Merry Christmas!

merry-christmas

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”

(Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol)

Merry Christmas, everyone! 🙂

Happy Birthday and We’ll Always Have Paris!

Some things are rare – so rare in fact, that we can hardly believe them when they happen to us.

We met with no hopes and expectations, knowing it can’t last and it can’t mean anything… and soon after we both understood how wrong we had been. But for two people so used to being right all the time, being wrong turned out to mean unexpected happiness. Continue reading “Happy Birthday and We’ll Always Have Paris!”

Three Day Quote Challenge – Day 3

The final day of the challenge is here and the quote I selected is from Neihtn’s Village Teacher. Neihtn is the pen name of a Vietnamese-American writer, Nguyễn Trọng Hiền.

3

“The footprints never overlapped or touched one another, but there was no doubt that they were walking close together and going forward in the same general direction. They turned around once more and resumed their walk.”

Neihtn, Village Teacher

Today’s special nominee is Sue from WordsVisual – if and whenever you feel like sharing a few quotes with us, Sue. Anyone else who wants to participate is also welcome.

In the end, I would like to share a bonus quote – a well-known one, this time.

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Moving On…

1

“Oh… sweetie… I’m so sorry! Are you all right?”

She’s sorry?!

We skipped straight to a dish session – our patented way of diffusing dark, heavy conversations about to explode into a fight. The usual, who’s married, who’s dating, who’s getting divorced…. who’s married, and dating, and about to get divorced… But I didn’t really have any juicy gossip, and apparently neither did she, so our conversation was risking to dangerously slip back to the previous pattern.

Then I remembered – guess who got married? Continue reading “Moving On…”

Carol Balawyder’s “Mourning Has Broken”

Instead of sharing an image of a spectacularly dangerous corner of nature or of anything else around us that might suggest great peril, I’m stepping outside the confines of this week’s challenge. In fact, I’m dropping the “photo” part of the challenge altogether, and I’m focusing on the topic alone. Thus I would like to share a few thoughts on a book I’ve read recently, a book written by somebody you might already know from the blogging world. And yes, there is a connection… As I see it, one of the relevant dangers of being human and of allowing ourselves to experience the greatest joys of our nature is loss. Death is part of it – an unavoidable part of it. So we are all confronted with it and we have no choice but to learn how to deal it.

“Death is messy and often is accompanied with unfinished business. The leaving behind of everything and everyone you could possibly imagine. There is no way out of it.”

Carol BalawyderMourning Has Broken

Putting pain into words is one thing; putting those words in writing is another. But putting that writing out there, for everyone to access and interpret is an act of bravery. After reading Mourning Has Broken, one can only admire Carol Balawyder’s courage to share her experience with grief and loss.

I’ve read other books written by her, but this one touched me the most. Perhaps it’s the disarming honesty with which Carol writes about the pitfalls of dealing with death, loss and grief. Perhaps it’s the fact that everyone who has ever dealt with such issues can relate to the tone of the book and the emotions shared, if not also to some of the exact manifestations. Either way, a sense of gratefulness and respect builds up as one keeps reading – gratefulness for sharing and respect for the woman who has managed not only to work through incredible loss, but to also find hope and meaning in her experiences.

Grief is personal and there is no sure “recipe” for surviving it, and Carol’s book doesn’t try to give advice; but in trying to make sense of pointless, heart-breaking events, she does manage to cleverly insert a sense of hope. Somewhere, underneath all the pain, guilt and regret, there is strength – strength to move on, strength to remember, strength to hurt and fall apart, yet somehow continue living. The dead survive through the memories and feelings of the living, and allowing this connection to manifest itself once in a while is not only natural, but it can also be helpful, we are reminded. Memories of the past find embodiment in the present – a recipe, a book or a clothing item are not only a reminder, but a way to reconnect, to understand, to find peace.

There are numerous kinds of death and they never really find us prepared. What we know may seem useless, so we despair, but we also try and create our tools to help us deal with such situations. If nothing else, Carol’s book is a ray of hope from somebody who has survived and wakes up every day knowing she has to keep working at surviving. This is something that had to be said, Carol Balawyder’s fluent style convinces the reader – the same reader who gets a distinct feeling that the writer not only knows what she’s talking about, but has also thoroughly researched the matter, to facilitate the mourning process. The answers she found, she shares with us… and for that, we can only be thankful.

“Mourning, I realize, must come in small parcels. To realize the immensity of the loss at once would be too overwhelming and unbearable. It must be done in bits and pieces of dreams disappearing one sliver at a time.”

Carol Balawyder – Mourning Has Broken

On This Day of Ours

She spent all the time admiring herself in the mirror… she went on and on about her perfect body and her toned abs, lifting her shirt to show me. Could she be vainer?

I knew the girl who had been getting on my friend’s last nerve. She was attractive. She was beautiful. But most importantly, she knew it and she loved flaunting it. Personally, I admired her fashion sense – she was one of those women who instinctively know what suits them best and could create astonishing outfits from unremarkable items – and I found her lack of false modesty refreshing.

I also knew what that story was about… Equally beautiful, equally vain, my friend was more subtle about showing off her best physical features. It wasn’t difficult to know when she was truly happy with her body. She’d emerge from dressing rooms half naked or she wouldn’t mind undressing in front of other women. We’d pretend to go to the gym only so we’d have a good excuse for sauna and massages.

On the other hand, whenever she put on some weight or she obsessed over imaginary cellulite, shopping with her was a nightmare. My needing a size smaller than the one she was trying on generally resulted in a variety of mood swings and was often met with a particular grimace – the one she was saving for those special cases when someone’s actions were perceived as purposely directed against her. Our guilty pleasure – a nice meal and sharing a large slice of chocolate cake at our favourite restaurant – would be replaced by a blend salad and a lecture on the dangers of sugar and carbs.

All of the sudden, she’d show up wrapped in an oversized towel, the kind she always made fun of when seeing other women wear when taking a sauna. Like I said, I knew what it was about – she had cancelled our sauna and gossip sessions entirely for several weeks, when our acquaintance was showing off her perfect body.

It looks like all that time she spends exercising is paying off… Well, some of us don’t have the time for that, some of us have to work…

The time for feigning acceptance had passed. I could envision their afternoon… after all, I had witnessed such displays so many times. Both of them beautiful, both of them competitive, both of them frustrated in different ways. One would brag about her career and stable future, the other about her looks and her obscenely wealthy boyfriend… one of them relying on her education and her supportive family; the other one relying on nothing else but her beauty and survival instincts, her family offering her nothing but a bedroom in their home… both of them sharing one common goal, in spite of their temporary independence and rebellion – meeting a man they’d marry, the way it was expected of them…

I think of that conversation once in a while… particularly when I notice people shaking their heads and rolling their eyes disapprovingly if I make it clear that I feel good about the way I look… particularly when I notice people sigh with exasperation if I’m displeased with my appearance. So get ready to roll your eyes, because I’m going to say it. We were in our twenties back then and all three of us were beautiful, in conventional and non-conventional ways.

What is so wrong in saying that, anyway? No matter what we look like, we are constantly bombarded with clichés on the importance of self-love… so much so, that it’s really easy to end up hating ourselves for not loving to bits all those perfect imperfections we abhor. Yet the very moment we actually find a way to accept and appreciate our individual beauty, no matter what that might look like, countless brows frown and condemning whispers point out how such deluded vanity is unacceptable. What is the crime in it, that we have to tare each other apart this way? Everything in moderation, one might say. But moderation isn’t always an option… Much like beauty, moderation is subjective, defined by the eye of the beholder. Call me crazy, but I’d rather err on the side of deluded vanity/self-love…

Yes, we are can be wonderfully generous and we can be frightfully mean; we can be insecure and we can be arrogant, even at the same time; we laugh, we cry, we hurt and get hurt. We are only human. We live. So perhaps – once in a while – we can just live and let live… especially on this day of ours. Rather than trying to set new patterns that “need” to be followed, we might consider respecting each other’s choices, even if we may not always agree with them. Rather than trying to define, rule and regulate what a woman “should” be, let’s take a break and appreciate who we actually are.

This is supposed to be our day, so first and foremost, we should celebrate ourselves. Then we might want to think of all those other wonderful women in our lives. Then we might want to take a moment and think of those special people in our lives, the patient and loving ones, the ones who make us feel like ladies each and every day, and thank them. We all know who they are 😉

Happy Women’s Day, ladies!

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – …Or For Worse (Fragment)

cover1

The woman in the mirror wasn’t the one she remembered. No matter how hard she struggled, she would never see that reflection again. Time had a perverted way of leaving scars on her body in spite of all her best efforts. Turning slowly, analysing every particle projected in the horridly honest mirror, she felt her spirits lifted by the image of a still beautiful, mature woman. Her thighs were almost cellulite free… and her stomach, almost flat again… her behind was no longer as firm, but the right pair of jeans made it look just as luscious… her breasts had definitely seen better days, but she would do something about that as soon as possible. It was a game of make-believe these days, she thought to herself.

[…]

“Babe… I don’t know what I would’ve done tonight without you… After the day I’ve had… you wouldn’t believe it if I told you!”

True enough, Lover would find it unbelievable, were he to find out. His image of her just wouldn’t allow it. The thought alone made her feel better. So did his wild passionate kisses. The man in the restaurant may have been her unfulfilled future, but the one in the car with her, whose strong arms were wrapped around her, whose luscious lips were going lower and lower on her neck… he was certainly her sexual present.

[…]

Hours of drinking and dancing with Lover and his friends, followed by hours alone with Lover between the sheets in the five star hotel proved to be just what she needed. The credit card wouldn’t be cancelled so soon, she knew that much and she deserved one more luxurious night courtesy of the one she believed to be the man of her dreams up until the previous evening. In fact, a morning of mindless, senseless shopping seemed appropriate as well. She needed to make herself feel better only because he shattered her dreams the night before, Regina reasoned.

[…]

She was waiting for years to see the old hag gone, years in which all King ever did was put his mother on a pedestal and point out all the ways in which she, his wife, was unlike her, his mother. The now defunct mother became less of a strain on their marriage after his father’s death, when she finally managed to convince King to put her in a nursing home in a different town. Regina no longer had to put up with inopinate visits and unbearable family functions, but the crone still cast a long, heavy shadow, often suffocating those few pleasures left from her shattered illusion of marital bliss. But she could feel the taste of victory. Regina was winning by default, she managed to outlive her nemesis and even if she couldn’t voice out her true feelings, she found that childish enjoyment coursing through her veins absolutely marvelous

[…]

He looked at her and after all those dark days, walking behind the closed coffin, King felt he finally had his wife back. The woman he thought was the love of his life was finally back, replacing the apparently heartless creature from the past few years. He squeezed her hand in his.

She looked at him in a comforting manner, the way only she could. Walking behind the coffin, Regina felt she could be generous. Seeing the remains of the woman she hated, envied and dreaded approaching the burial plot sparked a barely containable sense of power mixed with mischievous joy. She was alive and she was not going to let it go to waste. She looked at her husband again and her heart sank. How the hell did she end up there, next to that sorry excuse for a man?

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords – and you can download it for free until February 15. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – For Better… (Fragment)

cover1

The frantic scrolling stops abruptly as the busy fingers’ and blue eyes’ attention is now required by the buzzing phone. A large smile lights up Regina’s face, a languorous sigh accompanying her reply. She had spent the entire morning trying not to think that the text might never arrive and now her patience was finally being rewarded.

The picture on the desk caught her eye in spite of all her rushed gestures. It had been such a wonderful day! Everything she had ever dreamt of, really… look how beautiful she was, she had the most expensive dress and most extravagant wedding anyone in her group of friends and acquaintances had ever seen… and on top of everything, the man she was marrying was so wealthy and handsome… A real prince had come to finally rescue her from an average existence and she would not let this one get away.

[…]

“I needed this so much… you have no idea how I missed you, Lover…” the woman purred into the young man’s ear.

Regina wasn’t lying; his absence had occupied most of her thoughts. Her recreational drug, as she liked to call him, was losing his interest, she could feel it. There was no incontestable proof to it, but a woman knows such things… he seemed somewhat aloof, guarded and atypically quiet during the last couple of weeks. Letting him hold her silently while waiting for the rest of the story about her day, the woman started scrutinizing his features with a knowing eye. There was more than satisfaction altering that kind smile. It wasn’t the look of a man who had just made a conquest and satisfied his sexual urges; that spark in his eyes belonged to a man who still cared deeply about the woman he had just enjoyed, the same woman tracing little hearts with her long nails all over his toned chest and abdomen… the same woman he was holding so tightly, having felt her absence during the previous days…

[…]

With a fake, conventionally happy expression suiting the occasion, Regina was singing Happy Birthday. But her mind was working fast, all the pieces of the puzzle having fallen into place. She and her husband hand in hand, doting on their son, were the beautiful image of the ideal family. King only had eyes for her and their wonderful son, the child was truly happy, especially since he got to spend so much time with his mother planning the party, but Regina was focusing on the woman on the other side of the table. For one moment only, her feelings were written on her face, in that loving look she let wash over King and the little boy. But one moment was all it took for Regina to understand. She knew that look so well…

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and the Engagement Rings (Fragment)

cover1

The key didn’t turn and she opened the unlocked door without giving it any thought. She often forgot to lock it, so… Clickety-clack, clickety-clack on the hardwood floor and then the high heels flew in a corner, preceded only by the laptop case, which landed with a thud. Oh well, it’s just the work computer – what are they going to do if it breaks anyway, give her a newer and better one?… Her personal mobile phone was another story though, that one found a nice, cosy resting place when carefully placed on the hall table. Curling and stretching her toes happy to have escaped the restrictive pumps, her feet started blindly feeling around the cold floor, reaching for the comfort of those favourite slippers. They weren’t there.

[…]

Her heart was throbbing faster and faster. Could it have been with admiration for that man some would call disturbed, who had put such passion in finding out what she had been up to of late? Or was it just fear that he might have discovered it all, thus making it impossible for her to pose as the innocent, shy, heartbroken victim next time they inevitably got back together?…

[…]

She liked it enough, she decided. And she was as good as engaged. Another container covered in velvet made its appearance from the depths of a large box filled with shiny, fashionable costume jewellery. Smaller and more modest looking, set carefully on the bed next to the other one, it shed a brighter, more optimistic light on Boyfriend’s choice… on her choice.

With a gentle, elegant movement, the young woman extracted what had once been another engagement ring from the older box and placed it on her finger, on the other hand. Then and now… that one and this one… and as past and present merged in one emotional instant, the big blue eyes filled with tears again… tears of regret… tears of frustration… Alone in her room, in one of the happiest moments of her life, Regina couldn’t fight the tears and for one ephemeral moment she couldn’t fight the truth either.

*

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Blind Date on Christmas – Part 2

2

Part 1

I had to admire their stubbornness, resourcefulness and shamelessness – once I had refused to meet any of these so-called suitors, they found a loophole and came up with one I had already met before… moreover, they actually snuck him into the living room when I literally wasn’t looking. Who was I not to appreciate the humour in it?

To be fair, they had done worse in the past… This one might actually make for a fun fling. A good sense of humour, not hard on the eyes… She was right, we did get along well, there was some chemistry there, from the moment we had met a couple of years earlier; it never went beyond innocent flirting, we had never been single at the same time… until then.

So much for being comfortable around each-other… they’re singing my praises. Isn’t that a nice tree? She decorated it, you know… here, have some more cake, she baked it. She’ll make somebody a great wife someday. I chocked on my food instantaneously – they’d gone too far with that one. Oddly, our guest didn’t even flinch.

Poor thing… how he suffered after the break-up… But I know you’ll find someone right for you, you’re such a great guy. So my mother was in charge with talking him up. If only I didn’t know what she really thought of him, the disposable boy toy… I knew that if I wanted to get back at her, all I had to do was to seriously get involved with him… or any other guy like him. Hmmm… she would deserve that, wouldn’t she? Let’s see how the night goes…

Strike one – he’s all of the sudden intimidated by my mother; he’s even afraid of her! A man in his thirties, who’s been friends with her husband for about a decade… that’s simply unacceptable. Oh well…

On the bright side, at least this one wasn’t gay, like the one they had in store for me the previous year. Casual dinner with some friends, they said. Yes, a married couple and their son… their clearly gay son (clear to everybody but his parents and my stepfather). And playing the part of the jealous party crasher, none other than the son’s “best friend”… Come to think of it, this was actually an improvement.

Somehow, dinner crawled to an end and we, young folk, were sent out in the world to have some fun. The guy thought we’d go see a movie, he had already gotten the tickets. I rolled my eyes – strike two. Predictable and boring. I hate going to the movies on a first date. I would rather spend that time getting to know the person, not in a movie theatre where we can’t talk. Family holiday, that’s what Christmas is, how could you not come and spend it with us? Of course it is… I had flown thousands of kilometres the day before so I could spend Christmas Eve in a cinema, watching a movie I didn’t feel like seeing with a guy I barely knew, surrounded by strangers. Merry Christmas to me!

It was all too ridiculous and harmless to be angry, really… And I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the innocent victim he was in our family antics. I could just see him as he was approached earlier that day and told I would really like to spend the evening with him, but I was just too shy to ask him out… so the date might come as a surprise to me, a really pleasant surprise… he hadn’t thought they wouldn’t tell me… but he couldn’t waste such an opportunity, could he?… Poor, poor, poor guy – he’s expecting who knows what sexy vision of a woman and instead he gets me in all my messy, domestic glory. Yet, he’s still happy to go out with me, even after that charming appearance and my parents’ behaviour. That says a lot (most likely, that he’s crazy and/or desperate)…

But he’s slowly becoming the guy I used to find quite attractive, so the walk to the cinema turns out to be just what we needed. After all, an outlet, a refuge from my family during my stay with them is always beneficial. And we are both consenting adults, perhaps later – if things go well – we could openly discuss the rules and limitations of short term dating. Aren’t I the romantic one?…

Let’s see what he suggests we do after the movie and how he behaves. Dancing the night away in a club was the perfect antidote to that evening (if fun I was supposed to have, fun I would have, and they would end up regretting it). But introducing me to his friends as his girlfriend halfway into our first date… well… strike three! That’s not to say he didn’t make for a fun escape that holiday season… But best of all, the way I simply – and apparently insensitively – said goodbye to him when leaving, according to the initially set rules, hurt his little boy toy heart, becoming a great source of gossip for their entire group of friends and acquaintances, thus insuring the end of all attempts to set me up with various individuals.

Underneath the Tinsel or Making My Own Christmas Traditions – Part Three

3

Part One – The Illusion

Part Two – The Reality

Part Three – My Own Christmas

I didn’t know it then, but that Christmas Eve would stay with me for as long as I would have memories to hold on to… not because it was fabulous, but because it was the first time I felt and understood what it was all about – what I needed it to be all about.

It was just the three of us listening to Christmas songs and staring at the flickering lights in the Christmas tree… my Christmas tree, as I felt the need to point out several times that year. We were 16 or 17 and it was the year that my grandmother had decreed that I was too old to have a tree. Well, if I was too old for a tree, then I was certainly old enough to do things however I saw fit when it came to Christmas in general. Faced with a minor family drama and a harsh blow to her perfectly loving grandmother image, she gave in and allowed the tree. That concession, however, would cost me all my Christmas gifts, I was warned. I didn’t mind, a few pairs of socks and another ugly scarf were definitely worth giving up.

It may not have been the most beautiful Christmas tree that I ever had growing up, but to this day it remains the one I treasured the most. We were all somewhat sad and ashamed sitting around that tree, my best friend, my boyfriend and I, that year… Yet we were also so very happy, so very content, finally so very peaceful. My best friend and I had gone shopping for the tree the day before and then he helped me get it home, spending hours and hours in the December cold and snow, trying to find the greatest one I could afford. That was as fun and pleasant as it should have been, the way both of us had forgotten it could be.

Once I finished decorating it, once my home was finally calm and quiet after my grandparents went to visit some of their acquaintances, the three of us had the unbelievable, unexpected chance to simply feel it was Christmas. Presents – small, thoughtful and amusing tokens of appreciation – discretely found their way under the tree, when the others weren’t looking. Between the carols, the smell of the tree and the Christmas wrapping paper torn open and spread all over the floor, we could laugh and be light-hearted, we could forget that uncomfortable sadness; we felt relieved, because somebody had thought of and cared about each and every one of us that year. We had each other, and that was all that mattered. We understood each other, we knew each other’s stories and we supported each other. It was as safe, calm and blissful a moment as any of us could have. We shared hopes and dreams; we shared painful stories of Christmases past and present and for once they didn’t hurt. We didn’t know it back then, but we were already forging our own traditions, we were deciding what we would never become, because our families had taught us what we hated most about human beings.

That’s how my grandmother found us, lying on the Persian rug near the tree, wrapping paper spread everywhere. Were we drunk, she wanted to know. No, we were not. Well, good, then it was time for us to clean up and go to wherever we were heading that evening, because she was expecting guests and we were in the way. But not before she opened her own Christmas present from me. I don’t remember what I got her that year, but after making a face and muttering a thankful ‘I suppose it’ll have to do’, the gift was deemed worthy to be seen by her friends. I adjusted my extremely short dress, I put on my extremely high heel boots and my nice coat and off we went, to wherever we were going to go. Apparently we were the cool kids, so we were going to attend a fun party and/or go dancing with our equally cool friends and acquaintances, whose parents weren’t particularly interested to know where and how their children spent Christmas, as long as they weren’t in the way.

We cannot chose the family we are born in, but we can chose the family we make for ourselves, the people who are closest to us, with whom we share the most intimate moments, memories and experiences. Yes, I believe that Christmas is a family holiday; but what I have learnt is that family is not always determined by DNA, not for all of us. My family are those very few people who have always accepted and appreciated me for who I am, those people who have always been there for me, offering their support in hard times and sharing my happiness in joyful ones, those people who have appreciated my doing the same for them. As it happens, none of them are related to me. And it’s all right.

Like I said, I make my own traditions. I choose when and how I decorate the Christmas tree. I choose to bake those delightfully delicious goodies every year – in spite of her countless flaws, my grandmother did manage to teach me some of her baking secrets. I choose to get nice, meaningful gifts for my dear ones, and sometimes I will buy them months before Christmas. I also choose not to judge or appreciate people and measure their affection only based on the presents they offer me. And for the past few years, I have also chosen to spend Christmas at home, nowhere near any relatives.

For years I have frantically chased all sorts of unattainable holiday goals, only to end up being disappointed, only to end up thinking of that bittersweet Christmas Eve, wishing for that sort of peace and acceptance. I decorate my home early in December and for years I’ve left this cosy place in order to try and gain acceptance and appreciation from people unable to accept or appreciate anybody. I refused to be alone on holidays, fearing I would be unhappy, only to learn the same lesson, time and time again – the worst kind of loneliness is the one you feel when you’re surrounded by people you don’t like. For years I left behind the people who cared about me so I could be with my… family. No more.

I have people who love me. In spite of my cynicism, I have reasons to be thankful and celebrate on Christmas, and I will do it my own way. I am not perfect and I have long ago given up trying to be, so I have accepted that there are people I will never be able to forgive, just as I will never be able to be nice and good to everybody. But once in a while I need to try to be especially nice to those I hold dear; I have to appreciate myself and the beautiful parts of my life. For me, Christmas is such a time… because I get lost in my own life and I need a reminder to stop and offer all these small pleasures to myself and those close to me. I will not apologize for who I am. I will not deny my own values, no matter what others may believe. And I will feel and celebrate Christmas the way I find it appropriate, allowing for bittersweet happiness and relinquishing all guilt and disapproval. You see, I no longer care about what the world or my family expect from me.

Have a nice December, everyone! Whether your celebrate Christmas or not, make sure it’s your own choice and not one forced on you by family or society.

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina Gets Engaged (Fragment)

cover1

Like any other long-term couple, they had discussed marriage. The fact that they had spent more time apart than together, bickering and disparaging each other was generally an irrelevant matter to both of them. They’d swear to never reconcile again, professing their mutual loathing and would occasionally yell out their indifference in hurtful, offending words. But everything would be forgiven and forgotten in a few weeks, when they’d be back together again. Behaving as though nothing had happened came naturally to both of them.

[…]

A fresh breeze of confidence carries her dreams and hopes even further, as Regina receives the most pleasing news from the jeweller’s where she has her ring appraised first thing the following morning – for insurance purposes only, of course, material matters are inconsequential… But who could ever suspect her of anything remotely resembling greed? She even manages to make it back home before sweet, dear Future Husband gets a chance to arrive – he insisted on taking that beautiful token of affection and have it resized for her delicate finger. It’s his mistake, after all… so why should she waste any time and effort because of his carelessness? As soon as the jeweller provides her with the pleasing information, Regina can finally give in to her engagement bliss and share the happy news with anybody willing to listen.

[…]

Just thinking of trying on weeding gowns makes her giddy with excitement, her heart beating faster, her cheeks blushing with anticipation. She already knows what she’s going to choose, what her heart is set on, but what’s the point in getting married if you’re not going to make the best of all the fun that comes with these preparations and bask in your friends’ jealousy? Torturing these women with her remarkable beauty, reducing their self-esteem to nothing and having them take care of the more exhausting parts of planning a wedding is something Regina has been dreaming of for years… And now the time has come for her to live her fairy tale.

Yes, that is the endpoint and she will not lose sight of it – after all, she already knows even how she’s going to redecorate Future Husband’s beautiful house. Regina will do everything and anything necessary for the accomplishment of this vision of marital bliss. Isn’t marriage all about compromise? Well, at least until both parties sign the marriage license… She is, after all, one to think about her man’s needs first. She will still smile while reluctantly agreeing to the number of guests he wants. She will wear the dress he chose for her, even if she would have preferred another; and if he wants to wear that hideous suit… well, what can a woman do but love him with all his flaws?

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and the Nice Guy (Fragment)

cover1

It was a particularly beautiful summer when they met, one filled with sweet poetry of hope and unrequited dreams, when the remains of old loves become the seeds of new ones and the magic of a sunset can make everything seem possible… even for a beautiful, intelligent and independent young woman like Regina to fall in love with a Nice Guy like him. Tall, with deep, dreaming blue eyes and a kind smile, elegant in his middle management suit, he couldn’t resist consoling Regina right after she presented her resignation two days into the trial period for a new job. Who could have resisted those beautiful doe eyes of hers, mystified by tears of despair she was trying so hard to stop from rolling down her pale, silky cheeks?

[…]

True to form, Regina promptly fell in love – so she said – with her new leading man, not one week after proclaiming her undying affection for Bad Boy, who so carelessly and unjustly shattered her dreams of a happily ever after. Yes, Nice Guy is the way to go, the key to open the door to that much sought after realm of marriage. He is that reliable shoulder a real woman like her needs to cry on, he is the sweet puppy she thinks she wanted as a child, forgetting for a moment how much she really hates dogs and how these loving, loyal creatures cannot stand the sight of her either.

[…]

In a matter of minutes, Regina glues back together all her shattered dreams involving Bad. Nice Guy may be nice, but does that make him right as well? After all, he seems stuck in a dead end job, he has no money and no ambitions, he might very possibly be the most boring man alive and sex with him is… let’s just say it, a yawn. Honestly, the dullest date or sexual endeavour with Bad Boy are far more interesting than the best moments with Nice Guy. Besides, how can she pursue her career as a victim next to him? Anyway, whenever things go wrong with any of those she considers real men, Regina can always go back to Nice Guy. He will always be there, waiting quietly for her return, hoping she would not leave yet again. What better match could there be?

[…]

In his elegant expensive Italian suit, the tall, athletic man is the epitome of calm and self-control, his blue eyes focused on the couple checking into the five star hotel. The woman adjusting the shoulder strap of her designer bag hasn’t seen him yet, and Nice Guy is happy he can chase away that wave of emotion building inside him, that strange vulnerability he hasn’t felt in years. But Regina’s big, bored eyes wonder around the hotel lobby, looking for something entertaining to annihilate her ennui, so when he meets his gaze and inexpressive smile, surprise, hopes and memories jolt her back to a present full of unexpected possibilities. The man accompanying her doesn’t notice the exchanged glances, but the truth is, he hardly ever notices anything besides his reflexion in the mirror.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers an Stilettos – Regina Experiments (Fragment)

cover1

Eeeh! That hurt! The high-pitched moan escaped her lips as soon as the woman in a white uniform removed the first strip of wax. It’ll be worth it! Pain followed by pleasure, it’s always worth it, she had to remind herself. As the wax touched her skin again and again, she felt the need to congratulate herself on the wise decision of taking the day off. She needed a few hours of pampering before the big trip, a reprieve from all the stress, so she could get ready to fully enjoy the weekend’s pleasures. But time was also required to clear her mind and figure out the optimal plan, that perfect balance between delectable debauchery and worthwhile, career-oriented depravity. Experience had taught her men were more open and supportive of her cause in an intimate environment and she was relying on this opportunity to reacquaint herself with an old friend.

[…]

With her professional prospects sorted out, Regina could now focus on everything and everyone else. She knew exactly who she wanted. She had resisted him for so long, they had played such a sensual seduction game from the very beginning, but it was finally time to indulge herself. Sure, he was now pretending not to want her anymore, his tantrums making it impossible for the two of them to work together, but it was exactly this distance that made her understand how much she really wanted him. With every offending word, with each disrespectful gesture, Regina came closer and closer to the belief that he might just be her soul mate. She wasn’t about to let him become the one who got away just because of office politics…

[…]

The man’s voice betrayed feelings deeper and more conflicted than he wanted to admit even to himself. He hadn’t gotten where he was by being naïve or oblivious to human nature. He had heard all the rumours about her, of course he had; but he wanted to believe those big, innocent looking eyes. He wanted to believe that there are women like the one she appeared to be when they first met – gorgeous, intelligent, modest, selfless, loyal and honest. Knowing that he could have such a woman warmed his heart in those dull, cold business hours as well as in those moments of impaired consciousness, when he found delight in the most obscene pleasures his successful existence offered him. If he believed the rumours, that meant she wasn’t such a woman. Then he wouldn’t have had such a woman, he wouldn’t have been a man who could have such a woman. His ego didn’t allow for such a possibility.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

A Realist’s Magic

7

“Sorry, I forgot you were born a cynic.”

We both laughed. He wasn’t far from the truth.

With Christmas only a month away and the air getting chillier every day, with seasonal decorations and gift suggestions invading every corner of our lives, some of us find it difficult to chase away a certain feeling of anticipation. That childish giddiness is almost in the air again, and personally, I have to exercise a certain kind of self-control and not succumb to that exaggerate desire of purchasing more and more Christmas decorations I won’t have where to store once the holidays are over.

The slide down memory lane is inevitable when trying to make some sort of holiday plans and my oldest, closest friend and I have our own traditions. First, we do our best to spend some time together in December, preferably over the holidays (that used to be so much easier to accomplish when we were kids…). Then, once that happens, old photos are pulled out and all sorts of memories are rehashed – bitter, sweet and bittersweet ones alike.

He was the child who refused to believe Santa wasn’t real, until he had no choice but to accept that life is harsh and its struggles sometimes have to be faced at an early age. He believed in magic and magic was suddenly taken away, to only be replaced by sadness and disappointment. I, however, never believed in Santa Claus. Christmas was my favourite time of year. I loved and enjoyed every moment of it for several years before it all became too real; yet I never believed in Santa, even if presents mysteriously materialized under the tree every Christmas morning. I couldn’t really explain why, it was a feeling more than anything else. My intuition simply didn’t allow me to believe it, even if in a way, I would have liked him to be real. Later on, the explanation crystalized in a few simple words, which apply to so many other instances of our lives: it was too good to be true. Like my friend said, I must have been born a cynic. It’s probably also true that he was a happier child before he saw the magic die in front of his innocent eyes.

Now we can make light of such memories, the ones about how we found out for sure Santa wasn’t real. Once I had decided to obtain irrefutable proof that the jolly man in red was only a lie, nothing stood in my way. Evidence once found, my plan was to wait until Christmas morning and then tell my mother I already knew what my presents were. But once I proclaimed I knew there was no Santa and I could prove it, I could clearly discern a shadow of sadness and worry on my mother’s face. I needed to prove I was right; but she needed me not to, she needed me to believe in magic. So I said nothing else aside from the usual, “I just know”. After all, I knew what the truth was and that was enough. Sometimes, parents lie to protect their children. And sometimes, children do the same to protect their parents. On that particular Christmas, the magic was all about a mother and a daughter wanting to make each other happy.

I later understood there was a different magic of Christmas in which I actually believed, and that had simply been the first time I had experienced it. It wasn’t about religion, myths, superstition or supernatural beings making dreams come true. Instead, it was about offering myself some moments of childish joy and also about creating a happy instance for somebody dear to me. What can I say, there’s magic and there’s magic… Mine just happens to be of the more realistic, non-idealized, superstition-free kind.

5

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Magic.

6

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and Selective Memory (Fragment)

cover1

It starts off light, little things here and there, which only make you believe she is simply a more forgetful person than others. An assignment not carried out in time leads way to an almost hysterical reaction as she is blaming everybody for not telling her she was the one supposed to do it. Nobody can possibly imagine she would react that way if indeed she had known and forgotten about it. That is, until the situation becomes a recurrent event… because she does indeed forget, she forgets she was told in the first place, then she forgets having forgotten. Therefore it never happened.

[…]

Regina is not like everybody else, she knows it and she cultivates this idea, mainly to the benefit of her own peace of mind. One of those things that make her so special – aside from her uncanny intelligence, unspeakable beauty and impeccable taste, of course – are her high moral standards. Therefore she makes for one very interesting case study, as all people may lie, but not so many of them have so helpful a subconscious that it literally deletes all unwanted and unacceptable memories.

[…]

Selective memory works in mysterious ways, you suddenly remember while she pouts and accuses you of all sorts of sins, such as betrayal, false friendship and selling her to the enemy. With all those invectives thrown at you in one angry breath, you can barely gather yourself and wonder what the hell you did wrong this time, in order to earn you such a warm welcome.

It all becomes clear when you slowly understand that if some people might forget a name, a date or a place, Regina can forget an entire relationship. Thus you are blamed for all kinds of unfriendly, treacherous behaviour, because she only remembers the first time she dated that particular man. But the second time around – the one which lasted half a year or so and even brought about the possibility of an impending wedding – is lost somewhere in the mists of Regina’s selective memory.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Unseen Numbers

3

You have 20% sight left in your right eye.

She twirled the fork in the cold pasta once more, still unable or unwilling to taste it. She closed her right eye, giving the plate a suspicious look. She’d been playing that game for a week. The doctor’s words were ringing in her ears, no matter what she did. So she started repeating them once more, not caring that the man sitting across the table, eating his dinner in silence, had heard them time and time again, first from the doctor’s mouth, than from her, doubled by a variety of emotions. Sadness, disbelief, hope, despair, resignation, acceptance… hysteria… he’d witnessed them all. For a moment, she felt relief, as though saying the words out loud made the problem evaporate into thin air.

“You’ll have surgery and everything will be fine again. You’ll see.”

He swallowed his half chewed pasta. There was a faint aftertaste of guilt, he noticed… he’d heard the story so many times, that he’d become immune. He no longer cared about her drama – real or imaginary – but nothing in his actions would betray it. After all, they were married…

20%… It was that number that got to her the most. It was all about the numbers. She hated mathematics, therefore she spent the better part of her life stubbornly trying to disregard the numbers she despised. But they’d always been there, tormenting her, challenging her, making her happy and sad alike, even if she had chosen to look the other way.

But she was too young… wasn’t she? Wasn’t it only old people who needed cataract surgery? She swallowed the tasteless pasta. Apparently not, that’s what the doctor said… either that or she really was old, and she just couldn’t see it. She swallowed her tears along with the pasta.

She looked at all her bookshelves, absentmindedly trying to count all the books she had read and all the ones left to read; and there were so many more that she would never even get to hear about. The numbers were winning once more. Did she only have 20% of her life left as well? The surgery might very well fix her eye – the numbers were in her favour there – but it wouldn’t fix much else. How much was left? And what to do with it?

She closed her right eye again, staring at her left hand. Only half a picture, yet somehow it looked clearer than the full picture. The diamond sparkled as she stretched her fingers and she tried to remember all its numbers – the size, the price, the date she said “yes” to it, to him, the years that had passed. Were they wasted years? Half a picture said “no”; the other half told another story. No eye surgery could help her see her present clearly.

The pasta was blend that evening, yet he wasn’t complaining about it. He always complained when the food wasn’t the way he liked it. Was this good or bad? Was he trying to be understanding and supportive or had he reached that point where he couldn’t be bothered to care enough in order to complain? A 50-50 chance. She knew she often felt she was approaching that point. So potentially 100% for their couple… was that how relationship maths worked?

Her eye moved up to her wrist. The numbers pointed to the fact that it was almost time for him to go out and meet his friends. It was almost time for her to be alone again. The number of minutes in the days in the months in the years they had been married could easily be calculated. But she loathed the result, because she had the feeling she’d been lonely for the better part of them. She also loathed to think whether he was lonely as well.

Perhaps that was why there were no more watches, no more jewellery, no more flowers. As the numbers of their relationship went up, the number of tokens of appreciation decreased, until it reached 0 and stagnated. Or did he think that holding her hand at the eye doctor was a sign of appreciation? Maybe he did… after all, she thought that remembering to buy his favourite socks was a sign of affection. They barely remembered each other’s birthdays or their anniversary these days, but the memories of earlier years were crystal clear. His birthday had come and gone, adding one more uncelebrated year to his number. Her birthday was coming up; so was their anniversary. She didn’t feel guilty for not celebrating his; she would resent him for ignoring hers, theirs… But she would pretend she didn’t care, the way she had for the past several years. How many years was it now? Anyway, she would pretend not to care, she would make light of it… after all, they weren’t children… after all, they were married…

“We should have dinner somewhere nice on our anniversary… or maybe on your birthday. That way, you don’t have to cook…” He pushed aside the half empty plate of pasta and left the table. It was time for after dinner drinks with his friends.

Both her eyes were widely open, silently staring the man in front of her. But she couldn’t get a clear picture. Was it because he hated her cooking? Was he trying to be nice? But if he was, why didn’t he suggest they go away for a few days, just the two of them? Could he no longer stand to be alone with her for a few days? Could she put up with him for a few days, just the two of them alone, all the time? Would this year’s celebration celebrate something? What were the chances for that to happen? Surely they could be calculated. Perhaps she didn’t want a clear picture after all…

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Belated Introduction (Fragment)

cover1

She is friendlier than anybody would have expected a pretty girl to know how to be. She is incredibly hardworking, even when she doesn’t really do anything right. But most importantly, she is so deliciously vulnerable. The one everybody expected to be so smug and conceited is actually so surprisingly modest and demurred, even insecure at times, her big eyes filling with tears when she does something wrong. So nobody can resist helping her, nobody can bring themselves to criticize her, thus risking to cover that delicate doll face of hers with a dark shadow of regret, insecurity and fear. It’s ok, don’t worry, we’ll fix this…. No, no, no, it’s not your fault, you’ll learn, we all make mistakes, especially early on.

Eyes humbly staring at the floor, supported on either side by a benevolent figure, Regina will find her way towards the end of her first week, understanding how everything works and what needs to be done. Not yet having found her path to confidence, she will still strive to do everything right. Incidentally, she does find her way to the hearts of her older colleagues as the perfect daughter they always wanted. She warms up the soul and phantasy of the men in the office as the embodiment of a dream, that of the perfectly sensual, yet proper woman. As for the other girls, not even the ones who don’t look up to her, wishing to emulate her in every way, can bring themselves to dispute her obvious merits and openly antagonize her, because she has already quietly established herself as the innocent face of the office.

[…]

Slowly, but surely she has evolved from doing her job and appreciating everybody else’s help to giving orders, pouting and letting her colleagues carry out her tasks, because she simply doesn’t see why somebody of her calibre should be bothered with such menial things… even though they are part of her job description and she does get paid handsomely for it. Regina has bigger and better things to do, like pout, look pretty and check out all the latest status updates, while she is waiting for everybody else to notice and understand that she is meant to be one of the leaders, not one of the cogs in the system, since she is indeed above all mere mortals. She will not verbalize any of these thoughts just yet, her education is above that after all, and Regina will make do with silently looking down on everybody and occasionally pretend not to notice her co-workers having to do her job.

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – Regina and Separate Beds (Fragment)

cover1

Alone once more, with nobody to share her tragedy, having to face and accept the separate beds situation, Regina also has to accept taunting memories that refuse to stay selectively lost. Inconsiderate has no knowledge of it, but when initially leaving her for not being appealing enough, he became an influential factor in Regina’s evolution. Non-revealing, somewhat blend, often boring outfits used to be her signature style. That’s how you get a husband, she had been taught; she was also quite sure her mere existence would be reason enough for any man to reach ecstasy. On top of everything else, she had the upper hand, she looked the part of the moral compass she believed herself to be, thus feeling entitled to pass judgement on any other woman.

What really annoyed her at the time, she remembered, was the fact that her style had worked on several men, all enthralled by her innocent beauty and charm. She was particularly fond of one memory… After a pleasant evening together, her date was walking her home. It was a warm summer evening and she was wearing the most unassuming, somewhat outdated dress and pink flip-flops. They had had such a great time together, that she just didn’t want their date to end, so she invited him to stay for coffee. But it was only their second date, so he chose to be a perfect gentleman… yet when he held her tight and gave her a long, passionate goodbye kiss, pressing his body against hers, she could clearly feel how much he desired her. So men had to make an effort to control the wild desire she stirred up in their loins, in spite of those unrevealing outfits she used to wear. However, she failed to remember a few insignificant details… They had to run through torrential rain that beautiful summer evening and by the time they reached her door, the boring dress was nothing but a semi-transparent piece of cloth clinging to the naked body underneath. But such things rarely make a difference when it comes to a man’s desire anyway…

Meeting Inconsiderate was a revelation. He was the first real man she fell in lust with and not only did he fascinate her, but he also made her feel small and simply not good enough. Everything about him exuded power and success, she felt; and she absolutely loved how he only wore designer clothes and accessories… She was equally impressed and intimidated by his disdain for people who found it acceptable to drape their bodies in cheap, ordinary clothes and in case one didn’t manage to catch a clear glimpse of all the labels he was wearing, he would certainly find a way to work it into conversation. Women were occasionally exempt from the designer rule, if and only if the flashy outfits covering their perfect bodies left very little to the imagination and their pretty faces expressed endless awe and admiration for him. Complete with an equally extravagant car he would change at least yearly (because he kept wrecking each and every one of them), the stunning new man in Regina’s life was absolutely irresistible. Anyone saying otherwise was just too jealous to admit it!

You can find the full version of “Glass Slippers and Stilettos” on iBooks, Kobo, Barnes&Noble and Smashwords. I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/645454

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 57

cover2

“Nice place… You can’t even see this entrance from the main road, how did you find it?”

“I got lost years ago and I took this little country road by mistake, thinking it was the one which was supposed to take me to a hotel I had never stayed at before. Instead I found this place and decided to spend the night here and do some damage to their wine collection. Plus, they’re very friendly at the little inn they have, and the food is great.”

“Of course, the stuff of legends, the universally agreed upon way to find little gems and picturesque places.”

“Sure, go on, mock all you want, but it’s a very nice place, you’ll see.”

She looks absentminded, staring at the vineyard like I’m not even here… Robert couldn’t avoid acknowledging the return to her original distance and cold front. One person last night and another one now. The view of the vineyard surrounding them while having lunch didn’t fail in melting some of her indifference, but she was still restless halfway through her desert, when a small revelation cleared her mind.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Tricks and Treats of Adult Life

2

“… had a feeling… he did … found out by mistake … and now … yesterday … telling you …”

Oh yes! Gloves, gloves, gloves! Those turquois ones… They definitely have the best selection. Gloves, gloves, gloves…

“Do you mind if I have a look?”

“Help yourself! Try on everything you like.”

Next to being left to my own devices in a candy store as a child, what else could be better? Quick, let’s have a thorough look before she changes her mind and becomes a suffocating sales person again.

“And the kids… there’s the kids to consider, after all…”

And the elbow length ones… look at those beauties, they’d go great with my cape. Behave yourself, you have a pair just like them at home! Oh well… perhaps in a different colour… maybe the royal blue pair. Between the intoxicating smell of leather and all the colours and styles, how’s a girl to make up her mind? Decisions, decisions…

“The business too… Don’t you think?”

I confess, I have a weakness for leather gloves. I blame it on my childhood (isn’t that what we always do when it comes to our quirks and foibles?). I’m partial to accessories in general, like most women, but come the cold season, I can’t help thinking I just need to have at least one more pair of leather gloves… or two or three… and perhaps some new boots too… Oh no, one obsession at a time!

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m sure I can blame this one on my childhood. My grandmother used to have this pair of fur trimmed, unimaginably soft leather gloves and I remember I so wanted a pair just like that. When you grow up, she’d tell me, they’re not for children. So I eventually did what any rebellious, stubborn kid would do. If I wasn’t going to have the ones I wanted, then I would not wear any gloves. However, that did not change my grandmother’s mind, so I went a couple of winters without actually wearing gloves, even if I was offered several colourful, girly, woollen choices. (I did occasionally cheat, I had a pair hidden in my schoolbag, just in case of an impromptu snow fight; but I wouldn’t wear them otherwise.) The denouement came as a shocking surprise when my mother eventually noticed my frozen hands and she was told what the reason was. All this drama for nothing, I remember she muttered, angry with my grandmother. Here, you can have mine, I never wear them anyway. With the simplest of gestures, she took a pair of black leather gloves out of her handbag and gave them to me. See if they fit. They did, they fit almost perfectly and they smelled like leather and her perfume. I was finally an adult, I thought to myself, ignoring my grandmother’s angry, disapproving looks.

“He’s been seeing her for over a year. I have no idea what to do now, I mean, I have to make a decision, right? Do I divorce him?”

Something’s wrong with the speakers, a good part of them stopped working and now the woman’s monologue is loud and clear, I can’t miss a word if I tried. She obviously doesn’t care, she keeps pouring her story over her friend or acquaintance, the one she’s holding captive, who looks so embarrassed, so ill at ease.

Anyway, I just wanted to stop by and say hello… But the words don’t sink in and they don’t grant her an escape. She looks like a trapped animal, ready to make a run for it, wanting to be as far away from that mundane drama unfolding in front of her. To say hello to an acquaintance, maybe a hugely discounted pair of gloves, that’s all she wanted; and now that hand holding her arm in a friendly, yet desperate grip was dragging her into one of those unpleasant situations in which none of us want to find ourselves.

I can’t say I don’t understand her. I don’t want to hear the most private, embarrassingly painful details of a stranger’s marriage. I hate whoever is in charge of the sound system. Now I have to leave, because I feel so uncomfortable listening to all that. In her attempt to escape, the unwilling confident has slowly motioned towards the exit and now the two of them are blocking the small doorway, none of them letting go of the pair of gloves which had been purchased and dearly paid for.

Why should I leave? This was supposed to be my treat. I was looking forward to the leather goods fair. It’s always small family businesses that attend and there are always great deals to be found. I want my damn gloves! I wasted all that time looking for a parking spot and now I should just leave? I’m going to stomp my feet and dive right back into the plethora of colourful gloves, together with the other uncomfortable customers. That’s what I’m going to do. Look how pretty those fuchsia ones are… wait, I already have a pair of fuchsia gloves… I bought them here last year… They always have the best selection, don’t they? All sorts of colours, not just your usual black, brown and beige variety…

Right… two pairs will do, and for the first time I don’t want to spend any more time here than necessary.

“Should I leave him?”

Strangers ask me the most unexpected questions… like that lady at the supermarket, asking me what pickles she should buy – what do I know, I don’t even like pickles? But this one really takes the cake.

I looked up, making eye contact with the woman holding on to the small shopping bag. She isn’t trying to cynically punish me for having unwillingly witnessed her loud confession. She is expecting an answer. A one word answer, not an opinion, not pity or husband bashing. She needs an answer, I can see that.

“No.”

That is the only one word answer she is looking for. I know that. I know it, because much as I tried, I couldn’t help hearing everything. I couldn’t help understanding that – whether she knows it or not – her mind is already made up. All she needs now is somebody to support that decision, somebody she can blame in case it’s the wrong decision. So I’ll give her that.

She lets go of the small shopping bag we’re both holding and she smiles.

“Thank you.”

Maybe it wasn’t my place to answer. Maybe it wasn’t even the right answer. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was what she needed at that point. What I do know is that it wasn’t my place to tell her that I believe almost everybody cheats at some point or another, in some way or another, for some reason or another. It wasn’t my place to tell her that everything she was relating suggested the fact that her husband would most likely leave her before she might even get a chance to verbalise her decision.

I walked away with my nicely wrapped new gloves. There’s more to the life of an adult woman than such delightful treats. We need our armour to protect us from the tricks played on us and from the potential guilt resulting from the tricks we play on others… and on ourselves. And if some soft leather gloves or any other kind of delicious, frivolous accessories can help build and maintain that metaphorical armour, then so be it! If we need to occasionally relinquish responsibility, revert to childhood and blame the world for our misfortune for a moment or two, then so be it!

1

Glass Slippers and Stilettos – …Or For Worse (Fragment)

Ana Linden

cover1

The woman in the mirror wasn’t the one she remembered. No matter how hard she struggled, she would never see that reflection again. Time had a perverted way of leaving scars on her body in spite of all her best efforts. Turning slowly, analysing every particle projected in the horridly honest mirror, she felt her spirits lifted by the image of a still beautiful, mature woman. Her thighs were almost cellulite free… and her stomach, almost flat again… her behind was no longer as firm, but the right pair of jeans made it look just as luscious… her breasts had definitely seen better days, but she would do something about that as soon as possible. It was a game of make-believe these days, she thought to herself.

[…]

“Babe… I don’t know what I would’ve done tonight without you… After the day I’ve had… you wouldn’t believe it if I…

View original post 498 more words

Husband Or Cat?

1

She was quickly becoming a pain in the neck… literally. Holding the phone to my ear with my shoulder while ironing may have not been one of my brightest ideas. But conversations with her were generally long and boring. I needed some other dull task to focus on, so that they wouldn’t feel like a waste of time. After all, that’s what people do, right? They try to keep in touch, they make an effort to communicate and mind each other’s dull nonsense… that is, until you start feeling like throwing your phone out the window.

Apparently she was having a husband bashing night and I just had to be part of it…. Oh well… Sure, I could let her vent and throw in a yes, no or a wow once in a while. I knew the drill, she just needed to tare him apart and contradicting her would only anger the woman even more. But strongly agreeing with her while listing all his flaws without mentioning any redeeming qualities was also a faux pas. After all, she wanted some compassion and empathy, she didn’t want to hear that she had married the wrong person, that the two of them were not compatible, or – horror of horrors – that some of their marital problems might have also been her fault. But once she was done, she generally occasionally able to hear that perhaps he wasn’t all bad, that she might not always be a delight to live with and that all in all, they needed to work together on solving their problems.

Then there were the times when conversations took a twisted, shocking turn…

“I just can’t do it anymore… I have to do everything… he can’t even be trusted to take out the rubbish… you wouldn’t believe for how long he can leave the rubbish bag right there, by the door…”

Oh yes, the “who takes out the rubbish” conundrum… I heard that one before. Whenever she’s mad at him, you’ll always hear about the rubbish.

“I put it next to his shoes and he still claims he didn’t see it, that’s why he didn’t take it out. I swear, next time he’ll find it all over his beloved loafers. I’m not joking, you know. I told him that.”

I had to stifle a few giggles. I know how annoying such small things can be, they get to me too. But for years and years, I keep hearing all about the rubbish drama. She keeps finding amusingly creative ways to point it out and he keeps ignoring it. I wouldn’t be surprised if one morning he found potato peels in his shoes, leftover pasta in his pockets and shrivelled lettuce in his wallet.

“He’s taken it too far… I don’t know how long I can put up with this anymore. I’m all alone all day, taking care of our sick cat and what does he do?… The poor thing isn’t doing better, I’m the only one giving her the treatment and it breaks your heart seeing how she suffers…”

Goody… more cat stories now. I made a face at the phone, while picking up a pillow case from the decreasing laundry pile. I am not a cat person. She always talked about her cat the same way doting mothers talk about their babies. Much as I wanted to be open and understanding, I couldn’t help thinking there were deeper issues behind her behaviour.

“I give the cat her medicine, I try to get her to eat something, I’m the one who stays awake watching her at night…”

Why would she do that in the first place? I was pretty sure the cat wasn’t awake all night… Oh well… moving on to the next pillow case.

“… and he sleeps right through it! Then he’s at work all day, of course. And who has to take care of a sick cat every day? Not him! You know he hasn’t taken one single day off to stay home with her?”

What sane person would?

“And now, do you know where he is now? Well, do you?”

Oh, that wasn’t a rhetorical question… How am I to know?

“No…”

“I’ll tell you where he is. At the hospital, visiting his mother! Every day, after work, he goes straight to the hospital to see her. He has a sick cat at home and he goes to the hospital to see his mother every day!”

Okay… this I was not prepared for… how does one react to something like this?

“Do you know that I had to take the cat to the vet all by myself because he was too busy looking after his mommy?”

I unplugged the iron and sat down, holding the phone with one hand and massaging my neck with the other. I like animals too. I had pets too. But this was too much. This was insane. There was a woman suffering on a hospital bed. Her husband was terrified facing the possibility of losing his mother, and all she cared about was a damn cat with an ear infection.

This was a new low, and it had nothing to do with me not being a cat person or with a man too lazy to take out the rubbish. Nevertheless, I am the one labelled as uncaring and cold-hearted, because I am not moved to tears by the suffering kitty… Well, call me crazy, but I want to desperately hold on to this insane idea that people, especially the ones we choose to have in our lives, should be more important than a pet.

Ages and Stages of Watching “Dirty Dancing”

 6

I kept changing the channels, barely noticing what was on… nothing was interesting anyway… not the book I was reading, not the homework I knew I was never going to finish, not the outfit I was going to wear the following day, and certainly not my life that evening. A movie was about to start and I decided to give it a chance. And this is how I got to watch experience Dirty Dancing for the first time.

I would have been too young to understand or show the slightest interest in it in the 80s, but the 90s teenager was absolutely fascinated by the romance unfolding on TV. Of course, the fact that Patrick Swayze was absolutely yummy didn’t hurt; I also loved the dancing, but it was the passion between the characters that I envied. Their story wasn’t exactly what I would have imagined as the dream romance, yet it was subjugating nevertheless. I wanted to feel something like that, the kind of consuming, overwhelming, out of control love which gives you wings and the strength to defend the object of your affection, no matter what. Such an ecstatic experience was definitely one worth having, I decided. But the ending… it made me sad. Sure, he came back for her, he didn’t allow for anybody to put Baby in a corner, they had one last amazing, unforgettable dance, but then I was left with the feeling that the end of summer was also the end of their romance. Why couldn’t that sort of love motivate two beautifully passionate people to try and find a way to be together? The movie ended on a cheery note, but I was sure that was the end for Baby and Johnny. It couldn’t have been any other way, yet I didn’t want to look beneath the surface and acknowledge the obvious answers to my questions.

2

I had experienced that unbelievable, unexpected, overpowering passion, I had even done some dirty dancing of my own by the next time I watched the movie, in my very early twenties. Sometimes, when we get to experience the materialization of one of our dreams, the reality doesn’t meet the expectations. That wasn’t such a case. The reality was every bit as deliciously amazing as the dream. In some instances, it might have even been better, because some sensations cannot be fully understood if only imagined and not even once perceived.

Come the end of summer, came the end of romance as well – a known, anticipated and planned ending. The truth couldn’t be denied. It was exactly that pre-established ending that increased the intensity of our passion. The awareness that our infatuation wouldn’t last forever allowed us to give everything and open our hearts, souls and bodies to each other’s desires and feelings. It was the kind of passion that would haunt us for years to come. It was the kind of passion that would make us see the other person’s features everywhere. It was the kind of passion that brought tears to our eyes when hearing a certain song, knowing we wouldn’t see the other person anymore. It was the kind of passion which even when no longer felt, but only remembered, would make us pick up our phones and send the other a text, sharing a memory or an instance which triggered a feeling. We both had our own separate lives, yet those texts never went unanswered. It was the kind of passion that needed no explanation between the two persons who had once shared it.

1

I watched Dirty Dancing that second time, melancholically wondering if I would ever find that sort of passion. Experiencing it only once was never going to be enough for me, few things could compare to it, few times had I felt that alive. I had a feeling I would experience it again, just as I knew I would watch that movie over and over again. I didn’t question the ending anymore. The ending was absolutely necessary… but perhaps it could be changed in real life, under the right circumstances… or so I liked to think, even if I didn’t really believe it.

I couldn’t see past that happy ending separating the couple. Actually, I could, but I preferred not to look. I didn’t want to see a drunken, aged, frustrated Johnny, unable to cope with Baby’s successful career, incapable and unwilling to be part of her world. I didn’t want to see a sad, lonely, frustrated, prematurely aged Baby trying to make ends meet, regretting her choices, wishing she hadn’t given up her future and squandered her potential for a man she barely knew. They had made the right decision, the only smart one.

3

I watched Dirty Dancing many times since. I got to experience that passion again, more than once. I don’t know if I’m luckier than others or that kind of passion is out there, available and real for everybody, as long as we allow it and accept it for what it is. What I do know – now that I’m in my thirties – is that I could live it again, if I decided it was worth it. Knowing the inevitable ending, being able to recognize the stages deprives it of some of its magic. Watching Dirty Dancing again makes me realize I’ve become more jaded and cynical than I thought I was. I no longer feel that strong wish to live such a story, and not because I don’t think it’s worth it – it definitely remains an incredibly great mixture of emotions and surprising moments – but because I now know it’s not as unattainable as it might seem. While each and every one of these stories is special in its own way, none of them is really unique… And they all die out the same way. It’s passion able to regenerate its strength that’s truly hard to find, not consuming passion that burns out with a bright, short lived flame.

So what I wish now while watching Dirty Dancing is that I hadn’t lost all my naiveté, what I dream is to occasionally forget how jaded I am. That way, next time I am presented with a Dirty Dancing kind of passion, I wouldn’t stop and wonder, Is it worth it?… even if I’m pretty sure the answer would still be Yes.

On The Edge

2

“It’s like this glass of water,” and she points to the wine glass in front of her instead. “I have this full glass and I give him half. Then I give him half of what’s left. Then I take a few sips myself, I need to drink too. And so on, until the glass is empty. And when it’s empty, I have nothing else left to give. Nothing left for him. Nothing left for me. Nothing left for anybody.” She lifts the wine glass which she stubbornly calls “water” and she drinks greedily. “And it’s still not enough, he’s not happy. He says I’m selfish and self-involved and never give anything back… when all I do is give until there’s nothing left.”

The whiny voice drowns into another sip of whine, waiting for compassionate words to wash over her. I have no such words to give.

“Did he ever ask you to share that glass of water?”

“No… But that’s what I felt I had to do.”

“Was it? Or did you simply decide that’s what he should need?”

She was quiet, trying to suppress those angry words bubbling inside her. Aren’t the two one and the same? What difference did it make, she knew better… she always knew better than anyone else.

“Did you ever stop and wonder if he wanted or needed water? Maybe he wanted a slice of bread instead, maybe he asked you for it time and time again, yet you didn’t care one bit; you had already decided he should only want water.” Because water was all you were willing to offer, even if that water was make-believe and was in fact wine…

“He should have wanted water!”

Being at the receiving end of that sort of generosity makes one feel worthless. It’s degrading to see your needs, hopes and dreams swept aside like disgusting dirt that they are in somebody else’s eyes, only to be replaced with the “appropriate” ones. You will only want that which I am willing to offer, and you’d better be forever grateful, her actions always made it clear.

“He says that hurts him. That it hurts him to see what I’ve become.”

She was on the edge of realization. He was on the edge of collapse. Their relationship was on the edge too.

“But it’s his fault.”

She couldn’t help herself. Reality was swiftly pushed aside and she was about to yet again plunge into that imaginary world where she is always the victim and the hero.

“No, it’s not. Not everything is his fault. Take responsibility for who you are!”

Would she?

6

4

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 50

 cover2

 

“I thought it’s more of a whisky night, rather than wine. What do you think?” Robert almost yelled as soon as he heard the bathroom door open.

“Pour me a glass too.”

She entered the room and everything was quiet again. Words were unnecessary, his lustful smile was enough for both of them. There is a certain gratification in having imagined what the unseen would be like and then discover it is even better than expected. It was worth waiting.

The man that feels proud to be seduced will not bother to hide his admiration and desire, he will enjoy the woman that tempts him and he will not waste any of her beauty, because certain women can be a rare gift needing to be unwrapped slowly and enjoyed to the full extent. And the visual impact is something so relevant in such an exploration, the penetrating, lustful eyes are not an offense, but a true acknowledgement of beauty, a source of new sensations for both of the newly discovered lovers.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 45

She was terribly amused by the new him… or was this actually the old him, the one he was a long time before they ever had the chance to meet? The two tourists were finally at ease with each other and the remaining part of the day was a nice promise for them both.

And tourists they were. The other’s life is a territory one cannot and does not want to explore to its full extent, as the intricate paths of thought and feeling and the prosaic everyday dramas are just the inherent death of any sort of magic that might have sparked an interest in the first place. The tourist is looking for the perpetual delight of uncharted territories – many have been there before, but what really counts is their own discovery, the thrill of the experience. And although the mark of a good trip is the sad feeling you get when your cases are already in the hotel lobby and you’re on your way back home, any experienced traveller knows better than to linger until the novelty wears off. Shedding light on the unknown becomes that sort of addiction which makes the journey worth traveling, in spite of all the dead ends and godforsaken experiences. And the perpetual thrill is only matched by the perpetual denial of the obvious – there is that type of tourist who will never feel at home anywhere and for whom safety becomes the necessary compromise. This tourist in another person’s life is a most selfish creature.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/parallel-lives-ana-linden/1118140770?ean=2940045563567

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/parallel-lives-7

…. and iBooks, of course. 🙂

Beach Reads – Giveaway

Early in July I shared my summer news with all of you – Glass Slippers and Stilettos, a collection of ten short stories was available for pre-orders and was going to be released on August 5th. The support and encouraging words I received from many of you have been amazing, reminding me once again what a warm, kind community this can be. So thank you, thank you, thank you and a big hug to everybody!

Since I’m not one for aggressive self-promotion, all I’m going to say is that you can download both my books for free on smashwords.com using the coupons listed below (the promotion ends on August 21st). They are available in various formats, compatible with all e-readers. If you had fun reading the Glass Slippers and Stilettos and Parallel Lives fragments, perhaps you might want to give the books a try or gift them to somebody who might enjoy them. Reviews are welcome and greatly appreciated!

cover1

Glass Slippers and Stilettos, by Ana Linden – coupon code ZV92X

Parallel Lives, by Ana Linden – coupon code CC53N

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 43

The hotel parking lot was quiet, just like the last part of their trip. Once the car engine became silent, neither one of them seemed to be aware of the fact that they had reached their destination.

“So… do we need one room or two? I booked two, just so you know, there’s no need to feel pressured or anything…” Robert only turned his eyes to her when he finished speaking, so he couldn’t perceive the intensity of her expression.

“I think one room is all we need. Don’t you agree?”

“I was hoping…” and a sigh of relief was more eloquent than any words could have been.

Once you get there, you don’t need to hurry anymore. As soon as the luggage was taken to their room, things between the two guests were quietly settled, the rapport seemed to have finally clarified. Once certain aspects become straightforward, anything else escapes the burden of pressure.

“Let’s go have lunch. I know this great restaurant, the food is amazing and the atmosphere… Wait, I have no idea whether… do you like game or do you have an issue with hunting wild animals? Because if that’s the case…”

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Love of Her Life

3

The luxury car crawled by slow enough to let her notice every detail, from the tinted windows, to the impeccable paint shining in the sun, to the speckles rims. But in the congested early evening traffic it was still moving faster than most. A few more elegant manoeuvres of an experienced driver and it disappeared somewhere among the SUVs in front.

“Did you see it?”

Of course. A car like that was hard to ignore. So was the hungry, tormented look behind her sunglasses and those tiny beads of nervous sweat that had appeared on her forehead as soon as she noticed that ghost of a car on the other lane.

“Could it… Do you think it was him?”

No, his car is a different colour.

“Who knows…” She was already fidgeting in her seat, her eyes searching for the car that slid by just moments earlier.

“Can’t you catch up with him? Follow him, see where he’s going, see if it’s him?”

No way.

“Look at this traffic… there’s police everywhere, what do you want me to do?” I didn’t even try to hide the irritation in my voice, but she never noticed it. All she had eyes, ears and thoughts for was that car… was him… just like all those years ago.

“But you could try anyway,” she ordered, forgetting it was a favour she was asking for.

“No,” but the answer fell on deaf ears.

I had done more ridiculous things than try and follow a car, all in order to help with her romantic games over the years, but not this time, not for him… Even if I knew it wasn’t him in that car, she couldn’t have known. She was still chasing him, no matter what, no matter where, no matter who got in her way, no matter who got hurt. Well over a decade had passed since she hadn’t seen or talked to him, yet he was still haunting her. All it took was a glimpse of what might have been.

I tentatively moved forward, upsetting other impatient drivers, but the mystery car was nowhere to be seen, as expected. Yet now she could tell herself she had tried… and hopefully she wouldn’t have to tell me as well.

“Anyway, it couldn’t be him… I think I caught a glimpse of the driver and he looked nothing like him,” she tried to convince herself, settling down, disappointed the unexpected sighting was not going to become anything more. There was no way she could have seen the driver, but then again, she could never see clearly when it came to him.

The rest of our drive home was quiet. I knew all the memories, the regrets and the what if’s that car had triggered. While I may have despised him for the way he had treated her, while I resented her for what she had put everybody else through for the sake of their relationship, I couldn’t deny understanding at least part of her melancholy.

He had been and would always remain the love of her life. The love of her life and the passion of her life, both entwined in one selfish, arrogant, irresistible person…

Once in a while, she’d try to convince herself the man she married was the one she loved most. And once in a while, she would believe it. Yet, the more she saw herself disappearing in a marriage with a good, loving man who could never understand her, who had nothing in common with her, the more she looked back, remembering only the good times, only the passion, only the happiness. She used to have a life of her own, a career, she used to travel and be independent. She used to be alive.

Now she was somebody’s wife and nothing more. A housewife nobody minded anymore, that was all that she was, and most of the time she couldn’t even be bothered to care. She didn’t go anywhere anymore. She hardly left the house to go anywhere but the grocery store. She cooked meals, she cleaned their home, she listened to his boring work stories and once a year or so she managed to convince herself to visit me. So when one of her old, snobby, so-called friends told her how well he was doing and casually happened to mention one of the cars he was driving, she suddenly found herself canvasing the streets, hoping…

But she no longer was the strong woman she used to be. Seeing him, being rejected by him would have broken her. As one of the two persons who would then have to put Humpty Dumpty back together, I reasoned there was nothing wrong in trying to prevent Humpty from falling off the wall in the first place. Some feelings will never remain in the past, and just like she could never forget how much she loved him and how passionate their relationship had been, I would never forget how much I loathed him. She deserved a night out, I figured. She deserved some fun and she deserved to forget for a moment or two. She also deserved to be happy, but that wasn’t something I or anybody else could offer her anymore.

The luxury car drove by, obnoxiously manoeuvring through rush-hour traffic. This time, it was his car. This time she wasn’t with me. He drove the same way he lived – fast, recklessly and passionately. In his own twisted, selfish way, he had loved her too, that I knew; but he had never really cared. He would always be the love of her life. She might be his. For many of us, the greatest love of our life is one we can’t help but leave behind before it consumes our entire soul. That love remains so great in our memory also because it had no time to die on its own, to become mundane, boring and real. It existed in a dimension of its own, even when it lasted for years.

Reality is a different sort of game. She continued her life with her husband, who never started really seeing her. Once in a while, life would through a tantrum and they’d lean on each other, weathering the storm, hoping that would bring them closer. Then they’d forget it as soon as the weather was good again and they’d go on ignoring each other, living apart together, until the next storm would throw them back into each other’s arms. But one way or another, the past would always loom, breeding frustration and unhappiness. Or was that happening because the present was breeding frustration and unhappiness?

In response to WordPress Weekly Discover Challenge – The Things We Leave Behind.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 41

The few hours stolen away from them by the drive to the mountain resort felt different than their other drives together. They talked some more, they inquired some more, trying to figure out how the day might conclude. The music was still a catalyst, erasing the age difference and the distance between them; but the scenic route they were taking was somewhat ignored this time. Nature lost its relevance as human urges took over, bringing them closer even during long silences.

Amalia became lost when she heard him speaking at a point, asking her if she knew and liked the hotel where they would stay. The weird coincidence made her want to scream at him. Robert had mentioned the same hotel that used to be so dear to her mother and her married lover, their favourite choice for intimate escapades. The mother’s sins… Amalia abhorred the idea of following into her mother’s footsteps, even by coincidence. Since when is coincidence a valid excuse? Deep breaths help, focusing on what you want helps, it’s about you and only about you… The dreadful thought and indignation can be slowly smothered, there are unknown mechanisms that always find a way to provide relief and forgetfulness, so we can move on and survive our own demons.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 40

Some journeys are not just about the destination, but the cliché doesn’t apply to all situations. If all their previous outings had been about nothing else but the experience itself, a means to discover each other’s secrets and hidden frustrations, past and present, the current one was all about where it would take them, the climax of this stage. It occurred to him that he couldn’t remember when he last waited for so long before sleeping with a woman; whether it was casual or not, sex would always follow soon after opening lines. It occurred to her that she may appear to be the prude she was not; she had initially thought he was a good choice for a first one night stand, not just as a first married man. Instead they had dragged everything, she allowed for things to become something slightly different, to know him and to like the person he was behind the wedding ring. They could and should wait no longer, everything had to get on the right path and neither one of them wanted to avoid or postpone the destination anymore.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Opposing Moments

1

“How did you do it? How did you call it again?”

The dishevelled person staring back from the mirror looks nothing like the one who used to be there on so many other occasions… or like the one who can still make an appearance sooner or later. There simply are such mornings, such days… such stages. It might have been a night of crying or a night of drinking and dancing and forgetting, it may have been days and days of exhaustion and despair that have pulled that unrecognizable creature to surface from the depth of one’s being. Those versions of the past and the potential future are simply unavoidable.

It becomes a reflex in most of the cases. Somewhere between several cups of coffee or tee, after all those smoked cigarettes, during those extra moments of applying makeup or whatever other daily rituals, one generally gets one’s face on and they’re once more ready to deal with the world… or at least to hide well enough until they are. We don’t really do it to protect others, or at least we don’t do it only for that particular reason. It’s self-preservation, the need to protect ourselves from the way others might react if they caught a glimpse of all that lurks under that socially acceptable mask. Some do it better; others find it difficult. In the end, it can even be a silent competition – who’s going to fall apart first, whose face will betray them, exposing that creature taunting them from the mirror early in the morning?

“How did you do it? How did you call it again?”

Relationships wear masks as well, not only the people they involve. Silent, sometimes unintentional, sometimes quietly, mutually agreed upon masks. When the mask breaks in two and neither one of those halves can be worn convincingly, you know. You notice the cracks even if you try to look away, so you can “call it”, as my friend put it.

I met recently met a couple I hadn’t seen in a long time. They’re not close friends, just some acquaintances, but it was still nice to see them and catch up. He is a friend of my closest friend; she is his girlfriend. What did I think about them, after all those years, my friend asked… Among many other impressions I was left with after a whole day spent together, I got the feeling their relationship was approaching its end. She would end it, I told my friend. Sure enough, about a week later she informed him she was moving out, my friend told me.

How did I always predict it, he kept asking, as though I was some sort of relationship bad omen. I tend to notice certain details and this wasn’t the first time I had “predicted” such situations. There were cracks in her mask… cracks she was trying to hide, but which were obvious whenever he kept ignoring what she wanted, replacing it with what he thought she should want or with what he needed. Small things, here and there, symptoms of something so much deeper… symptoms he stubbornly ignored. If I – a person who didn’t know her all that well – could notice them, why didn’t he, the man living with for several years? Why was he waiting for everything to fix itself, if he still wanted her to be part of his life, if he still loved her?

But I knew the answer, or at least part of it, because I knew he had behaved the same way in previous relationships. You want the girl, you make an effort and you get the girl. But once you “have” her, that’s it – that is the destination, the final point and from then on there is nothing more that needs to be done. That’s the kind of guy he is… complete with the ability of stubbornly hiding from the fact that she is unhappy. When he forcefully has to accept it, it’s generally too late to do anything to change the outcome… an outcome that breaks his heart once more…

The masks fall – his, hers, theirs – and break into countless pieces. The moment becomes the opposite of what he thought it was. The moment becomes the one she was trying to avoid. The moment no longer inhabits the destination, it becomes yet another beginning – an unwanted and no longer avoidable one.

Many times, the kindest thing you can do is look away from the cracks and allow a person to wear their mask as well as they can… hoping they will show you the same courtesy. But when you share a mask with someone else, staring at the cracks from the inside, what is the best moment to stop ignoring them and start focusing on what they reveal?

2

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Opposites.

“Glass Slippers and Stilettos” or My Summer News

It started off as the MissShy Chronicles in the early days of this blog… Some of you may have read those posts, some may even remember them. I was really fond of my MissShy character, I wanted her to grow, so she became Regina and the Chronicles evolved into a collection of ten short stories. After months of procrastination, it all came together under one title, behind one girly cover and now I can finally share Glass Slippers and Stilettos with everybody.

cover1

Regina’s adventures are nothing like Amalia’s from Parallel Lives. Light and humorous, the stories present the bratty, entitled character in various stages of her attempts to secure a husband and a fairy tale ending, all the while trying to preserve appearances and comply with pre-established patterns.

Regina is the woman everybody loves to hate and hates to love. Behind the gorgeous, demurred façade lurk selfish ambition, ignorance and a desperate need to find her happily ever after. The search for a man to rescue her and make her dreams come true follows a sinuous, often obscure, but entertaining path. Regina may try to deny it, but she is no innocent princess, Prince Charming can be a beast in disguise and modern-day happy endings are nothing like their fairy tale version.

The ten short stories are a satire of her journey, presenting the almost stereotypical character in various everyday moments and contexts, all of them related to her extraordinary ability to manipulate the men in her life. Other (often equally shallow) characters, such as Nice Guy, Boyfriend, Ex, Impeccable Pedigree, Sweet Girl, Lover or King will keep her company, allowing Regina to use them and occasionally using her, thus supporting her belief that she is a victim of circumstance. Charismatic and wild, Regina likes to enjoy all life’s pleasures and wants to have the best of everything, while endeavouring to preserve her “good girl” image. There are many obstacles between Regina and her ideal man, but her high heels relentlessly walk over them and the people in her way, hoping for her dream marriage to become reality.

In spite of her many flaws, Regina remains a likeable “villain”, able to trigger a spark of compassion mainly because one can occasionally relate to her amusing predicaments and moral dilemmas. After all, many have struggled with some of these issues – or similar ones – at least once.

If you’re heading for the beach this summer, Glass Slippers and Stilettos might just be that light, entertaining read you want. You can pre-order it on iBooks, Kobo and Barnes&Noble (release date – August 5th). I hope you enjoy it!

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/glass-slippers-and-stilettos

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/glass-slippers-and-stilettos-ana-linden/1123982690?ean=2940153093093

Have a nice summer, everyone 🙂 .

Partners… Or Not

2Those who come to the beach on their own often tend to search for a partner… someone with whom to share a brief, torrid, summer fling… or maybe someone who simply enjoys the same kind of beach fun they do. Either way, it’s always amusing to observe their group dynamics 🙂

3

4

But here’s a cute reminder that we do have the strength to get over all those bumps on the road on our own as well. Not having someone to lean on at all times doesn’t make it impossible. Some may have the certainty there’s always somebody ready to catch them, yet so many face the hardest challenges on their own… and that’s not always a disaster.

5

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Partners.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 39

The morning didn’t betray the sleepless moments of the night before. A few hours of good rest are all a woman Amalia’s age needs to recover, especially when the metabolism is already used to late nights of reading and studying and even later nights of adrenaline and dancing on loud, exhausting rhythms, which have the benefic effect of helping one forget the misery of life, at least for a while. The freshness of the new day reinstated Amalia’s confidence and vanity, settling her nerves and allowing for full enjoyment of the little escapade.

Although Robert hadn’t lost any sleep over the next day’s trip, he was relieved to see she was going to keep her word and not cancel the plans they had made. He felt he could trust her entirely regarding so many aspects of his life, he wanted to confide in her, but he had no certain ideas when it came to what she would allow to happen between them. His doubts were of a different breed and he had had the necessary time to learn how to ignore most of them. In any case, he would generally not allow such fancies of his imagination to have a relevant influence over his course of action. He wanted Amalia, Amalia appeared to want him, but it didn’t seem like she had made up her mind whether to act on it or not. Furthermore, she was a beautiful woman, much younger than him, and he knew she could easily twist a man’s head into submission, so he might not be good enough for her. She might want a younger, better looking guy; but his ego allowed for no such matters to inflict any change upon his resolution. He would take his chance, he was worthy of the pleasure and happiness she could clearly offer a man, and if he wasn’t good enough to make the cut, he would just lick his wounds, leave her and find solace in a sex bender with some worthless girl, until he’d manage to forget the bitter taste of her rejection and burry the entire experience deep into oblivion and indifference.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 38

Some women can instinctively figure out what a man needs and wants from all points of view and she was one of those that didn’t have to make any particular effort to do so. She knew it and she appreciated the value of such an ability, but one has to wonder if that was always enough, if that kind of a skill would always work to her advantage, the way she wanted it. She feared the potential lack of experience; she had the chance to practice her skills on other men, but competitive people who need to be the best at everything have to confront their fear of failure even when it comes to such a trivial matter as sex. Especially since sex was not at all trivial for Amalia, it was a very relevant part of her development and mentality… Robert represented a transformation, the ascension to something more than she had already been introduced to so far, and she wanted to waste nothing of that experience, not even the pleasure of overanalysing it in anticipation and emotion.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 34

“I’ll pick you up tomorrow at 9 in the morning.”

As soon as he could see Amalia entering her building, the sun reflecting in the glass window, Robert looked up the number of one of his favourite hotels in a nice mountain resort; he lingered for a while before dialling, staring blankly at the screen. Should I actually book one room or two? If you fail the woman’s test at that particular point, there is no turning back and no making up for it… especially with certain women. In some cases, it’s exactly the ones that put up the most impenetrable, holier than thou front, that turn out to be the loosest, and it’s usually an easy and safe guess as to how they might react, given the chance to bathe in the depravity they condemn so loudly, yet crave so desperately. The ones that are open about such things, however, tend to be those that constantly surprise you. For some reason, they live with the belief they are above all others, having a very strong sense of entitlement, which spawns exactly from their open-mindedness and sometimes paralyzing bluntness.

The young woman motioned very slowly after she closed the entrance door behind her, leaning her head to one side in such a manner, so that she could catch one more glimpse of the car parked in front. The man to whom she had just bid goodbye was looking up something on his phone, then he dialled someone. She understood. She smiled contented and hurried up to her apartment. Good.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 33

The direct way proved to be the easiest approach, yet again.

“The hell with it all… I need a break.”

“Meaning?…”

“I’m going to the mountains for a couple of days. Do you have any plans for tomorrow or could you be persuaded to keep me company for a change of scenery?” He paused, waiting for a reply. “You can have your own room. No expectations, no pressure. Just two people having a couple of days off from their lives. I’m leaving anyway, I set everything up already, but I just don’t want to be alone.”

“Ok.”

“Ok?”

“Yes, ok. That could be fun, as long as you are aware that I like my hotel rooms comfortable and my heels high, so there will be no mountain climbing or anything of the sort.”

“Agreed.”

How exactly does she manage to ignore all my allusions and turn the conversation into something completely different than what I meant it to be? The little bitch… there is no such thing as letting me know exactly where I stand with her.

He thought he saw her winking at him. But did he really want to know for sure or was this just part of the game?

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Books, Reviews And Awareness – Carol Balawyder

Carnations are the symbol for Multiple Sclerosis, I recently learnt from Carol Balawyder’s blog. In order to raise awareness, she is offering one of her books, Not By Design, for the bargain price of 0.99$ the entire month of May. While I don’t usually review books on my blog (this is only the second time it happens), I find Carol’s writing worthy of such an exception. Not only is she a talented writer, but she is also very supportive of fellow authors, so if you haven’t come across her blog yet, perhaps it’s time you had. Summer is right around the corner and in case you’re looking for something to read on the beach, her books are a nice alternative – engaging, entertaining, yet also well researched and interesting.

Getting To Mr. Right

getting to mr right

Carol Balawyder has managed to create four relatable, strikingly real protagonists and this, together with the highly relevant and complex subject it tackles is what makes her book a real page-turner. Whether we like to admit it or not, the Prince Charming myth – under its various shapes and interpretations – occupies a significant place in a contemporary woman’s love life, regardless of her age, social status or background. No matter if she is desperately seeking this ideal man or she is incessantly trying to debunk the controversial myth, a woman cannot deny the relevance of this concept and the inner struggle it creates.

So much more than a selection of dating stories and disastrous sentimental experiences, the book gives a detailed account of the profound effect an absent father figure might have in determining a woman’s development and the way she will perceive and handle future relationships with men. Getting to Mr. Right is certainly not a “how to” manual. On the contrary, what becomes clear early on is that finding the right partner needs to be a journey to understanding and finding one’s true self.

Campbell, Missi, Suzy and Felicity could be any one of us and most likely, we have been in their shoes more than once. The four very different ladies have one thing in common, they all face some sort of personal, emotional crisis, and this is what brings them together. What might at first sight seem to be a narration focused on the relevance of finding the ideal man and the perfect relationship is actually an ode to female friendship. These four wonderful ladies manage to find their way, realize their potential, understand who they are and what they need not with the help of a man, but with the support of their friends. Once they heal, they make peace with their past and form a realistic view on relationships, they can find balance and love.

We are never too young or too old to discover ourselves or to make a change for the better, we are gracefully and discretely reminded. As for all those huge everyday questions we all have about compromise, independence, career and the way they affect or are influenced by romantic relationships and family connections… it’s a delight to see Campbell, Missi, Felicity and Suzy try to figure them out. At times hilarious, at times heart-breaking, their adventures and feelings are nicely punctuated and enhanced by setting and weather, thus improving the reader’s literary experience. But I’ll let you discover such details on your own…

Not By Design

not by design

Sometimes we have control over our destiny… and other times life simply happens, and not by design. That’s what Felicity Starr, the protagonist of Carol Balawyder’s fourth book in the Getting to Mr Right series, finds out when diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Not By Design is not your typical “boy meets girl, they overcome various obstacles and live happily ever after” romance.

We find Felicity about to reach a fairy-tale ending – a spectacular wedding in Rome – but her life turns upside-down when she discovers her illness and Marco, her wonderful prince, turns into a frog. Struggling to deal with health and financial issues all on her own, left by the man she was about to marry, recovering after her father’s unexpected death, Felicity needs to accept the truth about her own life. In many respects, what she believed to be real turns out to have been an illusion and her choice in men still reflects some of Felicity’s past mistakes. It may have taken her a long time to see her father for who he really was, but that hasn’t obliterated her need for acceptance and approval. Not only does she acknowledge it eventually when she has to sort out all the emotions triggered by his death, but we see it clearly when looking at Marco and noticing how much his character and behaviour towards Felicity resemble her father’s.

The father-daughter relationship becomes secondary in Not By Design. Felicity’s relationship with her mother, Nicole, is emphasized this time, as the two finally get closer and past wounds start healing. Her need for a mother figure also plays a big part in Felicity’s choice to marry Marco, as it becomes obvious from her feelings for his mother. But the relationship that needs the most work is that with herself – her MS helps her grow, become independent and establish a new, more realistic system of values and priorities. First and foremost, she needs to accept herself. As her story progresses, we find Felicity using a cane, but she no longer uses people for crutches.

The setting complements the flow of the story, also enhancing our reading pleasure. Rome and its history infused streets are the romantic, almost surreal scene for the first part of the book, but as the fairy-tale mirage starts dissipating, Felicity moves back to Montreal, the place where reality takes precedence in the best of ways. That is where she finally finds her way and starts seeing her dreams come true, as soon as she understands what is important and what she truly wants.

Felicity is a strong character and the first person narrative brings her closer to the reader in what is a very enjoyable, interesting story. Just like in the first book of this series, Getting to Mr Right, Carol Balawyder has managed to provide us with relevant facts (this time about the physical and emotional struggles of those suffering from MS) without disrupting our reading pleasure. In spite of all these complex matters, Not By Design is a light, relaxing read, perfect for a lazy day on the beach or for a quiet evening at home, when one needs to clear one’s mind and forget about all those troubling daily issues.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 32

But there was some sort of uncertainty in Robert’s behavior. Although he felt they were heading to the desired resolution, he also felt that she was one that would constantly keep him on his toes, she made him feel like he might not be worth a second glance sometimes, she looked at people in such an indifferent and distant fashion. Yet in spite of everything, he was still attracted, somewhat subdued by her strange ways, cold eyes and cynical attitude, so he needed to subdue her in his own way.

It was only a question of the right moment and of the right place, she was certainly no backseat of the car kind of girl and he also wanted to fully enjoy their first sexual encounter. He was slightly puzzled though: was she just playing with him? Other women would have attempted to get closer by now, holding his hand maybe, a goodnight kiss, at least an obvious hint that they would enjoy a good night kiss from him. But she had kept her distance, and yet she made it quite clear that she would have nothing against a sexual affair with a married man, him in particular. So what now?

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Down To Earth Or Up In The Clouds

8

As children, many of us are often told we can do anything and become whoever we want when we grow up. Then we start growing up. With every year that passes, more and more of those options are stricken off that imaginary list. We discover ourselves, we understand what doesn’t suit us, we figure out what we don’t want to or cannot do. Whether we like it or not, we learn that wanting something doesn’t necessarily mean we can find a way to get it, contrary to urban legends and positive thinking myths. Yet we keep going, we still plan ahead and we find new purposes every day, because the present and the past are not enough, we also need some sort of hope for the future we can hold on to.

The dreams may not be full of grandeur, our younger selves would have probably not even called them dreams, yet realistic expectations and the anticipation of something more, something new or at least something we have experienced, loved and want to relive is not something to ignore. But what happens if we’ve exhausted all the items on that imaginary list – either because we’ve accomplished them or because they will forever be out of reach – and we have nothing else to replace them with, what happens then?…

She really has nothing to look forward to, everything she ever hoped for is behind her now and she is not that old yet… The thought crossed my mind, while wondering how long the woman can go on about her cats. I looked at the phone once again – over half an hour since that conversation had started and it didn’t seem to come close to its end. As usual, she had no regard for other people’s needs or for their time. Had she paid as much attention to the people in her life as she did her cats, her marriage and her life in general would be so much better, I couldn’t help thinking…

Much like Icarus, she got too close to the sun. It had been a relatively quick and sweet ascent and she’s been in some sort of chaotic free-fall ever since, it dawned on me. Every time you thought she was about to hit the ground, you realized she can somehow avoid it – anything to avoid being down to earth, accepting the reality for what it was and dealing with it. Nothing could compare to that blinding, cruel, mesmerizing sun; nobody could compete with the sun. She couldn’t find a way to keep living up there, suspended above everybody else, looking down on a world inferior to her and her sun. She couldn’t duplicate the flight to perfection, that was a once in a lifetime experience. But she would not accept herself for who she was and what everyday life meant either, somehow avoiding to crash into reality at any cost.

The cost had proven to be rather high. There had been false suns and the pretence of flight, she had hope and dreams of getting back up there, above everything and superior to all, yet all those hopes and dreams inevitably dissolved into sad, hopeless, dreamless reality. She couldn’t have the sun and she couldn’t live up in the clouds, so nothing else mattered, nothing and nobody would be good enough. One by one, real, decent, accomplished people who loved her where pushed aside or torn apart because they were here, on earth, living real lives, with their amazingly nice, terribly bad and boringly neutral moments. None of them could ever offer her the height of the sky, a palace in the clouds, so they were clearly against her, a drain and a burden on her existence.

Her list was empty and she was determined to keep it empty. There was nothing she could have anymore, nothing great would happen to her again, because she didn’t consider anything or anyone real worth wanting. Her memories of the glamorous past were exaggerated and at times made up, and the beauty of sun didn’t make it less untouchable, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

I looked at the phone once more… almost an hour. Nonsensical cat stories, invalid complaints and constant self-pity left no room for any interest in others and their sad, happy or average existences. She may lead a sad life, but that doesn’t mean I have to do the same, even if I do try to make it better for her. So with one semi-transparent excuse, I’m back down to earth, breathing a sigh of relief. I know she’s pouting, but I also know this would not be our last conversation… because I am one of the very, very few people she’s got left. What can I say, it’s cloudy up there…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Earth.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 29

“How come you can get away with such behaviour? Not many married men can afford that luxury.”

She asked the question, but she knew the answer. The truth was simple, his wife couldn’t care less; as long as she was provided with a transparent lie she could hold on to and a very comfortable life, she didn’t care what he did in his spare time. Amalia hated everything the unknown woman represented and she vaguely felt that was one of those aspects of marriage she dreaded the most. But that unknown woman most likely leads the same kind of double life and her husband is completely oblivious, because he cannot be bothered to care, thought at which she almost started laughing. Robert pretended not to hear the question and the loud music drowned their conversation prematurely.

They had talked too much up to that point, all the other times they had seen each other they ended up sharing more about themselves then they would have initially liked to, but tonight was not about words. Tonight was about the thought depriving music, the adrenaline a young woman feels whenever she dances with a new man, his hands on her hips, her winding body driving him insane. A different array of sensations will surface when the object of your desire dances lasciviously in front of you and even more powerful realisations occur unexpectedly, when she decides to stand up and dance with a friend of yours. Knowing that you have no right over her and the shock produced by the unwanted, out of character pang of possessive urges only leads to wanting her more, it drives you to manipulate a situation, so that you know for sure that the other guy stands no chance whatsoever.

The young woman will probably be aware of everything, savouring her power over him. Game on!

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Dinner and Drinks

1

I like to be spoiled once in a while… who doesn’t? It takes a lot to spoil a woman, many tend to believe… yet so many times it actually takes so little. When his idea of a long walk is going all the way from the door to that uncomfortable spot at the far end of the parking lot, but he suggests an afternoon walk in my favourite park, I know he’s only doing it for me. We walk a lot because I like it and I know he doesn’t mind it too badly if I’m there with him. Hours later we can collapse on comfy chairs on a terrace and spend some quality time with delicious cold drinks. That’s for both of us, just like all our late dinners.

5

Food is one of the many joys of travelling and discovering local restaurants can be a small adventure in itself. From infuriating to enlightening, from disastrous to delicious, it’s rarely what you’d expect it to be, that much I’ve learnt. But after a long day of walking up and down a place you don’t know too well, after taking in as much as you can – museums, shops, shows – nice, cold drinks are just what a girl needs.

3

Yes, small things can make a great difference, when you get the feeling someone has been listening and paying attention. What we tend to forget is that we can and need to be that ‘someone’ for ourselves and for the special persons in our life.

2

We can treat ourselves to something delicious, even if that might be something as insignificant as homemade bread. As for the walk in the park… hmm… that might entail having to put up with another James Bond movie in return… Oh well, the things a girl will do for a man who spoils her 🙂 …

7

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Dinnertime.

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 28

The whole town may not be entirely that way, but they are, Amalia thought as she was heading towards their table that evening in the club. She felt she would fit right in, she would be accepted instantly by all of them, because she was young, beautiful, vibrant and free.

t’s odd how some would find this so promiscuous, and I feel as though I’m coming back home after a long journey. Promiscuity implies deception, hiding away and shame, but look at them, they want nothing more than to be seen how proud they are to be themselves…

Robert stood up as soon as he noticed Amalia arriving and the others turned their heads instantly, admiring her and envying him – she was there for him tonight. But it didn’t mean they couldn’t try their luck too, some of the men thought for a moment, drinking their whiskies. Wanting something and just knowing you are daring enough to reach out and take it is one of the most exquisite types of freedom. And having an impact in the world of such people is a special task, few can do it instinctively.

Amalia refused Robert when he offered to come pick her up from home that night and instead she offered to just meet them in the club later on, offering him some vague excuse about how she had some things to sort out. She didn’t have anything else to do, but she instinctively felt suffocated when he assumed he could just come and collect her, and in an attempt to reassert herself, she decided she would make an entrance. Setting up a dinner with some other guy she knew and she found to be terribly dull was just so she could clear her thoughts. But the moment she saw all of them, the moment she noticed that they looked at her differently than at the other young women accompanying some of them, she realised her instincts had pushed her to do exactly the right thing.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 27

One of the things to value most about the town that Amalia had moved to a few years ago would be its honesty – nothing going on there is different from the normal life of any other big town in the country. Its people aren’t by far any worse than those in other places, although some of them might be richer, but they lead their lives acknowledging who they are and what they do at a far higher level than anywhere else in the country. The men lead double lives, so do most of the women, and although some social appearances are respected, everything else goes on in plain sight, out in the open, with no need for denial or pretence for their own benefit. Robert and his friends were by far an example of it, all of them successful and proud, some of them well-educated, others perhaps lacking in culture, but all of them married, with a nice family at home and a multitude of parallel lives aside from it. The paradox a myriad of existences creates is a simple one – honesty and deception coexist in twisted harmony, sometimes on different planes, other times even within the same context. People lie, cheat and steal, they are selfish in their own despair and fear, but they admit it and accept themselves and each other for what they are, they find no reason to be ashamed and they walk proudly, acutely aware of their superiority. The mentality of “honest” lies is what makes the town and its people true to themselves, or at least more so than in most of the other places, an enclave where depravation and sin are revered instead on being swept away under the mat, under the mask of religious social propriety.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 24

A cup of coffee and chocolate ice cream on a crowded terrace came as a welcomed antidote to the sun filled shard of emotions and past. Perhaps they had been more open and honest than either one of them had intended to be, both with the other person and with themselves. The drive back to town cemented conclusions and resolutions and the Eagles CD on the background trickled innocuous intimacy between the two of them. It was that kind of intimacy and freedom you feel when you talk to a stranger, and from it derives the trust you can say anything and everything. It was the relief you get from pouring out your history and hopes, which sometimes gets to be mistaken for early-set friendship. One way or another though, sweetly deceiving or harshly honest, the uplifting feeling remains the same and once it takes over, it produces a constant craving for more and more, until it burns itself out with an unsuspected flame. But it’s that kind of high which, if acknowledged at the proper moment, forms a special type of happiness that some of us will chase relentlessly and at any cost, once we’ve had our first taste of it.

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 23

The sky was starting to change colour, something seemed to be about to happen while they were sitting down staring at the water and thinking back of other worlds, and it took her a few moments to realise what it was: the sun was sinking towards the horizon, it was getting lower and lower and soon enough they would witness the sunset. She wanted to run, she didn’t want to see that, not then, not there, and not with Robert. For some reason, it suddenly became clear that it would be one of the most intrusive moments.

“We should probably head back to town, I think we lost track of time. Somehow, this seems the right place for it,” and she wanted to smile light-heartedly.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay and watch the sunset? It can’t be long now.”

“Not today.”

They motioned slowly on the hillside, away from the water and the sun, towards the rusty gates and the parked car outside. Amalia was walking behind him this time, closer to the stone walls, disturbing remnants of old houses and temples, treacherous witnesses of past lives they had buried, and she would touch them from time to time, so the shiver of their warmth would remind her that she was still alive, she wasn’t a ghostly sight wondering amongst them yet. They drove away in silence, as though they were sneaking out of the beautiful cradle of memories; and as they were distancing themselves from the ruins of the old settlement, the corner of his eye caught Amalia turning her head and taking a long, depressed look back. What if I never return here again…

For more sample fragments from Parallel Lives, see: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/396169

One Love… Or More?

2

“Forever desiring, forever weary of his conquests like the great trickster of Seville, he always subjected himself to just a single woman, only to liberate himself from her through his works.”

Brassaï about Picasso

So many ways types of love and so many occasions to experience them, if only we allow feelings to flourish… Each of us perceives love (in all its shapes and sizes) in their own personal way and it’s certainly too subjective a matter in order to be boxed in or limited by fixed, blind rules. But one general assumption might just be true for all of us: no two loves are the same, regardless of whether we refer to romance, family, friends, people we may not even have met, or to things, jobs, pleasurable activities that embellish our lives in various ways.

It might not last forever, but each and every love we have experienced leaves a mark, it changes us, it becomes a part of who we are. It is a growing and a learning experience at the same time, even in those (many) cases when the dénouement is anything but positive or when it has proven to be painful rather than pleasant. It might leave us broken, but as long as we manage to put together the pieces, we often emerge stronger, with a clearer view of who we are and what we need. And it’s in those situations when we reach out to those other kinds of love that we hopefully have in our lives, relying on them for support we may not even know we need.

5

There are certainly more than one love related myths out there and aside from allowing us to hope and dream, they also set us up for disappointment, fostering unreachable standards and expectations, often blocking our perception of reality and true value. It’s funny how something that’s supposed to make us so happy actually frustrates us and makes us miserable because it doesn’t fit the pre-set pattern. Apparently we sometimes are so desperate to make ourselves feel inadequate by comparison to those untouchable ideals, that the already existing myths are not enough, we constantly come up with new examples of how love (any kind of love) should be in a perfect dimension… we even idealize examples from the animal kingdom…

Let’s be honest, even that generally considered a romantic symbol of monogamous, perfect couple is just that: an image, not reality. Yes, apparently sometimes not even swans mate for life, nor do they have a perfect couple life. They occasionally ‘divorce’ an unsuitable partner, they sometimes cheat on their significant other and they do look for a new mate in case the first one dies. Fun fact – it seems the black Australian swans are the friskiest of them all, on average one out of seven eggs is the result of an ‘extramarital’ affair. Sure, they have good reasons to behave this way; yet even when their couple life is successful, it’s not so much because of love or great romance, but because they’re practical creatures – they’re stronger together and they stand a much better chance to survive and thrive. Hmm… that sounds somewhat familiar…. 🙂

6

So why not make love a personal experience, one that suits who we are, what we believe and what we need? That could prove to be so much more constructive than judging and labelling ourselves and those around…

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Love.