Blogger Recognition Award

Hello, friends! If you recall, yesterday I made a post about how I was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award, which was super cool, but looook! I received another award nomination! Continue reading “Blogger Recognition Award”

Daily Prompt 7/5/2016 | Layers

My layers make me who I am, and I am pretty damn awesome.

[In response to The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt 7/5/2016 | Layers]

“We live beneath many layers. Some are for our protection, and some are for our control.” ~ Russell Eric Dobda Continue reading “Daily Prompt 7/5/2016 | Layers”

Daily Prompt 2/10/2016 | The Perfect Storm

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt 2/10/2016 | Sudden Shifts

“You’re at the beach with some friends and/or family, enjoying the sun, nibbling on some watermelon. All of a sudden, within seconds, the weather shifts and hail starts descending from the sky. Write a post about what happens next.”

Liam! Nooo!” I shrieked, as my one-year old son dropped a fistful of wet sand into my head. I pulled out my ponytail and shook my hair violently, trying to disperse the itchy particles from my scalp. My little terror smiled brightly, turned on his heel, and took off in the opposite direction toward his father, who was doubled over with laughter.

I rolled my eyes, giving up on my hair, and leaned back into my lime green beach chair. My eyes adjusted to the shade provided by my comically large beach umbrella, and I sighed in defeat. I looked over at my husband and son, who were happily attempting to build a sand castle, with little success. Life with a one-year old, never a dull moment. I smiled, and turned my head to survey the rest of the beach. Families and groups of friends, both big and small, were scattered across the vast, sandy beach, frolicking beneath the warm, July sun. It was the third day that week that we had spent the day at the beach, as the weather had been perfect, and despite having to dig out sand from every nook and cranny of my body, and having a slightly pink complexion, I was definitely not tired of it yet.

Is it supposed to rain today?” I heard my husband’s voice, and turned my head lazily to face him.

No, I think it’s supposed to be sunny the rest of the week. Why?” I asked him, sitting up in my chair to embrace my tiny toddler, who was now climbing into my lap.

He made a confused “hmm” noise, and turned away from me, staring out toward the water. I suddenly became aware that the sun was no longer shining brightly down on the beach, replaced by the shadows of storm clouds, dancing across the sand. A chill entered the air, and I wrapped my beach towel around my son and myself. Kyle turned to me, opening his mouth to speak, when suddenly, something heavy landed on top of my umbrella, startling us.

What the hell was that?” I asked, picking Liam up tilting my umbrella to investigate. A large ball of ice slid down my umbrella, and landed with a thud in the sand. Confused, I looked up into the sky, now dark with storm clouds, and shivered. Was that hail? Was it hailing? How? I heard a loud curse from behind me, and turned to see Kyle bending down to pick up another large ball of ice from the sand, while rubbing his head gingerly.

My eyes widened as he presented a baseball-sized piece of hail to me, and we stood there speechless. All around us, concerned voices, as well as cries of surprise, rang out, and families and friends ran to gather their belongings. Without another word, we quickly packed up our chairs, towels, and other beach accessories, and ran as fast as we could toward the parking lot. I held my umbrella over heads as best as I could, nearly tripping several times.

This is crazy!” Kyle shouted, but it was still hard to hear him by my side over the roar of hail falling around us.

We got to our car and quickly barricaded ourselves inside. The pounding of hail rang loudly in our ears, and I was surprised to discover that my tiny toddler was remaining calm, and seemed to be amused by the balls of ice raining from the sky. We sat in silence (well, not really), and watched hoards of people as they dove into their cars in desperation. I couldn’t help it, and I began to laugh at the bizarre shift in the weather. I turned to Kyle, and saw the intensity melt from his face, and he too began laughing, reaching for my hand, and squeezing gently.

He started the car, and we followed the herd of other vehicles to the main road. Less than a mile later, the sky opened up, and the sun made a welcome appearance. We drove home with smiles on our faces, both ignoring the fact that the outside of our vehicle now likely resembled the craterous surface of the moon. I glanced in the rear-view mirror at my son, now sleeping soundly in his car seat, and sighed contently. We drove home in a happy silence, hearing only the sound of our tires crushing the occasional ice ball on the road. What a beautiful day.

Thanks for reading, friends!

Jan

Imperceptible | Part 1

Wally, you can’t keep this up,” she whispered sleepily into his shoulder, “I need you. I need you here with me. Please, don’t go… not again…

Wally pulled her closer to him beneath the warmth of the blanket that draped lazily over them both. He did not respond to her drowsy plea. He had grown so used to her speech, so used to her pain, but there was nothing he could do anymore. They had never really been apart for more than a few days, a week at the most, but when they were reunited, it was electric. She was his home. He was really going to miss the spark that the two of them shared. He was going to miss her.

He gazed down at the now sleeping woman lying wrapped in his arms, sighing with a mixture of relief and sadness. She was so beautiful, and too good for him. Too good to be wrapped up in his life, in his problems. She deserved better, and that was why he was leaving.

I love you, Wenda. Always,” he choked out quietly, brushing a strand of deep, auburn hair from her face, before gently pulling his arm out from beneath her slender frame. Walking quietly to the other end of the room, Wally gabbed his wallet, his hat, and a bottle of water from the fridge, before slipping out of the apartment that they had shared for the last four months, leaving his lover, and his entire life, behind the closed door.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The cold streets of New York City were packed with people. Wally breathed into his hands, trying to get any feeling back into his frozen fingers, before shoving them into the pockets of his sweatshirt. He stuck out like a sore thumb in his red and white, striped hoodie, but it was all he had. He owned very little, even after moving in with Wenda, he couldn’t attach himself to anything. He always knew he would have to leave, he just didn’t think it would be so soon.

Wally ducked into an alley, and exited into a large, empty lot. There was an old man sitting with his back against the large, brick building, huddled beneath his filthy coat, trying to keep warm in the cold, November night.

Wally, my boy!” the man exclaimed, reaching out his hand as Wally approached, “What brings you, lad? Come to give an old man some company?”

Wally smiled, “I wish I could say that were the case, old man. I’m here to say goodbye.

The smile faded from the old man’s grimy face, and he stood abruptly. His mouth opened in protest, but Wally held up his hand, and he relented.

Leaving? What about Wenda? What about your life here? You can’t keep running from-”

I’m not running, old man. I am protecting the woman I love, and my friends, from them. I am leaving to keep you all safe!” His clenched fists trembled in the pockets of his sweatshirt, “After what happened to Wilma… I can’t put Wenda through anymore. I can’t keep looking over my shoulder, worrying about when the next move will be, or who they will get next. I can’t do it anymore.”

The old man sighed, his eyes filled with sadness, and something else. He shook his head, “What would your parents think? Running away like a coward, instead of staying and defending your people. They wouldn’t want this life for you, running from city to city like this. You belong here, son. You belong with Wenda, with others your kind. We are stronger in numbers, and losing you-”

Losing me will be the best thing for everybody,” Wally choked through clenched teeth, “I can’t be here anymore, Whitebeard. I just can’t. I’d rather run on my own, than put everyone around me in danger. I thought you, of all people, would understand that.”

He regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Whitebeard had left his life behind him years ago. He was once a successful business man, with a wife and a young son, and now lived on the unforgiving streets of New York City, living the life of a vagrant to protect his identity. He had sacrificed so much to keep his family safe, so why couldn’t he understand that Wally needed to get as far away as possible? If Wally’s parents had just run, instead of staying to fight, they would still be alive. They would be there to protect him, to keep him safe. But they were gone, and had been for nearly 6 years, taken away from Wally just days before his fifteenth birthday. And poor, innocent Wilma… He missed them every day. He blamed himself every day.

Goodbye, old man,” Wally said quietly, turning away from the old man. He did not respond.

Wally ducked back into the ally, and headed in the opposite direction of the apartment where the love of his life lay alone. Tears stung at his eyes and he quickly wiped them away. The Watchers, and their leader, Odlaw, had taken too much from him already, too much from his kind. He could not allow them to take anything more. He pulled his red and white, striped beanie from his pocket and pulled it over his mess of ebony hair. The matching hat and hoodie had been a gift from Wenda for his nineteenth birthday, while they were still living in Boston. While he secretly hated the bold colors and pattern, he wore it every day to show her how much he loved her. Hopefully, she would be able to see that he was leaving for the very same reason.

To be continued…

Random Prompt | Siblings

“What does having siblings mean to you?”

Talking about my family is, and has always been, a weird topic for me. I’m more than open about all aspects of my life, the good and the bad, but there is something about talking about my family that is weird. I guess I just think my family is a bit weird?

I consider myself as having 6 siblings (some by blood, others by marriage, or something else), though I’ve never really felt a connection with any them. This might be because I haven’t seen any of them in anywhere from 8-18 years (with the exception of my youngest sister, who I saw in 2012 when she was a year old). I’ve spoken to a few of them somewhat recently, but it never seems to go over well. I’ve always wanted to feel that bond that you’re supposed to feel with your partner in crime, your first best friend, your brother or sister. But, it will never happen for me. Get ready, this post is about to take all kinds of turns.

I always claimed to be an only child, despite having a pocket full of sibling-esque people in my life. My mom and my dad had me, and only me, together. During the brief that time my mom and dad were together, my dad cheated on her with another woman, and got her pregnant, resulting in my older half-brother, Dustin.

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Dustin is exactly 8 months older than me, and is now 26 and living with his mom is Florida. He has been in and out of jail several times in his life already, and has two baby boys named Phoenix and Ryker, my handsome nephews, who he never sees, because he is a deadbeat, just like our dad. I will probably never meet them. I haven’t seen Dustin since we were 6 or 7 years old (whenever that picture was taken), and I intend to keep it that way.

In 2008, and every few years since, he added me on Facebook and gushes about how much he loves me, and how much I mean to him, despite the fact that we have been nonexistent in each other’s lives since… ever. We talk for a couple of days, maybe a few weeks, before he snaps, and says or does something completely stupid, causing me to sever ties with him. Again. Examples include beating his girlfriend/mother of his sons, stalking my fiance and pulling the “big brother” card (a.k.a. inserting himself into my relationship and threatening my partner if he ever hurts me, etc.), or writing me letters from prison, asking me to “hook him up” with one of my hot friends so he can get nudes. Yeah. The guy is a winner. We’re currently not speaking. Moving on!

My mom met a guy named Larry when I was very young, maybe in kindergarten or first grade? Larry has a son who is two months older than me, also named Lawrence (though we always called him Michael growing up, but he has since changed it back). My mom moved us into Larry’s trailer in the woods very early into their relationship, and my life changed completely. They are still together, but were never married, so we actually aren’t technically related, though I still refer to him as my step-brother. Some days, it was neat having someone my age to play with, except for the fact that Lawrence was a spoiled rotten terror who made my life a living hell most days. Things got better as we got older, after I gave him several ass kickings for being a dick to me. We would watch WWE together, jump on the trampoline, and secretly watch South Park when my mom wasn’t home. We even had a few of the same friends in school, and sometimes hung out together. By the time we got to high school, we were almost friends. Until I caught him spying on me getting dressed one day after a shower by sliding the shiny side of a DVD above my bedroom door. We were 18 and had just graduated high school. I told my mom, who shrugged it off and said, “He used to do that to me when he was younger.” and that was that. Luckily, I left for college a week later. I haven’t spoken to him since.

*Sigh*

And now, for some of the sadder stuff.

In 2004, when I was almost 14 years old, my grandmother came to visit from Florida, and took me to visit my dad. This came as quite a shock to me, because I was not aware that he was out of prison, and hadn’t seen him in several years. What was even more shocking, however, was that he had had a baby with a woman who was just a few years older than me (she was 21 when I was 14), and I had a new baby sister named Desiree.

My dad’s girlfriend, Anthena, also had two other girls named Brianna and Miranda, who were around 7 and 9 at the time, who were from two previous relationships (yes, she had them both as a teenager). My dad and Anthena never got married, but I always considered these two girls to be my sisters, even in the short time we knew each other. I mean, my dad did ruin all of our lives, so it made sense.

In the same year, my dad and the girls were evicted, and moved into a campground. Child Protective Services got involved, and found that my dad and his girlfriend were doing heroin, among other things, and that some really, really bad stuff had happened because of it. The three girls were taken from them, and my dad went back to jail. Luckily, all 3 girls were adopted by the same woman and her husband, who have treated them very well. Miranda and Brianna legally changed their names in the adoption process, but Desiree did not. I tried to see them in 2012 when I went back home to visit my mom, but my grandmother told me that I couldn’t. She told me that Desiree, who was going on 9 years old at the time, wouldn’t understand who I was, because she didn’t understand adoption. Yet, she seemed to have no problem understand who our grandmother was… I was also informed that the younger of the two girls was living in an institution for children, and I couldn’t see her. Both of the older girls have since sought me out on Facebook, and we talk occasionally. I haven’t seen any of them since 2008, when I went to Desiree’s birthday party at her adoptive family’s house.

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And lastly, we have the youngest, Makaela. Makaela is also my dad and Anthena’s daughter, conceived after the other girls were taken away, and my dad got out of jail. And, just like the others, she was taken away after they both violated their probation and sold/did illegal drugs around the baby, after swearing up and down that they were going to get clean. I met Makaela in 2012 when I went to Maine, and fell in love with her.

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Makaela has since been adopted by a loving family. Much like the family of the other girls, her family talks to my grandmother regularly, sharing stories and pictures. My grandmother keeps me in the loop as well. She is 5 years old now, plays soccer, and loves dancing.

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I hope to meet her again someday, though I’m sure it is unlikely.

So, you can see why the topic of family and siblings is a bit of a downer for me. It makes me so sad that so many people take their relationships with their brothers and sisters for granted, when it could be so much worse. I would love to have a positive, involved relationship with all of Liam’s aunties and uncles… but it just doesn’t seem possible.

And now I’m sad.

Thanks for reading.

Jan

Dream Journal (Turned Fanfic) 9/22/15

He didn’t look up, didn’t respond. I walked to the door and opened it slightly, covering my phone screen with my hand so that the light wouldn’t leak into the corridor. There was just silence. No gunshots, no footsteps, no screaming. Was it over?

I was woken up by my kiddo at 4:50 this morning, and couldn’t immediately fall back asleep. I jotted down a few key points from the dream I was having, but when I woke up several hours later, I had a hard time piecing them all together. For the most part, I can remember it all, but it is hazy. I don’t think there was really an ending either. I think I’ve had this dream before, though, because it all felt really familiar. Dreams are weird. This one shows my ridiculous, inner fangirl. It sounds like a fanfic, I know. I might turn it into one actually. Don’t laugh.

Okay, I did turn it into a fanfic. Kind of. It is very long (3,669 word count). Sorry, not sorry.
————————————————–

Roughly set in the present day.

It was late autumn, and I was attending a large YouTuber convention going on in Chicago, similar to VidCon. This year, they were holding a massive, YouTuber panel, right in the middle of a massive, indoor stadium. It was going to be so amazing. I was attending the event with a couple who were roughly my age, a guy and a girl, named Alex and Tory. I don’t know them that well at all, as they were merely friends of a friend. To be honest, they didn’t exactly seem like the kind of people I would actually be friends with outside of this scenario. Basically, they had a spare ticket to the event, and I really wanted to go. So I got stuck as the third wheel. The girl was tall and thin, with blond hair and brown eyes. She was wearing a hot pink dress, white and pink patterned tights, and pink shoes. The pinks did not match, and it was driving me crazy. The guy had shaggy, brown hair and brown eyes, he had a white t-shirt on, and a green button-up shirt over it, with jeans. Pretty normal looking folks. Very bubbly, hyper personalities.

We got to the convention center, and entered through the large, glass doors into the main lobby. There were groups of people scattered about the room, and I immediately felt out of place. We were ushered down a long corridor, surrounded by young, teenage girls, who were all squealing and screaming giddily. For some reason, I felt taller (and older) than nearly everyone, despite only being 5’3. I guess I should be surprised. We went through the doors to a large stadium and found our seats down on the floor, fairly close to the stage where all of the speakers were already seated. The two people I was with were screaming and jumping, much like the teenagers all around us. I was perfectly still. I felt anxious being around so many people. I slumped into my chair and pulled my hands into my sweatshirt, I suddenly wished that I actually was friends with Alex and Tory.

We found our seats and settled in. I felt uncomfortably warm. There were two girls seated a few spots away from us, and they looked like they could have been sisters, they looked so similar. They were wearing matching white shirts with Tyler Oakley’s face plastered all over them, with random words written in sharpie. I smiled at them, and I remember thinking that I liked the bright, red hair that one of the girls had. The other was blonde.

The panel started, and I sat in the audience, listening and cheering along with everyone else. The YouTubers in attendance were Dan and Phil, Tyler Oakley, Connor Franta, Catrific, and Shane Dawson, as well a few others that I did not recognize. Everyone around us had their cell phones out, snapping pictures and recording videos of the various YouTubers on the stage. Catrific was in the middle of answering a question, when a loud, booming noise filled the air. Smoke and dust clouded my vision, and suddenly, everyone was screaming. People were pushing past me, and the two people that I had shown up with were gone.

I put my shirt over my mouth and nose and tried to squint through the cloud of dust, but I couldn’t see anything. My ears were ringing slightly, but I could hear the distant sound of gunshots, and more screaming. I moved forward through the smoke and dust, tripping over various fallen objects that were scattered across the floor.

Another explosion of sound rang through the air, followed by a loud crash. The screaming seemed to be dying out, and I wondered whether everyone else had gotten out, or was dead. I found my way up to the stage, where I could hear frantic shouts. The dust had cleared a bit, and I could see that the stage had been completely demolished. And that several people were trapped in the rubble.

I climbed onto the stage, where I found several YouTubers, and a couple of the other audience members. The girl with the bright, red hair was there, tears streaming down her face, creating streaks on her dust-covered cheeks. Her blonde friend was nowhere to be seen.

Tyler Oakley and Connor Franta stood to my left, visibly shaken, and stared blankly at the large pile of rubble in the center of the stage. No one moved. A single arm was trapped within the rubble, all the way up to the shoulder. It was not moving, and there were no cries for help. The arm was female, with silver bracelets and dark green nail polish. Catrific’s arm.

Suddenly, more shots pierced the quiet, and we all scattered off in different directions. I jumped off of the stage and found myself following a tall figure through a corridor to the left of the stage. The figure disappeared from site, and I felt panic in my chest as I realized that I was suddenly alone. An arm reached out and grabbed me, pulling me through a side door.

A hand stifled my scream, and I opened my eyes to see a pair of brown eyes staring back at me. I had been following Dan, and it had been him who had grabbed me. My heart felt like it was going to explode, and I took a moment to calm down before surveying the room that we were in. Tyler and Connor were also in the room, along with a short girl with black hair, who I recognized from the panel. The girl was crying, and Connor had his arm wrapped around her shoulders.

“What happened?” I finally managed to breathe.

No one answered me. I started to panic. Where was everyone else? What was going on? How were we going to get out? Were we going to die?

Tyler and Dan were peering through the cracked door into the corridor. There were no gunshots, no more explosions.

“Is it safe?” The girl with the black hair asked.

Shane shrugged, but we needed to move. We walked into the hall and slowly continued in the direction away from the main stadium room. Things were quiet, and I allowed myself to breathe. I needed to calm down, or I feared my heart would explode. We were going to make it out. We had to.

Then the lights went out, and the other girl in our group let out a high-pitched scream. I heard the sound of footsteps, and a hand gripped my arm, pulling me forward. I reached out behind me, trying to grab for anyone in the group, but found no one. I  struggled to keep up with whoever was dragging me along, and felt a breathless ache in my chest. I had to keep going. I didn’t want to be left alone.

Gunfire rang through the air again, coupled with a scream. The girl from our group.

Then silence. I wanted to scream.

“We have to hide.” A voice interrupted my panic. It was Dan. Dan was dragging me through the darkness.

“Where is everyone?” I choked out.

“We have to hide.” He replied flatly.

We clung to a wall until we found a door. Locked. We walked several more feet and found a second. Unlocked. We ducked into the room and pressed our ears to the door, listening for anything. There was only silence. We allowed ourselves a moment to recover in the dark silence.

“I don’t know,” Dan broke the silence, “I don’t know where anyone is. I don’t know what happened.”

He sounded angry.

“Was… was Cat the only one?” I asked. I could feel his stare, even through the darkness.

“No.”

“Phil…?”

“I don’t know,” he said, agitated at my question. I could hear the slight tremor in his voice, “Shane. Shane is dead. Cat is dead. I don’t know where Phil is. I don’t know what’s going on. Fuck!”

I heard a crash as he cursed loudly. I tensed up, searching for his figure in the dark, but it was useless. I had never been in darkness like this. Completely devoid of light.

“Dan? What happened?”

“Nothing. We need light,” I heard a shuffle, and saw the bright light of a cellphone screen. His iPhone. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I took out my phone and flashed the light around the room. We were in some sort of dressing room.

“We can’t stay here, we have to keep moving. We have to be near an exit. If we stay here, we’ll definitely be found,” I urged him to move, but he was sitting silently on a chair, “Dan.”

He didn’t look up, didn’t respond. I walked to the door and opened it slightly, covering my phone screen with my hand so that the light wouldn’t leak into the corridor. There was just silence. No gunshots, no footsteps, no screaming. Was it over?

“We have to move, Dan,” I repeated.

“Phil…” he choked out. My heart sank.

“We’ll find him. We will. But we have to move. We’re no good to anyone if we’re dead.”

We left the safety of the small room and continued down the corridor. I tensed up, hearing hushed voices in the dark ahead of us. Female. Young. Non-threatening. We rounded a corner and came face-to-face with three teenage girls, who screamed upon seeing us.

“Shhh!” I hissed, trying to quiet them, but it was too late. There was more shouting in the distant darkness. Deep, male voices. I felt Dan’s hand grip my arm and yank me back into the darkness, and I reached out for the girl closest to me, but her friends were pulling her in the opposite direction. Toward the voices. I wanted to cry out to them, telling them to follow us, but I didn’t want to endanger our lives.

More shots rang through the darkness. I felt a lump in my throat as tears stung at my eyes.

We were running for what felt like forever. Dodging voices in the dark. How could a building be this big? Where were we? My cheeks were sticky with dust and tears. My arm was throbbing dully from Dan’s tight grip. We came to the end of a hallway and were greeted by large, metal double-doors, the same doors that had led us out of the stadium. We were back where we had started. Dan paused at the door and peered through one of the small, rectangular windows. He squeezed my arm gently, letting me know the coast was clear, and we slowly walked back out into the room where everything started.

The dust and smoke had settled, and there were emergency lights on, casting an eerie, red glow over the entire stadium. It was terrifying, and made me feel small. My chest tightened again in a familiar panic.

“We can’t stay here,” I whispered, “I think the main doors are over there, maybe the coast is clear.”

“I need to find Phil,” Dan whispered back, his voice cracking.

“Dan-”

“Hey! Dan! Over here!” Someone hissed at us. We looked around, and spotted Tyler, Connor, and two young girls camped against the side of the stage, hidden in the shadows of the red haze. We cautiously crept over to them, where Dan was greeted with quick hugs from Connor and Tyler. I looked at the two girls, who looked absolutely terrified. The blonde had streaks of blood on her tank top, and I doubted that it was her own. The brunette just stared into the distance in shock. It was heartbreaking. I wondered briefly what they had been through, what they had seen. If they had lost anyone.

“Have you seen Phil?” Dan broke the silence. Tyler and Connor shook their heads, and Dan’s face fell.

We regrouped in silence and made our way toward the main corridor that was once filled with happy, screaming fans. It was empty, except for a few lifeless bodies, and piles of debris from the crumbling building. What the hell had happened? Was it a bomb? Why?

I reached out to comfort the young, blonde girl in the group as she sobbed at the sight before us. Everything was quiet. Why us? Why here? How many people had made it out? I looked over at Dan, who was holding his phone out in front of him for light, his eyes were guarded, but I could see sadness. He was scared for Phil. I knew we would find him. We had to. We were going to find Phil, and we were going to get out of here.

We approached the large, glass doors at the front of the building. I breathed a sigh of relief and pushed against the cool, metallic handle. The doors did not budge. Connor and Dan were suddenly beside me, violently shaking the door. It was no use, it was locked.

The two girls sobbed, and I felt my fingers shaking.

Connor stepped back from the door, “It’s glass, we can break it. We need to find something to break it. I’ll go find-”

Dan held up his hand and shushed Connor, his eyes staring out to the other side of the glass. I turned to see what he was looking at. My stomach turned. Bodies. Bodies everywhere. There were at least a dozen armed, masked men standing guard outside of the building, standing scattered amongst the bodies of the innocent attendees. In the distance, there were police lights. They knew we were here… but they couldn’t get to us. How were we going to get out? There was a pit in my stomach. Dread and fear.

We stood there in the dull, red glow of the emergency lights, all feeling exhausted and terrified. What now? Do we just keep wandering the halls trying to find more survivors? Do we hide and wait it out? I looked to the others in my group for answers, but their expressions said it all; no one knew what do to.

I took a deep breath and turned to back to the main lobby area. There were so many doors and corridors, all closed., but hopefully unlocked. If no one was going to decide where we were going next, then I would. I didn’t know if anyone would follow me when I started walking toward a solid, grey door in the corner of the room, but when I looked over my shoulder and saw them all trailing behind me, I felt a bit better. We could do this.

The door was unlocked, but I pulled my hand back quickly upon coming into contact with a sticky, slick substance. Tyler tilted his phone so that I could see my hand, and there was blood, dark and wet. It was all over the handle and smeared on the door. I glanced back to the group, suddenly afraid that I may have been leading them to certain death, but their nods reassured me that we had no other choice but to push forward.

There were stairs on the other side of the door, leading down into more darkness, possibly a basement or control room. We waited a few minutes, listening for voices or any kind of noise, but heard nothing, and descended down the stairs.

We were in a large room, filled with panels and wires. The room was absolutely massive. There were bloody handprints smudged along the wall. We all shined our phones around the room, surveying, looking for places to hide. Or a way out.

Something moved in the corner just in front of us, but ducked back into the shadows before I could get a good look. I held up my arm in warning to the rest of the group. My heart was beating rapidly.

“Hello?” I called into the darkness, “We aren’t going to hurt you. Are you alright?”

Slowly, a tall, slim figure emerged from the shadows. In the light cast by our cellphones, I could make out pale skin and terrified, blue eyes. Realization hit me, and I couldn’t help but smile.

“Phil! We found you!” Dan lowered his phone and sprinted toward Phil in the darkness. He wrapped his arms around him, and I heard sobbing, though I wasn’t sure who is was coming from, “Guys… guys. Guys!”

Dan was lowering Phil to the ground. We all ran forward, and the source of the mysterious blood on the wall was revealed.

“Fuck. Fuck!” Dan had his hands on Phil’s stomach, and they were covered in blood. I pulled my sweatshirt off and knelt down next to Dan, pulling his hands aside and pressing the fabric into Phil’s stomach. Phil’s eyes were still open, and he just stared up into the darkness. I could feel Dan trembling next to me, and I wanted to reach for him, but resisted.

“Tyler, come here. Shine a light right over his stomach, yeah?” I lifted the sweatshirt slightly, trying to pinpoint where all the bleeding was coming from. Phil had been grazed by a bullet, but the damage wasn’t nearly as bad as I initially thought. He was going to be okay.

“How bad it is?” I heard Connor ask from behind us.

I put one hand on Dan’s arm and squeezed, and he looked down at me, “He’s going to be fine. He’s lost a bit of blood, but I think it’s more shock than anything. Phil, can you hear me? Can you stand?”

We all crowded around Phil and helped him to his feet, supporting his weight. He was in bad shape, but he was going to be okay, assuming we ever got out of this awful place. We made our way back to the stairs with Phil, but stopped suddenly at the sound of a rush of voices at the top of the stairs.

“Fuck fuck fuck…” Dan cursed, as we backed into the room. Phil let out a groan of pain. I felt someone grip the back of my shirt and pull me backwards, just as the door opened, and flashlight beams flooded the room. We crouched down, terrified. Was this it then? Is this where we were going to die? I felt as though my heart was going to burst, and I held my breath, waiting.

A blinding, white light hit my face, and I blinked, suddenly blinded. This was it. The end.

“Are you folks okay?” A deep voice cut through the unbearable silence. My blood felt like ice. “Hey, Carl, I found a few more! Come on, let’s get you guys out of here. It’s all over.”

I couldn’t move. I felt two strong hands pulling me up. Time seemed to slow down, like it does in movies. We were guided back up the stairs, into the lobby, and out the glass doors. We were outside. It was still dark, and there was a chill in the air. I suddenly wished I had my sweatshirt. I couldn’t hear anything, so I tried to take in my surroundings. There were body bags, SWAT vehicles, and other survivors, draped in warm blankets, giving their stories. I turned to see the group of people who had helped me survive as they were brought out of the building. Dan, Tyler, Connor, and the two young girls, who I later learned were named Jasmine and Clara. We made it. We were alive.

I watched as Phil was loaded into an ambulance. There was a paramedic assuring Dan that he was going to be fine, and I could see tears in his eyes. The doors closed, the ambulance drove away, and Dan turned to face me.

“Thank you,” he smiled at me, finally sounding normal, “I’m sorry. For everything.”

“Sorry? You saved my life. More than once.”

“But you saved Phil’s life. And I was a prick. So thank you.”

I smiled. I wanted to argue that Phil probably would have been fine, even if I hadn’t been there, but there was no point. We were okay. We were alive.

“I never got your name,” Dan said, cocking his head to the side, “I guess there was never really a good time for introductions…”

I laughed, “Jan. My name is Jan.”

Dan chuckled and pulled me into a hug, “Nice to meet you, Jan. My name is Dan.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at him. As if it wasn’t completely obvious that I knew who he was. Tyler and Connor walked over to us, relief on their faces. Dan introduced me, and there were a lot of hugs exchanged. We gave our statements to the police, and were interviewed by several news stations. By the time people finally started to clear out, the sun was starting to rise, casting a golden glow over the dark sky. The air was still cold, but I was wearing someone’s sweatshirt, though I wasn’t sure who had given it to me. Connor offered the three of us a ride back to our respective hotels, and after more hugs and thank yous, we split up. I would probably never see them again, but I had one hell of a story to remember them by.
————————————————–

Sorry, not sorry.
Thanks for reading, friends!

Jan

Take A Walk With Jan #2

Along with him destroying his stash of Cheerios, I also shared a bit of my apple with him, because who can say no to those eyes? My goodness.

Daisies

Daisies in front of the high school.

Today was absolutely gorgeous. This is my favorite time of year, when summer is coming to an end, and autumn is just on the horizon. When the weather is no longer miserably hot, but you can still comfortably wear a t-shirt outdoors. Since the temperature has been dropping over the last week or so, I’ve been trying to take advantage of it by going for as many walks as possible. I also managed to get in a mini workout this afternoon while the baby was taking a nap.

I’m trying, guys! I will be healthy! Eventually.

Anyway, we went on another walk today, and it was fantastic. Of course, no walk that I’m on is ever 100% perfect (I honestly attract the rudest people, I swear), but it was pretty damn close.

We left the apartment a little after 3:00, so most of the high school kids had already vacated the area around the school. The park was completely empty, and peacefully quiet. I brought a large blanket to sit on, and we sat right in the middle of the park, beneath the trees. I bought an apple and some water for myself, some Cheerios for Li, and we had a little photo shoot to celebrate him turning 8 months old in a few days. We stayed at the park for about an hour before heading home to eat dinner. It was so much fun!

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Along with him destroying his stash of Cheerios, I also shared a bit of my apple with him, because who can say no to those eyes? My goodness.

So that was fun. But as we were leaving, some random women had to try and ruin it for us. Now, I know I shouldn’t let random, rude strangers affect my mood… but I’m only human. I did pretty good this time though, it was only irritating for a moment. We got up from the spot we were sitting in, I strapped the baby into his stroller, packed up our little picnic, and headed back toward the main road in the park. I was passing by one of the gazebos, where two middle-aged women had been sitting and watching us, when I heard this:

Lady 1: [loudly] Look at the baby! He’s so little! I miss when Sarah and Emily were that small.
Lady 2: [loudly] Huh, should be wearing a sweater or something though, right? Don’t you think? Hope he doesn’t catch a cold.
Lady 1: [loudly] Oh, no, that wouldn’t be good. She really should put a sweater or something on him…

I should point out that Li was wearing long pants, socks and shoes, and a long-sleeve shirt. He also had a thin blanket on his lap. Not to mention it was 76 freaking degrees outside, and really sunny. Hell, I was wearing a t-shirt and capri yoga pants, and was sweating in the sun. He’s also not a newborn, he’s 8 months old. He can regulate heat better than a newborn. Trust me, I live with him. He was fine. He wasn’t cold at all. Both of these women were wearing heavy sweater cardigans, which they clung onto as they spoke ill of my parenting. I don’t know what temperature they thought it was, but it definitely wasn’t cool enough for my furnace of a son to be wearing a coat of any sort.

This exact same thing happened when Li was around three or four months old, I believe it was back in April. We were walking home from the park, when a woman who was walking her dog approached us and scolded me. Sort of. It was around 68 degrees out at the time, and Li was dressed in layers, since he was still so small. He had a heavy blanket over him, fleece pants, thick socks, a long-sleeve shirt, and a heavy, fleece sweatshirt with the hood up. He was not wearing a hat, because he was so tiny, and we couldn’t find any that fit him without constantly falling over his face. But the sun was shining, and his hood was up. It was not freezing out. Honestly, I was actually worried that he would be too warm!

Lady: Oh, what a sweetheart! He’s so cute.
Me: [smiling] Thank you!
Lady: How old is he?
Me: Almost 4 months!
Lady: Oh. A bit cold out today, isn’t it?
Me: It’s not bad! We’re having a nice walk, we don’t get to go outside much.
Lady: [leaning down to talk to the baby directly] You should tell your mommy to put a hat on you! Yes, you should! Poor baby, you’re going to get an ear infection!
Me: [frowning] Oh. He’ll be fine. It’s not too cold, and we’re almost home…
Lady: [still talking to him] I always put my babies in hats in the spring, don’t want a sick baby. No, we do not!
Me: … Okay, well it was nice to meet you.
Lady: [looks at me finally] Bundle him up next time. Babies don’t like getting sick.

Then she walked away. I was stunned. I was pissed. I almost cried. And then I worried that my son was actually freezing to death in silence and that I was the worst mother ever.

Of course, I was not a terrible mother, and he was perfectly fine.

Not only should she have minded her own damn business, but the fact that she was addressing my baby, talking about me, instead of addressing me, was really… weird. Also, as I mentioned before, she was walking a dog, who was trying to jump up onto the stroller the ENTIRE time that she was harassing me about what my son was wearing. And she did nothing about it.

I came home and bitched about it to Kyle, who was just as annoyed with this random stranger as I was, and had a nice little rant about it on Twitter. I was really angry, haha. I’ve always been a bit self-conscious when it comes to my parenting, being a first-time mom and doing it all pretty much by myself, but I’ve gotten a lot more confident in my parenting abilities (and my insane Googling skills).

If I felt as insecure today as I did just four or five months ago, those rude old women would have gotten under my skin. But I didn’t let them. Because despite the hand I’ve been dealt in life, I do the best I can with what I have, and I’m an awesome mom.

The rude, old ladies of the world can suck it.

Thanks for reading!

Jan