close through the gun’s scope, taking in every detail of his target. Alec’s debonair smile spread around the edges as he held Kristie’s hand. Elijah tried to concentrate on the timing and precision. It was just a mission to complete and get over with. He adjusted the sights, keeping them even with Alec’s head. Sliding his finger onto the trigger, like he had a million times before, Elijah prepared himself to fire.
Something about the way Alec kept turning his eyes toward Kristie pierced through Elijah’s concentration, reminding him of some foggy memory. And then it hit him, like a blow to the gut. A memory of the first case that had ever left Elijah aching. The gun loosened between his grip absently. Danny.
Every detail suddenly rushed behind his eyes with a fury. It had been late evening, right before the sun went down. The man’s name was Danny Agnello. He’d been walking with his wife, holding her hand, with that same adoring look in his eyes. And Elijah had shot him dead, right there. He’d reminded himself that it was just a job, that the man was rightfully ended, that he had made the right decision. But no matter how many crimes Danny had committed, Elijah could never rid himself of the guilt that came with taking the woman’s husband away. That look, between Danny and his wife, was seared into Elijah’s memory, repeating itself over and over. Danny’s eyes, their hands clasped together, the weight of Elijah’s finger pressing the trigger, Danny’s limp body slumping to the pavement, and the screams that followed. The images swirled around in Elijah’s mind painfully until Kristie’s precious face joined the mix of memories. A searing feeling burned against his side. Elijah wasn’t sure whether he imagined it or not, but it was almost as if the burning feeling came from the silver ring in his pocket.
Elijah stumbled back dizzily, forcing the agonizing reminders away and clutching at his pocket. In the panic of the moment, the rifle slid right out of his hands, wobbling against the balcony’s railing. Blinking back to reality, Elijah hurriedly reached for his gun. It toppled back and forth before his shaking hands. He stood frozen, watching hopelessly as it tilted off the rail and dropped to the ceremony below. Elijah cringed in horror, expecting a heavy crash, whispering a smothered, “No!”.
Not a sound followed. The peaceful wedding ceremony went on without interruption.
Bending over the balcony, Elijah caught sight of the rifle, hanging by the edge of its bipod on a string of lights. Without a moment to lose, he reached carefully for it, bending himself over the banister. The gun hung just outside of his reach as Elijah inched closer and closer. Right as his fingertips brushed the edge of the gun, Elijah’s phone buzzed against his pocket abruptly, announcing the thirty second mark. The ceremony below carried on, Kristie and Alec now facing one another.
In panic, Elijah lurched for the gun and grasped it with both hands, his legs holding him against the second level’s edge. He had less than thirty seconds to pull the trigger. With the steadiness that accompanied his experience, Elijah leaned his arms against the light’s wires, and balanced his torso on the edge. He levelled himself with the rifle to aim. Forcing himself to focus with a deep breath, he zeroed in the scope, squeezed the trigger, and
The phone buzzed, signaling that time was up. It was done.
Elijah’s shoulder absorbed the little recoil that followed, and only a muffled sound followed the shot. Alec fell to the floor heavily, and screams of horror ensued. The entire room fell to chaos as people fled in all directions, toppling chairs. Elijah barely hung on to the railing by his feet and grasped the string of lights desperately. From across the room, he noticed only one person frozen in place. Kristie.
First, she stared silently at her almost-husband, unmoving on the floor. Then, her eyes swept the walls, assessing every corner. They moved up, searching the giant columns. Kristie’s eyes moved with a strange calmness, until they landed on Elijah. The recognition in her eyes was obvious. Elijah’s heart crushed against his chest in anguish. She knew.
In that terrible, sickening moment, he lost his balance between the balcony and the string of lights. The suddenly too-heavy rifle tumbled from his hands to the floor, and Elijah followed.
The impact of his body with the floor below was not the worst part. It was the falling in between, when Elijah had time to relive every shot he ever took, every body that ever dropped, and every part of him that shattered at the look in Kristie’s eyes.
It’s 2:18 am
You drive me crazy.
Everytime we talk I get answers that don't make sense mixed with conversations that hit so deeply. It's like you've got two sides that must never be thrown together. Everytime I think I've got you there comes a time of not knowing that leaves me wondering all over. If I wondered long enough would you know what I was thinking or would you just resist the good. Putting myself out there had me trying for something I don't know if I could reach.
I can't believe it happened, the night finally came when you invited me over to meet her for the first time. I was excited, nervous and my palms were sweaty. All the while with a smile from ear to ear. As I quickly throw myself together I couldn't help thinking what this really meant. My smile started to grow to the point it couldn't get any bigger and butterflies started to fly in my stomach. The happiness that rippled through my body caused my eyes to begin to water.
I had to slow my thoughts, I have a habit of getting ahead of myself. I make sure I have everything I need, tell Nick bye and out the door I go. I texted you "OMW" and I started the Volvo. I put in my AirPods, start my music, then pull out the drive towards your direction. It literally takes 3 minutes to get to your place from mine. I never finish a song. I pull into the parking spot next to your truck and see you standing outside waiting for me. I get out of my car and head up your way.
Nervousness is swirling in my stomach but I don't let it show. We walk in, exchange a few words and he ask if I was ready to meet Emma. "Of course" was my response and we walked back to the bedroom where she was watching T.V. You said "Emma this is my good friend Keri." She quietly stated "Hello." and I replied "Hello, nice to finally meet you!!" Those were the scariest 3 minutes of my life.
You and I hung out in the living room, watching T.V. and just chatting. You walked up to me, kissed me like never before. I felt passion, love, and a real connection that I haven't felt between us before. In that moment I realized that you feel as I do but terrified to move forward. I totally understand why and will continue to love you unconditionally. I know one day we will have our freedom that we speak of and your fear of love will diminish with time. I will wait an eternity for you.
Meeting Emma was a symbol of complete trust, love, and hope for future.
Seems I like my eyes, I itch them all the time, they’re red, just like my blood. The blood that comes out my noes. I have a noes bleed, do you have a noes bleed? I wanna know, wanna see you grow