Parallel Lives – Sample Fragment 74

“Last time I saw her, we went to a concert. It was winter, freezing cold, and the concert was outside. Guess what band was playing! I envy you, you’re still at that age, when you can bear the cold of a winter day in the mountains just to be close to a particular person, because that’s all you need to make your blood boil.”

“I am? Was I ever at that kind of an age?”

He wasn’t listening to her.

“Then we went back to her place. Her parents were home, but they were sleeping, so we could easily sneak in. We sat next to the heaters and drank hot tea to warm up, then we made love. For the last time, as it turned out. She was quiet, which left room to start telling her how I wanted to leave my wife and have her live with me. The only thing she did was point to a ring on her finger. She was engaged, she said. She was engaged, after having given me this speech about not believing in marriage; she was engaged, and he had only proposed to her once; the very same woman who had turned me down so many times…”

If you want to read Parallel Lives, click on any of the following links: 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. 🙂

Purple

Not even the cleverest makeup can conceal certain marks on a woman’s face. I could imagine her sitting in front of her vanity mirror in the morning, sad and lonely, trying to make those ugly shades of purple disappear under layers of foundation, concealer, powder and blush.

Sometimes they were easy to hide. But even then, when you saw her walking down the hallways in her elegant outfits, head rarely held high, you knew something was out of place. She normally wore only a touch of makeup… when there was nothing to hide.

Her husband was a doctor. She was a teacher in my school – a beautiful, intelligent, highly educated woman, with a great sense of humour. Everybody knew. Nobody seemed to care. If anything, they turned up their noses and shook their heads, when her private life was in plain sight, written on her face, scarring her delicate, still youthful features.

Sometimes, she would miss work several days in a row. One some rare occasions, she would disappear for a couple of weeks. Once, her voice wasn’t the same for a while, some broken teeth affected her speech. Then she disappeared again and her teeth were absolutely perfect when she returned. Everything could be fixed, everything could be covered…

Everybody gossiped, nobody interfered… because it wasn’t out of the ordinary. It happened in all walks of life. Cultural and social status may have been a catalyst at times, but it was never a deterrent. I wonder, how many of her female colleagues – the ones who were only too thrilled to spread the word – went home to a similar life? I wonder, how many of her male colleagues went home to dispense the same kind of loving treatment to their wives? Envy was the one thing most of them shared – what was a few bruises, some broken bones and teeth, compared to everything she had? She certainly couldn’t afford all those nice clothes or that home in a nice part of town on a teacher’s salary… And many women put up with much worse… And maybe she deserved it… maybe she even liked it.

She would leave. All her friends and acquaintances had heard her talk about leaving him. She shared her incredible plans for a better future with anyone who would listen. And people listened, because that’s what you do. You sit down and have a cup of coffee with this woman who seems so together, she all of the sudden becomes unhinged, while calmly telling you how she would leave that home of horrors. She doesn’t even feel the need to explain why she would leave, because she knows you know, in spite of all those stories about walking into doors and falling down the stairs. You nod and agree with her, because you have no idea what else to do. But just like everybody else, you don’t believe her, because she’s been talking this way for years. Nobody believes her, not even her husband believes she could ever leave.

Then it becomes clear – that was her plan all along. She wasn’t as unhinged as everybody thought her to be. One morning, she was simply gone. First, nobody paid too much attention to that particular matter, she occasionally spent the night at a friend’s place. Then she failed to show up at work… or at home… or anywhere else.

She was gone.

Gone were all her personal things as well. Her wardrobe was empty. Her jewellery box was empty. Only most of her makeup was still on the table, in front of her vanity mirror. She was nowhere to be found.

Pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. She had systematically taken her things to a friend’s place over the preceding months. She had everything set up – a new job, a new home, a new life. And once her child was old enough, once she had that child’s future secured, she could finally buy a plane ticket.

Suddenly, everybody believed her. She hadn’t only left him, but she left the country. The saddest part was that most of them considered her happy ending, her new beginning, as nothing more than a pathetic, insane, unacceptable choice.

Here’s to hoping that more and more women in her situation manage to find the strength and resources to make such a choice!

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

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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)

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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 – …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.