1.34 – Letter

Hi Mom,

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I found the old letter during the move. Believe it or not, it’s a move of progress, not me running away from someone yet again – I’m moving a little way out of the city. Not quite suburbia, but somewhere a little quieter. And closer to my workplace…

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A lot has changed since the last letter. I still don’t know if I believe you can read this, but I want to write it down anyway. I’m pretty anxious right  now so it’ll be nice to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

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I got married over a year ago, to a man named Lachlan Waterman. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that from my last letter – me, afraid of love and in absolute hatred with herself. However, I got past that in a lot of ways and…I’m married now! I’m really happy with him, honestly. Lachlan is an amazing man and husband. I adore him, and we treat each other well. 

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I also started my own business with a friend. The Lotus Flower yoga studio is doing better than ever! And yes – I’ve met and made real friends as well as meeting my husband. I’m not alone anymore, Mom.

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But the real reason I wanted to write again is because I’m pregnant again. Finding out was a nice birthday present for my Lachlan. And guess what – the baby’s going to be a Hayes, like you and me! I won’t get into it but Lachlan doesn’t want the baby to be a Waterman for various reasons. He and I are overjoyed but…when I found out it got me thinking about the past. I’m so excited yet so much of the self-doubt that pours out of the old letter is setting back in. It was nearly seven years ago now, and I was so sure I couldn’t do this. And now? I’m still pretty sure at times that I can’t do this. But I’m working on it.

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August 26th – 1st day of 1st grade!

I ended up having the first baby, by the way. His name is Nolan Samuel Fox. Yes, Fox. I gave him up to an older couple with a wealthy income and nice house in Willow Creek.I get emails from his true mother, Lela, every so often. He’s six now, and I have no doubt that I made the right decision. I don’t think I could have done everything I did and grown and changed as much as I have with a baby in tow.

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Not that I’m disparaging single parents at all, obviously! I know where I came from…and I’m grateful you kept me. I still sometimes think about how sad it is that you couldn’t follow your dreams or get married to someone who deserved you or see me grow up – maybe I would have grown up different…but there’s no point dwelling on the past, I guess.

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So onto the present and future – things are different for me now. For one thing, I – we – planned this one. There’s the money to raise a kid, and the father’s obviously in the picture. But I was – and still am – so scared. I don’t know the first thing about being a mother.

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But then Dianne – yes, that Dianne, she’s my best friend now – I’m sure you’re happy – she said that nobody knows how to parent, and that every mother she knows doubted themselves at some point. Including herself – she had a baby as well! Colton is three now! She and another friend, Kaylyn, have been bringing their kids round for practice. Aunt Adela gave me some of her old parenting books and a few helpful tips. I’ve realised I had a lot of support extending beyond my husband – and I think I can do this.

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Then I found the old letter –  I’ve changed since I was pregnant the first time. That girl wasn’t ready to take care of anyone, but I’m different now, Mom. You’d be happy about that, by the way. I’m not just different. I’m a better Sarai. So maybe…but I’m still not sure. Sometimes this all feels like a mistake.

I haven’t told Clarissa. I still remember how she screamed at me when she saw me pregnant the last time. And I know she wouldn’t react like that this time because the circumstances are different…but I just can’t face it. I guess I’m just a coward. I still say shit like that. Old habits die hard…but this one’s pretty dormant now. I know you’d like that.

Anyway. This has just been a pretty relaxing writing exercise, because I don’t think you can see it…it’s nice to imagine though. But I do feel better, so thanks.

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I can smell Lachlan’s teriyaki salmon cooking, and I need to go thank my wonderful husband. Might eat more than my share but I think it’s pregnant woman’s rights! This man’s child is inside me and it can get pretty uncomfortable…so I’m gonna eat his delicious food!

I love you so much, Mom.

Your happy, loving daughter, Sarai.

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1.33 – No Objections

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Lachlan didn’t want a big wedding with the formality and the massive expense of it all. Mainly because he didn’t see the point, but also because word got back to the Watermans somehow. I guess he’d told some of his high school or college friends and the news just travelled. He knew they’d muscle in and turn it into something ridiculous, expensive and impersonal that we wouldn’t even want. Having met them one Thanksgiving, I was inclined to agree.

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I was never that little girl who dreamed of her wedding day. In fact, I didn’t even think about weddings until that day I saw those rings on the computer screen. I didn’t mind at all, and given my busy schedule, decided that a small wedding would be best.

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Besides, I couldn’t imagine saying everything I wanted to say in front of so many people. The very thought made me anxious.

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It was decided that we were going to hold a tiny ceremony, practically an elopement, at Myshuno Meadows, under the same beautiful dusk that he’d proposed under. It’s been only two months since then, and the wedding’s Friday. The guest list was limited to Dianne and Kaylyn on my side, and Dax and his husband Jaron for Lachlan. Our honeymoon would take place in September – we’d planned to head to Sulani. The weather would be as good, but the prices cheaper.

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With encouragement from Lachlan and Dianne, I told Uncle Miles, Aunt Adela, and Michael of our plans.

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“I can accept that.” Miles said. “It would have been nice to see you get married, Sarai, but it’s your choice.” For a second, my stomach lurched with that familiar guilt; my brain screaming that I was making a terrible, selfish choice. It’s also for you and Lachlan, your future husband and the man you love, we kind of have to be the most important thing here.

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“But,” Adela added. “Perhaps we could host a meal or something – a barbecue! Just something small, to celebrate you two getting hitched!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together and beaming.

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“Thank you,” Lachlan said, gratefully lowering his head. “That’s very kind of you two.”

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“What can we bring?” I asked.

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“Nothing!” Adela exclaimed. “If you think that you two are bringing anything, think again!” And we all laughed.


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“Sarai, my amazing, beautiful sunshine, you have brought so much light into my life, by being kind, warm and caring. You’re one of the strongest people I know. I love you, and I can’t wait to start our lives as husband and wife.”

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“Lachlan, angel…I don’t know what to say, apart from…from the day I met you, you have been caring, understanding and loving. You have been my rock. You’re resilient and intelligent and I couldn’t be a luckier woman. I love you so much.”

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Tears pricked the back of my eyes. Why am I crying?

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It’s because I’m absolutely on cloud nine right now, isn’t it?

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Wedding day!


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When Lachlan and I walked into the garden, we were greeted by a smattering of applause. They all looked so happy for us.

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“Hope it all went well…no objections, I hope!” Miles joked.

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“I was actually completely against my best friend marrying the man she loves.” Dianne deadpanned. “Ow, Colt, hold still! Mike, could you – I need to give Sarai a hug!” She shoved Colton into her brother’s arms and dashed over to wrap me in a bone-crushing embrace.

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Everyone else offered me their congratulations. Miles fired up the barbecue and everyone started chatting and eating and just generally having a good time. They’d picked excellent food and the weather was gorgeous.

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I was halfway through a burger when the doorbell rang. Adela immediately ran to get it, quickly returning with whoever it was. I could hear their footsteps in the hallway. Something about the clack-clack-clack of what sounded like high heels was ominously familiar…

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“It’s your sister, Miles.” Adela informed us all. A hush fell over the party.

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There she was. It’s been..five years. Five years since I saw this woman in person. The woman who raised me. She never even met Lachlan, and I’d liked it that way.

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“Did you not expect me?” she asked.

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“Well…I didn’t think…” Miles began awkwardly.

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She sat down. “It’s a family celebration, isn’t it? Hello, Dianne – what a sweet little boy, he’s growing up really well.”

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Dianne nodded and gave a wavering smile. I noticed her worriedly eye Colton and scoop him up into her arms. Good call. “Yeah, Aunt Clarissa. He’s wonderful.” Despite her complaints about his behaviour, her face lit up when she said it.

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“Look, we didn’t think you’d want to come.” Adela finally said. “Sorry, Clarissa. We were surprised is all, feel free to grab something to eat.”

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“I’ve eaten,” she said. “I wasn’t planning to stay long, I’ve got lots of work to do, and then a conference call.” On a Sunday? “Sarai? Can I speak to you?”

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I froze. Clarissa – the one person who has consistently been better at making me feel shit about myself than well, me. What was she going to say? My leg shook, my toes tapping against the ground.

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“You don’t have to.” Lachlan whispered, squeezing my hand under the table.

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I took several deep breaths, willing myself to hold it together. After all, I spent years unlearning every idea of myself that Clarissa helped me instil within myself. One conversation cannot undo all of that. It can’t. Otherwise what are you worth?

“Fine.” I said with a biting tone. “Let’s talk. The living room should be free.”

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Lachlan and Dianne gave me incredulous, frightened looks. I nodded at them, showing that ‘I got this’ – even though I really wasn’t sure if I did or not.

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Clarissa huffed and led me out of the room. When we got to the couches, she directed me to sit across from her. Like an interview – fuck that. We’re both adults talking about our lives. I sat next to her instead.

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“Why did you get married so suddenly?” she asked. “I hear nothing and out of the blue – Miles tells me that he can’t come to help me with my furnace this week because he’s hosting a celebration for your…marriage.” She screwed up her face like it was an ugly word. Maybe it was to her, because she’d never come close to that her entire life.

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“It wasn’t sudden. We’ve known each other for years. We became friends after he showed me around a property and-”

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“A property? Did you finally buy a place to live?”

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“Might buy it. I’m still renting with Lachlan but we’ll find somewhere. No, that property was for my business, which I own and run myself.” I couldn’t help adding a little boastful edge onto that. Fuck you for saying that I’d never amount to anything, that I was stupid and threw away all my opportunities and chances. I did NOT.

…I think you almost did, Clarissa. Who’s left in your life?

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“-Well.” She looked slightly stunned. “Congratulations, I suppose. Rather volatile to put all of your eggs in that basket, but if you’re happy…”

“I am.”

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“I guess Kendra would have been happy with you too.”

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It was funny. All my life she told me I never would have been enough for my mother. And I always wanted it to not be true, and I wanted to hear it from Clarissa. Now that I finally had…it didn’t matter.

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My thoughts were interrupted by a tapping on my shoulder. “I don’t think I’m wanted.” Clarissa. actually sounded rather crestfallen, and uncharacteristically soft. “I’ll leave you with this. I suppose you and your husband’ll want children someday, and they should know their family history.” It was a picture of her, my mother, and Uncle Miles, when they were young.

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Miles, Kendra (19) and I.

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“Thanks.” This might be the last time I’ll ever see her. There had been no apology, no acknowledgement of the way she treated me. She still hadn’t given me the chance to confront her – she steamrolled the conversation as always. Never change, Clarissa, I sarcastically thought.

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Why would I fucking bother with her anyway?


“What are you doing?”

“Emailing my parents. The rest of them can find out through them, they’ll be complaining for a while.”

“But I thought-”

“I know what I said. But I changed my mind. What can they do anyway?” he said with a crooked grin.

1.32 – So Lucky

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Who would have thought I’d end up here? Nobody, least of all me.

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It was surprisingly enjoyable to play homemaker, though I know I’d get bored of doing that for real. And I’d start feeling guilty for not having a job…if Clarissa taught me one good lesson, it’s that I should be financially self-sufficient. I wouldn’t give up the studio for this in a million years. But on Wednesday and weekend nights, when I have easier days, I can relax and pretend.

It’s been almost three months since Lachlan and I moved in together. Two years since we started dating. Nabila’s friend took over the rest of my lease, and now Lachlan and I are renting his original apartment.

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It was scary at first. I thought he’d get tired of me if we were around each other so much. Then I found out he was thinking the same and we just had to laugh at ourselves. Laughing’s a good way to tell all of those horrible little insecurities to just fuck off.

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Making sure to be quiet, I walked into our shared home office with a plate of fish and chips – adapted to be healthier by yours truly. “How’s it going?” Lachlan had a lot of paperwork due. I’d been bringing him meals in here all week.

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“I’m actually almost finished.” he said. I went up behind him and rested my head on his shoulder, quickly kissing him on the cheek.

“Good!”

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I immediately released him once I saw what was on one side of the monitor.

Rings. Loads and loads of rings, with the name of some jewellery shop in the browser bar.

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Oh God…he can’t.

“I need to fix some schedules, I’ll be in the bedroom.” I said, rushing out of the room.

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He didn’t seem to notice that I had noticed, or even register my shock. “OK, sunshine. I’ll come keep you company when I’m done.”

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The schedules were a lie. I shouldn’t lie to him. What am I doing? Liar! He can’t marry you!

You will tell him the truth when he comes in to keep you company while you ‘work on your schedules’.

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When I saw those rings, I itched to remind him of everything – my previous inability to form relationships, my sexual history, the often overwhelming sense that I’m a disappointing, bad person.

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This man loves me despite all the shit I’ve done and how broken I was, and still am sometimes…

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Something more dawned on me.

Lachlan’s had his struggles, but I love him no matter what. He’s not always perfect – though pretty damn close – but I still love him. To me, he’s amazing.

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I guess to him I am to. Maybe our past struggles don’t make us any less loveable or marriageable – well, Lachlan’s definitely didn’t.

And to him, neither did yours.

He came into the bedroom just five minutes later; obviously having actually realised something was up. I should have clocked that on my way out of the office. The loving concern on his face made me fall for him all over again, for what felt like the millionth time.

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“Did I do something wrong?”

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“…I did all my schedules.” I admitted. “Sorry I ran away, and lied. I just…I saw…”

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His face fell. “Dammit – but don’t feel pressured or scared, please, it’s just an idea. For now. To be honest, I can see it happening, Sarai…see myself marrying you. It’s something I truly want.”

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“I just…I never thought I’d get married.” I told him, sighing. I’d never believed that anybody would stick around long enough to do so, let alone actively want to. Sometimes it was still hard to believe.

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“Neither did I…but then I started dating you.”

I could have protested and brought up all the bullshit in my past. Honestly, I was tempted. However, looking into Lachlan’s eyes, the words died on my tongue. Images of a possible future flooded my brain, and I felt myself smiling.

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I didn’t need to say anything. I think he could tell by the look on my face. But I made sure he knew it. “I love you. So much. And I think I know what my answer would be.”


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“Ra-ra!” he yelled, still unable to pronounce my name. A few flecks of mush hit me in the eye.

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“You better eat those,” Dianne chastised gently, ruffling his hair. “Anyway. Michael’s coming up as well, if you don’t mind. He and Amy had a massive fight and he’s bummed as hell. I invited him out of pity.”

“Oh shit.” I winced. That might make my news go down a little less well…dammit, I refuse to feel guilty for this! I got engaged to the person who I’m 99.9% sure is the One. Michael can handle it.

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Selfish…people get married all the time. Why do you wanna brag about it?

I wouldn’t sound too gleeful – it was just sharing news. It’s fine! I’m not bad for this.

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“Hi, Michael.” It had been too long. “How is everything? You alright?” I asked.

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He raised an eyebrow. “Did she tell you?” Turning to Dianne, he folded his arms and groaned, “Come on, Di! It’s not that bad, why’d you make it like…a thing?

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“Ok, little bro.” Dianne smirked. “Colt, come on!” she complained as he started throwing handfuls of squashed peas onto the table.

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“Want nugge’s!” he yelled.

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Dianne buried her face in her hand. “He said he didn’t want those when I started making lunch. I’m tired of this sh – stuff.” she hastily amended. “Never mind. Pretty sure you two can guess where I’m at, so how about you?”

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Catching sight of the plate of chicken nuggets on the side of the counter, I wordlessly got up to heat them.

“I got passed up for a promotion – and yeah, I am in a pretty big fight with Amy.”

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Dianne gave a sympathetic little hiss. “Damn, Mike. That’s really tough. But you work really hard, I’m sure you’ll get up there one day…and if Amy isn’t right for you, someone is.”

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“I know…” Michael muttered. “It just sucks right now. I’m pushing through it, though.”

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“That’s what you’ve gotta do.” I reflected. “Just remind yourself that things start looking up, and that feeling like shit doesn’t have to last forever.”

“Yeah…don’t hate me for saying this, but I’m amazed you came out of all of that shit when you were younger…like this.”

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I smiled and shook my head. “I guess you’re right. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself. Speaking of that…” I stuck out my left hand. “So Lachlan proposed last night.”

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Dianne gasped. “I knew he’d make an honest woman out of you! OK, we have to start planning immediately!”

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“Congrats, cuz. I’m really happy for you.” And despite what was going on in Michael’s life, he truly looked it. How did I get so lucky to have such supportive people around me?

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“Siny!” Colton shrieked, pointing at the ring. All three of us adults couldn’t help laughing a little at that. He was being a pain in the ass today, but still so cute!

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“Don’t go catching baby fever, Sarai.” said Dianne. Then she stiffened and awkwardly recoiled. “I mean…sorry.”

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“It’s fine…but I think you may be a little too late for that warning.”

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1.31 – My Sunshine

(A couple NSFW screenshots)

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“What’s eating you, sunshine?”

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I put down my phone and turned to face my boyfriend of almost a year. “Are you being sarcastic?”

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Lachlan reared back and held up his hands. “No! I call you sunshine because you light up my life. But fine. I am asking you this because I noticed you…something appears to be up.”

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Despite the news, I couldn’t help briefly smiling. He’s so sweet. I’m lucky to have him. Without Lachlan, there wouldn’t be an amazing-smelling dinner cooking in the oven, for one thing. “You’re cheesy. And it’s nothing, it’s just…Dianne cancelled lunch. Again. I haven’t seen her in months.” I complained like a child. She’d just had Colton so of course she’d have less time for me.

And you’re pouting about it like a whiny little brat. What’s wrong with you? Be happy for your friend! Isn’t this what you were like when Alexis moved out? Your friends are gonna move on without you…and truly leave you if you don’t start being happy with-

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“Earth to Sarai?”

“Oh.” Now I can’t even pay attention to my loving boyfriend. “Sorry.”

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“I know it sucks.” he said. “But we gotta remember that when life circumstances take our friends a little further away from us, it doesn’t mean they’re leaving for good? I remember you were a proponent of that a couple months ago.” He gave a crooked smile. It had been pretty hard for him, and consequently me, when his closest friend here, Dax, and his husband moved away.

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“I do know that.” I huffed. “It just…it sucks. She already cancelled once. And she won’t let me come over to the house, says it’s too messy. I don’t care about that!”

“She must be really overwhelmed I guess…”

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I tried not to read his tone as accusatory. That’s clearly not what he was going for. Bad person…he thinks you’re a bad person, you are a-

I forced myself to shut the voice up.

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“So maybe talk to your aunt and uncle, see if you guys can help her out a bit.”

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“She won’t want – maybe I could help her hire a cleaning service or something. Maybe she’d be OK with that.” I sighed. “It’s still a bit shit that she can’t do lunch. But,” I took a deep breath. “She’s still there. I’ll be fine.”

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“Yeah you will.” Lachlan stood up and pulled me towards him. After his little talk I felt kinda OK. I rested my head on his shoulder and smiled…cos I think we make a pretty good team.


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My good mood took a dip the second I walked into Lachlan’s apartment. Something was definitely up. Silently praying that he wasn’t getting depressed again – not that I’d mind, I just didn’t want the man I love to go through that again.

“Oh – Sarai. Hi.”

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I smiled. “I guess I’m sunshine today.” – I gently dropped onto the couch beside him, stroking his back.

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“You’re always my sunshine.” The corner of his mouth lifted slightly upwards.

“Glad to hear it. Do you wanna talk, or shall we leave this one?”

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“It’s nothing – OK, fine. It’s something. My parents are in town for some conference and they tried to ambush me at work. Luckily I was leaving for two consecutive viewings, and then they had a bunch of meetings to get to. What a shame that our schedules didn’t align more closely.” he sarcastically finished.

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“At least it wasn’t too long an interaction.” I tried to offer an optimistic spin on the situation. We’d found that helped.

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“Yeah, still too long.” He’s just irritated, it’s not a personal jab at your advice. “Anyway, it was the usual BS – why do I still work at that ‘new-build environmental crap’, why don’t I have a promotion or more money, why don’t I come home and work for them, am I still cooking? They could get me people for that!” he angrily mocked, his voice steadily rising in volume throughout the whole tirade. “Never mind that I’d rather be the fucking janitor for GreenBox instead of putting one foot into Waterman Casinos.”

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“Exactly. You made your own path, and they sound like pretty controlling people, so of course they don’t like it.”

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“The thing is, I know this crap. I mean, it’s not-” I nodded to show that I understood what he meant. “But there’s always that stupid little voice going off in the back of my mind telling me that they’re right and that everything I’ve done was a crapshoot and I’m…a failure.” His voice cracked on that last word. “I’m glad you’re here. I worked myself up into a right state.” He attempted a laugh, but it came out limp and bitter.

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“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” I assured him.


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“I have news!” Kaylyn shrieked, bursting into the office.

“Jesus!” I nearly knocked the laptop onto the floor in surprise. “Does nobody know how to knock?”

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“Sorry, sorry, I’m just really excited, really happy – like I said, hon, I’ve got news!”

“Oh…what is it?” I asked.

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“I’m pregnant!”

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I didn’t expect that. “Th-that’s great!” I stuttered out, trying to smile. Internally, my mind was racing. Would it be like when this place first opened and I did everything because I made myself, except this time it would be out of necessity? Was Kaylyn going to have as hard a time adjusting to motherhood as Dianne did, and drop out of my life for months?

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“You’re not – I’m sorry -” Kaylyn tripped over her words. I knew what she was getting at. Even after all these years my heart slightly tugged when I thought of Nolan.

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“It’s not that.” I assured her. “I’ve moved past it. I was just thinking about…well this place. It’ll be a lot-”

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“I thought of it the second we started trying! I’ll hire someone to do the reception work, so Ann can focus on helping you with management. She knows the place really well. I have it handled, Sarai – you know I wouldn’t leave you hanging.” Her tone was serious.

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“Thank you.” I gripped her hand for a second. “I’m really happy for you and Vaughn, I was just – surprised! I never knew you guys wanted a kid.”

“We’ve been considering it for a long time…and finally took the plunge.” Kaylyn said. “I found out a month ago – and I couldn’t be happier, seriously.”

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I gave her a hug and she left me to scheduling. Cognitively I was truly happy for her – she was so elated and I care about her, why wouldn’t I be? But I felt empty and alone. Even though we’re still friends.

You’re just whining because both of your friends went off to have their own families and your selfish ass can’t deal.

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Or maybe I just miss the way things used to be between us. Besides, I know that I have never once acted like both of my closest friends getting pregnant and going off to focus on that was an attack on me. Maybe I’m in the clear here.

There’s nothing wrong with missing someone.

Plus, I still have Lachlan and the studio and a few other people I know. My life is full of so many wonderful things…things I’m still not sure I deserve, given all the shit I’ve done…

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What would Lachlan do about this? After Dax moved away, he got closer to some of the people at work. Uriah and Owen and Delia are all really nice.

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Then there’s the roommate I used to have…I don’t see Alexis nearly enough since she moved out. And I remember mentioning lack of desire to have a child…


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“Hey, it’s me…it’s Sarai. I know it’s been a while. I’m sorry. Things have been crazy. Do you wanna see Maybelle Goes Away or something?”

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“Fuck yeah! Emma hates horror, she’ll love it if you take me out instead.” Alexis joked. “Let’s do it. And we can grab a meal on one end of it. It’ll be nice to catch up.”

1.30 – Held

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It had been two weeks since Lachlan had asked me out. There had been three proper dates. And I was walking on air…apart from the insecurities that wanted to get in my way. But I wouldn’t let them. He likes me. I like him. Don’t overthink it.

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And I had the weekend off. I was already thinking about stuff I wanted to do with him. Maybe we could go to the museum – there was a new modernist exhibition on. Or maybe he’d want to cook for me again. Last Sunday he’d surprised me with a large pot of lentil stew.

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“I mean…I can take it back.” he’d said, when I stood there unable to say anything. “It’s just…you said last night that you were gonna be really busy this week and wouldn’t have time to do anything so I thought-”

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“It’s perfect!” I’d exclaimed, flinging myself into his arms. I really meant it. He was the sweetest man alive and I knew I didn’t deserve him. Who would be this thoughtful?

Lachlan, that’s who.

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You’re so fucking lucky…out of all the people, why did he pick you?

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He likes me. I’ve been nice to him. I have. It’s not so implausible…


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“I’m just gonna say…I feel really lucky, Lach.”

I swear I heard him mutter something about being really lucky…why? I’m the lucky one. He’s the one who’s gonna have to put up with me and my crazy work hours and stressy bullshit.

We were on his couch watching movies. Really just watching movies. Dianne had given me a pass on Simchanted this week, but she had a good laugh when I went round to see her new place – Brice’s place – and told her of my plans with Lachlan.

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“You’re so cute.” she’d said. “I’m not trying to be bitchy or anything but you know enough to know that it isn’t just gonna be movies.”

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I flushed. “I’m not like that anymore!” I protested.

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“Slut-shaming yourself is getting really old, Sarai. And you two have known each other for aaaages. Also, just gonna say, Lachlan is fine. Hit that.”

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“Dianne!” I shrieked, as she burst into more peals of laughter.

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“Ha, you’re easy to wind up. Oh, I kind of miss being a single woman…”

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“What are you thinking about?”

I blushed and looked away. I wasn’t going to tell Lachlan about this. What if he did already want to have sex with me? I never went this slow before, but I was changing my approach to men and relationships…what if holding back was gonna make me lose him?

Be honest, came Alessandra’s voice in my head. You’ll never find the answers trying to analyse it in your head.

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I shifted off him.

“You don’t think…this is…too slow?” I questioned, cringing slightly.

“What?”

“I mean…we…”

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“I like the way things are.” Lachlan reassured me. “Do you not? Because I’ll-”

“I do!” I hurriedly protested. He placed an arm around me and squeezing me tight, “Honestly. I’m happy, Lachlan. I’m so glad you asked me out.”

He lifted me back into his lap and looked straight into my eyes.

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“I’ll tell you something…when the kind, beautiful woman I’d just leased a property to gave me a reminder of where the past is in the lobby of that restaurant, I could have kissed her right there. It’s been over a year since then, hasn’t it?”

“I didn’t realise you…” He’d liked me all along? Even before I properly knew his history, and how to help him? I’d been enough without that connection? Impossible…but he wouldn’t lie to me. I know he wouldn’t.

“Yeah. Took a while for me to grow some balls, huh?” he laughed. “My point is…I’ve waited this long; I can wait longer.”

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“OK.” I sighed in relief and rested my head on his shoulder.

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I woke up an hour later having used him as a pillow. “Evening.” he said. Just that word sent happy shivers down my spine. It felt so good to be held like that…but not just because I was being held. It was good because it’s Lachlan.


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“Sarai, you are absolutely glowing today!” Ann exclaimed when I walked past the desk on Monday. “Good weekend?”

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“Yeah.” I replied, with a smile. Despite the early hour, there was definitely a bounce in my step.

It had been. I’d actually gotten one off because Cherie and Kaylyn wanted to run a meditation thing. Apparently it had gone well for them, but I’d guess that my weekend was even better.


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I’ve gone through it so many times. I know what I’m going to say. It’s been a month and a half. I asked Dianne and looked shit up online. This is fine. I’m not being weird…not completely weird.

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My stomach roiled and churned in fear. It’s such a difficult conversation to have…but I need to have it. I’m chasing my happiness. And I’m allowed to do so, I reminded myself.

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“What is it, Sarai?” Lachlan asked once I opened the door. “Decided to flick me already?” he joked with a grimace, though pain was evident on his face.

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“What? No!” I almost snapped. “Uh…sorry if it sounded that way. I wanna talk…about this.” I gestured between us.

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He relaxed. “Oh. I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions and saying that. It was shitty of me.”

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“It’s alright. I still…I just wanna say-” Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck, here goes nothing. “I was wondering if you want to make things official. Be my boyfriend?”

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“Damn, that’s way better than what I thought – again, I’m sorry for that! Yes, absolutely yes!” he exclaimed. His smile was infectious, and I started to beam as well.

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Then my face fell when I remembered the rest of my little rehearsed spiel.

Of course he noticed. He’s always been so good at picking up on my moods and what I’m thinking. “We’re cut from the same cloth,” he’d said last week.

Sad, but true.

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“What else, Sarai?”

“But I need to tell you…I haven’t had a real relationship before. Of course I’ve dated.” Lots of dates. So many that you never let get anywhere. But I was doing so now. And maybe if I had I wouldn’t be with this amazing man next to me. “But never like…a long-term boyfriend. I was always too-” Memories of the stinging hatred and disgust I felt towards myself played over in my head, reminding me of the misery I caused myself. “Too scared. I was scared. But I think it’s something you should know.”

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He shrugged. “It’s awful you felt that way. But you don’t anymore – that’s important. And as I’ve said to you before, whatever is in the past is there. I like you now. And look, now you do have a boyfriend.” he joked.

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“I know! And I couldn’t be happier! But I might be…really bad at it. This relationship thing.” Are you trying to ruin this, I shouted at myself.

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“Sarai, my past relationships have been no picnic, let me tell you that. A shitty attitude and depression kinda does it. And it’s been a couple years since I had one. So my history ain’t great either – let’s face it together.” He took my hand. “I’ll tell you this – it’s not going to be perfect.”

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“I know. But…it’s you.” I whispered. Even though it was cheesy.

“And it’s you too, Sarai. This’ll be enough for us. More than enough.”

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1.29 – I Like You

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It’s been nearly three months since the studio opened. I was such a fucking wreck…

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Two weeks in Kaylyn made me go back to a therapist. She asked me how I was doing at work and I completely lost my voice. Not literally, it’s just…I couldn’t think of what to say, and when I fudged something I sounded so small and low and broken. Then she handed me a tissue, and I realised that there were tears running down my face, and I felt broken.

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“I can’t afford it.” was my response to the therapy suggestion. “I’m putting everything into this place.”

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“Then let me make up the difference.” I opened my mouth to protest, but Kaylyn held out a hand. “Don’t. Don’t argue with me. Look at it this way – is this place going to do well with a sad and anxious manager? I don’t think so. You’ll help out both our wallets in the long run, hon. Please go.”

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“I’m doing fine now.” I tried to argue. “And so is the place.”

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“You’re gonna burn out like this. Please. You gotta get some help.”

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I returned to Alessandra. I was so afraid that she’d think I had failed. I never realised just how much I’d wanted her to be proud of me…

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But she was reassuring and told me it was normal for shit like this to reappear during times of high stress. I spent a couple years after the first round of therapy teaching myself to just take kindness at face level…and I guess I managed to keep some of it up? It was surprisingly easy for me to accept her advice and consolation.

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I’m finding some semblance of a healthy psyche again. Kaylyn was right. And I’m starting to truly believe that I’ve got friends who will always be here for me.

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Dianne, my cousin, who comes over for movie nights and still invites me for dinner with Uncle Miles, Aunt Adela and Michael. Who reached out to me when I was pregnant and alone, despite how I’d been treating her all our lives…

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Kaylyn, who good-naturedly competes with me in all things fitness and trusted me enough to go into business with me…

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Alexis, who has lived with and supported me for years; she’s moving out soon but I’ve found a new roommate in no small part due to her help, so that’s fine, and even if I hadn’t…I would really be happy for her…

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And Lachlan, who I haven’t even known a full year yet, but who understands me better than anyone else…

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As Alessandra tells me: I had a relapse. Things got kinda bad again. But it doesn’t make everything I worked on after Nolan invalid.

And I’ve come out…pretty much unscathed.


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“How are you doing?” I asked. If Lachlan took my last class of the day, he came to talk to me afterwards. He attended three nights a week, and this was one of them.

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“Better. Not so tired…and I feel like shit’s worth it again, ya know.”

“Well,” I gave a bright laugh. “Same. Here’s to mental health.”

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“To mental health.” Lachlan chuckled, giving me a high-five. “Your classes are better now that you’re less anxious – not that they weren’t good before.” he hastily added. I smirked. I knew what he meant…but I could mess with my friends sometimes, right? “They were very good.” he rambled. “As amazing as the woman teaching them.”

“Thanks.” I said.

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Damn you, Lachlan, I thought, as my cheeks heated up. Whenever he said crap like that my heart always skipped a beat, my stomach flipping around. Full-on butterflies. Because you like him.

It’s useless. Why would he like you, I snidely thought. You’re you.

And I’m…fine, I reminded myself. I’m a decent person. But he’s a friend and he definitely doesn’t feel the same way…he can’t.

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“Smoothies tonight? Or we could go to that bakery you like?” I asked as we headed out of the studio. I could cut loose with desserts tonight, right? I do so much yoga nowadays that it really wouldn’t make a difference to my physique.

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“Sorry, I have a bunch of paperwork I kind of let pile up, and some is due for tomorrow. How about Friday we-?”

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“You don’t come here on Fridays.” I said in confusion. Realising I’d interrupted him, I cringed and apologised. “Sorry.”

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“No.” he muttered, rubbing his forehead. “No, but I was – fuck, what am I – I mean, I would like to come here anyway and…” He trailed off. His mouth was moving but he wasn’t actually saying anything I could hear.

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“Make up the smoothie date?” I lightly offered. Fuck! Date?! Why did you say that?

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“Yeah! But…like, not smoothies? Like…a restaurant? There’s this really nice fish restaurant that’s pretty close…and the date part as well. Thank you for saying that. That is…that’s what I was going to…”

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“You wanna take me on a date?” I decided to put him out of his misery. No point messing with him for this.

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He sighed in relief. “Yes. Yes I do. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t want to given the complete hash I made of asking you.”

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“It’s OK. You were nervous…I dunno why tho.” I said, shrugging. It’s just me.

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“Cos I like you?” he mumbled. “There, I’ve played my whole hand, I-”

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“I want to!” I cried. “I like you as well, Lach…and I like, fish…” When was I ever this flustered? I truly didn’t judge Lachlan for completely losing his cool, but now I actually understood how and why it happened. “So yeah. Fish restaurant. Date. It’ll be fun.”

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“See you then.” He pulled me into a hug. His arms felt so nice wrapped around my waist. I rested my head on his shoulder and nuzzled into his neck. Lachlan liked me. He asked me out.

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I stepped back from the embrace…and then leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. His eyes widened in surprise…but he smiled, grasped my hands, and then finally headed off.

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He really does like me…


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“Sarai!” Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Dianne charging into the office, looking frantic.

“What is it, Di?” I didn’t really appreciate being interrupted on my break…you’re selfish. But I was still gonna help her out…or hear her out, whatever it was.

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“I’m engaged!” she exclaimed.

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I nearly knocked over my granola bowl. “Wh – what? To Brice?” They’d only been dating nine months, and I never got the impression that her feelings ran that deep…what do you know, you’ve never had a real relationship!

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If Dianne, who’s obviously amazing, but has had a slew of relationships that ended pretty awfully, can get engaged…maybe there’s hope for me too.

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“Yeah…” she sighed. Not the dreamy sigh I’d expect out of someone newly engaged, but rather more… resigned. “And I’m also pregnant. That’s sort of…”

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“You got engaged ‘cos you’re pregnant?” I repeated incredulously.

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“I don’t know…I guess I would have married him anyway. He’s a good guy and he loves me.” Dianne considered. “I dunno. It’s a lot. Anyway, be my maid of honour?”

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“But…what about all your other friends?” I asked. Dianne isn’t like me – she formed friendships easily. She’d been to college and knew lots of people from there – and she wouldn’t pass all of them up for the cousin who wasn’t even nice to her until she – I – needed someone…would she? I’d done my best to be there for her since but…

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“None of them are as good as you.” Dianne said with a smile. “Please?”

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“If that’s what you want.” I agreed. “And please come over on the weekend…we can talk more about this. I’m not blowing you off, it’s just that I’ve only got five minutes left of my break.”

“OK.” She nodded slowly. “And…anything up with you?”

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I smiled. “Just working as usual…oh, and I have a date with Lachlan tonight.”

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I’m pretty sure Ann’s alarmed look into the office was caused entirely by Dianne’s squeal.


A/N: Gen 2 is upon us soon! 6 chapters left after this. I’d love to have some of your guys’ Sims in it! I’ll lay out a few character types. I can just make them myself if needed, so submit anything you wish under #HayesGen2 – my only rule is no aliens, vamps or mermaids pls.

  • Nerd-type teenagers, mixture of girls and boys.
  • More regular teenagers as well.
  • A…denizen of the hidden economy, so to say. Basically – career criminal. I could be more specific but I don’t want to spoil anything.
  • Manual labourers – can be either men or women.
  • 30+ wealthy-looking clientele (say…the sort that might frequent a yoga studio lol)

Also, blooper:

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1.27 – Stressed

 

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After months of work, opening day was finally upon us. I’d loved every second of it. The designing, the making of the schedules, getting to come up with my own routines – even being stuck in a headstand while someone took photos for our website was enjoyable, despite the blood rush.

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I didn’t even have time to straighten my hair most days, so I just stopped. It was strange to abandon a habit I’d been started on at eight, but I like it curly. It was Clarissa who didn’t…and I don’t heed any of her advice anymore.

I had a full schedule of classes and a lot of nerves building up within me. Now the pressure was on me to not completely screw it up. Kaylyn, though she loved yoga and fitness, had a lot else on her plate. Her role was putting in capital, plus a little financial management. She and Vaughn had other investments to deal with. So I was managing this place.

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“Hey.” Kaylyn gently shook my shoulder. “Chin up. Look – we did all this!”

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“I’m nervous.” I admitted.

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“I drowned the nerves in a glass of wine.” Kaylyn joked. “I get it, though. It’s normal to be nervous – you’re running your own business, that’s crazy and scary and all! But Sarai, in all the time I’ve known you I’ve never seen you give less than 100%! So you’re gon’ crush this, sweetie. And it’s not just you. You’re not alone. We’ve got our team, remember?” Her eyes shone like she really did believe in me. Why? Why would she do that? Why would she go into business with you? This doesn’t make sense. You screw things up.

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This has been going well so far, I reminded myself.

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Our team – Mikhail, Cherie and Ann – filing into the studio stopped the impending thought-spiral. Kaylyn had invited them all in for drinks before we opened tomorrow.

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“Cheers.” Ann, the studio hostess, said, clinking glasses with Kaylyn. “I need this job, and this place looks amazing. Thanks for the opportunity.”

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“Doesn’t it!” Mikhail, a very muscular instructor with a background in Pilates, exclaimed. “I’m pretty damn excited, I gotta say!”

Cherie, our final instructor, and in charge of  the meditation sessions tacked onto the end of some classes, silently nodded her agreement.

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“To the Lotus Flower!” Kaylyn cheered. She drained her glass and set it down. I drank from my own and tried to ignore the growing anxiety gnawing at my stomach.


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It was so fucking real. For a good five seconds after I woke up, I was sure that I was back in that apartment, destined to live there forever.

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It reminded me of the nightmares I had when I was younger. Clarissa would put me into the street and I’d be alone, and then nobody would want me. It probably didn’t help that Clarissa was wholly unsympathetic when I snivelled my way through the next morning. Then, like all kids, I grew out of that.

Waking up, almost in tears, after dreaming something so relevant to my life made me feel like that scared kid stuck under her cold, cruel aunt again.

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I applied a thick layer of concealer under my eyes and pulled my hair up, leaving it curly. Then I put on my new set of workout gear and prepared myself to face the day.

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Because adults can’t cry through a morning. Adults have to get up and face the day like nothing even happened. And I’m a successful adult with my own business. Ha, successful? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. And it’s Kaylyn’s anyway, you were too fucking broke. And you will be once you fail.

I took a deep breath and left for my first class.

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Was I off my game? Each class brought a few words of praise. Maybe they were just being polite. They’d probably never come back. Kaylyn and Vaughn had emphasised over and over again that we needed a strong client base to succeed.

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And you offered to get that – you, the girl who could never get anyone to stick around. How many people left you? How many did you leave?

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I don’t need to think about that. Dianne, Kaylyn, Alexis, Lachlan, Michael, Uncle Miles, Aunt Adela. They had stuck around for a while now.

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But memories kept on flooding my brain, washing over me in a painful haze, reminding me of how greatly they were outweighed by those who were no longer in my life. At several points I had to take deep breaths, just so I didn’t cry, because there would be no coming back from that one.

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Between the morning and lunchtime classes, I locked myself in the office. Ann went on her break. I sat with my head in my hands and took quick, heavy breaths. Pull yourself together. You can’t fuck this up. You can’t!

Someone knocked on the door.

“I’m busy!” I breathlessly called. “Just – uh -”

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“Yeah, I get it.” I recognised the voice as Lachlan’s. Why was he here? It’s not like he cares, he got the property leased after all. Wait, that’s fucking stupid, why would he have kept up a friendship for months after the fact if that was the case? “Can I tempt you with a smoothie break then? Mixed berry’s your favourite, right?” He sounded so hopeful, and I knew I couldn’t leave him hanging, not if he’d come all this way. The place down the road is also excellent…

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“OK.” I came out of the office.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“Fine.” I answered, after a moment’s hesitation.

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He raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”

You must look like a real fucking mess.

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“I’m s – OK, well I’m stressed. I’m really fucking stressed. Everything just feels wrong.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, and guilt began to eat at me. Lachlan didn’t come here for this.

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“Of course you’re stressed! You – it’s the first day of your new business. That’s pretty stressful. But remember what I said? This – what you’re doing here – that’s cool as hell. I’d never have the balls to work for myself.”

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I managed to crack a smile. “Thanks, but…I don’t know, it’s…it’s pressure.” I sounded like a gabbling idiot. Why did he put up with me? Why wasn’t he halfway out the building by now?

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“Of course. Look – businesses fail, that’s a fact of life. I don’t think yours will. I just saw loads of people leave.”

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“It’s just the first day. And Lachlan – I can’t let them down!”I burst out, close to angry tears. I didn’t want to shout at him and be a bitch like I used to – and still sometimes am – but why wouldn’t he get it?

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“No matter what, you’ll still have the people who matter in your life. And you – you, Sarai Hayes – have not failed if you did everything in your power to help your studio. And from what I know, you’ve worked your ass off. You’ve already succeeded, OK?” He took a breath. “Phew. Dunno where that came from. But you’re amazing, and this place is amazing – and I wanna buy your largest class bundle.”

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“Thanks.” I mumbled. Suddenly, I had fallen into his arms.

Yeah, right. If you fuck this up, you’re the fuckup. 

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“Seriously, Sarai. You’re doing great.” he whispered into my hair, and despite the anxiety growing within me, I smiled.

 

 

1.26 – The Same Thing

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After we had signed the papers, I’d caught Kaylyn slipping my number to Lachlan. Nice try, I thought. I rolled my eyes at her and she suppressed a grin, eyes innocently twinkling.

He actually used the number to congratulate me when the paperwork went through and our lease was official. Kaylyn, also a possessor of the number, invited him to dinner with her husband, herself, and I.

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“Sorry…if this is weird.” I apologised. “It’s OK, you made the sale, you don’t need to hang around me anymore.”

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He shrugged. “It’s not like I’m forcing myself to attend. You’re actually really nice – both of you. This’ll be fun – plus I heard the fish here is amazing.”

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Over dessert – which I managed to let myself eat for once – the topic of childhoods came up with Vaughn’s innocuous ‘so did you grow up here?’ question, directed at Lachlan.

Awkwardly shifting, he stared down and away from us. “I…no. I was raised in Sunlit Tides. But I got out of there quite quickly.”

“Sunlit Tides is gorgeous though!” Kaylyn gushed. “Blue skies all year, that beautiful ocean…I don’t think I’d ever leave.”

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I noticed Lachlan squirming slightly, opening and closing his mouth several times. He eventually settled on saying nothing.

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“I guess the economy’s pretty tourism-dependent; there’s far more jobs here.” Vaughn considered. Lachlan quickly agreed and the topic was dropped in favour of a discussion of our dream vacations.

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I recognised his facial expression because it was the same one I felt myself wearing whenever the past and ‘where did you grow up’ came up at social events – recently, I’d been networking with Kaylyn to put the word about our yoga studio out there. The biting of the lip, eyes darting frantically as you try desperately to not make things awkward with a sad story…

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“Never mind Sunlit Tides.” I told Lachlan, as we left the restaurant. “Whatever’s there is there. You don’t have to talk about it. Or think about it.”

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He simply nodded and thanked me, but despite a voice in my head telling me I’d fucked it all up, I could see and accept that…he actually appreciated my clumsy, cryptic advice. And maybe, he knew that I knew, so he knew that I had the same thing going on.


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Whatever it was, it seemed that moment was what led to Lachlan and I becoming actual friends. Despite Kaylyn’s attempts, that was all…but he did add even more good to my life.


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I’d known Dianne since we were kids, so I knew her ‘ideas’ face. She’d been wearing it when I let her in. Plus, she was murmuring to herself while she used the new coffee machine. In conclusion, she was up to something.

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“So,” She sauntered over and sat down, mug in hand. “Khalil’s friend Raj is coming back into town tomorrow and your date is on Thursday, you’re welcome.”

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I raised an eyebrow. “…Aren’t you and Khalil breaking up?” Why would you remind her of that. Shitty, worthless friend – well, actually, I said it because it was relevant to the conversation at hand. So that inner voice could shut it.

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“Yeah. We are. So?”

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“So why am I going on a date with your ex’s friend?” I asked, sighing. Dating’s something I’ve stayed away from for a long time. I haven’t even had sex since that random guy two months after Nolan was born (real classy, huh, Sarai?). I’m at a stable place. Things are good. Why risk fucking it all up? I’d just make the same stupid, whorish decisions I used to…

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“Because it’s all set up and you need to get back out there.” she retorted.

“Says who?”

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“Says I. I know you best. Plus you’re always complaining about being alone-”

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“That’s just me joking. Yes, I’m single, but I don’t – I don’t want to date again. It’s too much.” I protested. “You know I’m afraid of going…back to how I used to be.” I cringed. It was so fucking pointless to remind her of my old ways and self, yet of course I’d done it. You always-

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Dianne’s face fell slightly, her eyes hard and serious. “OK, OK, mine’s just jokes as well. I won’t force you, Sarai. But…I just want to say, I think you are ready for real, true romance. You’ve put in so much work. And if you do sleep with this guy and never call him again – so what? Don’t shame yourself if you enjoyed yourself.”

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I suppressed a scoff. She still doesn’t really get it. I’d give everything to whatever guy said I’m pretty, get lost and swept up in a moment, desperate for any kind of fucking attention only to run away from the situation in the end. I wanted to avoid that. I’d seen that it was an unhealthy pattern, and I know I can’t go back.

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She seemed to know what I was thinking. “Obviously only do that if you really want to. Not just…for the hell of it, y’know?” she fudged, awkwardly gesturing. This was uncomfortable. I made her uncomfortable.

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“Sorry. I’ll do it. The date, I mean.” I told her, just wanting to end the conversation.

“What are you apologising for? Come on, we have to watch Simchanted now. I’ve gotta be at work in an hour.” That was the whole reason she was here; it was our show on Saturday evenings – the same evenings she worked behind the bar at a restaurant on Kells Avenue.

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“You’ll definitely be late.” I pointed out.

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“Not late enough to get in trouble – if you hurry up and turn the TV on.”


Five days later, I was regretting giving in so easily. Well, not so much giving in as being weak and agreeing to avoid a conversation. Coward.

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I’d had to cancel on Lachlan. Most Thursdays we got together at one of our places, I’d teach him yoga stuff, he’d make us food and we’d watch one of his geeky films. I’d grown to enjoy those movies and those times, and now I was skipping it…for this.

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“So you’re – what was it, Dianne’s cousin.”

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“Yeah.” I answered, not really sure what else to say to such a greeting. No ‘hi’ and introduction? Really?

You’ve fucked guys without getting that, I sneeringly reminded myself. With gentle chastisement, I told myself that that fact didn’t mean I’d do so now.

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Our date didn’t last long. Raj would not stop talking about himself, and even if I didn’t always believe it, I knew that in relationships, the other person should take an interest in me. Mutual interest is healthy, like Alessandra said. God, how did I still rely on my CBT quotes to guide me through basic socialisation?

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He didn’t say anything when I ordered a sparkling water, and later explained that I didn’t drink when he asked me, but he got this weird look in his eye. Like I was a freak. The appetisers looked really good but I pretended that I didn’t want any of them because I wanted it to be over. I nearly always skipped dessert anyway.

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I left the restaurant thinking about the fact that Lachlan’s incredulous reaction to this whole situation made me laugh twice as hard as anything that guy said throughout the whole hour and a half. And I really regretted skipping out on him.

 

1.24 – A Whole Year

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“I wasn’t sure about this…but it’s been great – thank you so much.”

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Alessandra smiled. “It’s been a pleasure, to see your improvements over these months. You hold your head up higher, you smile more…you’re more engaged with me than you were before.” 

“And I think…I’m getting so much better at knowing when I’m thinking or speaking negatively, and when it’s unfounded.”

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“Yes. I would hope so.” she replied, with a light laugh.

“I…I feel so much better.”


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That was a few months ago now. I was free to come back if I felt myself slipping but I didn’t attend regular sessions. Maybe I could have done with more therapy, but even though she was nice, she was expensive. You couldn’t really afford it…you didn’t even need – stop.

I took a few deep breaths and kept walking. Today, I had a plan, of the social kind. Well, kind of. I was just gonna work out with a friend.

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“Hi, Kay.”

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Kaylyn raised a hand and smiled. “Heya, Sarai. How’s it all going, huh?”

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“Pretty good…that new boutique place on 18th gave me another class, so now I’m doing Mondays to Thursdays. And I’m invited to dinner at my Uncle’s again. You?” I queried, as we headed for the punching-bags.

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“Eh…not so good. Vaughn’s gonna be stuck in Bridgeport for who knows how long and I got m’self roped into manicures with Kody’s newest girlfriend.” She rolled her eyes. “I am not in the mood for this shit, ya know?”

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“Oh, what? That’s no fun.” I exclaimed. I probably sounded kind of stupid, so I corrected myself. “I mean…sorry. Yeah, that all sounds like it sucks. I hope he gets back soon and you can think of an excuse.”

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Laughing, Kaylyn shook her head. “Trust me hon, I’m already trying. You can help me after we beat these bags into submission. And remember, let’s not go easy on each other. I’ll call you out if you’re slacking and you’ll be doing the same, hmm?” She reached for her boxing gloves.

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I nodded and grinned. There were perks to having a friend as fitness-mad as me. We’d actually met because she came to one of my yoga classes. I wasn’t supposed to be teaching that one but Jalen called in sick that afternoon, and I still pick up anything that needs to be done at work.

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“You’re really good.” she’d said. “Actually better than the other guy, I’d say.” Immediately I hadn’t believed her, but then why would she lie to a total stranger?

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“Um…thanks. Seriously, thanks a lot! That’s so nice of you to say.” I’d returned, a little hesitantly.

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“It’s only what I’m thinkin’.” And we ended up chatting a lot more about yoga, and then we moved onto exercise in general…

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Somehow four months later we were good friends…I didn’t screw it up, and I’m really glad about that. It’s always so much fun with her. Talking about ourselves and our lives had got to be as easy as working out together. I’d met her brother, Kody, and her fiancé Vaughn. She’d met Dianne, and they got along pretty well. Yes, I had another friend, and while that might be a bit pathetic to celebrate, every little thing helps.


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You didn’t tell her everything, I reminded myself as I walked home. I’d told her about my job, and small things that went on in my life…I was still in therapy when we met and I hesitantly brought it up. I wanted to test her reaction, I suppose…but it was fine. I even mentioned some of my ex-flings from ages ago, when the situation called for it, and I brought up Clarissa in a fairly normal fashion when we started talking about family.

I didn’t talk about Nolan though. Kaylyn didn’t know I’d been pregnant and given the kid up. But she was already having a shitty week…why would I bring that up today? I could still hear Alessandra in my head: good and healthy friendships are supposed to be reciprocal…but it wouldn’t be if I started talking about Nolan. She never dumped stuff like this on me.

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Today would have been a good time if I was going to tell her…it’s nearly a whole year since I gave birth. Tomorrow would be his first birthday. Maybe I’d get another email. No matter how upset the first one made me I’ve still anticipated the next one with at least some excitement.

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I sometimes wished Lela would email me more…but you’re not entitled to that so stop fucking whining about it.

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He would be crawling around and trying to talk by now…I think. I don’t know much about babies. And honestly, I’m not sure I would have made the best parent. Not enough money, no father in the picture, no family who wanted to help me…

I needed to sort out my life and issues before I could be ready. And that’s why it was so damn stupid to miss him and whine about it…I mean, that’s why I thought that, in the past.

I knew that both sentiments could coexist but I still had yet to believe it.

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Perhaps I was doing better. Six months ago the idea simply hadn’t occurred to me. I was sure that anything I felt about Nolan was shameful. Ridiculous. Maybe it didn’t make logical sense but I had felt better after I just…let the feelings happen.


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Nolan’s first birthday! was the subject of the email I received two days after that date. As usual, there were pictures of him enclosed, and Lela’s polite, chatty prose surrounding them.

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And it hurt a little, to see it. I reminded myself you can be sad. It doesn’t matter that you couldn’t raise him, or that it’s been an entire year. I can be upset and then move past it. It will make me feel better in the long run.

I’d finally let myself grieve, all those months ago when Alessandra advised me to just feel.

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I don’t know if I miss you. I didn’t really even know you. I traced my finger down his dimpled, smiling face. So much has changed since he was born…for the better. I’m not sure how things would have gone if I’d kept him. Then again, why think about that? What I’ve managed to get done this year…it’s surprising, in the best possible way. It’s been a good one. And that’s what matters.

1.22 – Not Nolan

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Don’t ask this…just do as you’re told, I kept on thinking. Alessandra always wanted to focus on my present, and future. Move on from the past, and the negative way I saw myself and all of that. I understood why.

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Yet I wanted to talk about memories nearly twenty years old. And I was going to. This was supposed to be for me, wasn’t it?

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Most of them were heavily tinged with raw shame, and fear, and tears, as well as a lot of the stuff I told myself to this day. I didn’t really remember-

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“Hi, Sarai, come in, how are you?”

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“Alessandra.” I said to her, once we were both seated. “I know you have a plan for these sessions, and, um, I know I’m not supposed to-I just would like to talk about…the past.”

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“All right. Could you be a little more specific?”

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“I kind of realised that a lot of what I say to myself – the negative thoughts – comes from when I was a kid. You’ve talked about episodes and that but this isn’t an episode – it’s not Nolan.” It was getting easier to say his name. “I think I’m just…like this. And I’m trying so hard not to be but it’s been years!” My voice rose in volume and speed. “I don’t know how to undo this and I-“

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“All right.” she slowly repeated. “What was being said? And who was saying it?”

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“Just the usual stuff – I was being weak or whiny or stupid or disappointing my mom – she’s dead, by the way, I think I said that-“ Alessandra nodded. “It was…it was my Aunt. She raised me from when I was three. And – I just realised – I don’t remember her ever being happy with me. I was never good enough.”

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She sighed and shook her head, her eyes closing and mouth turning downwards. Her expression appeared almost sorrowful. “I’m not surprised you’ve internalised these things to such a degree. What we’re told and what we experience when young can deeply affect our adult lives.”

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“So I can’t change?” What was I doing here then? You’ll be like this forever, you stupid bitch.

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“I won’t lie to you, it will be difficult. You…hold these ideas close. The idea that you can’t feel your feelings, or that you’re stupid, or disappointing – they drive you.”

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“But I – I kind of hate her. I know she kept me alive and out of foster care and I’m an ungrateful bitch or whatever but I hate her. I know she isn’t – wasn’t a good parent and…why would I listen to her?” Before I might have claimed that I don’t. That all of this shit I tell myself was my own idea. But now I don’t think that’s true.

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For years I held the belief that even though Clarissa was cruel, she had the right idea about me. That lots of the things she said was true…her only problem was how she said them. Was I wrong all that time? Perhaps she was the one with the problem, which twisted how she saw me.

I said as much to Alessandra.

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“Well…you’re learning to relate to yourself in a more positive, evidence-based manner. You have to judge yourself in that way too. Not on the words of a harsh parental figure, taken completely to heart by a child.”

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“So I just have to keep doing what I do now. With the thought-catching and stuff.”

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She nodded. “You do. You need to be driven by a different way of thinking.”

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You can’t do it anyway, it’s been so long…twenty fucking years. How do you undo twenty years of thinking…knowing what you’re like. Why should you anyway? It’s true…but I know a lot of it’s from Clarissa, and nothing ever pleased her. She’d have parties and get promotions and visit her brother and it never brightened that dour, unimpressed face. I wasn’t any different. I couldn’t please her.

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Those weren’t the kind of standards I wanted to apply to my own life. I actually want to be happy, and I can admit it now. I‘m Sarai Amara Hayes and I hate – don’t think much of myself but I’m working on changing and improving my life. I repeated it in my head a few times, and smiled a little.

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But you can’t…


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Twenty-five minutes later my session was over. I didn’t have much to do until my evening classes, so I’d probably go home and meal prep or something.

…Fuck, was that Uncle Miles?

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It was. And he clearly fucking saw me. Now he was coming over.

“Sarai, hi. It’s been a while, huh?” he said with a friendly smile.

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It had been. A year and a half ago, at one of Clarissa’s birthday parties. “Yeah. Sorry about that.” I was fidgeting, occasionally shooting glances at the building behind us. Was it obviously a therapy building? God, I did not want to talk about that.

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“It’s all right…I figured…well, last November Clarissa called me about you and…how is everything?”

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“Good. Great.” I sent another glance back towards the building. Miles looked up at it too. A small grimace of realisation flashed over his face. “Uh…I should go.”

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“Of course, I’m sure you’re busy.” I really wasn’t. “Oh – remember how you and Clarissa would come over on Fridays?” 

“Yeah…” I fidgeted with my hands and tapped the insides of my feet together. Stop acting weird!

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“Well, the kids are coming over for dinner on Friday. You’re welcome to swing by. Great to see you.” He gave me a quick hug and walked off.


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It took me a while but I decided to join them. Aunt Adela probably wouldn’t mind, and Miles actually invited me, I reasoned. So I called Dianne to ask her if we could carpool over there. I didn’t remember the address.

Dianne had a bit of a laugh. “I know why I’m going. My mom’s cooking. You actually wanna hang out with my parents?” she teased.

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“I dunno. It used to be kind of fun going over there…” 

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Hopefully it would still be. This time, Clarissa might not be there. And then she couldn’t have shit to say about it. She’d always find a problem with me; I was always too quiet or too loud and I didn’t talk about the right things. I’d always had fun but…now it would be even better, without her to cast a cloud on the night.

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They don’t want you around, not when you act like that, and it still sounded a lot like Clarissa. “Get out of my head.” I muttered. “It’s going to be fun. And I’m fine.”


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Uncle Miles and I had been doing the dishes, mostly in silence, while Aunt Adela chatted to Dianne and Michael. I’d put away the last of the forks when Miles turned to me.

“You don’t…need to be embarrassed.” he said, and I knew what he was talking about.

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“I…I’m…”

“It’s OK. What you’re doing…therapy, let’s just say it-” He gave a short, nervous laugh. “-can really help you. I know it helped me…”

He was in therapy? I couldn’t fucking believe it! Of all the people I knew, I wouldn’t have guessed that he… had to do that, and fix himself…was he like me? Yeah, and now he’s a normal fucking person with a family… it’s different…but what if it wasn’t? It’s not very ambitious but having this kind of life…being married and having kids that I can actually fucking raise…it sounds so nice. What if it was something I could do? That’s a faraway dream though. I don’t think it’ll happen.

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“Why?” I asked in a small, embarrassed voice.

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He sighed. “It was after the accident…after your mother…it was a lot. I knew I needed to do it – and it helped me in more ways than just dealing with what happened to Kendra.” He cleared his throat and patted my shoulder. “Good luck with it.”

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“What was she like?” I suddenly burst out. Fuck, shut up! “I never knew, and I’ve just got this…one memory.” I never wanted to ask, after a while. Clarissa never talked about her. She’d close off and turn away. Change the subject.

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“Your aunt never…well, I always tried to…well, it’s been so long.” For a few seemingly endless seconds, he was looking past me, appearing stuck somewhere else. “But I’d never forget Kendra…”