Writing can change your life.
I have always had a thing for words, books and paper. Holding the weight of bound pages in my hands has to be one of my favorite feelings. My mom said I've read since I was 3. I find that hard to believe but ok mom. Since as early as I can remember I've been engrossed in books. I was constantly reading.. any word around me be it a billboard or shampoo bottle. There's something about the cadence of a paragraph or the compilation of just the right words that does it for me. As you might imagine, a book in the mail makes for the absolute best day.I've always wanted to be a writer. Dreamed of one day being the author of my own stack of bound pages. I've always had this inkling that I was destined for greatness. I can't sort whether that's founded in something or simply the result of my pre-k teacher's mental programming. Took me years to understand my skills, talents and joys and now that I know, I've dug my heels in and am fulfilling my childhood dream by claiming the title of a writer.I think perhaps this is the greatness my heart has nudged toward my entire life and with my re-found love of writing, I'm turning that lifelong dream into a reality.
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A WOMAN NAMED BELLA // UNTITLED AS OF YET
- CHAPTER 1 -
She pushed the balls of her bare feet into the worn grey porch. The bench began to swing and creak. A sound so familiar it hadn’t consciously caught her attention in years. The creaks of the bench slip by unnoticed but the lack of pressure against her right side is painstakingly evident.The decades of mornings and evenings pressed close, sipping hot tea, staring out at the rolling land punctuated by sunrises and sunsets were imprinted into her thigh. Her life had once felt as ever-changing and colorful as the sky but now Bella’s life felt gripped by varying depths of grey.Continuing on with her life after the death of her husband felt like walking on a bed of needles. Each moment throughout the day a sharp triggering of piercing memories. With every cell of her body she could sense the absence of his energy from the house and her life and as a result she felt incomplete and empty. Thirty-seven years together abruptly ending created a vortex-like void sucking her further and further away from everything she once knew and the person she was familiar with being.🌱🌱🌱Bella flicked a chocolate brown tussle from her eyes then grabbed the book lying in her lap. Reading was her go-to distraction from her now colorless life. She cracked open the binding and a photo slipped facedown onto her lap. An explosion of color fluttered back into Bella’s heart as she stared into the warming blue eyes of her husband’s smiling face. She drew in a long breath to still her heart and the moment. Grief is a wild ride she’d rather not be on yet here she was. Seems like no one gets a choice in the matter.Every time since his death when she’d look at a picture of his face she'd be overtaken by the loss of the person she loved most in the world. Today was the first time in a long time that her eyes weren’t filled by the response of her heart. Baby steps away from the rollercoaster of grief that took her on regular rides.It’s so odd how your world comes crashing down, grinding to a halt yet everyone else’s life continues on. The fragile reality of life shattered in a sheer instant. A mere moment changes everything. The world outside keeps moving as if nothing has happened. One life at a halt while the others zoom by as with no regard to how your world has been turned upside down. Seems like an incongruent and inconsiderate reaction to the world ending.🌱🌱🌱Bella, now distracted from her intention to read, slowed the swinging bench with her feet and made her way to the door. As she reached for the tarnished door handle she heard an engine roaring on the lonely country road. She turned and was taken aback by the car turning into her drive. She squinted to focus her vision and when she realized who it was she crumbled to the ground overtaken by emotion and relief.
- CHAPTER 2 -
She recognized the vehicle jostling down the dusty drive but she hadn’t seen it in so long that she assumed she might never see it again. She gathered her legs underneath her and felt compelled to run for the first time in longer than she could remember. The young man erupted as if channeling her urge to run and bounded toward Bella. His smile overtook his entire face and his straight blonde hair bounced as he made his way to the porch.Bella’s heart felt as though it might explode through her chest. The brilliance of her smile echoing back the radiance erupting from his.“Oh my god..” was all Bella could utter as the man wrapped her into his arms with the amount of pressure that only comes from a loved one you hadn’t seen in too long. A hug so comforting it felt as if her fascia were melting. Immediately more at ease than she’d been since she lost Teddy 5 months ago.“I can’t believe what I’m seeing right now. I can’t.. My mind had me convinced I’d never see you again…” her voice broke.The man pulled her back in for a final squeeze. “It would take more than an ocean to keep me away.”“You’ve grown so much but you’re just as sweet. What a breath of fresh air. I’m so touched that you’re here.”She invited him inside. She had a million and a half questions to ask. He held the door and her shoulder as she stepped across the threshold into her home.She poured two glasses of sweet tea and met him in the living room. “Arlan, if feels both otherworldly and downright normal to have you here sitting in that chair.” He grinned and his face contorted in all the familiar ways despite the years that had passed and him becoming a man.They spent the next 3 hours catching one another up on the last 10 years. Arlan’s adventures across eastern continents, friends gained, loves lost. Bella spoke of her beautiful garden, camping trips with Teddy, a boat that lasted less than 3 days and ultimately the dreaded topic of Teddy’s death.Arlan had been the son Bella and Teddy desperately wanted but could never conceive. The son of their best friends. He’d left one fall nearly 10 years ago for a semester abroad and never returned. You have no control of where those who take up prime real estate in your heart take up camp.When your has been broken and involuntarily rearranged there’s no balm quite like that of a familiar loved one who occupies and activates a good chunk of your heart. The rigid edges of Bella’s heart soften like butter.The three hours pass like 30 minutes. She feels the need to release him from any obligation to continue the conversation. “A final question for you if you’re not too exhausted from the interview already," she giggled softly. "Why are you here? When are you going back?”“Seems as though you and Ma don’t talk as much as you used to. I apologize if I’m delivering news beyond my realm of ownership but I’ve come back to help Ma clear out the house so she can sell it. Figured she woulda mentioned that. She recently decided to move overseas to be closer to me. Not sure if she’s going to settle down somewhere in Italy or not, she doesn’t want to decide until she gets over there and explores a bit. She’ll stay with me in the meantime.”“Well wow! That’s awesome. I kind of fell off a bit the last several months and haven’t spoken with her in what feels like forever. Does she know you’re here at my place?”“I told her this morning I was headed over here. She wanted to come but had to go into town for something. Maybe we could all meet for lunch this week?”“That would be lovely, I’d love to.”“Awesome, I know Ma will too, she misses you. Oh and I’ll be here for as long as it takes to help Ma pack up the house but I don’t imagine it’ll take longer than a couple weeks. I’ll be back by to visit before I leave.”“Thank you Arlan. I’m looking forward to your company and lunch with your mother. It’s been a while since I’ve got out of the house. It’ll be a nice change of scenery.”“It’ll be good for ya. One more thing too, I wanted to apologize for not coming home when Teddy died. It’s been gnawing at me. I feel terrible not being here for you and I can’t imagine how you felt. Ma had said too that you insisted I not..”Bella halted him midsentence with an upraised palm.“Don’t feel any which way. As nice as it would have been to have been comforted by your presence, I made it and being alone is something I needed to get used to anyway.I’m glad you’re here now Arlan, truly, you have your own life thousands of miles away, I wouldn’t expect that of anyone.”“Still makes me feel terrible thinking about you being here alone grieving by yourself. Back in the day, you two were my second set of parents..” he trailed off. “I should have been here.”“I understand why your heart feels that way but please know that mine is at peace around you not paying thousands of dollars to fly across the world. He knew you loved him, I promise.”Arlan rose from his chair, walked the three steps to Bella and bent down to embrace her. A hug, like a picture, is worth a thousand words.“I need to get going for now” he nearly whispered. “I’ll give you a call once I talk with Ma about lunch.”She rose and they walked side by side to the door. “I appreciate you coming by to see me young man. I’m looking forward to seeing you again before you leave and once you do I hope to keep in touch.” They hugged each other tightly. “Be safe Ari.”Arlan walked back to the mustard yellow truck he drove as a teen and Bella returned to her bench swing. He waved an emphatic goodbye and bounced back down the driveway. She sat in a stupor for many minutes watching the dust settle in the driveway. Her heart hadn’t felt much other than grief for the last five months but Arlan sprinkled a dash of love and familiarity back into her day. She didn’t know that this little seed of love and hope would grow into some of the most action-filled moments of her life.
- CHAPTER 3 -
The next couple of days pass quickly. Bella feels a surge of renewed energy and purpose following Arlan’s visit. So much so that even her posture perks up following the suit of her mind. A peace has washed over her and seems to unshackle the grief that had bound her for months. She didn’t realize how closed off she’d become even to herself. She felt different, more like herself for the first time since her heart was ripped from her chest and buried alongside Teddy.It was like a fog had been buffed clear and she was able to see her house, life and self in a new light. She felt great. The only downside was that she could now see the layers of dust that had accumulated as a result of her abandoning her usual cleaning duties for far too many weeks.Bella spent the next several hours dusting every inch of her home. Each item she picked up a reminder of past times. An ornate vase for their time in Japan. Photos from all over the world. Squished together, smiling and happy. Every photo triggering the warmest and bittersweet memories. Tears dropped from her eyes while she smiled thinking of all the wonderful years they had together. They were so good. He heart ached. She missed him so much.As she placed the frame back on the crowded wooden mantle the phone rang jarring her from her thoughts. She crossed the living room to answer the phone she’d ignored and nearly unplugged since she reclused into herself.“Hello?”“Bella.. Hello my friend.” A voice so comforting and familiar.Bella drew in a long settling breath before she spoke. “Maureen. It’s so nice to hear your voice. Thank you for calling. How are you?”“I’m fine, good. How are you? How have you been? You haven’t answered my calls in so long.”Bella paused. “I’m sorry, I know. I’m a terrible friend. It wasn’t personal, I promise, I just couldn’t. I didn’t feel like talking to anyone about anything. My thoughts alone were overwhelming enough and I didn’t want to pile other’s pity for me on top of that.”“No need to apologize, you’ve gotta do what’s best for you. I understand that. I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through, dear. It’s made me sick thinking about you toughing it out all alone. I stopped by several times following the accident but your car was never there.”“Yeah, I spent days on days sitting next to Teddy’s grave clinging to any semblance of comfort from his presence despite him being gone. I probably spent too much time there really, but it was the only thing that helped ease my pain. Honestly, it would have been good for me to talk with someone, I know that. But like I said, my body and mind just said no. Thank you for not giving up on me though.”“I love you Bella, so much. I would never.”“So you know Arlan stopped by a few days ago, yeah?”“Yes, he mentioned it. I was going to come but had to go into town. I was actually reaching out on both of our behalves. He mentioned you agreeing to have lunch with us. Are you still ok with that?”“Absolutely, I’m actually really looking forward to getting out of the house and talking to people. It’s gotten kind of lonely over here.”“I bet and I’m glad you’re open to the idea. Arlan said he mentioned the move to you. I want to apologize for not letting you know but I’d love to spend as much time as possible with you before I go. I don’t know how long it will take to sell the house but the plan is to leave once everything’s tied up over here. We can talk more about it over lunch. Does tomorrow or Thursday work for you?”“Tomorrow will be great. Do you have somewhere in mind?”“Yes actually, there’s this new French restaurant downtown that I think you would love. They even have snails which I know are you favorite. How does that sound?”“Delectable. And like a good time, which I need and am finally feeling ready for.”Bella hung up the phone and sank into her chair. She felt like a child the day before a field trip. She looked forward to catching up with her friend and learning of her plans regarding the move. Having Arlan there would be the icing on the cake. It would be the closest she’d had to family time in too long. As exciting as that was in itself she sat there, closed her eyes and thought about the buttery snails she would consume. A glimpse into how her life would soon change.
- CHAPTER 4 -
She heard a familiar distant rumble. Moments later Maureen’s black SUV bumped down the drive. Bella gathered her purse and set off for the front porch, the screen door slamming shut behind her. She stood on the stairs like a teenager awaiting the arrival of their date. Her heart fluttered in excitement, a feeling she welcomed but assumed had been locked away forever.The black SUV slowed to a stop and Maureen and Arlan exited the vehicle into the crisp fall day. Their shoes crunching the gravel Teddy had laid over the parking area near the house not even a year ago.The two women were pulled together like magnets locking into place. Two pieces of what was once one puzzle. After a long embrace, they gather their arms by their own sides. “It’s so great to see you, you look great,” Maureen started.Choked up by the appearance of her best friend, Bella swallowed the lump in her throat before responding. “Good to see you too my friend. You look.. Vibrant.. 10 years younger. And happy!”“I am indeed!” Maureen answered, “But I'm certainly not 10 years younger nor do I feel like it!”Arlan stepped forward and pulled Bella into a hug, “Long time no see,” Arlan winked at her. Bella’s face brighten and she stuck out her elbow.“Shall we?” Arlan looped his arm through hers and led her to the passenger side door, opening and closing it behind her.🌱🌱🌱The 45 minute drive downtown passed in what felt like 15 minutes. The air space inside the SUV filled with animated conversation and beaming smiles as a familiar warmth permeated the atmosphere.They arrive at the restaurant with their relationship muscles greased from the drive. The host leads the way to a dimly lit back corner and pulls the seats out for each of the ladies. The sconces on the wall provide the only light, casting flickering reflections on the polished silverware. The tablecloth feels like a weighted blanket it their laps. The combination makes Bella feel as if they’d been transported to a different time.“I feel like we just sat down for dinner on the Titanic,” Bella giggled.“Feels like some of the restaurants back home,” Arlan added.“I can just imagine... it must have such an ambiance. So much culture and character. Of all the places Teddy and I traveled, we never made it there. I wish we had…” Bella trailed off into thought.“That’s tough. But you still can. You oughta come visit sometime. Especially now that Ma is going to be there.”“You should,” Maureen chimed in. “We could go explore Italy together, how much fun would that be?!”Bella’s heart flip-flopped in her chest. There was absolutely no way she was leaving the house to travel again. It was the only place she felt close enough to Teddy. Smiling politely Bella brushed off the idea and changed the subject. Leaving the house for lunch today had been the furthest she’d been from the house in almost half a year. The idea almost unhinged her. Her hands began to tingle a bit. Bella thought she might soon slip into a panic attack and completely ruin the vibe and moment but the feeling quickly subsided.For dinner they ordered nearly everything on the menu including 3 orders of buttery, garlicky snails that did not go to waste. The conversation was light and clung to the thread of excitement and opportunity, friendship and family. As the conversation hovered over the subject of Maureen’s plan to move overseas the energy ticked up a notch and a sense of adventure buzzed like a cord stringing them all together. The mental stimulation of imaging the excitment and novelty that Maureen was soon to experierce creating a shared mental movie.🌱🌱🌱She had been divorced from Arlan’s father for over 20 years now and despite the time she had to live beyond their relationship, she hadn’t done much living. She became consumed by work, even more so after Arlan left and didn’t do anything too exciting beyond a trip or two to Mexico with Bella and their late friend Irene. And that felt like forever ago.“Just thinking of going keeps me up at night sometimes. I’m so excited, I feel like a giddy little girl. To live in a different part of the world for the first time, experience some actual culture. So much history and beauty, my gosh! I can’t wait! Something fresh.. new. Shoot, it’ll be a completely different life I imagine.”It was rather thrilling to envision her friend’s new adventure. Good for her, Bella thought. The topic shifted to the Italian Rivera, not far from where Arlan lived. Bella, mesmerized by the description of stone arches, colorful buildings and coves filled with crystal clear shades of turquoise, clung to Arlan’s every word.But as excited as she was for Maureen, she couldn't help but acknowledge the sense of doom trying to overtake her.
- CHAPTER 5 -
A loud jarring scrape sounded from outside of the house drawing Bella's attention away from her book. She placed it on the side table and went to check on Teddy outside. He was in the midst of repairing the siding under the rain gutters which had succumbed to rot from a leak. As she rounded the corner of the house she was shocked to see Teddy unmoving on the ground beside the ladder. Panicked coursed through her veins and her legs quickened into a sprint.“Teddy!” she yelled, kneeling down in the grass beside him. He didn’t respond. “TEDDY!! Honey, are you okay can you hear me?” her heart in her throat, her mind racing. “Baby wake up!” She timidly hovered her hand above his lips. “Oh my god, oh my god. HELP!” she screamed.She bolted back inside and dialed 911. “My husband has fallen off the ladder, he’s not moving. He’s hardly breathing. Please hurry. Come now, please.”Bella spat out their address ignoring the words spewing from the other end of the line. “Just come now” she pleaded, then dropped the phone leaving it dangling off the table. Back outside, she placed her ear to his chest. A too-slow rhythm of thumps.“C’mon baby, stay with me.” She rolled his body to free his hand trapped behind his back and noticed the blood pooling from his left temple. “No.. no..” A wail of despair escaped her lips. “C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!” she urged. She placed her shaking hand on his split temple applying pressure willing the blood to stay inside and pleading to God with all her heart that Teddy would be ok.🌱🌱🌱Her pleas for help seemed to hang in the air, time slowing to a crawl until the distant wails of approaching sirens shattered the silence. Soon the flashing lights appeared on the horizon. The atmosphere around her felt thick and disorienting. She beckoned furiously with her hands for them to quicken their pace down the driveway. Why were they moving in slow motion?The following ten minutes were a whirlwind of activity. The emergency team surrounded Teddy, their voices a low murmur with the machines humming alongside them.She found herself in the firm embrace of a stranger, the world a blur as they wheeled her husband on the gurney into the ambulance. Gently pushing the stranger aside, she retched onto the grass, the words of the medical team a dissonant jumble, as though they were speaking from beneath the surface of water. The same unfamiliar figure guided her into the back of the ambulance, where her husband lay unresponsive, and the solid doors sealed them within.🌱🌱🌱Bella's heart pounded against her chest as she shot up from her bed, gasping for breath. Her nightgown clung to her skin, soaked in a cold, clammy sweat. Her hands trembled, and the acrid taste of fear lingered in her mouth. The vivid nightmare had been all too real and the memories it invoked lingered in her mind and body.She glanced around her dimly lit bedroom, the soft moonlight filtering through the curtains offering a different reality that brought some semblance of comfort. But the memories of that awful day, the day her world shattered, were inescapable.Tears welled in Bella's eyes as she reached for the locket on her bedside table. It was a small, heart-shaped locket containing a photograph of Teddy. She clutched it tightly, feeling the cool metal against her trembling fingers. The closest to him she'd ever be again.The nightmare, like so many others, had vividly replayed that terrible accident that had claimed Teddy. Her heart ached and she wished she could erase the trauma but the scars ran too deep.Bella had tried everything to cope with the loss but the pain was a relentless companion. Each night she faced her demons in her sleep, confronting the image of Teddy lying motionless on the ground, blood pooling from his head.🌱🌱🌱As she sat there in the stillness of her bedroom, she grappled with the haunting echoes of her husband's accident. The vivid dream had opened old wounds, and she couldn't shake the feeling that life was conspiring to keep her trapped in that painful moment.She looked out the window at the starlit sky, her mind racing with emotions and questions that had no answers. Would she ever escape the torment of that day? Would she ever find a way to heal?Bella longed for peace, for the nightmares to cease, and for the memory of her beloved Teddy to live on without the agonizing pain that accompanied it. Bella sighed heavily wondering if she’d ever be able to move forward.But for now, the darkness of that night's dream still clung to her, leaving her to face another day with the weight of her past on her shoulders. Her memories had become enemies she couldn’t escape. The adrenaline kept her from falling back asleep and she lay in bed for hours until the sun's rays began to filter through the window.The pleasant evening with her friends the night before was all but erased by the haunting nightmare, leaving her with a lingering sense of unease. Bella found herself questioning if she could live with the weight of he past.