You Say Freedom, I Say Eh…..

A little off the topic of writing but important just the same… 

Ok, so I am not a Duck Dynasty fanatic, but I do tend to have an opinion about almost anything political. So, allow me to offer my two cents. As most of you know, I’m about as liberal as they come. However, I do not allow a label as vague as “liberal” to dictate my opinions. 

That being said… I absolutely, positively support gay marriage. I feel that everyone deserves to be happy and should be able to decide who they want to be with. The fact that someone else doesn’t like who they are with should not hinder their ability to build a life and share insurance/tax benefits with the person of their choosing. It should not make it impossible for someone’s significant other to be by their side if they are suffering from a critical injury or disease in the hospital, etc. It just shouldn’t. 

The political leaders of our country need to focus more on the “right to pursue happiness” and the “separation of church and state.”….. the things our country was founded on. We were literally born from people seeking to escape religious persecution. The entire idea of a “free” country is to not force our personal beliefs on people who choose not to believe the same things. 

At the same time, I am a Christian. Do I believe in God? Yes. Do I worship Him? Yes. Do I believe He is to thank for every single blessing in my life? Absolutely. BUT… Do I respect other people’s decisions to feel differently? Sure. Do I understand that some people were brought up in different environments and with different beliefs than I was? You bet. And do I understand and respect the fact that our country is a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs, and every single person has the right to worship who and what they want? Yessir, I do. 

I think it’s part of what’s beautiful about our country. If our politicians were making laws based on the beliefs of a religion that worshiped Purple Spotted Platypuses we would all cry foul. We would raise all kinds of hell about how we shouldn’t be forced to believe in something that “bogus.” But, what if they really believed it? Does that make it any more believable to you? No. So why, just because a percentage of our population believes in God, should we force our beliefs and make laws based on the religious teachings of the Christian religion?

So… In a “free” nation with a “Separation of church and state” that is “free from religious persecution”… If you do not wish to be persecuted for your religion, you must award everyone else the same respect.

That being said, and I know this is getting long…. but bear with me…. Phil from Duck Dynasty is absolutely allowed his opinion. Freedom of Speech is right up there with the rest of the rights most people ignore. Not only is he allowed to have his opinion, but he is allowed to voice it on TV if people have put him in the position of a public figure. Good for him. We may disagree, but good for him.

At the same time, is A&E allowed to run their channel as they see fit? Sure. Could they stop someone from appearing on their channel because of religious beliefs? If they want to. It’s their show. That’s THEIR freedom. They could put a worship hour of the Purple Spotted Platypus on at noon if they wanted to….. but….

Does that make it right? No. 

If any TV channel, person, or public entity expresses beliefs that people should be allowed the freedom to marry who they wish, it seems a bit hypocritical to me that they don’t support someone’s freedom to say what they wish or believe what they wish. Freedom isn’t one sided. Maybe Phil doesn’t have the same views as A&E execs, and maybe he doesn’t have the same views as me… but his show isn’t based on the reality of gay rights. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. He has millions of fans who either believe the same things he does or simply don’t give a hoot what his religious or political beliefs are. That’s alright. Because if we’re going to be free to marry who we want, we need to be free to say what we want and believe what we want too. 

If he was running for office and trying to be in a position to pass laws or make rules that *I* have to follow, then I would feel just about disagreeing adamantly with him. But, since he is simply a man… living his life…. entertaining his fans.. I couldn’t care less. 

I guess what I’m saying is… I disagree with Phil. However, I also disagree with people being punished or persecuted for their beliefs whether they coincide with mine or not. Ironically, that’s the whole freaking point of gay rights. Just like it isn’t my place to say what Phil can say or believe, it isn’t his or anyone else’s right to say who someone else can marry. 

I guess that bedrock element of the “liberal agenda” slips free when the shoe is on the other foot. And I’ll be the first to admit it.


“Runner” – a Short Story – Full Length by Will Write for Sanity



By: Brandy Meredith / Will Write For Sanity

            Annabelle pressed her back against the damp brick-wall, closed her eyes, and attempted to regulate her breathing. The more she tried to be still and quiet, the more her body trembled and her breath wheezed out in long, hard huffs. She could hear the car approaching, and she pressed herself even tighter against the wall, hiding in the shadow of a ventilation duct that curved and twisted, seeming to slither up the side of the large office building. In a low, inaudible whisper she prayed the car would pass the alley without slowing.

If he stopped, Annabelle would be trapped.

The narrow alley was only a small slice in the towering Chicago skyline, and at the end, another brick wall loomed twenty stories above her. A row of rusted and beaten dumpsters that looked like they might once have been blue gaped at her, their lids propped open by overflowing trash. The only light came from the orange glow of the street lamps that cast a triangular pattern down the center of the pavement. As the car reached the gaping mouth of the alley and Annabelle held her breath, something wet and furry crawled across the top of her open-toed shoes. Squealing, she rapped the back of her head on the wall as she lurched forward out of the shadows toward the narrow slice of light. She quickly slammed her body back against the brick surface and stifled a cry, willing herself to disappear into the rough wall. Did he see her? Hear her? She could hear the car idling at the mouth of the alley. It was stopped, and she had just about decided to try scrambling up the ventilation duct when she heard the towncar pull away.

She wasn’t sure how long she waited after that– it felt like an hour but was probably only three or four minutes before she slowly made her way to the opening of the alley. Her willowy frame was still trembling, and the back of her pencil skirt and suit jacket were gritty from being pressed against the brick surface. The bun she had twisted her chestnut hair into that morning was soaked through. Stray strands were escaping and fleeing in various directions, dripping water down her face. Her small, elfin face was slate white except for a couple bright patches of pink burning her cheeks.

Heart still thundering, she cautiously peered around the corner and down the street. Her eyes were wild as they scanned the rows of cars parked along the curb. It was the Friday before Labor Day weekend, and the business district was a boneyard of steel and concrete, deserted and cold, and the image gave Annabelle a brief chill. Even the town-car was gone. “Thank God,” she thought. She shrugged out of her suit jacket and stuffed it into the briefcase that held her laptop and the real estate brochures for the properties she had shown earlier that afternoon. She freed her stringy, wet hair from the confines of the bun and shook it out until it hung loosely down her back. As far as disguises went, it was the best she could do.

Annabelle emerged from the alley like a chastised dog – head down, shoulders hunched, and eyes darting back and forth as she quickly made her way to the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street. Beyond that point, there would be more people, more open shops and bars, and she would only be two blocks from her apartment.


Her, would-be mundane Friday night had begun only twenty minutes ago.  Annabelle usually left work before six o’clock, but she had wanted to take care of some extra paperwork before clocking out for the long weekend. By the time she left work, it was almost eight o’clock. The office building was closed, and almost everyone else had gone home.

She didn’t mind working late. She was just homesick for the slow, lazy days of Mississippi. Somehow the people in Mississippi were able to accomplish just as much in an eight hour day while still taking their time and socializing with almost everyone they came in contact with along the way. In Chicago, Annabelle was lucky if she heard “how’s it going?” from one of the hundreds of people she saw throughout the day.

Her job in Bluebell, Mississippi had really only been a glorified receptionist’s position at the local health clinic. That was just the kind of job a business degree could get in a small town. She chuckled under her breath, remembering old Mrs. Finn. The woman brought her cat into the clinic at least once a month, swearing it was choking to death. After explaining to the old lady that Get-Well-n-Go was a “people clinic” and not a veterinarian’s office, Annabelle would assure her that Shelby (the cat) was just getting rid of a hairball, and everything would be fine. The old woman, always wearing a bright, billowy dress, would give a great sigh of relief and thank Annabelle for “saving Shelby’s life.” Next, she would ask how much she owed her, and Annabelle would reply, “Oh, it’s free this time.” Mrs. Finn would give her a stale and often sticky piece of butterscotch candy from the bottom of her purse. Annabelle smiled at the memory.

Emerging from her daydream, she waved goodbye to a few stragglers who were tying up their own loose ends as she made her way to the attached parking garage. Whether they noticed, she didn’t know. They seemed not to even see her.

When she moved to Chicago six months ago, she had walked almost everywhere. It was one of the things she hadn’t wanted to give up. In Bluebell, she could walk from one end of town to the other and back before an episode of Law and Order could finish, and in Chicago, her apartment was just close enough to work. She had almost enjoyed her morning commute, despite the hurried bustle of the city streets. It had been a week since she first noticed the car following her. That was when she started driving instead.

There were probably a hundred black towncars in the city, but she noticed this one outside of her apartment when she left for work one morning, and when she came out of the coffee shop down the street, it was idling by the curb a few car lengths down. She hadn’t been able to see the driver because the windows were tinted, but she was pretty sure it was the same car. Assuring herself it was probably just a coincidence or a trick of her overactive imagination, she strolled the rest of the way to work.

After living her first thirty years in a small town with a population equal to the number of people who occupied a large apartment building in Chicago, it was easy to attribute her paranoia to the culture shock that came with her move. But when she made it to her office building and went inside, she hung around in the lobby and watched the street through the glass entryway. A few seconds later, the same car crawled past the front of the building.

So she had been driving to work for a week, and while she thought she might have seen the car a few more times since that day, she couldn’t be sure. It had probably just been her imagination all along. Hell, she still triple checked the locks before going to bed at night. Imagining boogey-men in broad daylight wasn’t too much of a stretch.

Her heels clicked rhythmically on the pavement like a ticking clock in a large, empty house as she made her way across the parking garage. The bad part about being the new girl was that her parking spot sucked. It was in the back corner of the fourth floor. She could literally walk home in the time it took her to get to her car.

The garage was normally bright and busy with cars driving in and out, the blare of horns echoing through the concrete maze, but after closing hours on Fridays, the lights in the structure switched to power-saving mode. This meant that every other overhead light was turned off, creating ten-foot swamps of darkness between each pool of light. Her footsteps quickened in the dark and slowed in the light as she made her way to her Trailblazer.

She was elbow-deep in her briefcase, searching for her keys when her hurried pace came to a sudden stop as she saw the car parked beside hers. It was definitely not the lavender-colored VW bug that normally occupied the spot. The black towncar with tinted windows waited in an expanse of shadows, breathing. Was it breathing? Her stomach lurched, and she began digging through her briefcase more frantically. She didn’t know if she was looking for her keys or her cellphone. It didn’t really matter. Her fingers had gone numb. She was standing four parking spaces away from her boogeyman, and her feet were frozen in place.

Just as her fingers closed around the keychain, the driver’s side door of the towncar opened and a shadow that must have been six and a half feet tall unfolded from the mouth of the breathing car. He started toward her, and she spun on her heels and ran as fast as her sensible realtor’s shoes would carry her.

“Wait,” a deep, booming voice called from behind her, and she heard her sunglasses hit the pavement and skid away. “Hey, where are you going?” the voice called. It was lower than it had been, not as close. He wasn’t following her.

Then she heard the car door slam shut and the engine hum as the car backed out of the parking spot. She ran faster. She couldn’t imagine waiting for the elevator, and there was no time to dig for her keycard to get back in the building, so she took the stairs two at a time. When she reached the street and felt the cold rain on her face, she knew the car would be exiting soon, so she kept running. No one seemed to notice her as her heels pounded quickly down the pavement. Her fellow pedestrians only averted their eyes and moved out of her way.


And that was how she ended up hiding in an alley, soaked and cold. She guessed it was safe to assume that the car had been following her after all.

When she finally made it to her apartment building, Annabelle stopped in the entryway to catch her breath. The fifteen story building opened up into a dimly-lit hallway full of mailboxes that reminded her of tiny morgue drawers. The ancient tile flooring was chipped and faded. Her shoe found a newly liberated chunk of tile, and it skittered across the floor, startling her. She made her way to the three elevators. One of them had been broken since she moved in, and the other two sounded like they were being hefted up the dark shaft on frayed nylon rope. The lights inside the old steel boxes flickered off and on. When she had first moved into the apartment, it reminded her of a hotel, only with really bad carpet and terrible customer service.

As she rode the elevator to the sixth floor, she wondered just what in the hell was going on? If she had known a big city would be this dangerous, she would have moved to a remote cabin in woods somewhere between “hope you have a full tank” and “what’s indoor plumbing?” Cities were supposed to be anonymous and impersonal. What happened to that? She must have missed the “Crazy Stalker Guy” section in the brochure.

As Annabelle let herself into the apartment, her nerves were instantly soothed by her roommate, Jasmine’s, out-of-tune rendition of “No Scrubs” coming from the kitchen. The small, tidy apartment smelled like furniture polish. She dropped her briefcase by the door after locking both locks and the chain and headed toward the sound of Jasmine’s voice.

“Hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me…” Eyes squeezed shut, Jasmine crooned into a ladle as she slid around the kitchen floor in her stocking feet. Her concert attire consisted of a black tank top and a pair of hot-pink pajama shorts that read “Dreamy” across her butt. Her braided hair was twisted into a knot on the top of her head, and a few strands clicked back and forth with her movements.

“I swear, they’ll let anybody perform in this joint,” Annabelle said in mock disapproval as she slid onto a barstool. She laughed at Jasmine who had stopped singing and was standing, legs spread, ladle still held up to her mouth, and a wide-eyed look of shock on her face.

“You… scared… the… shit… out of me.” Jasmine breathlessly pronounced every word with emphasis, placing a hand on her dramatically heaving chest. She dropped the ladle back into the dish drainer and looked at Annabelle who was still laughing as she patted her wet hair with a clean dish towel. “What happened to you? Wait. Let me guess. Your first puddle shower?” This was Jasmine’s term for when a car drives through a puddle and showers the poor pedestrian who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her eyes were squinted with amusement.

“Not exactly,” Annabelle said, her smile vanishing.

“Well then, what happened? Forget your umbrella? Wait – Didn’t you drive?” A look of concern replaced Jasmine’s amused smirk, and she hopped up onto a barstool beside Annabelle.

“You remember the car I told you about? The one that was following me?” Annabelle asked. She suppressed an urge to cry as she prepared to tell Jasmine what had happened.

“Yeah. What? Did you see him again?” Her eyes ran over Annabelle, eyebrows drawn together.

Annabelle told Jasmine about the car in the parking garage and the giant man who had gotten out of it. She told her about how she had ran from her office building, and she told her about hiding in the alley. “I’m not sure if I should’ve been more scared of the guy or the rat that ran across my foot.” Her attempt at a joke flopped.

 Jasmine looked like she had gotten caught gyrating around the kitchen again. “We need to call the police,” she said.

“And say what exactly? That I see black cars everywhere, and somebody took my co-workers parking spot?” Annabelle asked, helplessly. “He hasn’t done anything to me.”

“Umm… stalking, duh,” Jasmine said, glancing around the kitchen, probably looking for her phone.

“But I can’t prove anything,” Annabelle said uncertainly. She had always had an impression that big city cops were used to investigating multiple homicides, busting massive drug cartels, and stopping vengeful terrorists. She knew she had probably watched too much Law and Order. Still, she didn’t want to seem like a scared country-girl in the big city. But honestly, she was a scared country-girl in a big city.

The man had tried to talk to her. He didn’t sound angry. He had sounded more confused than anything, when she thought about it.

“…pepper spray,” Jasmine finished as Annabelle surfaced from her thoughts.

“Pepper spray?” she asked.

“Yeah. We need to get you some pepper spray,” Jasmine repeated.

“I’m not so sure I want to be in a situation where I’m close enough to use it.” She was remembering how long it had taken her to find the set of keys in her briefcase. She imagined walking around with the small spray-can tied around her wrist. “I’d probably just end up spraying myself with it anyway,” she said.

“Well, what are we going to do? Because you can’t keep running back and forth to work. You’re too skinny as it is,” Jasmine said, only half joking.

“I don’t know, but-” Annabelle was cut short by a knock on the door. Her eyes grew so wide her vision blurred, and she stared at Jasmine who gave her a reassuring look.

“I’m sure it’s just the wrong apartment number,” she said. “I’ll get it. You stay here.”

Leaning forward on her barstool, straining to hear Jasmine at the front door, she nearly fell head-first onto the floor. She hopped down. Tiptoeing to the kitchen doorway just around the corner from the front door, she pressed herself against the wall and listened. She found herself thinking that she had spent entirely too much time hiding against walls tonight.

“Who is it?” Jasmine called through the heavy-duty front door. Their peep hole had been blacked out by previous tenants. “They must have been as paranoid as I am,” Annabelle thought. Her throat was dry, and she struggled to swallow as she listened for a response from the hallway.

“I’m looking for a Miss Kingston, Annabelle Kingston,” a male voice boomed from the other side of the door.

Annabelle’s chest heaved again, her heart stuttering. The lights in the apartment seemed to dim and brighten. She gaped, wide-eyed at Jasmine from around the corner, and Jasmine shot her a questioning look that said “what do you want me to do?”

Terrified, Annabelle jumped back around the corner and closed her eyes. She didn’t know what to do. All she knew was that she wanted to go back home to Bluebell. This would never happen there. She knew everybody in Bluebell.

But hadn’t that been why she left?

She heard Jasmine opening the door, imagined her peering through the crack allowed by the chain lock. “Who are you?” Jasmine demanded.

“My name is Adam Barnett.”

And that was when Annabelle slid to the floor.


Seeming to come from a great distance, she heard Jasmine calling her by the nickname she had given her shortly after they met. Jasmine had said, “Us city-folk don’t have time for too many syllables. That’s why everybody calls me Jazz.” She decided on Belle the minute she found out Annabelle was from a town called Bluebell.

It was when Annabelle met Jasmine that she was finally able to open up about the life she left behind in Bluebell. She had been in Chicago for just under two weeks, and the loneliness she felt was only intensified by the vast number of people in the city. On a mission to start over, she joined a yoga class and signed up for real estate classes.

She couldn’t help but like the small, spunky yoga instructor everyone called Jazz. When they met, Annabelle was living in a rent-by-week hotel. Coincidently, Jasmine was looking for a roommate. Six months later, they were best friends. Annabelle needed a best friend.

After moving in, Annabelle came clean and told Jasmine everything. She confessed her greatest sin, and like a true friend, Jasmine had lied and told her it wasn’t her fault, and she couldn’t blame herself for what happened. It was nice for the short amounts of time Annabelle could make herself believe it, but she knew the truth. So, why in the hell was she thinking about Adam Barnett?

All of these thoughts came in just a few seconds of unconsciousness. By the time Jasmine reached her, she was easing into the same nightmare she had moved across the country to escape.


Annabelle was driving down Mason Boulevard in Mississippi. As she neared Culpa Park, she was passed by a speeding police cruiser and an ambulance with their sirens blaring. She offered up a silent prayer for whomever they were on their way to help, as she often did. But when they pulled into the small park up ahead, her grip tightened on the wheel. Her foot lowered the gas pedal to the floor, and her Suburban leaped forward and raced toward the park.

Her daughter, Katie, was at the park with the babysitter, a teenage neighbor, Allison. Annabelle had met Katie’s dad, Rick, in college, and they dated for a month before the fun wore off and they both moved on. When she found out she was pregnant, she let him know that she didn’t expect anything. While he wasn’t thrilled with the news, he promised to help out. He did. They had maintained a civil relationship. Over the five years since Katie’s birth, there had been hiccups and arguments but nothing major. Once every five or six months, they got together to discuss the visitation schedule for the next half year. That’s where she had been that day.

The cruiser, along with three others and two ambulances were parked alongside the playground. On the far side of the playground was an open field where people walked dogs and played ball. She veered crookedly into a parking spot and jumped out of her Suburban, running toward the cruisers, terror propelling her.

As soon as she saw her, Allison yelled her name. She was running toward her with tears streaming down her face and blood on her shirt. She grabbed Allison by the shoulders. “Why was there blood on her shirt?” Allison sobbed, “It’s Katie, Anna. She’s hurt.”

Annabelle let loose of the grip she had on Allison’s shoulders and ran blindly toward the ambulance with its back doors standing open. She saw Katie’s small body lying lifeless on the gurney that had just been hoisted up into the back. Katie’s face was a mask of red.

Annabelle screamed Katie’s name. Her soul peeled out through her throat in a guttural cry, and she threw herself into the back of the ambulance.

The dream faded with a police officer explaining to her that some college kids had been playing baseball in the field beside the playground.  A line drive. In the face. Five years old.


“Belle? Hey. Belle, please wake up,” Jasmine’s voice was back and it was laced with fear and uneasiness.

Annabelle slowly blinked her eyes. She was lying on the couch, and Jasmine’s gentle featured face was all she could see.

“What happened?” Annabelle croaked, throat still dry.

“You fainted. Are you alright?” Jasmine’s eyes were wide and scared.

“I’m fine. I’m a little confused but okay.”

That’s when she heard his voice.

“I think you might have hit your head going down. There’s a bump,” the man’s voice said from behind Jasmine’s face.

Annabelle jerked upright and stared over Jasmine’s shoulder at the hulking man standing in their living room. She was right. He was easily over six foot tall. He had short dark hair in messy spikes all over his head, like he just got out of bed or he just spent an hour in front of the mirror sculpting that particular look. She couldn’t tell the difference these days. His features were very strong – a wide set jaw and a narrow, carefully sculpted nose. She had never seen this man’s face before, but he was familiar to her somehow.

“I’m sorry, Belle,” Jasmine said. “I needed help getting you to the couch. I threatened him though,” she seemed to brag as she turned and gestured to an unattended butcher’s knife lying on the coffee table. “He says he’s here to see you. What did you say your name was again?” Jasmine asked, turning toward the man.

“Adam Barnett,” he whispered.

“Adam Barnett,” Annabelle echoed. “You killed my little girl.” She somehow managed to grind the words out through clenched teeth.

Jasmine visibly stiffened and turned a shocked gaze to Annabelle.

Adam winced. “That’s what I’ve been telling myself every day for five years now.”

Annabelle sat very still, eyes blazing, and Jasmine remained a protective barrier between them. Her eyes darted back and forth, from one to the other.

“I’m sorry for scaring you, Miss Kingston,” he began. “I really am. I don’t know how I saw this playing out, but I had to find you.”

“Are you kidding me?” Annabelle’s voice shook with rage. “You’ve been following me for a week, and you expect me to believe you’re sorry for scaring me? What’d you think would happen?” She was on her feet then, leaning across the coffee table toward him.

“I know. I’m sorry.” His gaze dropped. Was that shame? “I was trying to find the nerve and the right way to approach you,” he said.

“Yeah? Well, you did a really fucking horrible job.” She spat the words at him with force. “I want you out of my house.” She walked to the door and flung it open, gesturing to the hallway.

“Wait, please. Please just let me talk to you for five minutes,” he pleaded. “I promise I will go back to Mississippi and leave you alone forever if you just give me five minutes.” His eyes were teary and pleading.

She looked at Jasmine who was gazing at her with a mixture of sympathy and worry.

“It’s just five minutes, Belle. Then you can be rid of him. I’ll be right in the kitchen the whole time,” she reassured Annabelle.

 “Alright. Yeah. I’ll give him five minutes,” she agreed and then turned to Adam. “But after that five minutes, you’re gone, and I never see you again.” Her anger was coming mostly from how frightened she had been. She sat back down on the small couch, pointing sharply to the adjacent couch and motioned for him to sit.

“Holler if you need me,” Jasmine said as she stared Adam down on her way out of the room.

Adam sat on the loveseat that was positioned across the coffee table from where Annabelle sat. The living room was so small that he could have touched her by simply reaching across the table. There was a small flat-screen TV hanging on the wall with two large, black and white pictures of Paris on either side.

“Thank you. You have no idea what this means to me,” Adam began.

“I don’t really give a shit what it means to you. I have been a nervous wreck for a week because you were too chickenshit to pick up a phone or walk up, in a public place, and introduce yourself like a normal fucking person.”

“I’m sorry,” he began again.

“I’m not finished,” she pounded the words like nails. “I moved here to get away from Bluebell, not to have it follow me. I never wanted to see you. You or anyone else who looked at me like I had some kind of… contagious sadness.”

“I know,” he said. He was perched on the edge of the couch, his back rigid. His legs were so long that his knees were almost level with his chest. His hands were clasped between them, and he nervously flirted with making eye contact, but couldn’t seem to hold it. “When I found out where you were…”

“How exactly did you find out?” she asked, genuinely interested despite her anger. No one from Bluebell knew exactly where she was. She had no family. Her parents were killed in a car wreck when she was three, and she was raised by her grandmother who passed away when she was twenty-six. She was close to a lot of people in the community and had several friends, but after Katie died, she had four-and-a-half long years to withdraw from them. In the end, she simply told everyone she was moving and wasn’t sure where yet.

“I hired a private investigator,” he admitted, wincing as if he felt the stab of anger that gouged her.

“Where I am and what I’m doing is none of your business,” she said. Her voice was lower, but her temper was still hot.

“Yes, but I had to talk to you. I had to apologize. My therapist said…”

“Your therapist?” she asked.

“Yes. I’ve been seeing him… ever since… I needed to talk to someone. But lately, all I’ve been talking about is you. There’s nothing I can do for me anymore.” He paused, seeming to choose his words carefully. “My therapist warned me against contacting you. He said your residual anger would only make me feel worse.”

He didn’t choose them carefully enough. Her eyes snapped up to meet his. “My residual anger…  Would make you feel worse? Am I supposed to apologize?” She was gaping at him.

“No,” he said calmly. “That’s why I’m here. There’s no way I could possibly feel worse. I wanted to say I’m sorry. I never got a chance to. The police, the lawyers… they wouldn’t let me near you. I never even saw you because there was no trial. All I ever wanted was to talk to you and to say I’m sorry. But then you were gone.”

“Yeah. Gone. And for a reason,” she said. She was thinking about how things had been after Katie died. All the sympathy. Even after four years, no one could look at her without that downward curve of their eyebrows and sympathetic smiles. How was she ever supposed to move on? Everyone told her how tragic of an accident it was. Like she didn’t know. They repeated over and over that she shouldn’t blame herself. There was nothing she could have done without knowing, but Annabelle knew the truth. It was her fault. She didn’t need a babysitter to have lunch. She could have taken Katie with her or at least left her with an adult.

“Listen,” he said, pulling her from her thoughts. “I wanted you to know I wasn’t just some college punk who moved on and got over what happened. I wanted you to know that. I needed to tell you before…”

“Before what?” she asked when he trailed off. The memories of her daughter’s death were as raw as they were during the days following the accident. When she decided to move, she had chosen Chicago for its stark contrast to Bluebell. She wanted somewhere big, impersonal, and without memories. So she moved to Chicago, met Jasmine, and was working toward her realtor’s license… But the disguise she had assumed was flaking away like an old sunburn, and she was left raw and hurting.

“My life’s over,” he almost whispered. “I haven’t been me since that day in the park. I quit college. I quit talking to all my friends. I spend all my time working as a night security guard to afford therapy. All this time and I still can’t get my shit together. I’ll never be able to forget what she looked like…” he said. “I’m no good for anyone. People look at me different. Feel sorry for me. I don’t deserve…”

“So what are you saying? You’re going to hurt yourself? Do you want me to have that on my conscience too?” It seemed so selfish. To just end it because of what happened. Did that make what she did selfish too? Or just cowardly?

“No, I hardly think what happens to me should bother you,” he said, genuinely appalled. “Like I said, I came here to tell you I’m sorry. I guess I thought you would feel better knowing that what happened that day ruined me too,” he said.

“I don’t feel better,” she said. “She’s gone. Nothing will bring her back. I was doing a pretty good job forgetting the past, but here you are,” she said, motioning around the room with her hands.

“I don’t think it’s possible to forget,” he said, and she glared at him. “If you think you can, you’re fooling yourself.”

“Who do you think you are?” she mumbled without malice. It was barely audible.

“The person who put you here.”

Annabelle shivered. He was right. Did she even want to forget?

After a long pause, she finally spoke. “Adam, it was an accident. I know that. You were playing baseball in a public park. You weren’t drunk driving or anything.”

“No, but…”

“I was angry,” she interrupted. “I am angry, but I know it was an accident. It took a while, but I forgave you a long time ago,” she said.

“You forgave me?” he asked.

“Yes, I did,” she admitted to herself and him. “After Katie… I left. Not just because of you. I was broken without her. I came here to make a new life.” She thought for a moment.

He nodded.

“I got this bright idea,” she continued, “that I would just move far away from Bluebell, to a different world, and things would be different.”

“But, there was nothing…” Adam began.

“I wasn’t there for her. I wasn’t even there,” her voice cracked, “that day.”

“You couldn’t have known,” he said. Silent tears ran down his cheeks. His hands flexed between his knees, seeming to want to reach out for hers, but he kept them in his lap.

A small smile found its way to her face. “No, but neither could you.”

She couldn’t really be angry with him. The past five years of her life were spent hating this man and then trying to forget him and all the memories associated with him. All the desperation and misery in his eyes reflected how she had felt for so long. She could see herself in his misery. It wasn’t his fault, but he would never forgive himself for something he couldn’t have possibly predicted. She hadn’t blamed him. It was herself. It had always been herself. But there he was, giving a face to his name and digging up old feelings that never really went away. The ever-present idea of Adam Barnett had transformed into a broken man who was hurting as badly as she was, a man who lost the past five years of his life because of what happened to a little girl he had never even known. She wanted to punch him and hug him. She wanted to kick him out, and she wanted to beg him to stay. A connection to her past… to Katie.

He leaned across the coffee table toward her. She didn’t back away. She simply gazed into his eyes, pleading. Pleading him to take them back in time and change things that could never be changed.

“I’m sorry,” he said, so softly that she more read his lips than heard him.

Her tears flowed freely, and she wrapped her arms around him over the table. She hugged the man who killed her daughter. She hugged the broken person who may never be the same as he was before and who would forever deny himself the innocence he deserved. She hugged the man who showed her who she was through the person she saw in him.

“I’m glad you found me, Adam,” she said as her head rested against his chest. “I’m tired of running.”

Desperate Times…


My husband loves me, and he likes to randomly bust in while I am writing to say hi or to steal a cigarette. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, but when I’m writing, I need to focus. I am very easily distracted. It takes me a while to get in the zone and truly focused, but if something distracts me, I’m back at ground zero. It is terribly inconvenient. I generally end up getting super pissy with he distracts me, and then I have to apologize for it later.

So today, I truly have a lot to accomplish before I can go to sleep. I have to be at work at 10 p.m. and I have to go to school after that. With all of the end of semester papers due, I have gotten a total of 3 hours of sleep the past two days…..So….. if at all possible, sleep would be nice. This is my attempt at maintaining focus, being productive, avoiding an argument, and avoiding serious sleep deprivation. I was worried at first when I couldn’t find any tape, but what the hell? Who needs tape?

I would stick around and chat, but…. You know….

The Beginning of the End: A Small Excerpt of Terror

This is a short excerpt from my final short story of the semester. The original story featured Annabelle as a prostitute named Trixie who came from a small town in Alabama and found herself on the streets of a city larger and more cold than she could have ever imagined. After a run-in with the man who killed her daughter and caused her downward spiral, she comes to terms with her own guilt. However, my professor thought the prostitution part was “too much” for a short story and suggested I take it out and give “Trixie” her own story later on. So, this is the new beginning of Annabelle’s story. She has moved to “big city-name unknown” in order to escape the constant run-ins with people who remind her of her loss and the same old places, smells, and things that remind her of her daughter Katie. Now, she is struggling to adjust to life in the city when she finds herself being followed by a black towncar. Coming from a small town, her fears of big city life are only magnified by this turn of events, and thus begins her journey. I welcome any comments, critiques, and a advice. Please, feel free to pick and poke all you want. 🙂        



 Annabelle pressed her back against the cold and damp brick-wall, closed her eyes, and attempted to regulate her breathing. The more she tried to be still and quiet, the more her body trembled and her breath wheezed out in long, hard huffs. She could hear the car approaching, and she pressed even tighter against the wall, hiding in the shadow of a ventilation duct that curved and twisted, seeming to slither up the side of the large office building. In a low, breathy whisper she prayed the car would pass the alley without slowing.

If he stopped, Annabelle would be trapped.

The narrow alley was only a small slice into the massive body of the towering city, and at the end, another brick wall loomed twenty stories above her. A row of rusted and beaten dumpsters that looked like they might once have been blue gaped at her, their lids propped open by overflowing trash. The only light came from the orange glow of the street lamps that cast a triangular pattern down the center of the pavement. As the car reached the gaping mouth of the alley and Annabelle held her breath, something wet and furry skittered across the top of her open-toed shoes. Squealing loudly, Annabelle rapped the back of her head on the wall as she lurched forward out of the shadows and into the narrow slice of light. She quickly slammed her body back against the brick surface and stifled a cry as she willed herself to disappear into the rough wall. Did he see her? Hear her? She could hear the car idling at the mouth of the alley, and she had just about decided to try scrambling up the ventilation duct when the towncar pulled away.

Not sure how much time had passed – it felt like an hour but was probably only three or four minutes – Annabelle slowly made her way to the opening of the alley. Her slim frame was still trembling, and the back of her pencil skirt and suit jacket were wet. She silently thanked herself for choosing her black suit and prayed the dirt and whatever else she had picked up from the wall didn’t show up on the dark fabric. The bun she had twisted her dark brown hair into that morning was showing signs of wear. Stray strands were escaping and fleeing in various directions, and her small, elfin face was pale and covered by a sheen of sweat.

Heart still thundering, Annabelle cautiously peered around the corner and down the street. Her eyes were wild as they scanned the rows of cars parked along the curb. She saw nothing but a boneyard of steel and concrete, deserted and cold, and the image gave her a brief chill. But the town-car was gone. After a brief internal debate, she shrugged out of her suit jacket and stuffed it into the briefcase that held her laptop and the real estate brochures for the apartments she had shown earlier that afternoon. She freed her escaping hair from the confines of the messy bun and shook it out until it obediently fell into place. As far as disguises went, it was the best she could do.

Annabelle slowly emerged from the alley like a chastised dog, head down, shoulders hunched, and her eyes darting back and forth as she quickly made her way to the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street. Beyond that point, there would be more people, more open shops and bars, and she would only be two blocks from her apartment. 

Writer’s Block: It’s the End of the Semester, and My Brain is Shutting Down



So, here it is, the end of the semester… One more week of classes, and then finals week is upon me. This is truly the WORST time to be battling a serious case of writer’s block, but I can’t seem to find my way around it. I’m not even sure why they call it “writer’s block.” I CAN write, I just can’t write anything worth a damn. 

It doesn’t help that I have a research paper due on Wednesday on the literary purpose of the women in William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” I also have to completely rewrite a 20-page short story by the end of the week. It also doesn’t help that I am particularly fond of the short story the way it is, but my professor thinks it’s “too much story for a short story.” So, I’m tasked with dumbing it down and getting rid of one of the most interesting aspects of the entire story altogether. 

I know that pretty much all writers find themselves faced with writer’s block at some point, but do you have more trouble when you are overwhelmed, or is it just me? 

Agh! Please tell me there’s a magic pill I can take that will clear my head and motivate me to finish this stuff up, so I can move on to winter break! …. And next semester… (finally getting my foreign language out of the way, the last of my gen ed classes) German 101, German 102, History of Narrative Film, English Studies, and Survey of Early American Lit… Whooooo!

A Honeymoon Redo

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Photos by: Brandy Meredith

When my husband and I got married, we took our honeymoon in Panama City Beach, Florida. It was the first time he had ever been out of the state of Kentucky and the first time in years for me. I was so excited to be able to show him the ocean. The ocean is just something you can’t completely grasp without seeing it. No amount of pictures can prepare you for the vastness and beauty of water that stretches to the horizon.

When we got there, he was so excited. I was too. I couldn’t wait to get my toes in the sand and have the best ten days of our lives. We went straight to our condo on the 27th floor and I dragged him directly to the balcony that overlooked the Gulf of Mexico. It was stunning. The sun was low in the sky and was casting golden rays across the water. We were like two kids on Christmas morning. We didn’t know what to do first.


Photos by: Brandy Meredith

After visiting the beach and checking out the rest of the resort, we went back to our condo for dinner and a few drinks.  As we sat on the balcony drinking, my husband began to feel strange. His fear of heights suddenly went from making him uncomfortable to making him terrified. He was having trouble breathing, and he couldn’t sleep. The next day was much of the same. He told me he felt like he was losing his mind, and he didn’t know what was wrong, but he felt like he needed to leave. He was terrified constantly and didn’t have an explanation for his feelings. The only time he felt calm was when he was in the water. 

After three days of me bouncing back and forth between being angry that he was “ruining our honeymoon” and being concerned and doing everything I could to calm him down, he finally begged me to take him home. As it turned out, he had been having a panic attack. It lasted for three straight days because he was so far from home, in an unfamiliar place, he had no idea what was going on, and he literally thought he was going crazy. All of that only intensified the panic and prolonged the attack until he learned what was happening to him.

He is now very used to his anxiety symptoms. He had never had anxiety before that trip, but has suffered from it ever day during the two years since. But now that he knows what it is and how to handle it, we are very anxious to “redo” our honeymoon.

Happiness Comes More Than Once a Year


I remember when I was a little girl, and Thanksgiving was just the day when our house smelled amazing, my mom was busy in the kitchen all day, and we ate a huge dinner much earlier than normal. There were pilgrims, cornucopias, and turkeys everywhere, and before we dug into our big plates of food, we gave thanks for everything we were grateful for. I mean, that’s what Thanksgiving is about, right? Not so much.

I won’t get into what actually happened when the pilgrims came to America or how, in order to stay true to form, you’re going to need to kill your dinner guests and their entire families after you eat. That little tidbit of our history has been filed away in the “things Americans don’t actively think about” file. Let’s keep it there. It wasn’t our best moment.

The Nitty-Gritty

I absolutely love this time of year, and I love all the holidays that come with it, but I don’t like how we carry on with the rest of the year… Almost as if Thanksgiving is a day for purging all the positive thoughts, so we can get back to being grumpy assholes for another eleven months. You can spend all week making trips to the grocery store and spending ungodly amounts of money for the perfect dinner. That’s natural. You can spend two to three days preparing dishes and pies. Who doesn’t? And you can certainly look forward to getting the whole family together to sit down for a meal together. Because, let’s face it, it’s uncommon these days.

We call Thanksgiving a day for giving thanks… a day to be thankful and realize our blessings. In theory, this is a great idea. But we’ve just spent the entire year worrying, stressing, envying, and feeling sorry for ourselves, just to come together on the last Thursday in November to say thanks for everything we have been blessed with. Please don’t take it personally if you are just a naturally positive person and you feel like I am generalizing. I’m simply saying that most people spend their lives focused on what they don’t have and what they wish they had. Which is healthy in some regards, when it comes to setting goals and working toward something, but in most cases it’s absolutely toxic.

Let’s think about what we do after Thanksgiving. Millions of people flock to malls and stores to fight over items that have been marked down a few bucks for the big “Black Friday” sales. What happened to being thankful for what you have? Oh wait, that was yesterday. How about when we complain about having to work extra hours one week? Shouldn’t you be thankful you have a job or that you are gaining hours rather than having them cut? When you get a flat tire on the way to an appointment, it can literally ruin your day. What terrible luck! However, shouldn’t you be thankful your blowout didn’t cause you to lose control of your car and swerve into oncoming traffic?

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I am, by no means, perfect. I often find myself stressing over financial issues. My thoughts travel all the common routes, “will this ever end?” and “why, when we work so hard, is it so hard to catch up?” “Will we ever catch a break?” But, when it comes down to it, my husband and I are both blessed to have jobs. We may not always be able to make ends meet or grocery shop to our heart’s content, but we aren’t living on the streets. We may be eating Ramen for dinner, but we didn’t have to dig it out of a trash can. We may have to go without the things we want, but we are almost always able to get the things we need. And while I’m at it, at least I have a loving and helpful husband. He doesn’t beat me, cheat on me, or spend our money on a drug or alcohol addiction. So, what are a few skimpy meals and a landlord who stays irritated because we’re always late on the rent?

Now, I realize that not everybody has it as good as I do. Some people are beaten, cheated on, stole from, addicted to vices, homeless, and emotionally broken. And I’m not suggesting that the old man sitting on the corner bench with all of his worldly possessions in a shopping cart should be thankful he has a shopping cart and a bench to sit on. What I’m saying is that those of us who have our basic needs met, aren’t physically or emotionally abused, and aren’t starving would be a lot happier of we focused on what we do have, rather than what we wish we had.

So on One Hand, This is My Life

I am a 32 year-old college student. I know the absolute true meaning of the phrase “broke college student.” My full-time school schedule greatly limits the amount of time I can dedicate to making money. I currently work a 32-hour-a-week job on third shift, making minimum wage, and it sucks. The way I am treated at work sucks too. People aren’t appreciated for what they do. They are pushed to do more. Because, “if you can do that, I don’t see why you couldn’t do this too,” and “Well, yesterday you did extra stuff that you didn’t have to do. Why didn’t you do it today?” I often have trouble finding time in between getting out of classes at 2pm and going into work at 10pm to do my homework and sleep. We STAY late on all of our bills and have risked eviction more times than I care to think about. I lost my mom very suddenly when I was 20, and I still have pretty serious anxiety issues about death. I constantly worry that someone I love is going to die. I also suffer from social anxiety. Without medication, I can’t bring myself to go to a store by myself, I get dizzy and nauseous in public, there aren’t many people I feel comfortable hanging out with, which limits the number of friends that I have, and I have missed out on a pretty big portion of my life because I was scared of it. My husband and I have been trying to have kids for about five years. Our efforts have been put on hold while I’m in school and money is so tight, but for five years I was unable to get pregnant. I am already 32 years old, and I’m afraid it will only be more difficult in two years when I graduate. My biggest fear is that I will be unable to have children. My husband and I both REALLY want kids. I feel like it’s the one thing in life that I want the most… to carry a child and be a mother. The thought of that not happening devastates me.


 I am blessed to have made it to 32. A lot of wonderful people were taken from this earth before they had that chance. I may be a broke college student, but at least I am a college student. The privilege of higher education is something I could never put a monetary value on. Had I went straight out of high school, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much or gotten as much out of it as I am now. It has already been a life-changing experience and worth every minute. Not only has it helped me meet some of the most amazing people, but it has helped me find my passion and better myself. My third-shift, 32 hour a week job may not be the bee’s knees, but it’s 32 hours, not 18. It’s third shift, and I don’t have tons of scheduling difficulties with my class schedule. I may make minimum wage and get treated like dirt, but at least I’m not making 50 cents a day and working in life-threatening working conditions. The time between work and school isn’t always enough to get everything done, but I never have the chance to say I’m bored. Our bills are always late, and my landlord probably wishes he had never laid eyes on us, but we get things paid eventually, and by now I think he knows we are good for it. My mom is dead, but I got to spend 20 years with her, and it was wonderful. She passed suddenly and I never got to say goodbye, but I didn’t have to watch her suffer either. I worry about the death of a loved one, but so far, all is well. I have three amazing men in my life. My husband, my father, and my brother. They are all three so supportive and loving, it’s unbelievable. I do have social anxiety, but with the help of medication (anti-med opinions aside), I am able to function normally. I no longer skip classes because I’m afraid to go. I can go to the store by myself, and it isn’t the end of the world if I’m seen out without my makeup. I don’t have a TON of friends, but I do have a few AMAZING friends who I wouldn’t trade for a hundred new ones. And, finally, I may not have been able to get pregnant yet, but there has been no official diagnosis that I never will, and if they decide to come along after school and when we are more financially stable, it will all be for the best.

So, I am thankful for my not-so-perfect life every single day of the year. It keeps me sane. It keeps me from killing people. And it keeps me happy. The next time you’re upset or stressed over one of life’s many failings or disappointments, remind yourself how much worse it could be, and be thankful… in November, March, June, whenever. Because happiness comes more than once a year.

Writing About Writing: An Intro to Me and My Blog


The most dangerous place in the world is a comfort zone. Generally, if it’s comfortable, you’ve been sitting still for too long. And once your comfort zone gets one of those little butt indentations, it’s time to get off your ass and get moving.

Any accomplished writer can tell you that in order to perfect and hone your skill, you need to practice it often. While that’s pretty self-explanatory, things can get a little complicated under certain circumstances. This blog is my story about my journey in writing. At the same time, it is an outlet that allows me to write about what *I* want to write about. Sidenote: That doesn’t happen often.

When I was 28, I hit a point in my life where I was slapped in the face with the reality that I was nearing 30, and I had absolutely no job security. I was laid off from my factory job, and let’s just say I gained a new perspective about my future. Did I really want to spend the rest of my life feeding parts into a machine? Was my mission in life to be a robot? I didn’t like it, and that was about the only thing I was SURE about.

About a month before the big layoff, I was having a conversation with an engineer who was working on my machine at work. We were talking about the possibility of layoffs due to the automotive industry problems that were going on at the time. While his job was fairly secure, it was an unspoken fact that mine was not. Now, in my mind, I’m looking at this guy who makes more in a couple months than I probably made in a year, and I had a few preconceived ideas that people with those types of jobs were from a different planet than me. When I graduated high school, the idea of college was filed under the “Yea Right” heading. I worked a full-time job to support my lifestyle of having a car and doing whatever the hell I wanted. But our conversation turned into a life-changing experience for me. You never really know, do you? Whatever force or being or God is out there has funny little ways of pointing you in the right direction. Mine came in the form of a 45 year-old engineer at an auto-parts factory.

He told me that when he was my age, he was working on an assembly line, much like me. He had a wife and three kids, and one day, out of the blue, he was laid off. Sound familiar? Well, that was his wake-up call. He started college at 30, got an engineering degree, and by 37 was making triple what he was making before his layoff. While it was a most inspiring story, my thought process went something like, “Well, that’s just great for you, but it’s just not for me. Besides, I probably won’t get laid off anyway.” The most dangerous place in the world is a comfort zone. Generally, if it’s comfortable, you’ve been sitting still for too long. And once your comfort zone gets that little butt indentation, it’s time to get off your ass and get moving.

Needless to say, I got laid off. Shocker! Don’t laugh. I was in denial. It happens to the best of us. After about three months of sitting on my ass and feeling sorry for myself, I told my fiance that I was thinking about applying to college. Now, if you don’t already know this… Making a big declaration like this is a good way to know who truly has faith in you. My fiance was excited for me and my biggest fan the whole way through, as was my family. However, there were a few remarks from people like, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Believe it or not, these small expressions of douchebaggery are more motivating than all the support in the world.

So, what did I do? I applied to college. I got accepted. I got accepted for financial aid too, and when the time came for classes to start, I had a mini breakdown. You see, I had year and years of social anxiety packed away in my backpack with all of my brand new top-of-the-line pens, notebooks, highlighters, calculators, staplers, index cards and freshly sharpened pencils. Yes, I went a little overboard in the beginning. Now I’m lucky if I remember to bring something to write with to class.

But, back to the social anxiety… I was scared shitless. Absolutely terrified. I walked with my head down, I sat in the back of the class, and I even dropped classes if the professor mentioned presentation assignments on the syllabus. Then I noticed something. Almost ALL college classes have presentations, and in order to graduate, I had to take a public speaking class. Oh hell. I was no longer even on the same planet as my comfort zone. What did I get myself into?

I started out as a business management major because I had eight years of experience in retail management, and I hadn’t yet been exposed to the awe-inspiring inspiration afforded to me by getting out there and experiencing new things. I had always loved writing, but we all know what everybody says about English majors… “Oh, I’m sure you’ll make a great teacher.” Not interested. And to tell the truth, it never even crossed my mind. I was surfing websites like trying to find out how fast my college degree could make me a millionaire. And then, three semesters in, I realized, “This sucks!” I hated it. I hated everything about it. I could do economics and accounting and even marketing, but I sure as hell didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life.

And then my second life-changing experience happened. English200- Intro to Literature. I have always been an avid reader, so I was pretty excited about this class. One of our first assignments was to write an essay about how the women in William Faulkner’s, Barn Burning were treated. Our professor gave us a week to finish it, and on the second day we were supposed to bring in an outline to show her our progress. I was the only person in the class who did their outline. The only person in the entire class. When my professor looked at it, she looked up at me and was silent for a moment. I got all fidgety, shifting from foot to foot.. wondering if I broke some unspoken classic literature/higher education rule when she said, “Are you an English major?” When I said no, this look of disappointment passed over her face, and I was absolutely confused. I mean, it was an outline, not a thesis. “You really have talent. Are you interested in writing?” she asked. Of course I was interested in writing. I loved it, but what could you do with it? Later that night she emailed me with the email address for the English advisor and links to the university website that lists professions you can pursue with different degrees.

To make a long story short…. well, shorter… I changed my major. I am now a 32 year-old junior, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Professional Writing, and I have never, in my entire life, felt so sure about the path I am on. My life is full of inspiration and hope. A few months ago I was a finalist in a fiction writing contest, and you would have thought I won the Pulitzer.

Five years ago, I would have laughed if anyone had told me what my life would be like today. I’m married to the man of my dreams, my best friend. I’m an honor-roll junior majoring in my passion…. and while I’ve never been so financially strained in my entire life, I’ve also never been so happy.