Saturday Poems-One

Bright Windows

I look through my window and all I can see, is the sun shining down on me.

My eyes close tight against the shine. Life is hard but I feel fine.

Each day I wake I hear a new song, of the possible ways that things can go wrong.

But fear not says the blackbird on the tree outside, it’s been a long time since you have cried.

Standing tall I walk from the room, shuffling slowly as I begin to bloom.

The strong smell of coffee wafts through the air. The aroma fills my soul with hopeful prayer.

Yesterday’s troubles are not here today. I don’t need to be frightened, the night ghosts are away.

The daylight makes everything bright and clear. The mornings make me hold my memories dear.


Photo credit: ‘Funerals’ by Ann-Marie Marchant

January 2019-Musings One


New Year, New Ideas

This year I’m looking to expand my creative palate and dive into a dense universe of stories, poems and sometimes even candid thoughts from my scrambled head. Each day brings a new opportunity to learn, grow and send forth something real into the world. Wasting minutes with nothing concrete to show is a bad habit I need to break. I look forward to the days ahead with a new ferocity and desire to break free from the uninspired norm I’ve found myself trapped in. It’s easy to sink into a slothful way of life. I want to look back at some accomplished goals instead of a long, unchecked list of wishes and dreams. Here’s to the future!!

The Christmas Cookie Calamity-Chapter Ten

The Whole Story

James stood up and without time to think, he jumped into the lake waters and swam after his dad leaving behind the life jackets. Splashing and sputtering he finally made it over to the little girl and Greg. Another boat was there with two teenage boys inside. They were yelling and shouting but James couldn’t make his brain decipher what they were saying. He was fixated on his dad and the little girl. To the left of them he also saw a tiny, black puppy in the water too. All three were splashing and dipping below the water simultaneously.

As James made it over to the scene, he saw his dad lift the girl over the side of the boat with the boys. She was coughing up water but seemed like she was going to be alright! By then the puppy had floated further from the boat. James decided to retrieve the dog himself. “Dad! Get into their boat! I will get the dog!” he yelled.

James started to swim over to where the puppy was but felt himself getting weaker and weaker by the second. He felt his calf seize and cramp up. Sharp pain radiated in his leg and he was struggling to keep himself from sinking beneath the surface of the water. He started to panic and thrash in the water. He kept swallowing mouthfuls of lake water as he tried to grab the dog. Just as he pulled the dog over to him with one hand, James felt a tug behind his shirt. Suddenly his father was there too trying too pull him back to the other boat. Luckily the boys were driving closer to them now. They reached James and Greg but both were struggling to swim at this point. Exhaustion took over their bodies but they somehow managed to heave themselves and the dog into the boat.

James was coughing up water but smiling as he saw the little girl was there holding her puppy and crying with relief. He turned to hug his dad but saw he was laying flat on his back. “Dad! Dad!” James said with fear and panic. But his dad had lost consciousness and was turning blue.

James was crying silent tears now as Marnie, Mike and Clara listened to the retelling of this tragic accident. Clara went over to him and wrapped her arms around him. James took a deep breath before speaking again.

“Marnie I’m sorry I couldn’t save dad. The heart attack killed him but he saved me and the little girl that day. I was ashamed I needed help in the water and wished it was me who died that day instead. I haven’t needed you to hate me for it because I hate myself everyday.” James sat down on the bench and put his head in his hands. He took off the red baseball hat and Marnie went over, picked it up and sat down next to him. She turned the hat over in her hands a few times and stroked the front of it.

“Every time I saw you wearing dad’s hat I was so angry at you. ” she said. “I thought you just sat in the boat while dad did all the work to rescue that poor girl! Why didn’t you  just tell us you went in the water too? I’ve been blaming you this whole time because I thought you just sat there watching!” Marnie sounded defeated.

“I know.” said James. “I wish I could do that whole day over. Maybe if I grabbed the life jackets it would have turned out differently.” he said with regret. Marnie looked over at Clara. Clara just stood there with no expression feeling helpless. Her heart was broken for James and his loss but she knew she loved him more than ever in that moment.

“James you did all you could.” Marnie finally relented. “Dad was a hero and so were you. You both risked your lives to save that girl and her dog. I’ve just been so angry at the world for taking dad away I needed someone to blame. You were an easy target for my grief but I shouldn’t have been so bitter and hateful towards you. Even if you didn’t jump in that day. It wasn’t your fault all that happened.” She looked embarrassed and ashamed.

James looked at Marnie and they both gave each other a huge bearhug. Clara felt sense of heavy stress float away from her body into the night sky above.


It was an unseasonably warm day at the river on Valentine’s Day the following year. James and Clara were walking hand in hand towards the bridge that connected the two sides of the river. Tops of empty trees decorated the indigo sky as a majestic hawk flew above them. James had on his dad’s red baseball hat and was laughing about a story Clara was telling him about her search for a new job. Clara looked fondly at his freshly shaved face. She was still getting used to his new look. After Christmas, James decided to shave the burly mustache as part of a New Year, New Me adventure they both decided to take.

Clara quit her banking job and was interviewing for positions at local photography studios. She decided her background in the business was a path worth pursuing to get herself out of the world of bank loans and bad days. She didn’t really know what she ultimately wanted to do with her life but she knew she had to make a change. Listening to James’ story that December night of what happened to his dad made her realize tomorrow is never promised, so why spend your days doing something half hearted? It was scary but exciting to try something different.

Marnie and Clara managed to revive their friendship but it was never the same. They still share the occasional lunch and creative outing together but there is a stain on the relationship that cannot be removed. Clara forgave herself for following her heart with James because she was never happier than she was when she was with him. Taking a chance on love may have altered her friendship with Marnie but every time she saw James smile knowing how hurt he was inside from losing his dad made all that worth it. James was her destiny and perhaps that is why she was friends with Marnie in the first place.

Clara and James stood on the bridge looking out over the river. Clara took out her new camera that was a Christmas gift from James. Somehow he always knew just what she needed before she even did. James was looking thoughtfully in the distance. She focused the camera on him and captured the meditative moment. He looked up and his hickory eyes glowed warmly in the bright sun. Suddenly a gust of wind brewed up and blew the couple into a tight embrace. Jame’s red hat was lifted from his head and flew over the bridge and into the river.

They both looked over the edge and saw it peacefully floating down the river and out of sight. “Oh James! Your dad’s hat. I’m sorry!” said Clara woefully. But James just smiled. He  closed his eyes for a few moments and a single tear fell down his face.

“Don’t worry Clara.” he said with his eyes locked on hers. “That was my dad. I think he just sad goodbye and took his hat back for good. I think that was his blessing for me to move on and be happy. All I want now is to spend forever with you.” And with that, he pulled Clara close and they walked down the path of the bridge and into their future.

The End


The Christmas Cookie Calamity-Chapter Nine

Calamity Clara

Mortified, Clara picked herself up off the cold, ceramic tile floor. She could not believe she had actually gotten sick when she saw Marnie and Mike walk in together. There were a few friendly candles lit on the bathroom counter that tried to offer her a bit of warm cheer. But instead her tears started to rain down. She was just thankful she had made it to the bathroom and locked the door behind her because she kept hearing knocks and pleading voices at the door. She had the bathroom sink running with hot water and the fan on so she couldn’t hear who was trying to get in.

Sitting there with a hot washcloth in her hands, Clara was mopping up the sad evidence of another disastrous situation from her face. Tears and mascara were streaked heavily across her swollen eyes and she decided to scrub her face clean. She kept scrubbing and scrubbing until there was nothing left but irritated red skin. It looked like she would definitely be making an early exit from this horrible night. It was beyond embarrassing that she was ruining what should have been the most festive night of the year. How ridiculous it was for her to think she could actually go to this party!

Suddenly she saw in the foggy mirror that the door behind her was opening. She spun around and tried to get there to force it shut but in walked an impressively tall man. Through the steamy room should could see he had on a red baseball hat. Clara blinked rapidly realizing James Rhodes with his face that looked like home and his eyes that made her melt was standing before her. “Clara! I’m sorry. I followed you here. I was worried about you.” he said carefully. She fully surrendered at that moment and fell into his arms sobbing.

“Oh James! I’m so sorry for everything. I hate myself for this whole mess. It all feels like a nightmare I can’t wake up from. I’ve made things way worse for you!” She shook and tried to breathe deeply in between sobs. James hugged her tightly and kissed her forehead.

“Clara if this is anyone’s fault it’s mine. I should have fixed things with Marnie a long time ago. I should have forced her to listen to me. Instead I ran from the situation just because it was hard. I’m ashamed of what happened that day with my dad. I let Marnie distance herself to this level and let things escalate this far because I wanted to punish myself. I’ve hidden parts of what happened that day. But all I know is I love you and I’m not going to give up on us.” James grabbed her hand and led her down the hall into the living room.

All talking stopped when James and Clara emerged hand in hand. Eyes were wide and people were shifting their bodies around to get a better look at the controversial couple. Someone turned down the jolly music and Clara’s embarrassment tripled when she realized everyone was in the middle of exchanging the cookies.

“Umm sorry everyone…” James said nervously. “I need to speak with my sister Marnie. We will excuse ourselves from the evening and let everyone get back to the fun.” Marnie was in the back corner of the room with Mike. She looked truly shocked that James and Clara were standing there holding hands in front of the whole party. She began to shake her head no but changed her mind and stopped.

Marnie grabbed Mike by the arm and said, “Fine. Let’s go.” There wasn’t a trace of sympathy in her expression towards James or Clara. She maintained her icy exterior as she led Mike to the front door. Clara found Josie and apologized for disrupting the evening.

“Don’t worry Clara we want you to be here!” she said nicely while trying to convince her to stay. But Clara politely declined and the foursome left the party. As the front door closed a rise of excited voices began chatting wildly.

Just down the road there was an empty park. James suggested they all go there to talk. They agreed and walked silently down the vacant street. The night sky was cloudless and little stars twinkled impressively. Clara felt like she doing the ultimate walk of shame but was looking forward to talking to Marnie. Finally they found a snow covered table and sat down. Trees sparkled with snow and Christmas lights. James spoke first.

“Mike is it? I’m James, Marnie’s brother. I don’t know what she’s told you about me but I’m here to finally explain to her what exactly happened that day when our father died.” James looked straight at Marnie. “I know you blame me for what happened that day and you’re right. It is my fault. But I think you’re missing some key details.” He stood there trying to be calm and but he was clearly anxious. Clara gulped the cold air. Mike looked confused and uncomfortable.

“Except I’m not.” Marnie said with anger. “Mom has told me a million times what happened. I know she doesn’t blame you but I sure as hell do. You could have stopped him from getting in that water. You knew he couldn’t swim that well. Why didn’t you jump in before him? You’re in much better shape than dad was.” Tears started falling as Marnie’s pain about her dad’s death overflowed from her.

“I did jump in Marnie, almost at the exact same time as dad!” James shouted. Marnie looked surprised.

“No, you just sat on that boat watching, trying to use your phone to call for help! But you should have gotten in before dad!” Marnie was full on crying now. It was hard to watch. Clara looked down at the glowing snow.

James sighed. “I never told you and mom the whole story or anyone for that matter! But I realize that was a huge mistake now.” James then slowly confessed exactly what happened that day on the lake.

It was a rainy weekend in May over a year and a half ago. James and his father Greg drove to their cabin for their monthly fishing trip. Summer was coming and everything was fresh and green in the mountains. As they drove, they chatted excitedly about getting out on the lake in the old boat. It was having engine problems for awhile but James thought he finally got it fixed. The sun was setting behind the clouds as they got to the cabin. The smell of campfires and grilled meat filled the air. Low clouds made it look misty and dreamlike. James and his father spent the evening playing cards and listening to old rock on the radio.

The next morning the sun was up and shining brightly. James and Greg were having coffee and muffins together before they ventured to the lake. Greg was talking excitedly about the home project he just completed for James’ mother.

“Her very own greenhouse is complete!” Greg said proudly. “Now she can grow the quality fresh vegetables the stores are lacking. She can enter her homemade jams with her homegrown fruits in the County Fair now!” Greg and James laughed loudly together. They both knew it was Rose’s dream to be a County Fair ribbon winner. She spoke about it often. James just couldn’t wait to eat the jams on her homemade biscuits! The cinnamon muffins they were feasting on now were his mother’s creation. They were buttery and delicious.

When they finally got the boat on the lake James sat with his fishing pole between his knees and had his dad’s favorite book perched on his lap as well. It was an original copy of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and James’ had finally convinced his dad to let him borrow it. When Greg surprised him with it in the truck, James’ couldn’t wait to start reading it. It didn’t matter that the flowers were in bloom and they were still months away from Christmas. James found himself lost in the pages quickly.

Suddenly they heard a scream and splashes nearby. Greg and James looked around them startled and frightened by the sudden interruption of the tranquil morning. In the distance to the left of them, James saw a little girl splashing and flailing in the water. She didn’t have a life vest on. He put the boat in gear and drove it towards the girl.

As soon as they got closer, Greg stood up to jump in the water. James screamed, “No dad! Let me!” But it was too late. Greg was already over the boat’s edge and into the freezing water.


The Christmas Cookie Calamity-Chapter Eight

Crumbling Cookies

The morning of the Cookie Party day finally arrived. The sun was shining rudely through the bedroom window and the sky had the nerve to be a cheery crystal-blue. The day certainly didn’t match Clara’s doom and gloom mood. She woke up with a headache pounding on her left eyebrow. Nothing was helping the throbbing pain that ached with every movement she made. She decided to call in sick to work which was something she rarely ever did. But since she just lived through one of the worst weeks of her life after Marnie discovered her betrayal and with her breaking up with James, she decided a personal day was in order. Plus that week was torturous being at work with Marnie there ignoring her. She would look right through her when she walked in the room and would have other people deliver messages to her instead of talking with her herself. It made the whole work day extremely awkward.

Clara also felt it would take her the whole day to build up the confidence to show her face at the Cookie Party. She was feeling like a real snake in the grass and seriously considered not showing up at all. But this was her favorite holiday party of the season. She needed something to boost her spirit! She was feeling the lowest of the low. Throughout the whole week other mutual friends of her and Marnie’s were calling and texting nonstop. Clara hadn’t told a soul about what happened but it was clear Marnie was telling the world. Everyone put on a good act of seeming concerned for her wellbeing but Clara really knew most of them were after the salacious story of her and James. She already had three new inquisitive texts that morning:

From Josie: Clara! Are you coming tonight? I know Marnie is but how do you think that’s going to work with you two in the same room?? Let me know if you need anything!

From Tanya: Hey! Just checking in to see if you have spoken with Marnie yet? Tonight is going to be so crazy if you haven’t! And what about James!?

From Sarah: Do you need me to drive you tonight? You could drink all the sangria you want and not have to worry about driving. I mean, don’t you think you will need some liquid courage for when you see her???

That last text was actually tempting. Clara did think she would need all the booze in the world to help her get through the evening. Just thinking about those questions her friends were asking made her feel queasy or maybe it was her head? Clara stumbled down the stairs through the pain of her headache and found a cold compress from the kitchen freezer. Forget waiting for the clock to wind down until the party. Clara decided to the best thing right now was sleep. She closed the curtains and went back to bed on the couch.

She fell into a hard sleep and dreamt about James. They were at the river and he threw his red baseball hat as hard as he could off the bridge. It landed in the middle of the river and floated out of sight. Clara woke up more upset than ever and cried herself back to sleep again.

Five hours later Clara was up again and getting ready for the party. Her head finally felt like it was getting better. She made herself a starchy meal of a grilled cheese sandwich and potato chips and guzzled three cups of coffee. The caffeine flowed in her veins and made her even more jittery for the evening but did the trick of getting rid of the headache for good.

After she ate she took a long bath. She was preparing a speech in her head for when she saw Marnie even though she knew she would probably never give her the chance to talk to her for even a second. If she could just beg for forgiveness and claim it all was moment of insanity maybe she could find a way to make it up to her. They had two years of close friendship! Marnie couldn’t just toss that aside forever, could she? Clara decided to wear the bold, red Christmas sweater with the funny gingerbread lady on it she bought at the mall when she went shopping with Marnie a few weeks ago. They had purchased matching ones that day for the Cookie Party and laughed about how fun that night would be. If she only knew it would be an evening she dreaded more than any other.

A few more hours later, Clara found herself at the fateful Cookie Party sitting with a plate of appetizers. The large living room was decorated from floor to ceiling. Above her were long rows of clear snowflakes with warm white Christmas lights all around them. The whole room had five fully decorated Christmas trees dripping with glittery ornaments. Rows and rows of Christmas cookies on ceramic platters were laid on a long table in the center of the room. Dean Martin was crooning a festive tune while groups of people chatted happily to one another. The room smelled like cinnamon, vanilla and spiced food. Josie, the hostess, was walking around the room with a pitcher of sangria. She poured the festive liquid in everyone’s wine glasses while singing along to “A Marshmallow World.” Clara wished she could be happy and join in the fun but her heart was sad and missing James. Every time she closed her eyes she pictured his face with that large mustache she grew to love. Wondering what James was doing that night, she looked around the room and sighed heavily. Mostly couples. This was going to be a very long evening.

Stuffed mushroom caps and garlic shrimp with red cocktail sauce decorated her plate. A generous spoonful of spinach dip was in the middle. Her favorite bacon wrapped asparagus were sitting there untouched too. It all looked delicious but Clara couldn’t even force one bite. The party had been going on for 30 minutes and Marnie was no where to be seen. Where was she?? Did she really hate Clara that much to miss their most favorite event of the year??

Everyone else was noticing Marnie’s absence as well. She could see a group of ladies from across the room eyeing Clara and talking about her and Marnie’s ordeal. They were like a bunch of hens clucking nonstop. Clara felt a hot flash coming on in but faked a smile at the group instead of having a full on meltdown.

Suddenly her heart did a flip when the tiny, red jingle bells hanging from the garland on the front door rang loudly. There was Marnie walking in with her long silky hair. It was hanging prettily over a gold sweater. Clara felt like a fool for wearing that silly red one with the gingerbread lady. Clara then noticed Marnie wasn’t alone. On her arm was Mike.

Feeling truly alone, Clara wanted to escape out the back door immediately. Instead she ran to the bathroom and got sick…

The Christmas Cookie Calamity-Chapter Seven

Cold as Ice

The room was silent and full of confusion as Marnie’s question hung in the air. The fireplace popped and crackled loudly as Clara searched her brain for something resembling a reasonable explanation. The snow fall had stopped as she stared through the frosted window begging her brain to come up with a genius reason, but nothing came to mind. There was no acceptable excuse for why James’ famous red baseball hat was at her home other than the truth. Revealing the facts now was the only option going forward. It was now or never. Clara took a deep breath and sat down gesturing Marnie to do the same. But Marnie stood her ground and glared even angrier.

“Okay Marnie. I’m so sorry but yes that is James’ hat. It’s here because he is here. He’s here because we are together. We are seeing each other and have been since October.” explained Clara carefully. Her heart was thumping so hard at this point she felt like she had just ran one of her hardest miles yet. Marnie’s face was sullen and sad. It was splotched with red patches from crying earlier. She looked like she was in shock. The romance of James and Clara was now in open season. It was time for the world to tear it down and pick it apart. And as if on cue, James came down the stairs and his face was pale and full of dread. Marnie saw him at that moment and started laughing with disgust.

“This cannot be happening.” she said with disbelief. “You guys are seriously doing this to me right now? Clara you know how angry I’ve been at James for what he did. You know how the past year has changed my life forever because of his carelessness. And now when Mike just betrayed me, I learn you’ve been sneaking behind my back with my lousy brother??” Marnie then sat down crosslegged on the floor and buried her face in her hands. Fresh tears streamed down her face. Her cries were full of sorrow. The treachery of Clara was now fully exposed and she felt ugly and ashamed.

Clara went to get up but James rushed down first to his sister’s side. You could tell he cared deeply for Marnie and Clara knew how much their estrangement hurt him. But she pushed him away with fury. “No!” she screamed. “You took away our dad and now you’re taking my best friend? I hate you!” she said wickedly. James look like he’d just been slapped across the heart. His own eyes filled with tears.

“Please Marnie!” he begged. “You have to just listen to me for five minutes. You’ve never let me explain what happened with dad. You formed your own conclusions in your head and didn’t allow anyone to change your mind. You have no idea what happened that day.” Clara saw his face transform with concern for Marnie to anger instantly. This feud was so complicated. It was time for them to talk through it. That was Clara’s opinion from  the beginning anyway. She should have told Marnie to talk to James about their dad from the first day Marnie told her what happened a year ago. Clara should have truthfully told Marnie she was being unreasonable.

But Marnie suddenly stood up. She looked like a wild animal ready to strike. “Clara you and I are done. We are finished. This whole time you have been pretending to be my friend while having some fling with my brother who you know I despise right now. You are both unforgivable and I never want to see either of you again!” Marnie looked at them both with horror and went towards the front door.

“Marnie you’re SO wrong!” James yelled. ” You’re wrong about Clara and you’ve always been wrong about dad. I love Clara. She is my future now. She is the light of my day. I’ve always had feelings for her since the day I met her. Get off your warpath and accept what happened to dad as the accident it was and accept that Clara and I belong together.” In that moment James looked proud of himself for standing up to his sister. His whole life he and everyone around her let Marnie think she was the authority on everything. But in reality her stubbornness and tendency to judge things without all the facts was what was the problem.

Marnie laughed again with distain and gave them one last menacing glare and stormed outside. Clara stood there, teetering for a minute before she looked at James. She grabbed the side of the couch for balance. Fainting seemed like a real possibility after that explosion of emotions.

James came towards her with his arms outstretched but she stopped him. “You need to leave.” she said, her mouth quivering. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Things are over with us too. We can’t do this anymore.”

Clara saw James’ heart shatter on the spot and she really hated herself now.





The Christmas Cookie Calamity-Chapter Six


December brought forth more snow and more worries for Clara and James. Their social calendars were packed with the events of the Christmas season and since they were still hiding their relationship, that meant spending less time together was inevitable. James was busy preparing the end of semester finals at work. Tis’ the season to be stressed! It was finally the weekend and they sat huddled, speaking quietly but intensely in a corner of a Mexican cantina after 9 pm on a Friday night. Little tea candles flickered in the colorful, glass holders on the table. The windows were already decorated with festive garland and twinkling strands of lights. The street lamps outside also offered a friendly glow as the snow fell gently against the night sky casting an orange glow throughout the city. The restaurant was dimly lit and most people were in the shelter of their warm homes since it was so late and snowing heavily. All this made it a perfect spot for a much desired rendezvous. It was the first time they saw each other since the love-filled ski weekend five days ago.

Clara still was in a trance ever since she heard James say, “I love you” that afternoon at the ski resort. When she first heard him say it after she read the message on the mirror, she felt a bit dizzy and like she was in the middle of a hazy dream. Most everything had been feeling so dreamlike since October and this really was the cherry on top. How was this happening to Clara? The man of her dreams was there telling her he loved her but her best friend would surely never speak to her again when she learned about her deceitfulness. But once again Clara decided that was the ultimate problem to deal with another day. After a few seconds of looking shocked, she collected her wits and decided to say her reply.

“I love you too James!” she said in between breaths. His mustached face lit up with relief and joy. He laughed and she fell into his arms. One day at a time. That was Clara’s new mantra she repeated whenever she began to panic about Marnie. One day at a time and in this moment, today was euphoric.

But that was then. Now, sitting closely together at the restaurant things were tense between them for the first time since they started dating. This was not how Clara wanted the evening to go. James’ eyebrows were furrowed in frustration. She was making him flustered and Clara was having a hot flash and starting to sweat.  She stood up and removed her green, fuzzy sweater she had on and drank deeply from her water glass.

“We can’t tell Marnie yet!” said James desperately. “She will never understand how we connect. She will force you to break it off with me!” His eyes looked wild and terrified. Clara was realizing just how bad this situation really was for them both. Marnie would surely feel blindsided when she found out about them being together and the knotted web of deception. But no matter the consequences, Clara could no longer go on lying to her. The lunch they shared the other day punched a harsh reality and sense of duty into Clara’s conscience. They reconnected easily and her loyalty to Marnie was starting to grow strong again. She had to do the right thing. The sick feeling she carried with her daily was beginning to fester at an alarming rate.

“I know James but I can’t live like this anymore. The guilt is eating away at me and I can’t even fully be happy about us because of how we are lying to Marnie. She may hate me forever when I tell her but at least we won’t have to hide anymore. At least we can try and make things work between us all.” Clara heard the pleading in her voice too. She was desperate for a fix to this insane problem. Her best friend versus her new love. It felt impossible to navigate anymore. Something had to change.

James spent a few minutes looking deep into Clara’s eyes. She blushed because his old-Hollywood movie star face was still hard to get over. It was like he was her own Clark Gable. His enchanting smile and hickory eyes cast a spell over her whenever he did this handsome stare. She was powerless to resist him since that day at the river. He suddenly closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“Okay.” he said reluctantly. “We can tell her tomorrow night. Let’s head back to your house now and spend one more secret night together. I’ve honestly been loving keeping this all to ourselves. Outside opinions have an unavoidable way of poisoning happiness.” The truth to that statement stung a little.

“Sounds great.” Clara said feeling a little relieved and a little terrified at the same time. He was right. After tomorrow, things would never be the same! So tonight was all they had to feel everything one more time without the outside world competing for their attention to hear what they had to say about the betrayal of James and Clara.

An hour later they were cuddled in a mountain of blankets on the couch in Clara’s cozy living room. An impressive fire was burning in the corner and glasses of wine were starting to refill rapidly. They were finishing their second glass when James got up and went upstairs to change clothes. Clara sighed and stretched. The snow was really coming down now. It was really beginning to feel like Christmas, her most favorite time of year. Just as Clara decided on a movie title from Netflix, her doorbell rang. She got up to see who was there so late, her worst fear pounding her heart in her chest but it was already opening. Marnie burst in the room! The color drained from Clara’s face.

Marnie was crying and speaking rapidly about Mike. Apparently she caught him texting another woman but Clara barely understood what she saying with all the crying and with the ringing in Clara’s ears. This could not be happening. Maybe if she could get to her phone she could text James and tell him to hide in the closet or something. After all, Clara had driven that night after she picked him up earlier. Marnie hadn’t seen his truck there. Maybe he could stay hidden until Clara calmed Marnie down and somehow made her go home in this snow storm. How was that going to work!? How could she force her best friend to leave in this terrible weather especially when she was so upset from a personal crisis??

“Clara can you believe that? How did I not see this coming? Thanksgiving was so perfect with his family and friends I was sure we were headed for an engagement eventually. I mean, I know that sounds crazy since we just met in October but…” Marnie suddenly stopped talking mid-sentence. Her eyes were fixed on the chair in the corner. She suddenly looked even worse than before like someone was squeezing all the air from her chest and she was desperately trying to take a breath. Her dark green eyes bulged and she looked at Clara with hurt and confusion.

Clara look at the chair and saw James’ ever present hat perched on top like a giant red flag. Her blood ran cold and she felt herself falling through the floor. Marnie then took a step closer to Clara and asked, “What is my brother’s hat doing in your house?”