September 2018: Hope Stronger
November 2018: In Between Fights
March 2019: The Gypsy’s Son
Nellie is an independent author and life-long California girl. She loves the ocean, the mountains and just about everything in between. She loves reading, kickboxing, dancing barefoot in the kitchen, spoiling her family, horseback riding and writing late into the night.
She is also an MS Warrior and an advocate for research into Multiple Sclerosis and other auto immune disorders. Her gypsy heard keeps her dreaming, but her strong faith keeps her grounded.
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No one talks about the fear. At least, they never told me about the fear. They told me about the anger—with myself, with my spouse, with God, with anyone I cross paths with. Everyone warned me about that. It’s the nature of loss, at least that’s what they told me.
I’ve had this theory for years that anger is just a breastplate for sadness. The armor is needed because sadness worms through you and reduces you to a pitiful version of the person you were before. It’s easier to wear the thick shield of anger than to expose the raw skin sadness has made. But if you dig deep enough through the anger, rage, and fury you’ll find it.
Something is wrong with me because I never found the anger. I wore the sadness on my chest, a badge for the world to see just where I shattered when I kissed your smooth skin for the last time. The sorrow tattooed its way across my arms, over my cheeks, to every part of me that touched you, to bear witness that you existed. I had no time to be angry, because I drowned in heartache before rage could ever ignite a flame.
hours that I held you before the nurses took your empty vessel away and your father held me sobbing in his arms. Never again were the words I told him, Never again.
And that was the plan. The risk was too great. The cost too was too high. I survived, set adrift on my sea of mourning, but a piece of my soul stayed in the casket with your tiny body. The thought of trying and failing over and over couldn’t be an option. Because that was the reality given by the doctors, a graveyard full of the shards of my soul six feet under. What would be left of me? No, I’d let that dream stay buried deep where we could both stay safe.
Dreams are pliable. Or so I thought. I poured myself into hobbies, and work. Any viable pursuit that would keep my empty arms from ripping my wounds wide open. In the background I could hear my constant refrain, Never again.
before he could even ask about the weather. Something was wrong with us because we couldn’t stop sobbing, not crying, not tears of joy, but sobbing because those scars never fully healed and that tiny plus mark tore the wounds open again.
Because no one told us about the fear.
sigh out the relief that I did it, I made the finish line. But then, that’s all I prepared for, the finish line. Now she’s here, and the fear is back.
How do these pieces fit together? How will I tell her about you? How will I raise her? A girl who was meant to have a sister. The girl who will always feel the ache of your missing presence. Because it’s inevitable. Every family picture has your shadow, the one who should have been, but isn’t. How can I be the mother to one that I should have been to two? They talk about the anger, but no one talks about the fear.
I rub my hand over her shoulders, tiny body tucked into my arms. Arms no longer empty. The fear is real, as real as the sun streaming in her nursery window. I touch my fingertips to her soft skin and draw in the scent of her perfection. The fear will never leave. The sorrow will scar me until I hold you again. But her grip on my finger gives me hope. I can take the next step into the unknown. She will carry her mother’s love for two.
Hope is my new tomorrow.
Do you ever wonder what happens
To heroes day after they win?
Does Spiderman spin up a hammock
Just to feel the aches and give in?
And is it Batman or Bruce Wayne
Who calls in vacation days?
Does Wonder Woman go jet setting
Until the exhaustion’s at bay?
No one calls the day after
Not when the struggle is done
Don’t you think they’re exhausted?
Don’t you think they’re a mess?
It seems as though they might whine,
Just a minute or two.
After all they are mostly human,
Hardly different than you.
I get the headaches and crying
I get the bruises and pain.
I used to pick up the suffering,
Now I just try to begin.
But what if they actually do it?
What if they actually rest?
Then I’m not sick,
I’m just healing—
A superhero in between fights.
I wrote this after a particularly hard relapse with MS. I nearly died and I thought, is this my life now? My husband happened to be watching avengers at the time and this was born. There are so many fighting an invisible fight who used to be so much more than they are now. I like to look at it like this, just resting for the next big fight.
It’s a curse. They call it a gift, or special sight. But it’s been nothing but an anchor to me since my first vision. Now, I’m stuck in this tent covering a shift for my mother. Our gypsy gifts were never meant to be exploited this way. I’d give this curse away if I could. Then I wouldn’t spend my free time lurking around carnivals.
Light blinds me as I peel back the flap at the front of the tent. Carnival noise bombards me from every angle. A single voice cuts through the distractions.
“Come on, let’s go to the gypsy tent.”
Her voice catches my chin like fingers drawing me to find her. She’s buried in a crowd of college students. She’s not that much younger than I am. Dark hair glides over her face as she ducks her head. When it pops back up, I’m rewarded by the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen.
“It’s a hoax,” some guy says as he loops his arm around her. “Why would I waste my money?”
“To be a good boyfriend,” she says to the ape. “It’s only ten dollars.”
“Only five for a beautiful girl like you.” My throat clenches as I realize I said it. She’s staring at me and I’m lost in emerald fields.
“I can do five dollars,” she says with a smile.
I let the flap close behind me. She’s not serious. Why would a girl like her notice a guy like me?
Light cuts the darkness as she pushes back the curtain and steps through.
“Doesn’t the sign outside say Madame Theresa?” She cocks an eyebrow.
“I’m her son. I’ll do your reading.”
“Can guys read fortunes?”
“If they have the gift.”
“I do.” I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth. “I’m Leander, but my friends call me Andy.”
I motion to the seat across from mine before I sit down. Like a baby deer watching for a hunter, she takes the seat.
“Do I have to tell you my real name?” she asks.
“You can make one up. Give me your real name when you trust me.”
“My grandma called me Daisy when I was little.”
My stomach swerves as the vision bleeds into my mind. A dark haired girl surrounded by daises tucks one behind her ear.
“She grew them, and you wore them in your hair,” I say.
Distrust flashes in her eyes, but she smiles. “Good guess.”
Typically, I try not to let my gift take over, but she’s changing my mind.
“What will it be? Tarot? Palm reading?”
Daisy points to the ball. “Does it light up?”
I quirk an eyebrow. “If I flip the switch under the table.”
“Do it. I want the whole experience.”
Palms are simple, I can fake my way through. Same with tarot cards, easy to manipulate, but a reading like this is either real or they’ll see right through the lies.
For the first time in years, I close my eyes and open the door to my second sight. I reach for her spirit.
Dark clouds roll over a maze of paths.
“You’re conflicted,” I tell her. “You’re feeling lost.”
“My boyfriend,” Daisy says. “I don’t know whether to stay with him.”
Thundering hooves pound down the path to the left. A black horse rears up.
“The dark horse warns of danger.”
Sparks ignite the darkness around the horse. Screams and smoke rise up from the earth. Red and yellow ribbons entwine and loop around Daisy’s neck, pulling tight.
My heart speeds with my words. “Red and yellow mark your death.”
Metal hisses on metal, a flash and a blur of sparkling light. She’ll die. Today.
“Stay. The spirits say stay here where you’re safe.” My volume is rising with the panic in my chest. I don’t even know this girl, but I can’t let her leave my side.
“Andy, are you okay? I’m getting freaked out here.”
Her hands slip over mine where I’m touching the crystal ball. Without my permission, my hands clench on hers and the world unfolds.
The daisy is in my hand, tucking it behind her ear as she whispers, “I love you, Andy.” Green sloshes to brown as the grass fades into the walls of a church. I pull back her veil and say, “I do.” Weight fills my arms as a baby is set in my embrace. She stares up at me, eyes as green as her mother’s.
My eyes snap open as I tear my hands from her grip. I can still see the baby’s eyes reflected in Daisy’s as she stares at me.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “my gift took over.”
“I’m gonna go.” She can’t get to her feet fast enough. She pulls a bill from her purse, but I hold up my hand to stop her.
“Free of charge,” I say.
“I don’t know. I feel bad getting something for nothing.”
Bravery surges in my chest. “I’d settle for your number.”
“My boyfriend wouldn’t like that.” Daisy backs to the door. “Goodbye, Andy.”
“Be careful,” I tell her, because I can’t shake her reading.
She’s gone before I can say another word. From the doorway, I watch her rejoin her group. Daisy glances back at me once, and her fear has been replaced by wonder. Her boyfriend kisses her cheek before he unzips his hoodie, revealing the black horse mascot of his alma mater. Daisy’s body tenses as she reverses from his side.
“Hey!” a voice calls to the crowd, but the yellow and red striped beam is already falling. Daisy catches my gaze and sprints for my tent. Metal screeches on metal. Screams and smoke fill the air. A car from the Tilt-A-Whirl jars free, plowing through where Daisy stood a minute before. She stops but looks back to find me in the center of the aisle. Without another thought, she closes the distance between us and throws her arms around me.
“Madison,” she says, “my name is Madison.”