Wednesday, April 25, 2012


"Remote, 5 miles," Natalie read on the road sign through the rain.  I can make five miles, she thought.  It was late, she'd been driving for hours, and the rain was now coming down so hard that she could barely see the road.  She hoped there would be a small motel or an inn that she could stay in Remote.  If she tried to drive much further, she'd drive herself right off a cliff.

As she crossed into city limits of the quiet town, she wondered if anyone even lived here anymore.  The houses seemed sad and empty. Signs hung off the walls of old businesses like pictures someone had forgotten to straighten for the past fifty years.  But, toward the end of town, there was a single building with a light on.  "Far and Away Inn," it read. "As Remote As Can Be."  Under the sign, a neon red sign blinked, "VACANCY."

Natalie pulled into the small parking lot next to the other cars, grabbed her duffel bag from the backseat, and pushed open the door to the office.  "Hello?" she inquired. "Is anyone here?"  The front desk was littered with yellowing papers and chewed-up pencils.  A rusty bell sat on a ledge over the desk.  Responding to her shake, the sound reverberated jarringly through the quiet of the room, like she had disturbed something meant to stay untouched.

Just as Natalie was about to retreat back to her car, a door creaked open at the end of a hallway, and an old woman with fuzzy gray hair limped toward her.  The woman was short and plump, with a gray shawl to match her hair draped around her shoulders.  It was almost like the grandmother from Little Red Riding Hood had jumped from the pages to check Natalie into this place. "I'm sorry, dear," came the creaky voice from the woman as she reached the desk. "I just don't walk as fast as I used to. Can I help you?"

Natalie smiled assuringly. "It's alright, ma'am.  I'm on my way to Denver, but this storm is just terrible.  I was wondering if you had any vacancies?"

"Call me Bessie, darling.  Everyone here does." Bessie flipped thoughtfully through the pages on the counter. "As it turns out, we do have just one room left.  It's at the end of the first floor, and has two beds.  Would that work out alright for you?"

"Oh, that would be fine, Bessie. I just need someplace to sleep for the night."

"Alright then, we'll get you checked in." Bessie flipped a switch behind the desk with an air of finality. The light in the room seemed to change.  A dimming? A different tint?  It set Natalie on edge, something was odd here.  "Nothing to worry about," Bessie assured her with a nod toward the window.
Natalie turned in the direction of Bessie's nod and noted an orange "NO" had been turned on outside in front of the red "VACANCY."  She laughed inside at her own unease.  It was just a quiet small town.

Bessie pulled a key from the wall behind her, invited Natalie to follow her and to mind the cats that swirled around their legs. "We don't get a lot of nighttime visitors here, and they just like to say 'Hello.'"

"Oh, it's no bother," Natalie responded, dutifully.  There was something about Bessie that stuck in her mind, but it was nothing she could really put her finger on.  She waited while Bessie opened the heavy door to her room, and then bid the woman goodnight before closing it and sinking tiredly onto one of the beds.

Outside the room, Bessie began making her way back to the desk, murmuring to the cats. A scream emitted from the room she had just left, and Bessie smiled with satisfaction.  Her limp disappeared, and when she arrived at the desk, she turned off the "NO" sign that blinked outside with garish annoyance. "That makes five, my dears.  Will the storm bring us a sixth?"

Natalie had one final thought before the life drained from her completely. It was her eyes. They just didn't blink enough.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


It was a friendship that was over.  If there was blame to be placed for that, there were multiple places to do it.  Some of it belonged to me, some of it belonged to them, which is probably the case with most ended friendships.  Rarely does it fall on just one, and if you start to thinking it does, then you're not being honest with yourself.  I was at the stage of the healing where you go over every minute of the friendship, thinking of what could have gone differently, if you did right, if you did wrong, if you were right to walk away, if you were unreasonable.  I began to realize how strongly manipulation was a part of our friendship.  It wasn't until that moment that I had even seen it. I hadn't realized how easily it was to manipulate me, and it's not been something that I have been able to un-see.

Guilt trips. Passive Aggression. Self putdowns.  They're all things that I've found myself to be really susceptible to, and I cave all the time.  Do you have things that you find yourself kowtowing to constantly?  Or people?

I've been really trying to get away from that.  I don't like feeling used.  I've been trying to adopt a stronger resolve, and to be more resistant when those aforementioned methods of manipulation are used on me. I feel like people will think that, when I don't cave like I used to, that I've become a harder person, that I don't care, that I'm mean, and I don't like that much, either.  But I'm not sorry for becoming stronger, I think it's a good thing. In a roundabout way, it's actually allowed me to be a much better wife and mom, and I can't be sorry for that. I just don't want to be the girl that allows herself to be so manipulated anymore.

Don't you allow yourself, either.  Folks who use manipulation to make you change who you are aren't really your friends, and you're worth more than that.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I woke up slowly and shivered. Not again, I thought irritably.  Luke was always stealing the covers at night and then hording them with an iron grip.  Without even opening my eyes, I threw an arm behind me, trying to locate a corner so I could wrestle at least an inch or two away from him.  But there was nothing.  I really mean there was nothing.  No bed. No husband. No nothing.  My eyes flew open and I found myself staring at the ceiling.  Normally, this wouldn't really be the biggest deal in the world, but in this case, the ceiling was an inch from my face.  What in the world?  Why was I not in my bed?  And more importantly, why was I on the ceiling?

I spun myself around and looked down, sure I was going to fall at any second.  I blinked.  There I was in my bed, next to Luke, who was sharing the blankets quite nicely for once.  Maybe this was one of those dreams where you're watching yourself do things from outside of your body.

As if reading my mind, a creaky voice spoke. "You're not dreaming, dear."

ghostly chair
I somehow managed to figure my way into a sitting position, feeling something like a floating genie, and spied a very old woman, creaking away in an equally-floating rocking chair, serenely knitting a blanket.  "Grandma... Rachel?" I asked.  Grandma Rachel had been dead for 20 years.  This was most definitely a dream, no doubt brought on by all the cold medicine I had taken the night before.

"Oh no, dear.  It isn't a dream," she insisted.

"Would you stop doing that? Of course it's a dream.  How could I be up here?  And how could you be here?  You're dead!"

Grandma Rachel laughed, her needles clicking away.  "Well, of course I am, Sarah. How else could I float up here like a ghost?  And so are you."

I stared at her. "Me? I can't be dead.  I can see myself right down there!"

"And your chest isn't moving so much now, is it?"  She pointed a knitting needle at me.  "You really should check the interactions on your drugs, Sarah.  Anyway, it doesn't matter now.  What's done is done.  Read the letter from Grandpa Bill, it explains.. well, some of it."

I looked around me.  "Letter?"

Grandma Rachel looked irritable.  "Yes, the letter that's floating right next--  Oh.  Well, I always forget this part."  She snapped her fingers, and a letter appeared on my lap.  "That one."

I picked it up and opened it carefully.

"Dearest Sarah," I read. "If you are reading this, it means you're dead. Sorry about that.  I hope it was painless.  But now you're a ghost, and can carry on the family legacy.  You'll be expected at the mansion in Lexington at 2am sharp tomorrow night.  Will explain the rest then. Love, Grandpa"