shut up and just enjoy this feelin’.


I’ve never been a stranger to loneliness; my body is used to retreating, holding itself accountable, in a constant state of waiting and wondering and who will leave next. I have desperately tried to thwart this mindset, yet it always creeps back. Birthdays were always the worst culprits; coffee ring stains on empty guest book pages. Waiting, wondering, were the few here actually here for me. Were they too busy laughing at my silent living room, or even worse, not even sparing a second thought? My family in tatters, the rest of them carried on the island breeze, hearing only their beautiful whispers through the holes of a landline. The date in February, odd in number but gratefully in sequence to give my compulsive brain some ease, came and went with none of the celebration it once had when we were too young to know what could really hurt us.

It was a gift and a curse – I hate the spotlight, really. Anything in front of crowds makes me uneasy, anything where I’m the center of attention gives me anxiety. I’ve made a home in my hobbit hole and I enjoy it here, thank you very much. So, I took solace in planning and seeing the joy in others. My husband’s birthday is the day after mine and I began looking forward to my birthday again because it became a shared time, like the week of Christmas, where the focus wasn’t on me. There’s expense to this – to the small chipping away of your light. It was my fault and no one else’s. It was my husband, in fact, who brought it to my attention. When he asked what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I had told him “It didn’t matter.” He looked at me, rightfully so, like what I had said was preposterous.

“Why wouldn’t it matter?”

“It’s just a day”, I told myself. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a day.
I joked to myself “I could blame COVID for no one coming to celebrate, but it’d be a lie.”
“May as well make it a great day for the people I love. I don’t need/deserve the attention.”
You’re in this alone.

Ah, there it is.
The ever-present monster. It hibernates, breathing deeply and soundly, feeding off silent and passive cuts to your mind until you feel smaller than it is. It breaks you apart in a masterful way and you’re not sure how you’re really together; maybe with invisible threads loose at frayed seams, the appendages still yours even if they’re worn and wrinkled and twisted every which way. They’re yours. They’re mine.

They’re mine. Yes.

I began to look around me, at the rare few who have stuck around, who would be around if they could, if COVID or finances or too much distance weren’t factors. They each have a little piece of thread, or glue, or staple in their gracious hands, waiting, wondering, what do you need. I’m trying to be better at reminding myself of this, of reminding myself my body matters, my mind matters, I matter.

I mattered when I came on a Sunday evening, albeit early (always punctual).
I mattered when I was brought to the main land for better opportunities.
I mattered when I was chosen over a toxic relationship.
I mattered when graduated college.
I mattered when I found love.
I mattered when love found me in the form of my own child (I made this thing, how nuts).

I think it’s worth celebrating, every little bit of it, not just everyday, but the day meant for me, just for me.

The monster is at bay now, a restful slumber. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, especially when your mind is a cavern of hurtful thoughts and wandering dreams. But even a patchwork warrior can last a long war knowing they can fight, that they aren’t alone in the battle; waiting, wondering, what if I can win this.


December of last year, I was crying in the parking lot of my therapist’s office. It was a rainy night – cold droplets sticking to the windshield from the upcoming freeze – and the clouds were hiding away the stars. Brandon Flowers’s voice was pouring through the speakers; it’s a song I still can’t hear without my hands shaking. Music has always had its important footnotes in the chapter titles of my life and this was one. Memories I hadn’t realized were hidden away in the concrete of my walls had made themselves known, ready to be chipped away. I had a chisel in my hand in form of a pen, a notebook (one of many empty ones impulsively bought that could finally be put to good use) in my bag waiting to bear the blunt of its tip. Insurance bills had made it known to me a couple days prior that my sessions at that point could not continue, so it was on my own to turn a barrier into a passage. It was time to let the weight go.

January proved to be a salve on the wound, bringing joy in the form of first trips to Disney and laughter and family. In March, I started a new job and I immediately felt at home and appreciated and felt my worth. Quickly thereafter, the world turned upside down and on fire and spiraled out of control. It was a good thing I was no stranger to solitude – being severely introverted and having clinical OCD certainly had me prepared for a global pandemic.

But we already know what went wrong, this year, don’t we?

And I’m tired. I’m tired of dwelling and recapping all this fear. I have barely watched the news lately – “2020: A Summary” – as if we need reminders of the trauma we have endured. For ten months, we have lived in fear of many things, in the constant mindset of death and destruction of not only a virus, but at the hands of our fellow man. Hope seemed too distant, as if the rest of the galaxy had just left us without the beauty of its stars, and we were left floating in the void, feeling forgotten.

But even in the darkest depths, when we are blinded by shadows, we forget we are not alone in our struggle and we still grow. If anything, this year taught us resilience and how to breathe through it. It taught us to spend each moment with our family members like it was our last. It taught us who our true friends were and family doesn’t necessarily mean blood ties. It taught us what we are capable if we are pushed enough. It taught us to fight for the love of one another. We may be glad to say goodbye to 2020, but I, for one, am grateful for the lessons it has left behind.

So, where do we go from here? How do we find ourselves out of the darkness? How do we pull out of that rainy parking lot with determination and purpose?

Tonight, things can change. Not overnight, no (anything worth fighting over takes work, after all). It can start with something as simple as finding a good song to make you smile – one that fills up your chest with that incomparable swelling of joy – writing something you wish you had the courage to say but didn’t, calling/texting someone you hadn’t spoken to in awhile, saying I’m sorry, I will, or even I won’t anymore. As the clock gets closer to midnight, remind yourself of what makes you happy, no matter how small, and do that thing, talk to that person, write out that plan. Hope can start out so small, but it can tether us through zero gravity. It’s okay to reach out for it. We’re all here, tumbling, holding out for someone to say it’s okay. So take the time tonight to reach, to hope, to squint for a star in the nearest or farthest of horizons. Perhaps we are all each other’s stars, each other’s light, waiting for the other. We want to be found and it’s only a matter of time before we gather close and make our galaxy anew.

Embracing Damage

“Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece.

This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.” – source


I want it to not hurt so much.

A mirror seems like a simple, ordinary, everyday thing. The glass, when not peppered with dust, makes everything clear and definitive, like the untouched surface of glacier water.

But its surface, and everything it shows me, weighs all of my thoughts down like hardening concrete. It pinpoints all of my scars and stretch marks, bringing them to life as snakes and vines, choking all of the stories behind them –

The ongoing years of fighting anxiety, depression, impulse disorder, and body dysmorphia which I have not lost, despite the hurt of the fight.
The reminder that I grew and birthed another human life.  
The blessing of having food and sustenance to begin with, when others are not so lucky.
The battles, while few, which I have won, my skin reminding me in wrinkled lines.

I have not forgotten or forsaken these things. I am grateful for how they have shaped me emotionally and mentally. Physically speaking, it’s another burdensome beast. For now, I know only this –

I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I know this in the silence of my family and peers, despite my ongoing efforts to look presentable to the world. I know this in the amount of space I take in the glass, in the seams I’ve stretched and ripped. There are days when I don’t want to leave the comfort of my bed, but the nightmares make me feel as if the sheets are there to swallow me whole. There are days of wearing heavy sweaters two sizes too large and long sleeved shirts and pants in the bleak of summer in order to feel small, my body not worthy of meeting sunshine. I cringe at every photo, seeing a monster instead of a human being. I want to fade away from the photograph as if I’ve changed time.

My eyes gravitate to every bump and roundness, sneering with disgust; as if our bodies should be made of nothing but sharp points and flat surfaces. But we are not paper. We cannot simply dissolve or crumple with the slightest touch. We are not just lines and corners, we are circles too.

The mirror does not know this. It ridicules me with its two-dimensional portrayal. It is a foe I have to fight every day. It tells me I am unworthy of many things.

This is life living with depression and BDD. Reflections become monsters and negative thoughts are parasites, overpowering your own voice with overlapping whispers of doubt.

“You are ugly. You are stupid. You are not good enough. No one cares about you. Your partner will leave you. Your friends will abandon you. You will amount to nothing. You are alone and always will be.”

And I am tired, so very tired.

Some days, my tears wash away the hourglass sand building up in my throat, others they just congeal together to keep me silent.

No more.

I am sharing this for two reasons – to be held accountable for the change I am implementing, and because I know I am not alone.

My perception is only a fragment of the entire reflection. I need to stop seeing imperfections as constricting ropes but instead as wayward rivers and lunar marias, war medals instead of battle scars – things to take pride in instead of covering with cosmetics or thick fabric. All of this takes work; the physical change is only a small part. Reshaping my mind to see a new image is the hardest part of all.

While I reshape, I choose to embrace the damage. I still want my scars and marks because they tell the stories of who I am. Instead of hiding them, I want to texture them in gold and goodness. I want to accept myself more than I want others to accept me. I want to know what self-love feels like, instead of hurt.

So for you, dear reader, I offer you this.

My support. To those who feel this same darkness, who wake up wanting to feel that small bit of beauty in the world again, you have my hand, my shoulder, my voice to help you keep going.

Resources. Some things I’ve utilized which have helped so far:
* Shine App

  • Used for daily self-care, meditation, and affirmations. This is a great app with informative articles and one of the very, very few apps which I actually pay for (it’s free, but you can pay a small monthly fee for the premium content. Worth every penny).
  • Fabulous & Wysa (AI daily check in buddy) are both great as well

* Write it down

  • My biggest flaw is commitment to an exercise/diet/self-care plan. If I have a planner or keep a notebook, put post-it notes or torn pages on my mirror to visibly remind me of what I need to do, I’m less likely to stray from those plans.

* Cut out the toxic

  • Listen to me carefully. Life it too short to keep negative people around. If there is someone in your life who is always on the downside – whether it’s negative speech, passive aggressive notes, abandonment, or complete dismissal or redirection of your feelings – cut them out. Defriend. Block. Mark out. It will hurt for awhile, and make no mistake, you will look back on it occasionally wondering if it was the right decision, but it will be worth not having to deal with unnecessary drama. True friends will let you speak but most importantly, they will listen. Keep around only those who truly love you for you, no matter what shape you hold.

* Keep positive images

  • Don’t focus on things that you want to be; instead keep photos of people and items that make you happy and who have made you who you are.

* Feel good music

  • It is easy and cathartic to retreat in melancholic music. There’s nothing wrong with that. When you’ve wiped it all away, make (and keep) a playlist of songs that put a smile on your face. Come back to this whenever you need the smallest boost.

And finally, and most important tip of it all – 

There is no weakness in crying. Whether it’s a moment, or a day, or longer, it’s your body expelling all of those things that tell you you are not worthy. Listen to it. Wipe it away and start anew. Embrace the damage and fill the cracks with something that makes you shine, because despite what you see in the mirror, happiness can exist in all of the imperfections.


brown is okay with me.

a poem of clarity.


Brown is okay with me.

Do you view it the way I see?


It is the mahogany of the grandest trees.
It is the coffee and tea which raise you from your sleep.
It is the caramel of the sugar you burn.
It is the desert sand from which your gods are born.
It is the bones of houses, new and old.
It is the wool and fur, warming you in the cold.
It is the hidden gems beneath the earth.
It is the combination of color and warmth from your hearth.
It is the wheat through which your fingers pass.

It is the pile of leaves to jump into at last.


So why can it not be the color of my skin?

Of my parents, my ancestors, my friends, and my kin?


My bark, my shell, my bones, my hair,

Must count for some amongst the Fair.


For I have so many hidden gems beneath.

I am a fighting sword waiting in its sheath.


I am above and below and around and through,
Why can it not be okay with you?

i press restart.

Today’s soundtrack


Like many writers, my stories either thrive or suffer at the hands of my own anxiety.

When my indie publishing deal went down the drain, I went through a period of mourning. It was hard to realize that it wasn’t really my fault, that it wasn’t my material or me personally. It was unfortunate timing and bad ownership.

But it’s time to cover the wounds and trudge on. As F. Scott so eloquently wrote, “So we beat on, boats against the current[…]”. We are all just gluttons for punishment, after all.

What’s next in this vast publishing ocean? I find another route on the map.

  • I’m putting writing and re-working A Deathly Compromise (and its sequel) on hold for a bit and instead, making it available en masse for consumption. I’ve joined Wattpad and you can read and get updated on ADC for free here. The prologue and first chapter are already up and updates will come weekly.
  • I’m currently writing a new novel, entitled Shift – a detective noir YA/NA rooted in a magic realm, with murder, shapeshifters, and sassy sidekicks. Think The Magicians meets Cool World (bonus points if you’ve actually seen Cool World). Once I get a substantial amount done, I will start querying (I said gluttons for punishment, right?). In addition, I’m collaborating with a friend on a joint project that will bring a fresh perspective on the standard magical epic.
  • I’ll be exploring different resources and focus on making more connections on social media. That means – more blog posts, more writing bits for you to enjoy, more rantings of a writer’s life, for better or for worse.
    • Feel free to follow me –
      • Twitter: @theladyreva
      • Facebook: /officialcoralrivera
      • Instagram: /theladyreva
      • Wattpad: theladyreva
  • I’m going to get my reading back on. I firmly believe that the best inspiration comes from the worlds we get to experience, if only in our imaginations. So give me all of your recommendations and I will add them to my ever-growing list.
  • Helping others in the community is just as rewarding and serves as an incredible learning experience for your own writing. Lately, I’ve been serving as a beta reader and all-around encourager for a group of writers that just want their voices to be heard and to share their hard work. Revealing bits of stories, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, is a HUGE act of courage in the writing world. Many don’t realize that we as writers, thrive on feedback and use them as fuel for a lot of our creative decisions. If you would like to join this community too, I’d urge any and all imaginative voices to sign up at: You won’t regret it.

Feel free to follow along on the journey – just bring a life vest.

she used to be mine – a love letter to an imperfect self.


If I could turn the clock back to 15 years ago, I would tell you to put them down.

I know in the melancholia of the evening, they feel like grains of sand and shells from the beaches some 45 minutes away. You haven’t been in awhile. You miss the salt water. You can feel it in your nose even now, the taste of it in the corner of your lips carrying the oil from your cheeks.

You grasp them tightly, feeling your fingertips curl into the flesh of your palm.
The shaking is minimal now, despite the ongoing turbulence of the yelling in the background.

You think this will shut the noise off.
These are not silencers, girl.

This is glass with rounded corners.
They will cut you by masquerading as warmth and kept promises.
It takes you for a fool.
The phone will ring. Pick it up. It will be a friend that needs you.
I know – When will someone be there for me? you ask.

This is a question that will never go away, especially when you’re my age.
You bite your tongue.
A little bit of blood is okay. It means you’re still here.
Throw that sand back in the ocean, girl.
Watch the waves pull it away.

However inconsequential it may seem, you matter in this moment.
You matter always.
Even when your words go unread, and your voice unheard, and your presence unnoticed – the world has a way of acknowledging your whispers.

The monster will return, this much I know.
You learn to bargain, to protest, to shape it back into something small and pushing it back onto the mainland.
It is as rough as the ocean.
But you will also learn to swim, pushing your feet away from the sand and off the ground.

Almost as if you are flying, when actually, you are living.

i could tell you the wildest of tales.

 |Soundtrack |

While I drive to work, I think of ways I can lie to my daughter.

It’s hard not to look back at her in the rear view mirror in the mornings during my arduous commute, watching her eyes drift off to places I wish I could go instead of driving through barren plains and highways. When she’s awake, from the opposite side of the car, we watch the dawn together – rays permeating up from low tree tops and misty hills. The sky is half midnight, half cotton candy. A gentle wave borders the cloud bank, rippled as if stopped by glass. Lightning etches the bottoms of the nimbostratus, whispering its arrival.

“Dragons,” I whisper, practicing my answers for the inevitable questions I hope she asks in the years to come. “In lands that mirror ours but don’t quite break through, there are dragons that fly freely. They hunt, they love, they play, they fight. When two young dragons play, their fire comes out in quick, thin bursts so bright, it lights up the sky in our world. When you hear loud thunder, the playing has turned sour.”

She stirs in the back, eyes dozing, her lips puckering as if to make the words she has yet to learn. She is beginning to slip into dreams.

“They come out for battles in the summer, flapping their giant wings and creating gusts so large they topple trees. They play and fight so much, there is not much life left. And when they leave, they take the warmth of the summer with them.”

At this point, I’m feeding my own ideas and talking to the air conditioning and squeaky brake pads. She’s asleep now, another 45 minutes still ahead on the drive. The best ideas come when my hands are holding steering wheels or baby appendages, never when I have a pen in hand. I make a mental note but will often forget – a hint, perhaps, that some of these stories are reserved for just us and the road and the sunrise. I continue to talk about the lesser known winter dragons, mermaids in pink lagoons, the fairy dust of stars and where the fairies go on cloudy nights (pester the dragons while they are trying to sleep, of course).

She’ll eventually know the right answers. When she is able to sit and speak on her own, speak to her friends more than her mother, speak with a voice I’ve heard echo in the back of my own mind, I hope she still remembers the summer dragons and their lightning storms. I hope she carries a bit of magic behind her eyes. Selfishly, I hope she becomes a liar of her own – a creator of worlds and fictions that would rival the greats.

I continue to drive. The cloud cover has passed now, sprinkles drying up on my windshield as the sun meets the periwinkle of the sky. I drop her off and think of a story for the afternoon. On the road, there is no word count to be met, no reviews, no red marks on paper. There is just asphalt and dreams and lightning in the distance.



Thirty One.

I don’t like odd numbers.

Something ticks in my brain with an unusual discomfort, an itch I can’t scratch. The OCD sneaks its hands on the reins and pulls every so often, reminding me that there are 364 days left of this feeling, 364 days until we’re back at something divisible.

It was my birthday last week. I’ve never been fond of it. Since the Dreaded 17th Year, I’m not one who’s particularly prone to celebrate it. I wake up in the morning, I kiss my husband, I put on the prettiest earrings I own at the time, I fake smile in the mirror. My nose twitches. My skin is usually picked over and scarred again at this point of the year – I’ve gotten the hang of finding better make-up that doesn’t look too caked when I try to hide the spots. However, the weather is dry and hormones are unforgiving.

This year, I’m 8 months pregnant and severely sleep deprived. The earrings went on but the smile did not. I take my morning medication medley, feel the push under my ribs and try not to trip over cats on the way to the kitchen. I make coffee like any other day when I commute. I work the day away trying not to think about getting older but reminiscing at the days when Facebook didn’t exist and your phone was actually ringing off the hook from family members calling you. All of the emojis in the world cannot replace their voice, let alone their physical presence.

I ate as much pizza and cookies as I – or the fetus rather – could fit, which still wasn’t enough. I keep imagining what it would be like to sleep for an entire night undisturbed. I know it’s just the beginning. I relish in the times that I can get more than 3 or 4 hours at a time.

Apparently, 31 is starting off on complaint mode.

There are good things, of course. I’m a published author and encouraging words from readers have helped keep me motivated when other situations, more so physical, have not done nearly as much. Renewed friendships and validations for actions in the past have brought me emotional closure when I needed it most. I’ve caught up with a lot of reading, while still drowning in the stack of books on my nightstand. I welcome the anticipatory stares of the hardcovers that have waited so patiently for me to get back to flipping pages. My mother visited me for the first time since I moved to Oklahoma City and, unbeknownst to me, was a huge conspirator in the planning of a surprise baby shower. It was one of the busiest, but best weekends of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so much love in one room. It gave me a renewed vigor to see these last 6 weeks through.

Perhaps that renewed vigor will last through postpartum. I have ideas and plans, characters gestating in my head, excited to be brought into the world. In the meantime, I am working on Dee’s comeback, the second side of her mix tape starting to to bleed through the speakers. It will all come together. Perhaps maternity will be a motivator. Perhaps I will learn to work through the insomnia and exhaustion. Perhaps I will just cry it all out until the words find their way through my fingers. Either way, I’m reassuring myself that it won’t stop. The stories can’t stop – they are my children as well.

Perhaps the combined experiences will make this year less odd despite the number; you never know – it could be the best year yet.


Updates from an exhausted author PLUS a holiday ADC short!

I feel terrible, truly.

I normally write whenever possible but some rather important and time consuming changes all seemed to happen at the same time as a release of A Deathly Compromise. While I’m eagerly waiting for print copies to be available before the next run of promotions, I figured I could take some time to finally update you all and flex my writing fingers.

In terms of big changes, my husband and I have a baby on the way (due in April) and we just purchased-and moved into!-our first house. Between those two huge things on their own and prepping for the holidays, I feel a bit like this cat:


(So when I say I feel terrible, know that it is not just emotional sentiment.)

Nevertheless, to quote the great Walt Disney, we keep moving forward. While we’re still technically living out of cardboard boxes, we managed to decorate for Christmas and are in joyous disbelief that the place is ours (we’ll just ignore the fact that it’s really the bank’s). And while 2016 was nothing short of tumultuous, 2017 will undoubtedly bring some much needed joy and I look forward to it. I promise to not be so neglectful to this little corner of the universe.

So now that things are settling down and I can finally scratch that author itch, I spewed out this quick little A Deathly Compromise short, just for the holidays. It’s not spoiler-free and will most likely not be included in the sequel, so let this just serve as the in-between snack of the holiday meals. Enjoy and hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday!


Although it’s been said, many times, many ways.

I watched the television as if it were an animal documentary. George Michael and his fantastic hair frolicked across the screen, belting out his infamous tune over his lost Christmas love. I pulled the fur-lined rim of the Santa hat over my eyes.

“Oh, Georgie, who were you trying to fool?” I remarked out loud, catching a nasty glimpse from a waiting visitor. I ignored her, draping my legs over one side of the armchair while resting my head on the other. A shadow loomed over my body and without completely looking up, a small smile escaped the corner of my lips. I would know his presence anywhere. His soul stirred up flurries in my stomach. “Is that a candy cane in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

He laughed. He began searching for something in his pocket and for a moment, I questioned the seriousness of my proposition. Before I could stand, a green, red and white candy cane, with a split in the curve, landed on my chest.

“Tease,” I called him as my fingers worked to unwrap the unruly plastic.

“Bum,” he replied, gently removing the hat from my head.

A hiss erupted from my mouth. “The light…it burns us.”

“Get up, I want to show you something.”

“Fool me once, Lux…”

“There are cookies involved.”

I swung my legs and my boots planted themselves on the ground, my body sitting up at full attention, the candy cane between my index and middle finger like a 1920’s cigarette. “Next time, just go with that, darling. No need for foreplay.”

Lux rolled his eyes and turned, the glimmer from his clothes made annoyingly bright from the hospital lighting. I caught up to his pace, now smooth and effortless, not a hint of flawed life among the steps. “Nice outfit,” he remarked, noticing the rather jolly and lightly stained seasonal nurse scrubs I had been recently adorning.

“One must learn how to blend in with the peasant folk when one loses their cover. Didn’t you learn anything from James Bond?” I asked.


“Connery, of course. So cheeky, great in bed.” He glared. “Kidding!” I was definitely not kidding.

“I liked Roger Moore.”

I groaned as we turned the corner to the main lobby. “Ugh, you would.”

He grabbed my hand and pulled me into the nearby janitor’s closet, his body providing the only illumination in the confined room. He held my arm and hand up, his other hand resting on the small of my back. “Close your eyes,” he whispered.

The moment felt fearfully similar to one of his last when he was alive. I obliged, my body leaning into his. The familiar warp of transporting sent shivers up my spine before it ended in an eerie calm. The frost of the night greeted me, soft flakes kissing my cheeks. The smell of hot chocolate wafted around us. My hips adjusted to the environmental shift before my body completely betrayed me and I fell to the floor. My head met ice. I looked up, Lux’s face holding back a laugh. He held out his hand but I smacked it away.

“Skates, it had to be skates!” I wobbled up, my hands bracing the ground between my legs while I straightened up.

“You just made Bambi look like he could do the moonwalk.”

“You….shut your mouth. Goddess of death here, not of grace.” My torso came up next, then my head, my hands rubbing up against legs for warmth. “Now, then…” I began to slip again but caught my balance with an arm spinwheel before I could fall back down the dreadful frozen earth. I huffed, the echo of fire from my eyes transparent in Lux’s. “You said…there were…cookies.”

He opened up the crook of his arm to allow mine to lace through it. “In a bit. They’re on the other side of the rink and we got a ways to go.”

“You couldn’t have just landed us on solid ground?”

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

“Have you been reading the verse of Jones lately? I feel like I’m talking to his parrot.”

He ignored my comments, the smile on his face never wavering. He guided me halfway down the frozen pond, looking around and stopping abruptly, about 20 yards from warmth and chocolate. His free hand reached for mine, turning me to face him. I was still in disbelief. It had been weeks now, yet my mind couldn’t fathom it. His fingers reached up to my face, pushing a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Fingertips trailed down the length of my jaw, his thumb landing on my chin. “Merry Christmas, Dee,” he whispered.

Before I could reply or fill in the space between us, he moved away, revealing the scene in front of me like a curtain. Disappointment turned into confusion before the faces and figures in the background sharpened. Amongst the bulk of snow jackets and dark colors, a familiar head with a lavender-colored knit cap erupted like a pleasant streak of lightning in the night.

Oh, what a year could do. She had grown like a weed in summer, perhaps a foot or more. Her smile was free of chains, loose breaths now residing between small bursts of laughter. Her mother and father were there, holding her hands, lifting her up and sending chips of ice into the air. My hands found themselves rubbing my arms up and down, recollecting her last embrace. Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown score came out on the speakers, the vocals of the children’s choir and soft piano keys settling softly in the air. “She’s…so happy,” I said under my breath.

“You did that,” Lux said, his voice suddenly joining in the reverie.

I shook my head. “No. No, she was always happy, in a way. Now she’s…”


“Yes, that. She’s, she’s certainly something.” I swallowed down a happy sob, determined not to make myself look like a fool in the middle of a crowd of children and agile adults. “Is she…?”

“She’s doing great, Dee. Perfectly healthy.”

“Good, that’s good,” I said quickly, my voice cracking. I let out a long exhale. “We better go before she sees me.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded emphatically, turning away and bracing myself for the last few feet between me and snow covered grass. He took my arm again and guided the way. We stood in line for hot chocolate and cookies, but I no longer had the urge. My eyes strayed toward Aria’s direction every couple of minutes, following the spot of lavender across the pond. I memorized her one more time, her muscles and limbs moving without restraint. When she was lifted into the air, the hem of her jeans rode up, revealing new rainbow socks. I laughed, silently wishing I could go back to being invisible. I could watch her all day. Lux handed me a mug of hot chocolate – cider for him – and placed his free hand back on my cheek, melting the snow on my face. I smiled at him, taking a bite of the cookie already in my grasp.

“Thank you,” I told him in sincerity, swallowing down the treat. He shrugged in the most Lux way possible, the remnants of cider now on his lips. I licked my own, trying to ignore the temptation. He was off limits now. I looped my arm through his once again and led the way back to the hospital grounds. A walk would do us both some good. Nevertheless, the warmth and joy from Aria’s laugh echoed in between us, melting away the cold of the evening. Some things were worth waiting for, worth sacrificing for. My cup toasted his as our steps found their synchronicity. “Merry Christmas, Lux.”