Dear love

“He wants them to love all selves equally–even themselves.”–C.S. Lewis

Let me write you a love letter and put it into verse

The way you make me smile especially when it hurts

The way you make me laugh when tears are on my face

The way the world completely disappears when I hide in your embrace.

Let me write your smile and the dimple in your chin

The way my heart aches wonderfully with your effusive grin

Let me tell you all the things you do to my no longer empty heart

Let me tell you how happy I’ve become that you take me apart.

Let me tell you how I love you, how happy I am you’re mine

The way we laugh together when our fingers entwine.

Now, I bet you haven’t noticed that the person I wrote to

I’ve known for my entire life, because, dear me, it’s you.

I’m glad we’ve learned ourself so well that even while in pain

We cry ourselves hoarse laughing and we make it all a game.

I’m glad you’ve been so patient so that I could learn at last

That I am happy to be me future present past.

Let me write you a smile so big it splits my face

My body, my soul, my mind is the most wonderful embrace.

Let me write myself a love letter so even when it hurts

I can look back and I see I love myself in prose and still in verse.


Remember, dears, that to “love our neighbors as ourselves,” we must love ourselves. It’s not inherently selfish or proud to love ourselves, we just have to be careful those feelings don’t creep in! I’ve found that one of the best things that’s happened to me as I’ve grown is this: that I understand how to care for myself, too.

Care Taker

(In which Maren and Bryce are both baby and Sebastian has emotional intelligence which is relevant).


            On top of his skin, Bryce is a marvel of human composure.

            Beneath it, Maren finds, he is a fuse box taken to with wire cutters and a ticking bomb, click click clicking to the moment things overflow.

            The worst part is that Bryce never recognizes the bomb being planted inside him, and he never does anything but rip at the wires, unsure of how to defuse them and only doing more damage in his attempts to protect himself.

            Maren might have left him alone forever if she hadn’t forcibly seen the consequences of such reckless behavior. She might’ve left him alone if she didn’t have the spilling, aching volcano building inside her stomach every minute, pressure along the fault lines of her soul shoving and shoving until everything becomes too much and she either pops and implodes, a vicarious black hole, or panics and explodes, a Pompeii repeated. But when she finds him choking on his panic, it doesn’t feel like a decision to Heimlich the panic out of his throat. It feels like live saving, and an obligation, and a necessity, not a want, not something she can resent or even feel pleasure in. It’s drinking during a cold. Painful, hard to get down, but necessary. You can’t feel it making things better but it is making things better and the mental gymnastics you have to get through to get to the point where you do realize that is going to be worth it.

            So Maren bends down and gathers Bryce in her arms. So she makes him tea and when he looks at her with wide, terrified eyes like she’ll tell someone what happened an hour or however long ago, she doesn’t say a word even both of them are wearing wet hair and new clothes and she knows Sebastian can tell something’s going on even if Siri is the more deceived.

            So when Sebastian pulls her over to his side and whispers, “Are you ok,” she murmurs sharply back, “Why am I the only one you’re worried about?” and then realizes she could have ruined everything between them with those nine words.

            But Sebastian looks down at her and murmurs, “Ok,” with an inscrutable look and puts a kiss on her shoulder so she knows he’s not mad before he leaves her, and the tense, strung thread between them doesn’t snap but thickens, the way it’s been doing and doing and doing.

            But she doesn’t have time to wonder what would happen if she let that thread pull them closer, because she’s worrying about a different strain, and making Bryce cocoa, and telling jokes until he’s tired enough she’s sure he can sleep, and then sitting in the hall outside his room all night in case he has a nightmare.

            Sebastian brings her a blanket and pillow at 11 o’clock, like this is something he’s always done, and shakes her awake at 6 before Bryce can wake up and find her there.

            And,

            “Thank you,” she says,

            And

            “I’m looking now,” he says, and rubs her shoulder. “You’re my best friend,” he whispers before he gets up from there.

            “You’re my best friend,” she says, and it’s a promise, but an unthreatened promise even now.

            It gets more from there, gets deeper, gets mornings when Bryce’s skin is too tight and she can tell because his fingers clench in fists against his legs in school, gets evenings when Bryce doesn’t even try to go to sleep, gets nights when she doesn’t even need to be outside his room to know that there have been nightmares. Maren grabs his fingers and massages them, spars with him during those long drawn out days when Bryce wants nothing more than to rip at his skin again and again, does anything she can to make his skin feel less like a monstrosity, his soul less like a fire too cold to be worth the fuel it burns. Maren lies beside him and teaches him constellations she imagined herself as a child, until they’re a whole language only the two of them can read. Maren talks on the phone with him until they’re both hoarse when dreams cut him open so he’s bleeding out on the sheets.

            She patches the dam to hold back the tidal wave and she knows she’ll never be enough alone. She’s not enough, and it’s a known fact, and it would be arrogant to assume that alone, she can patch together someone who has been ripping himself to pieces for a year longer than she’s been alive.

            But she tries.

            Sometimes, she even thinks she succeeds.

            She notices a month or two months later that things have changed between Sebastian and Bry. Sebastian’s eyes don’t narrow at him as much in rage, but they narrow and disappear as Sebastian teases and teases and teases until Bry is shaking with the effort to keep the laughter in. It’s hard when it’s Sebastian joking, which Maren knows very well.

            Sebastian still doesn’t care for Bryce or anything he’s done very much but he’s looking, those careful dark eyes unpicking and unpinning Bryce’s composure to see what’s underneath, and when Seb’s sorry, pained eyes meet hers once after he’s been looking, Maren knows he’s glimpsed the fuse box though the bomb is still hidden by wires.

            It’s Siri who’s the real problem. Siri who’s own fuse box has exploded so many times it isn’t really a fuse box any more. Siri who has no idea how to manage all the weight on her, let alone Bry’s.

            It’s Siri who keeps trying to take all Bryce’s weight as well as her own, not knowing Bryce is clinging to his weight like a drowning man to a life raft, not knowing that every kind word flays Bryce alive, not knowing every smile is a scream that Bryce will pile into Maren’s waiting shoulder later.

            And it’s Siri who has no idea what to do about Maren and Bry’s sudden closeness, which Maren doesn’t have the vocabulary to define. Sebastian understands it, understands it in the way he understands her need to run until her lungs burn so badly she can no longer breathe, understands the way he understands the nights where she gets up at midnight and bakes or sews or does something because otherwise she’ll scrub her hands under the tap until they’re as bloody as they are behind her eyelids.

            Siri loves Bryce, which is a terrible idea.

            Siri is getting jealous of Maren, which is worse.

            Siri does not do jealousy: does not understand envy: cannot comprehend resenting what someone else has earned: and she is jealous of Maren.

            Her fingers twitch when Maren grabs Bryce arm in the hall. Perhaps to Siri it looks like flirting. To Bryce, Maren has found it looks like water when he’s dying of thirst. Bryce is touch starved and needy and he panics when the weight of gazes descend on him, and Maren’s fingers around a bare wrist help. And Siri sees it and looks up in Maren’s eyes and her expression whispers, How could you take the only thing I’ve ever wanted.

            And Maren’s impassive expression must read, It was never yours, when it really reads, I can’t do anything but this, and it isn’t what you think.

            It boils over eventually.

            It was always going to.

            Bryce wraps his arms around her before breakfast one morning, and tucks a trembling mouth against a sweat slicked neck as Maren freezes by the blender where her fruit and protein powder scream about being rearranged into something drinkable.

            Siri’s eyes turn dark, and Siri says, polite and tight and furious, “Could you keep it to yourselves, please?” and Maren thinks, oh, God.

            Bryce doesn’t even get what she’s saying. He doesn’t even know it’s directed at him, at his hands on Maren’s waist, and Maren is faced by a choice.

            Siri or Bryce.

            Shove off Bryce’s hands, explain what’s happening to Siri, let Bryce feel like she’s betraying him. Let him feel like the only person he’s reached out to has stabbed him in the back while taking his hand.

            Let Bryce hold her. Let Siri’s fury grow. Let her feel like Maren is a traitor and a thief.

            It is a choice she’s thought about before, and once she knew her answer would every time be Siri. She used to think when it was Bryce against Siri, Bryce would obviously be wrong. Siri would obviously be right. Siri would be the right side to choose.

            But Maren’s mouth firms and the choice doesn’t feel like a choice at all as she wraps an arm over Bryce’s, face turned away from seeing Siri’s expression twist, away from Sebastian’s confusion and horror.

            To Bryce.

            No, to Bry, her friend, her delicate destroyed friend with his torn and ruined heart and his broken face that hides under the perfect golden child exterior that Siri hasn’t seen through and Aaron hasn’t seen through, that mother and father and Bryce’s school “friends” and Bryce’s enemies and everyone in the world hasn’t seen through. And Maren lifts the mask and whispers, you can trust me with anything, and Siri gets up from the table and looks Maren in the eyes and says, “You never leave well enough alone, do you.”

            Maren knows this is a fair accusation, so she settles for, “You’re leaving alone what shouldn’t be left.” Which is also fair.

            But which is the worst possible thing to say.

            And the silent line of Siri’s furious, injured, torn up and ruined mouth, reminds Maren that Siri is a ticking time bomb too, and she just cut down the time on the timer.

            The explosion is not what Maren expects. The explosion is her almost dying.

            She comes to incoherent and flailing in someone’s arms, ribs hurting like she’s dying, lungs and throat burned and charred to nonexistence, and she hears two voices yelling and she fights, ferocious, and she bites the person holding her till she tastes sharp blood in her mouth and then someone is whispering,

            “Breathe for me, Maren, please,” an echo of a shout she made long ago, and fingers press one hand against a warm chest for her to follow even as she holds her captive pinioned between her teeth on his arm.

            Her teeth release by instinct.

            “GOD, MAREN,” someone cries, sounding more broken than she’s ever heard them, and she comes to awareness as Sebastian pushes her hair back on her brow, his face scarlet and terrified, tears in a flood on his cheeks. “God, I thought you were dead, God.”

            He grabs her face in undignified, gentle fingers, pressing his forehead into hers, like he can meld the two of them together by sheer force of will.

            She realizes it is Bryce who is holding her and she pulls back and grabs Bryce’s arm with tremulous fingers and sees the bloody bite and feels ill.

            “Sorry, Bry, sorrysorrysorry—”

            Bryce kisses her forehead and softly whispers, “What’s mine is yours,” which shouldn’t be something Maren understands but she does understand. It means that right now is repayment for days when Bryce was the one whose fingers were bruisingly tight with terror. It means, we were never anything less than even.

            Sebastian is thanking Bryce, now, shaking hands grabbing Bryce’s. “Thank you for saving her, thank you for being her friend,” his voice terribly trembling.

            The weight of those words snaps taught as Maren hears Siri say, “oh,” gently, and stare between Maren and Bryce and Sebastian, those clever old young eyes filling in the puzzle pieces in a picture not even Maren understands. Siri’s eyes flood with tears, and she whispers, “I’m so sorry,” and Maren thinks maybe they’re friends again.

            The moment comes when Maren finally understands the word that’s been lingering on the tip of her tongue, there to describe Bry and their relationship to herself.

            She has a word for Sebastian she dares not even whisper, but she gets closer to whispering it every day.

            She has a dozen for Siri—leader, friend, companion, loyal, true, I’d walk through fire for you, I love you.

            They’re at a beach, between the endless battles and dramatic fights. They’re eating watermelon and Bryce spits a watermelon seed in Maren’s ear and runs like the very intelligent coward he is.

            Sebastian screams a laugh, Siri looks horrified, and Maren catches Bryce and shoves his face in the blanket as he writhes, unable to breathe. She yells at him about how disgusting he is for good measure.

            “You absolute brat, it would serve you right if I told on you to mom!” and just like that she knows.

            In horror she falls off Bryce and he looks up at her, slightly scandalized that she’s stopped her well deserved vengeance.

            “Oh dear Lord,” Maren whispers. “You’re my baby brother, aren’t you?

            (And if Bryce yells about how he isn’t a baby, but later in the silence of the house knocks on her door and buries his face in her shoulder and shakes because finally, finally he isn’t alone anymore, finally, finally he understands that she’s staying, neither of them are going to say anything about it to anyone but each other.)

Dimensional Jaunts and 4th Wall Breaking

What is the difference between an effective 4th wall break and an ineffective one?

The fundamental difference seems to me to be understanding what the 4th wall break will achieve, the  skill to pull it off, and giving the audience ability to maintain suspension of disbelief.

Why are you breaking the fourth wall?

If you don’t know, the audience won’t. We know why Shakespeare breaks the 4th wall with soliloquies and monologues during which the actor talks directly to the audience. He wants us to understand what the character is thinking. He wants us to listen to some rad poetry. He wants us to feel the impending tragedy, or to laugh along with the comedy.

Why does Rick Riordan preface the Percy Jackson books with a 4th wall break though? Did he just think it was cool?

I’m not saying he didn’t have a valid reason or that it was ineffective, but the motive is unclear. It could be seen as a wild way to introduce the world, which would be a great point in its favor. It could be a way to get the audience invested in and fascinated by the world—but we already know this is unnecessary. People want to go to Hogwarts though they didn’t get a secret prologue cluing them in that yes this is totally real though it’s being published as fiction. Is it a wink wink nudge nudge I know you’re cool and teenagery and you aren’t really interested in “fiction” cause you know it’s fiction and you’re too mature for that?

What is the purpose in Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz? (Hint: It’s probably because he’s drawing attention to his main character being an unreliable narrator.)

The point is that where there is a writing device, there should be a purpose you analyze, and that you later analyze from what you hear from readers to see if the purpose was met by what you did. You might do it “for fun,” but even if it’s for fun it should serve your story somehow, because otherwise it’s kind of an eccentric but ultimately meaningless feature, like perhaps an appendix in your body (although there is possibly a purpose for an appendix).

Next, how skillfully have you executed your little extra dimensional jaunt?

There are many dimensions to skill in writing. Here are a few that you can check for fairly easily.

Is it at a place that makes sense, with language that makes the break interesting?

Does it advance plot or at least not delay plot?

Does it serve character (i.e. does it make consistent sense with the character that they are 4th wall breaking in this way? A badboy isn’t going to do a dimension jump to gush to us about his girlfriend. A sassy lad might want to bother us about how we’re living our cute little lives. A nice sweet person isn’t going to, without reason, scream at us about how we’re following along with their lives and never helping them even when they’re in terrible trouble)? Consider how the scene impacts your character.

Does it really need to happen to serve your 4th wall breaking purpose?

Next, suspension of disbelief is required to incorporate us into the story, because otherwise at every turn we question why the author just decided to solve the problem like that. We get mad and nothing makes sense and we throw the book at the wall. We’re like “no one acts like that please let this scene end.” Suspension of disbelief is a contract between storyteller and hearer. Hearer listens and interacts, Storyteller explains and explores. When, with no explanation, the characters are interacting with a world the Hearer logically knows they cannot, since they know this is not real and the world they are interacting with is, the contract is broken, unless it is done in a way that does not break the contract.

               For instance: referencing a specific event that a person may not have experienced is a no. When Riordan does this in his Egyptian mythology series it is less effective than when Percy warns us if we feel something, then please don’t think about it too hard. Forbidding a person to do something is a bit overdone at this point: every edgy Middle Grade wants you to put this book down because it’s dangerous for you to be reading it.

               Keep remarks general. Keep them largely impersonal; you are talking to a massive audience, and you have no way of knowing how they’ll take a personal remark. Keep them to the point, make them have a point. Restore audiences seamlessly into the world they just got sucker punched out of, or suffer the consequences.

               Have fun writing my 4th or 5th  to least favorite thing to read!

Disclaimer: this post has been written by a person who dislikes reading 4th wall breaks and what they hate another may enjoy. The best writing advice is to do exactly what is best for your story so do not heed this advice if it is terrible for your story. Farewell and beware of falling hats because one of them is coming for you very soon. (Was that a 4th wall break in a post about 4th wall breaks? You’ll never know.)

The worst part of hiding

I’m good at defenses, at not letting you see

The surface is best when it’s someone like me.

I’m good at screaming I hate you when I push you aside

If you know me, I can’t stop you from not letting me hide.

It’s a massive step down from acquaintance to friend.

It’s a step no one’s made thus far in the end.

I’m not bad at lying, at insecurity baiting

At the end of the day my own pain still will be waiting.

Does it hurt more when I push you aside and you don’t

Or more when I know that it’s not can’t but just won’t.

Or if I let you in and you finally found out

That there’s nothing worth loving in me without doubt.

Is it worse when I push you away and you don’t

Or more when I’d know it’s not can’t it’s just won’t?


I apparently have some Thoughts (TM) about certain characters and people.

No lack of pain

I’ll write you a tragedy—

I could promise you that

But you’ll write one for me

Before I finish.

You’ll break someone’s heart

You’ll lose what you can’t

You’ll weep.

You’ll break.

You’ll die.

I’d write you a tragedy

But you’ve seen so many

I don’t see the point

Of giving you more.

I could give you something

Warmer, if you want it

To remind you to remember

Tragedy is more than sorrow;

Comedy less than joy.

Rage and pain are wounds that may scab

But gladness is unquenchable

A wound that grows, grows ever larger,

That rips you open when pain lets you close

That tears you side to side, exposes your ribcage

The frenetic stripping of your ribs

The wires crossing inside your lungs

The wet rain tarmac of your beating heart

And oh, why is it that I long for happiness

When happiness doesn’t mean the absence of pain

At all.

Take Care

            Bryce really, sincerely just expected her to turn and walk away. Or, if he let himself imagine worse, to laugh at him, or mock him, or kick him in his stupid shattering ribs, or tell someone that the light caster was a weakling who couldn’t take care of anyone, himself or indeed anyone else and Bryce was perfectly aware that after all he has done to Maren, any of those would be fair.

            He has no reason to expect Siri’s soft, innumerable kindness, that forgets every line of her own pain the second she sees someone else’s.

            (He hates it more than anything, how he could stab Siri and she’d turn around and behave like she deserved it, like he deserved her loving him after that.)

            There isn’t anything like Siri’s soft, terrible kindness in Maren’s face when she finds him having a panic attack in his tee shirt and underwear under the shower spray. Her face goes through a number of complicated, aborted emotions—pain, bitterness, confusion, anger—before it finally settles on neutrality. He deserves the expressions she somehow keeps herself from making—hatred, disgust, fury.

            She slowly steps into the shower and he tenses for the moment she attacks. He whimpers. He whimpers, he’s so weak, he’s such an idiot.

            The neutrality goes right out of Maren. Her face becomes focused and tense and he knows what it means—pain. Maren is in pain, somehow, right now. Is the shower spray too hot? He barely feels where it hits his too-tight, loathsome skin.

            She drops to a crouch beside him, hands open, unfisted, careful, slightly shaking. “Breathe, Bryce, breathe.” Her jeans are getting soaked. If she has her pocket knife in them it’ll rust. She could cut him open with it and the inside of the shower would be the same color as the inside of his soul.

            “Ok, I’m going to touch you, let me know if I shouldn’t.”

            He doesn’t register the words or what they mean until her hands land on his skin and he screams. Her hands are rough where the scabs and scars and callouses have hardened, and they burn against his cold, cold skin, and oh, the shower is freezing.

            She doesn’t let go now because she’s bracing him so he doesn’t fall.

            “Sh, sh, I know, sh,” and her voice is numbing him into unreality. She reaches around him, knife probably already in hand, which he would deserve—but now, the water becomes warmer, almost too warm to be comfortable, but by the bumps he feels on Maren’s arms it’s barely warm at all.

            Why is she turning the shower warmer when she could just leave it if she wanted to be comfortable?

            Maren takes one of his hands and puts it over where her shirt is plastered wet against her skin, and he feels her lungs rising and falling, the pace of her heart. “Match me, Bryce, please, I’m asking,” and he takes a rough, unsteady breath of surprise that she’s asking.

            The pleased, painful look that bursts across her face is both reward and punishment. But he breathes again and she looks relieved, like she thought he was dying, like she actually didn’t want him to. He tries to follow her steady heartbeat, the force of her breath, and he realizes suddenly that he has grabbed ahold of skin through her shirt, that he is clenching his fingers hard enough to bruise, and he makes a guttural little cry of shock and tries to let go but his fingers are halted by Maren’s clenching hard over them.

            “I give you permission to hurt me right now,” Maren says, her voice soft, “because you’re hurting more and I want to help.” It’s not forgiveness, which he wouldn’t be able to tolerate. It’s almost condemnation but so much harder than condemnation; it’s generosity that recognizes what he’s doing and then gives him permission to have what he needs.

            He still softens his grip, but he doesn’t let go of her, and his breaths are more panicked again, but her heartbeat didn’t change in the pain. She reaches again, and he doesn’t know for what until he feels the softness of a washcloth, the slick brush of soap suds across his arms, as the water warms again. She’s washing the broken wound on his back. Something about the ache is grounding. He starts to cry in earnest and she tucks him between her legs and wraps herself around him, whispering, “sh, sh, sh,” like he’s someone she loves. Like he’s Sebastian, or Siri, or her siblings.

            He could reach her pocket knife more easily than she could, and he realizes jerkily that she is trusting him, always trusting him, not to hurt her. Even when he already has and it makes him cry harder than ever.

            She washes his hair and gets shampoo in her eyes while shielding his and hers get comically red. She’s careful with every touch and he finally loses focus on the incredible tightness in his chest, the brittle unreality of his skin in the touch of hers and the way she never says anything he can’t agree with.

            Never. Not, “I don’t blame you,” because she should, but “you have my permission,” which is harder to endure. Not, “it’s alright,” because nothing is ok, but “I’m here, I’m not leaving you,” which cuts him right open down the middle.

             The water starts to run colder, and Maren swears nearly silently under her breath, which he hears because her mouth is literally right next to his ear, and he jumps because Maren does Not swear without good reason.

            “I need to get you warm, Bryce, I’m surprised you haven’t given yourself hypothermia.” Soft, almost joking. “I’m going to get you upright now.” He starts to shake because there’s no way his legs can hold him, but she struggles him upright, arms supporting him, and there’s practically no weight on his legs, it’s all on Maren’s shaking arms and firm, impossible shoulders. He’s never before realized how much Maren carries all the time, how much more she’s shouldering now, but he cannot pull away or he’ll fall.

            She wraps a towel around him, drags him quickly from the hall and into her room, shoves him in her bed, piles a blanket over the towel, and leaves him to soak her sheets. But not for long, because she comes back with an oversize shirt—her favorite sweatshirt, his backpack in her other hand. She takes off his tee shirt and he’s both embarrassed and not, because she doesn’t look at him with anything but that impartial, doctor-like carefulness. Her sweatshirt is the softest thing he’s ever felt. She ruffles his hair carefully.

            “We have to get you in pants somehow, Bry. How do you want to do this?” He doesn’t know. His brain is painfully blank.

            “How bout this? I stay here and turn around, give you your clothes. If you get your underwear, I’ll get your jeans.” He nods, a jerk more than anything else.

            It takes him much longer than it took her for the shirt, but there’s no impatience in the lines of her shoulders, just calm, just waiting. She smiles at him when she turns back around and tosses his soaked clothes on her neat bedroom floor as she works on his jeans like he’s a six-year-old. Her arms are wrapped round him by necessity by the time she’s done getting them up his legs. He zips them with shaking fingers, and she smiles at him and ruffles his hair again. “Good job, well done.”

            It almost makes him panic but he’s weak to the touch in his hair, to fingers that were so much gentler than he thought, so much more tender. The good job was what alarmed him and that has to say something about the way he thinks, that being told he’s done well for something as simple as getting dressed makes him hate himself with a bitter and loathing passion.

            Bryce wraps his arms around Maren’s waist and presses his face into her stomach. Her shirt is wet.

            “Let me get changed, Bry, kay? I don’t want to give you a cold, all sopping wet.”

            Not I don’t want to get a cold, not I’m cold and I need to be warm, no, I’m worried about you and I want you to be ok. He starts to cry. She bends down so she’s looking up at him, cups his face with her fingers. “Hey, hey, I’m not going anywhere. I just need to get on some clothes, ok? Just hold on for a second.”

            He nods, and lies back and puts his arms over his face. He hears Maren’s nearly silent sigh. Maybe she will leave. Maybe she’s uncomfortable with him in the room while she—the sound of a wet article of clothing hitting the rug stops him right there and nope, she just wanted to get changed. That was all.

            “Done,” she says, less time later than he expects. He opens his eyes to Maren in leggings and a sweater that hits her midthigh and that she’s cuffed around her elbows, drying her hair with the towel she’d wrapped him in earlier. She walks over to him and again, he sits up and shoves his face into her stomach, and she lets out a gentle, teasing, ‘oof,’ that makes him giggle a bit hysterically.

            “Can you drink some water or tea for me if we make it to the kitchen? You need some after crying that much.”

            He nods, nose rubbing against her sweater, and he mutters out a muffled, “Your stomach muscles are making this uncomfortable,” which is the longest sentence he’s said since this whole thing started.

            Maren sighs dramatically. “Sadly, you cannot have a six pack and a cushy tummy at the same time.”

            “Choose cushy,” Bryce says, and realizes with horror that he has.

            Maren chuckles and he feels it in the rattle of her ribcage, the clenching of her stomach and it isn’t a fake laugh at all. “What use would I be of in battles if I had no abs?”

            Bryce tries to think coherently and cannot. “You could distract people.” His voice is rough, and hurts his throat a bit. Probably all the crying.

            “Sure, buddy,” Maren says affably, and then wiggles out of his grip, puts her arms under his and hoists him to his feet with a little grunt. “You’re too heavy.”

            “You can’t be muscular and light,” he says, echoing an earlier sentiment of hers.

            “Choose light,” Maren gripes, and he laughs again, and she makes him tea and for the first time in weeks the weight leaves his chest and he feels so empty and light that he feels like he’s going to die. And Maren stays beside him, an anchor, and when Sebastian and Siri and the adults around them in the kitchen ask what’s happening, Maren says, “tea, what else,” and doesn’t say anything else, and he realizes what it’s like to have a friend.


So interestingly enough, Maren was a completely new addition this year to a story I wrote when I was 14. When I wrote it, Bryce had no one to balance him, and I don’t think I realized at the age how uneven things in the story were. Siri had lots of people around her to balance her out but Bryce had no one because rather justly people didn’t like him–he wasn’t very likeable. He still isn’t the most likeable, but that’s irrelevant to Maren to a certain extent. Also Maren’s half of this will be posted eventually.

Hello there, reflection

Press my fingers to my cheek in the mirror

Grab my chin as I sit and think

Paint my skin with freckled constellations

And litanies of unseen ink.

And whisper to myself, smile tired,

Ruined, and undone,

“You’re imperfect and corrected,

“And my love, worth being won.”

And the weight that resides inside my chest

Is still present and content

But the hate I used to bear it

Has already been spent.

Oh, God, how is it

That I finally understand

The faith it takes to trust the compass of the soul

And on fluid water stand.

Oh, God, how did you give it

Into my unworthy hands

To understand that I myself

Am made within your plans?

My God, how is it possible

That staring in the mirror

I glance in your reflection

And see myself the clearer.

(If you think you will never grow to see yourself without hatred in the viewing, I think you should know that there is a a you five or ten or a thousand years from now is looking back with fond and patient eyes and saying, “I’ll wait for you to learn.”)

Chaos Would Ensue

So. I thought it would be fun and hilarious if I wrote a modern au with lots of texting for my favorite kiddos Roy and Owen. HERE YA GO

                Undine (9:36 a.m.): Finch wants to know if you’re going out with Owen tonight.

                Roy (10:02 a.m.): Sorry I was in class. Why would I be “going out” with Owen???? LIke? I’m probably studying??

                Undine: (10:02 a.m.) Probably. Hm.

                Roy: (10:03 a.m.) I hear your ironic implications, and no. Also please get to the point Langley has us put our phones away after the first five minutes of class. AS YOU KNOW.

                Undine: (10:04 a.m.) Very well. She was wondering if you could go out with us tonight. Apparently Stephen is coming and she wants “[you] to pound his face in”.

                Roy: (10:05 a.m.) What has he done this time?

                Undine: (10:05 a.m.) I could not say. Can you be ready at six?

                Roy: (10:07 a.m.) Alskdfhalskdhf she owes me.

                Undine: (10:08 a.m.) You are a queen among sisters. I’ll pick you up then. Have a good class, Roy.

                Undine: (10:10 a.m.) Owen.

                Owen: (10:15 a.m.) Undine.

                Owen: (10:15 a.m.) What can I do for you?

                Owen: (10:15 a.m.) Does Roy need help again? She usually texts me herself

                Undine: (10:17 a.m.) Not all our conversations need be about Roy.

                Owen: (10:19 a.m.) Therefore this one IS about Roy, I see. Continue.

                Undine: (10:22 a.m.) Are you purposely trying to frustrate me again?

                Owen: (10:24 a.m.) Are you purposely trying to distract me in class? I have class even if you don’t. And you do have class even if your teachers don’t penalize you for being on your phone. And I want to pay attention.

                Owen: (10:25 a.m.) Also, no, I’m not trying to frustrate you although I feel like my last text doesn’t convey that. I apologize for being so grumpy and needlessly awful.

                Undine: (10:29 a.m.) Roy told me last week was bad for you. I had forgotten.

                Owen: (10:30 a.m.) asdfklh that isn’t really why I’m being mean I’m just cranky. I’m sorry.

                Undine: (10:32 a.m.) It’s of no consequence. I forgive you. As it happens, you are right and I’ll cut this short. Roy says you aren’t going out tonight.

                Owen: (10:34 a.m.) Roy didn’t ask about tonight so I’m guessing you mean she and I Aren’t Doing Anything.

                Undine: (10:35 a.m.) Are you doing something alone? I suppose I should ask, “are you doing something without Roy?”

                Owen: (10:35 a.m.) No

                Undine: (10:36 a.m.) I rest my case. I wondered if you might come out with us. I didn’t ask Roy as I felt she might think it awkward to ask you. Could you be ready at six? I need more than one sane person accompanying us.

                Owen: (10:38 a.m.) What does this event entail?

                Undine: (10:39 a.m.) Hanging out with Roy/she will be wearing her cream dress that I know you enjoy seeing her in.

                Owen: (11:29 a.m.) Class, sorry. Needed to pay attention, even though it was Alcibiades. His classes are dull as mud but I need to know the material.

Owen: (11:30 a.m.) Also, I think if I argue about enjoying Roy’s fashion sense you would either a) be angry at me for not finding her pretty or b) only believe it more emphatically so I won’t comment. Anyhow, you’re selling this thing to me which leads me to believe it isn’t just hanging out with Roy. And she NEVER wears that dress without a reason.

Undine: (11:31 a.m.) Will you wear your cream dress tonight? With the vines on it?

                Undine: (11:32 a.m.) You could wear your pearl set I gave you.

                Roy: (11:40 a.m.) I have some jade that works better. Also sure but why am I wearing the dress

                Undine: (11:41 a.m.) Ah. There isn’t any particular reason.

                Roy: (11:45 a.m.) Oh yes, Undine, I absolutely have faith that you are being completely honest with me right now.

                Undine: (11:46 a.m.) Shush, child.

                Roy: (11:46 a.m.) We’re all doomed.

                Undine: (11:48 a.m.) She is wearing the dress and she has no particular reason.

                Owen: (11:50 a.m.) If you asked her it’s Because you asked her. Which is a particular reason.

                Undine: (11:51 a.m.) She could and historically has rejected my advice and requests.

                Owen: (11:53 a.m.) You know I can’t be bribed with Roy In Pretty Dress.

                Undine: (11:55 a.m.) Of course you cannot! I would not suggest such a thing. If you could I would crush your skull to make rock candy.

                Owen: (11:56 a.m.) Lol

                Undine: (11:57 a.m.) You can, however, be manipulated into making any number of choices for the opportunity of seeing and interacting with Roy.

                Owen: (11:58 a.m.) Hm. Keep talking like that and I’ll actually trust you at some point.

                Undine: (11:59 a.m.) Please?

                Owen: (12:01 p.m.) Kay

                Undine: (12:01 p.m.) Thank you.

                Owen: (12:08 p.m.) You’re welcome, Roy’s big sister.

                Undine: (12:10 p.m.) To be known as such is truly an honor.

                Undine: (12:56 p.m.) Roy and Owen are coming tonight.

                Finch: (1:17 p.m.) … What did you do?

                Undine: (1:19 p.m.) I found additional support.

                Finch: (1:21 p.m.) You mean gave into cowardice.

                Undine: (1:23 p.m.) You say such sweet things, dear little sister.

                Finch: (1:24 p.m.) You call me little sister but never Roy and SHE’S THE YOUNGEST

                Undine: (1:28 p.m.) She never behaves in a way that merits being called “little sister.”

                Finch: (1:32 p.m.) -_- I hate you. I like Roy best.

                Undine: (1:33 p.m.) Considering Roy was in the running I would expect nothing less.

                Finch: (1:34 p.m.) gr. Fine. I miss her anyway. Is her “other half” coming along?

                Undine: (1:35 p.m.) Which other half? She, with mathematical impossibility, has at least six.

                Finch: (1:36 p.m.) Any.

                Undine: (1:38 p.m.) Owen is coming.

                Finch: (1:40 p.m.) YES! SCORE! PLEASE TELL ME ROY IS DRESSING TO MAKE HIS BRAIN EXPLODE!

                Undine: (1:46 p.m.) She doesn’t know he’s coming yet.

                Finch: (1: 47 p.m.) This evening is looking up.

                Undine: (1:49 p.m.) You are incorrigible.

                Finch: (1:52 p.m.) C’mon, you know it’s adorable. He’s like a chocolate truffle in the sun for her. And if anything she’s worse about him.

                Undine: (1:53 p.m.) Have you actually seen him look at her? She is Not worse than he is.

                Finch: (1:55 p.m.) Hm. And they’re good for each other.

                Undine: (1:57 p.m.) I would have sliced his ears off by now if he weren’t.

                Owen: (2:48 p.m.) Is your class over yet?

                Roy: (2:55 p.m.) Almost I canNOT wait.

                Owen: (3:00 p.m.) Meet you in the hall when you get out!

Ghosts

Tracing the walls with still born fingers

Walking lonely flights of steps in the dead of night

Is it any wonder you are lonely

When you waken to empty arms

Bones hollowed out by years of waiting

Harsh breaths that shook you when you died forgotten

The pulse point in your throat a dull staccato

That asserts “I am alive” though you know it is so no longer

And is it surprising

That in the middle of a thunderstorm,

Hair drifting around you

You scream

Angry for attention and warmth

You have been denied for so long

And when you are noted, noted with distaste

With fear, with hate, with scientific curiosity

An utter failure to consider human compassion

Because they think you are no longer human

So It is that when I cease speaking

Your fingers release my throat,

Your bones unhook from your soul

And you leave me, shaken, wondering what sits behind my eyes

As I watch you go

I remember a time when I was like you

Then rise with a sigh

Because I will haunt you no longer.


Who was haunting who?

Anyway, I haven’t been posting as much–sorry about that! I’ll do my best to get back to a more consistent posting schedule. I hope you all are doing really well. Please check in with me! I love hearing from you and knowing you’re still doing ok. Have a blessed day and week ❤

Reciprocity

Dim corridors fill your frame

A weary set of veins

Articulating into organs that are as vague and complicated

As the traceries between them

Chilled wants and aches and anguish

In your unheated filaments

Not even sheets to cover the organelles stripped from your hide

Not even fingerpaintings glued to walls

Hungry, afraid

Reaching to draw me in,

As vastly empty as I, as bloodless and besotted

I strain against your wall, dizzy,

Wondering how long it will be until the shadows eat me too,

My eyes darken as yours have.

Unused to this dark I almost fall on the downward slope of your spine

That leads lower in your nervous system

And I flick on deadened endings

That illuminate the corridors—how is it that your synapses still can fire—

Behind me, a nervous blood clot of a creature writhes,

Explaining your abandonment,

The discontinuing of your immune system

The detaching of your life support system.

I turn, and without preamble, say, “I’ll take it,”

Your gasp of relief is inaudible, for your lungs collapsed.

Still, as I trace the membranes that have not yet disintegrated,

I wonder if a sort of resurrection might take place here.

(And do not consider, yet, that it might be mine.)