The Purple Fig Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Against The Grain- How To Live Life Gloriously Mon, 17 Aug 2015 13:00:35 +0000 When we reach a certain age, a certain point in our lives, the people around us seem to reach certain milestones deeply embedded within each of us from a young age. It was sung to us, taught to us, drilled into us. It was the expectation set by our communities, our parents, our friends, and our society. First come love, then comes marriage and then comes a baby carriage.  It is not only expected of you, but it is something you should be expecting of yourself.

When I hit 30, I noticed my social media fill with announcements of engagements, weddings, new homes, new pregnancies, thriving careers and growing families. The new couples I speak with have their nights filled with home cooked meals, popcorn and movies while snuggling, and other nauseating activities. The couples with more time in, perhaps married and already with kids have routine baths and showers, homework and early bed times. Saturdays are bustling with visits to the park, trips to the community pool, family cookouts, date nights and farmers markets. Vacations involve road trips; Sandals resorts for the lovebirds, particularly fond of PDA, or kids running carefree in sprinklers, and having a first time at the beach. I am swarmed with images of couples in loving gazes, and cheesy, staged photos, sparkling diamonds on nicely manicured hands, wedding receptions, baby bumps and toddler pictures.

Worst of all, I am bombarded with the same questions such as “Are you married?” “Are you dating?” “Are you having more kids?” “What do you do for a living?” and my favorite, “How do you afford to travel so much?” It feels as though the goal is to make me feel shamed rather than celebrated. The tone is never one of genuine curiosity, or sincere conversation. The questions feel more like allegations. They seem filled with disdain, disapproval, and pity. However, they are often also soaked in envy and bewilderment. How does this woman make life look so good with no husband, no boyfriend, no job and the responsibility of raising a child on her own? How and why does she continue to do it on her own? What is wrong with her?

I began to contemplate the state of my life over the past few years and even jumped on the bandwagon for a time. There is something wrong with me; I am not living how I should be, doing what I should be, and feeling like I should be. I felt stuck and far behind. I was unable to keep up with these simple societal acts. Why was I unable to stay afloat in the massive pool of triumph? What defect did I have, that no one else had? In other words, why was I alone?

Only recently have I come to terms with my inevitable, but not necessarily negative, truth. I am where I am in life for one reason only. Myself. I am not here because I am less than anyone else, not because I am unworthy, not because I am unappealing, not because I fall short when bringing attributes to the table. No. Due to a series of choices made by me, and only me, I am here. I remind myself that the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with myself. I remind myself that regret is a heavy burden to bear and the pain that comes with it is far from cheap. I remind myself that doing what makes me happy, regardless of what others think, is not the most important part of life, it is the only true and sure part of life.

The truth is, if I wanted to be married, I would be. If I wanted more kids, I would have them. If I wanted a thriving career, it would be exist. And I would be surviving. I would be comfortably content. However, I do not want to survive. I want to live. I do not want to slow down; I want to speed up. I do not want to settle down, I want to soar higher. I do not want the comfortably content version of events. I want the intense, passion filled, adventurous version. I live on my own terms, and it has cost me dearly, but I know no other way to live. I want to continue to grow, wander, and push the limits. I want too much to stop now.

I would like to think that I would meet a companion in the future, and have a career that makes an impact on others, a career I can be proud of. I would like to think I could find love and continue to live life, and achieve my dreams. My race looks different than most. I am racing on my own, in my own lane, with my own clock. It is not how I planned it, but life rarely is.  

I need not be ashamed because I took a road less traveled, less accepted. I need to applaud my ability to do it all on my own. I need to pat myself on the back for refusing to settle, in any aspect of my life, and I need to continue to do things that make me happy.

The most important relationship that I have is with the one person I can never escape from. And I have tried. The one person I wake up with in the morning, and lay my head down with at night. The woman staring back at me in the mirror.

Now when I am asked those questions, I do not dread them, I do not let them effect me, I do not care what anyone else has to say on the matters of my heart, wallet, family or travel habits. To be clear, I am not married because I have not found the love of my life yet. I do not plan on having more kids, but one never knows. I am finishing school after switching professions so that I can have a prosperous career and I travel so much to feed my soul. I travel so much because I have to. It is a need that stirs deep down in my gut, in a place I cannot reach. So I make it work. Those are my newly formed answers to the absurd questions aimed to make me squirm and second guess. I make it work, I make it happen and I love it. I am happy when I am having adventure, and am alive when I am taking risks, living on the edge, stepping out of the box. I am not scared of the way I live, I am scared of not living. I am not scared that there will be no cord to catch me, I am scared of not jumping. I know this may scare you, but I do not apologize for it. I know you may not approve but I do not answer to you. And I know it sounds glorious and yes, you are absolutely missing out.


  • adventurous woman
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Summer Fiction Reading Series: The Great Escape Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:00:13 +0000 Isabella

Isabella wrote for many reasons.

She wrote to express the many words inside of her, the ones which only made sense on paper. She wrote to fill the monotony of her afternoons at the park. But mainly, Isabella wrote to escape.

Life had been tough since she had lost her job at the local organic supermarket. Not that The Big Apple had been a great final destination for her, a 25-year-old English Literature graduate with dreams of becoming a published author. For Isabella, The Big Apple was a stop along the seemingly endless, wandering journey in the two years since graduation.

But the store had recently closed for renovations, which left the confused, newly unemployed Isabella free during the stretches of lazy July weekdays.

On this particular Tuesday morning, Isabella found herself in a park in the city’s Financial District with a tattered notebook and a quill pen. The notebook was a relic from her undergrad days. The elaborate pen was a gift from her best friend, Cherise.

Cherise was a flame-haired and sharp-tonged art school graduate who owned a gift shop. She wore dangling filigree earrings and purple clip-in highlights. She was the opposite of the refined, restrained Isabella, whose jet black curls and cubic zirconia studs gave her a look of faux sophistication. Cherise prided herself on the wares at her artsy boutique. Her store, The Creative Corner, specialized in antiques and artisan pieces. Cherise herself specialized in being, well, lovably eccentric.

“Maybe you can use those words to speak up for others,” Cherise had said in an offhand way, when she handed Isabella the pen last year.

Since then, it had remained unused in the bottom of her favourite everyday tote bag. Today, Isabella was going to pen her first words with it. Today, everything would be different.


“Today, everything will be different,” Sebastian muttered to himself.

It was 7:30 a.m. and the last thing he felt like doing was playing the corporate game. Not when his buddies still existed in a beer-induced haze, a frat boy universe which hadn’t seen the calendar change in the past two years.

Not when his best friend, Patrick, had quit his engineering job to explore Europe after a sudden quarter century crisis. And especially not today, the day of a huge, daunting meeting with senior management at the bank.

Sebastian looked longingly at the notebook on the dark oak coffee table in his pristine white living room. He’d bought the book at a quaint little gift shop along the city limits. The owner was an artsy redheaded chick- cute enough, but certainly not his type.

Stupid downtown condo. He’d do anything to be travelling with Patrick now, instead of living this prescribed existence. He’d also do anything to be writing now, to bring back those university magazine days and slip away stealthily from his financial analyst position. Analyst, as the free-spirited, fun-loving Patrick described Sebastian’s new banking gig.

He had a last look at himself in the mirror and grabbed the notebook to slip into his laptop bag. Not bad. Sebastian had always been lanky, but his recent sessions at the gym had helped him add muscle to his frame. In his tailored Brooks Brothers suit and freshly ironed blue button down shirt, he looked every bit the young corporate hotshot.

Even if he didn’t feel like it.

Isabella and Sebastian

As the lunch crowd descended on the park, Isabella swept a dishevelled curl out of her face and looked up. She’d written the intro to her new short story, but clearly the plot was going nowhere.

She was beginning to realize why she wasn’t successful. Isabella had always been a perfectionist, striving for gold as others her age partied and danced the night away, grateful for the moment. After graduation, her peers had drifted into careers in journalism, communications or law. But Isabella was so determined to become a novelist that she refused to join them.

Maybe that’s why she was sitting here in the park on a weekday, instead of going through the daily grind at one of the offices above.

“Excuse me,” said a deep voice behind her, interrupting her thoughts. Isabella looked up sharply.

The guy, around her age, standing there was handsome enough. His hair fell across his forehead in dark waves, while his eyes were bright blue against his tanned face. But it was the notebook in his hand which caught her attention.

“Hey,” she said shyly, glancing at his book. It looked like one of the dusty artefacts from Cherise’s shop. Was this another one of her friend’s attempts to orchestrate another terrible blind date- or was this just another lonely fellow writer?

“Can I join you? I’m working on writing a story, too” he said.

Isabella usually preferred writing alone, but today she smiled cautiously and made room for the good-looking stranger on the rickety wooden bench. Why not? “Sure,” she said. “I’m Isabella.”

“Sebastian,” said the mysterious notebook guy, grinning back at her. Sebastian couldn’t help but notice her beauty, and also take in her quill pen. Clearly, this wasn’t an iPad girl. But maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing. Different was good, different was interesting.

The two of them made eye contact over the inky sentences and thumbed over pages. Today was a new chapter, and a new story.

Today, everything would be different.

Photo Credit: 

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Summer Fiction Reading Series: First Kiss Mon, 06 Jul 2015 13:00:57 +0000 We were lying on the floor of Anna’s bedroom in the old house off of Hamilton Avenue. It must  have been sometime in August because I remember the carpet was rough and painful against my sunburnt arms.

“Joey kissed me,” Anna said.

Her room had a lot in common with all our rooms at that age: the walls were painted a dusty  shade of pink, but she had covered as much of them as possible with movie posters and band posters and pictures of good-looking young men who were lead singers or actors or soccer players. On top of her dresser was an old blue stuffed rabbit.

“No he didn’t.” I flipped a page in the thick, glossy Cosmo we had stolen from Anna’s older sister and looked up to meet her smug expression. “Did he?”



“Last Saturday,” she said, rolling over onto her back and looking up at the ceiling. “At the beach. Remember when you and Laura went to go look at the tide pools around the cliffs and Joey and I stayed behind at the wharf?”


“Well, that was when.”
I bit my lip. The magazine was open to an advertisement that could have been for perfume or hair
gel or lip gloss; a young model in a swimsuit top and cut-off jeans walked casually along a beach, her sandals held in one hand and sand caressing the soles of her feet and toes. I liked the way her lips were relaxed and slightly parted, as if she were just about to speak.

Anna gave an exaggerated sigh.
“Well don’t be mad about it,” she said. “I knew you’d be jealous, but please don’t be mad.”

“Jealous? Why would I be jealous of you kissing Joey?” Surprised, I pushed myself up with my burnt arms and sat cross legged. Anna wasn’t looking at me; she was twirling a strand of curly black hair around her finger.

“Because now I’ve been kissed and you haven’t and you’ll be mad and think I’m rubbing it in
your face if I tell you about it. But Audrey, you’re my best friend and I trust you with everything and I couldn’t stand it if you were mad at me.” She said this very quickly, her words running together and tripping over themselves, as if each one wanted to be the first to be heard.

“I’m not mad,” I told her, glancing down at the magazine again. The woman’s bare feet made me think of walking along the beach with Laura, that same Saturday that Anna and Joey had kissed. Our beach was rocky and treacherous with jagged, wet stones. I wondered what it would have been like to go barefoot with Laura along the sand.

When I think about that Saturday now, it comes to me in bits and pieces. Laura is, somehow, clearer than the rest. I remember her red tank top and her black cargo shorts with the small tear near the left pocket. We had wandered away from the wharf and Laura was ahead of me, jumping lightly along the rocks. She was a beacon and she stands out in my memory now, a light in the fog. I can still trace in my mind, in the place deep inside myself where I keep all of the important but ordinary images that are necessary to the preservation of my soul, the places where the sun reflected off of her shoulders.

I slipped and fell on the rocks and the barnacles, with their vicious chalk teeth, cut a deep gash along the top of my foot. I put out a hand to stop my fall and eased myself into a sitting position on the rocks. Threads of red ran across my dirty skin and mixed with the salt of my sweat and the ocean. The blood flowed freely until it gathered in the crevasses of my flesh and stained my sandals.

I called out to Laura and she turned and danced back toward me across the rocks. When she reached me, I had taken off my wet and bloody sandal and was chewing the inside of my cheek in pain as I attempted to wash out the wound with salt water. Laura knelt down in front of me and held my cut foot in her freckled hands.

“Does it look very deep?” I asked.

“Oh Audrey,” she said, pushing her strawberry hair out of her eyes. “I think you’re going to have
a scar.” Offering her hand, she helped me to my feet and I remember that her fingers were stained with
my blood. She didn’t seem to mind, didn’t even bother to wipe her hands clean on her shorts, she just ran them through her hair in spite of the filth.

The tide was out as far as it would go and we walked between the pools, sometimes crouching down to get a better look and imagining we were seeing miniature underwater worlds. For me, the main purpose for venturing out to the tide pools was starfish. You could sometimes find them under the wharf, clinging to the thick wooden pillions, but it wasn’t the same as finding them in the pools. When the starfish were on the beach you could pick them up and hold them in your hands, as long as you kept your fingers away from the strange, alien mouths at their centres, feeling the bumps and ridges of their skin.

She told me she had never held a starfish. For some reason that I could not quite pin down, I wanted find one for her and watch her eyes as she cradled the thing in her fingers. I wanted to see her lips twitch into a smile as the creature twisted against her skin. As she wandered between the pools, her hands thrust deep into the pockets of her shorts and her head bent downward, I turned over rocks and sought out places where the starfish may be hiding. I looked in cool, covered, dark places – places that would offer protection from the violent heat of the afternoon sun. It didn’t take me long; the animal was clinging to the underside of a seaweed coated ridge in the stone and released its grip without much resistance. It was thick and solid, with six royal purple arms. Laura had wandered back toward me and she knelt down close to me as I lifted it from the tide pool. I stood up straight and held the starfish out to her with both hands,expecting her to take it from me.

“I found one,” I said.

Laura placed her hands on my shoulders and leaned toward me. Our faces were close together and I can still remember the scent of salt water and her coconut sunscreen. She took a deep breath and I could hear the sound of the air between us passing into her. Then I felt her blonde hair blow against my cheek as she touched her lips softly against mine and kept them there for a moment, perfectly still.

Neither of us moved. I became conscious of all sorts of strange and insignificant details in that second. As the blush gathered at the back of my neck and rose to my ears I noticed the way my t-shirt stuck to the sweat on my back. I noticed the sting and throb where the salt water had entered the cut on my foot. I noticed Laura’s hands on my shoulders as she increased the pressure of her grip. Between us, I held the starfish in both hands, its solid weight rooting me to the rocks and beach.

Laura pulled away from me. Keeping her hands on my shoulders she said, in a voice that was rougher than I was used to: “Let’s not tell the others.”

We walked back across the stones side by side. I kept hoping, in a hollow sort of way that I was too young to comprehend, that she would reach across the inches between us and wrap her pale fingers around mine.

But I knew she wouldn’t, and she never did.

I can’t recall what Anna told me about the things that had passed between her and Joey that day. To be honest, I am not sure that I was listening. There must have been a time when I would have clung to her words and admired her for being the subject of a boy’s undivided attention, but in that moment, all of it seemed trivial. That day, on Anna’s bedroom floor – on her pink carpet, surrounded by her pink walls – I felt for the first time, that there was a huge canyon between us. The worst part was that she didn’t see it. I was looking at her from across a vast and empty space that neither of us would ever be able to bridge, but she gave no indication that she noticed the distance.

I was still gazing absently at the model in Cosmo when she finished her story. “The first time a boy kisses you,” Anna said seriously. “Promise you’ll tell me all about it?”

I remember assuring her I would as I gazed down at the magazine, unable to look at her eyes. Her dark skin was only a few inches from mine, yet I felt that if I reached out to touch her I would find only air and sunlight beneath my fingers.

“Good,” she said as she took the Cosmo and turned to the next page. I knew it was only my imagination that her voice sounded like an echo, but I couldn’t help but feel that she was only a reflection of something I couldn’t quite see. “I’m so glad we can tell each other everything.”

Photo: Shutterstock

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Being A Vulnerable Survivor In The Face Of Cancer: Meet Kathleen Henderson Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:52:59 +0000 The following is an interview with Belle student Kathleen Henderson. Kathleen joined our weekly BelleFusion classes over one year ago while in the middle of treatment for breast cancer. That first day she walked into the studio – timid yet quietly determined, cap on her head – I saw her incredible bravery.

This mom of four was diagnosed at the age of 38, when her twins were just 16-months old and her older children 5 and 7. I’ve been privileged to watch Kathleen progress in class and honoured to be a small part of her recovery. She’s a true and humbling inspiration to me. This interview is my attempt to share her story and hopefully inspire and encourage other women experiencing the trauma and fear of cancer.

I know it can be emotional to relive the events in your head. Thank you for doing this. Could you please tell us the story of your diagnosis?

I actually brought myself to the doctor because I felt something was wrong. There was a sizeable thickening in my right breast that was very painful. At first I thought it might be related to having just finished nursing the twins, but my gut told me to get it checked out. My doc recommended a mammogram right away. They phoned 24 hours later with the news this was cancer and it “… seems unlikely that it isn’t invasive”.   I had stage 1A cancer in the milk ducts and the initial treatment would be a full right mastectomy and lymph node removal. Due to the confirmation of the invasive nature of the cancer and my Her2 positive status, I also underwent 6 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, and a year of Herceptin injections.

It just goes to show that women need to trust their instincts and get checked out, even if they’re told “it’s probably nothing.” I had no idea that I was in the running for breast cancer. Check yourself out – don’t talk yourself out of it. And if you still have a concern and your doctor says it’s nothing, go back. Follow your gut.

So you had surgery right away and then rehab?

Yes. After the surgery in November, nurses gave me specific exercises to help with range of motion. You’re told to do them as soon as you can move after the operation. They set me up to meet one time with the hospital physiotherapist. I did the exercises religiously, as instructed. I understood how important they would be to my recovery. Throughout my life, I have been told, “Kathleen, you’re so strong”, and returning to a physical sense of strength was important for me to maintain as part of my identity.

Surgery was in November 2013 and you first came to class in March 2014, just 14 weeks later. Did you have any fears about joining a regular group exercise class?

I remember being petrified thinking “now I’m going to have to take my hair off and put my cap on.” I was so self-conscious, mortified. It was intimidating. Then I thought well, that’s stupid. As soon as I walked in, I liked the vibe of the class.

I had no idea! You seemed so quietly confident when you walked into class for the first time. How did the classes help?

They helped me a lot. They helped me re-establish a positive connection with my body. Everything about having breast cancer is negative – this terrible invasive thing is happening to your body and you have very little control over it.

It was good to go in and work hard, and be able to work hard. It’s like hey, these bad things have happened but I can do this. I could keep up. I’m a pretty active person so I needed to stay active – it’s something I’ve done my whole life. The classes were both a physical and mental help. Sometimes the class was really hard but the mental part of it was, “I CAN do this,” and the endorphin release was key.

How did you stay so mentally determined and positive?

In the grand scheme of the whole experience, this was “better than nothing”. I kept telling myself “it’s ok, I’m trying”. When I was walking slowly around High Park, barely able to move, at least it was “BTN, better than nothing. I’m doing the best I can with this bad situation”.

Sometimes you feel a bit ripped off. Why did this have to happen? I’m 38 years old, why do I have to my own cheerleader and give myself a pep talk just to go for a walk? But, in the end, I am proud of the way I managed it. I realized how important it is for me to remain positive to be able to make the best of this day. The idea of that strength is part of my identity and in retrospect, I think I stayed true to who I am.

That’s an interesting phrase “I have to be my own cheerleader”

I think everyone does, and that’s ok. The key is that for some people how I’ve done some things, wouldn’t work for them. You have your own worldview, your own identity. I didn’t spend too much time thinking about how to approach it. I had always been strong, and I had to keep that intact. For example, for women who have always defined themselves as “creative”, they might have a different and equally effective way of coping.

What advice would you give to other women reading this who are going through the same thing?

It is very difficult for women of our generation to be vulnerable or to need help. We have grown up in an era where we are doing it all. I would say you should try to allow people to do for you. Not because you can’t do it, but because they want to show their love.

Have the grace to accept their dinner, to accept their love. I’m going to take their dinner and be graceful in accepting it. You don’t have to prove that you can do things. Be open. Be open to the fact that people don’t know what to do. They’re not trying to hurt you. Maybe they’re out of touch for 3 weeks because they don’t know what to say. Allow for people to not be their best. Eventually they come around. This sounds awful, but I felt that I was their worst nightmare – I imagined that all the dads in our neighbourhood couldn’t look me in the eye at first because I represented the worst thing that could happen to their wives. In retrospect, maybe they were trying to keep a respectful distance, so they just nodded as I walked by.

But people do want to help. I had a cooler on my front porch and everyday for months our family had dinner dropped off through a program called Meal Train. Our neighbours and friends signed up online and took turns. It was a huge gift and a great way for a community to rally and help someone.

Wow, that’s a really cool program.

Yes it was. Our friends organized it for us. It allowed us to focus our best efforts on being together with our children instead of worrying about how to feed our family of 6.

Do you have any other advice?

One other thing that someone told me regarding how people react to cancer – often parents and siblings and friends don’t know what to do. Picture a bull’s eye graphic and the centre is the sick patient. The next circle around is your husband, sister or mom. The next circle is your best friend. The next circle contains more extended family, friends, coworkers etc. Supporters need to find someone less connected to talk to. So it needs to move away from me. My sister can’t come to me sharing her fears about my cancer. She needs to talk to her friends or husband about that. The sick person in the middle shouldn’t have to deal with quelling their concerns. I had to explain that to my family and once they understood that, it really helped.


How has this experience of cancer changed your outlook on life and on motherhood?

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was a loss of innocence, of expecting good things to happen to good people. All of a sudden you realize all the things you’ve imagined just may not be. I’ve been given so much love and opportunity. I’ve been walking through life with all these really small problems and now I have a really big problem. It’s a mental exercise to process it. My life may not be the life I imagined. There’s a darker side to it. You also have this sense regarding those old problems, that they really don’t matter as much.

I knew there was going to be emotional fallout. All of a sudden the chemo is done and you start to think about what happened because you have time, you’re not rushing to appointments. I called it the reckoning. When it happened to me, I was beside myself for 3 weeks and it was very hard.

As for motherhood, once my energy returned and I was able to be more present for my kids, I realized that I appreciate things differently. You know more in a really sad way – you know more about life. It takes a lot more to make me upset with them now. Because it really doesn’t matter. I’m much more laid back now. Focusing more on fun. My kids aren’t going to not go to university if we take a trip to Antigua. And that time is important for a couple also – so we did go!


How important was exercise to your for your recovery?

It was crucial. I had to move. I remember running in High Park and bawling. Some people saw me…they must have thought I was crazy. I was crying because 6 months earlier I could barely walk, and now I was running up that damn hill.

I turned to exercise all the time. Even if you feel bad, you’re going to feel better. If you’re feeling really awful mentally, at least you can physically feel better and remind yourself that your body is still strong.


How to feel about being called a hero?

No! For my recent 40th birthday, my good friend got me a necklace that says “survivor, hero, role model”. I can’t handle that. People talk about being a survivor. They are such loaded words. I think those words should be chosen by people for themselves. So no, I’m not a hero. I just tried to stay alive for my own selfish reasons and did what the doctors told me to do. Why do I get a prize for having a really bad thing happen to me? I’m not Mother Theresa. I don’t want people to feel like they have to be “that.” Figure out who you are in this part of your life and be true to that. Sit with what’s happening, and sort out how you want to deal with it. Define how you’re going to do it and stay true to yourself.

This has been pretty emotional, so thank you again for sharing with me today and allowing other women to hear your story. Your honesty is going to inspire a lot of people. Now go enjoy a glass of Chardonnay on your deck!

Oh (laughing)! I’m already there Nikki!



  • cancersurvivormain
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Summer Fiction Reading Series: Life After My Husband Mon, 29 Jun 2015 13:00:09 +0000 It was so unbearably hot. The air felt opaque as if you could cut it with a knife. The sun was beating down on the dusty and crowded streets. Salma found it impossible to stay outside for a moment longer as she looked for her husband in the crowd. Then, without warning, the sky turned dark and gray, a violent gust had started, the thunder boomed. People started racing indoors and she finally saw her husband in the distance and her stomach churned inside out as terror gripped her.

 “Run!” She yelled out to him. “Run, or they’ll hurt you, they’ll kill you!”

Before she could finish those words the sky swallowed him up whole, he was dead, he was gone and she was watching on, horrified.

Salma jolted awake from her dream. Somehow she had dozed off. She looked over at the clock and it was still only 3:00 AM. It had been a week since she had slept through a night and when sleep did come to her it was in the form of nightmares.

What to do now? That simple little question had plagued her mind recently.

Salma tiptoed from the room she was staying in to her father-in-law’s study. The house was overcrowded with guests for the funeral and she had to be careful not to wake anyone.  She crept into the study, the only room without a sleeping guest. She ran her fingers along the books on the shelf and pulled out an old photo album.

Pages upon pages were splattered with pictures of her husband, Musa. Pictures of Musa as a child, Musa playing cricket for his school team, Musa on their wedding day. The smiling face looking at her in the pictures forced a smile across Salma’s face. She closed the album and walked to the window in the corner of the study. She opened it and listened to the night. The nights in Lahore, Pakistan were never truly quiet; noisy buses playing loud music and dogs barking. And there was always a little stench in the air. Though she was born and raised in Pakistan, she didn’t feel at home here. The people of this country had violently betrayed her kind time and time again and the death of her beloved husband only confirmed this.  Canada was here home now; she was Canadian and she took pride in that fact.

She paced around in the room, lost in her thoughts, until the Adhan for the morning prayer was called. Not long after, the house began to stir in preparation for prayers. She went to join the rest of her extended family and in-laws for prayer, trying to avoid their gaze.

“You were awake all night again weren’t you my child?” questioned her mother Anisa, with a worried look.

Salma just looked away without answering; she didn’t like people worrying about her.

After prayers, Anisa and Salma’s mother-in-law Fareeha, stayed awake with Salma to prepare breakfast for the whole family, who had come from far and wide to attend Musa’s funeral.  As they cooked, the mothers discussed the arrangements for the funeral and the customary Islamic preparations.

“The funeral will be held after the midday prayers. What time will the body be washed?” questioned Anisa. 

“The men will leave at 11:00 with the body for the washing and then we’ll have the visitation as soon as it arrives,” replied Fareeha as she suddenly burst into tears.

“Oh Fareeha! Your son was a good boy. He gave his life for something he believed in. You must be proud of him!” Anisa repeated this as she attempted to comfort Fareeha. 

As her mother-in-law continued to quietly cry, Salma realized she hadn’t cried yet. Maybe she was still in denial, maybe she just hadn’t had the time yet between worrying about the future of her two now fatherless daughters and preparing for the funeral. Or maybe she simply just couldn’t understand, couldn’t understand how someone could murder her husband in cold blood just because of his beliefs.

Musa wasn’t like any other man she knew, a man utterly devoted to his family and compassionate for humanity. Musa and Salma had lived a good life together raising their family in the suburbs of Toronto. Though Musa was an engineer, his whole life he had dreamed about one day returning to Pakistan and opening a school for the impoverished children of his nation. He wanted those children to have the chance in life that he did. Salma fell in love with him for the dream he had and accepted it as her own. The two had worked tirelessly for years to save the money they could to build a small school. Through the help of friends and family, Musa and Salma had finally saved enough money to make that dream a reality. They had decided to open a school in the northern province of Baluchistan, one of the poorest provinces of Pakistan and home to many Afghani refugees.

Salma and Musa made arrangements to visit Pakistan in August, the hottest month of the year, so the whole family could accompany Musa as he scouted out which areas in Baluchistan needed a school most. They stationed themselves at Salma’s in-laws’ house in Lahore and they would make trips between the province of Punjab and Baluchistan. In late August, just two weeks before their return home, Musa decided to take one last trip to the province to narrow down his list of areas, which typically became longer after a trip.

Salma decided not to go this time so she and the girls could do some shopping and spend time with family. He called Salma every night during his weeklong trip, informing her of the children he had met, the places he had seen and about the potential areas for a school.

“Ah, I wish I could just open a school in every city!” Musa would exclaim.

Perhaps he would have been able to accomplish that dream as well. The day he was leaving to return home he had made one last stop to buy some small gifts for their daughters. While in the market, two men on a motorcycle drove by and shot Musa nine times. He died instantly.

Salma remembered how she and her in-laws grew increasingly impatient as the time for Musa’s arrival had come and gone. Later that night they received the life shattering call informing them of his death.

It became clear over the next few days what the motive of this attack was: Musa’s faith. Musa and Salma belonged to a minority sect of Islam, Ahmadiyyat. Some of their beliefs varied from other mainstream Muslims, thus they had been declared non-Muslims by the government of Pakistan in the 1970s. They couldn’t practice their faith openly and hundreds of people from their community had been murdered like Musa.

Musa’s killers had known who he was and that he was an Ahmadi. They had carefully calculated the perfect time to commit this act of hatred. It pained Salma to think that all Musa wanted to do was help his people, regardless of their faith, and the killers’ could not see that, their judgment was clouded by hatred. Her community preached nonviolence and compassion for humanity and yet how silly to think that people like this kept killing members of the Ahmadiyya Community. They say time heals all wounds but Salma knew no matter how much time passed, this she would never be able to understand.

Her husband’s killers were not found and most likely would never be.  And Salma and her family would not retaliate. This was the tradition of the Ahmadi Community; they would not look for blood, would not spew anger and hatred. They would accept it, grieve and pray with patience.

The sun had risen in the sky and all the guests were now awake and eating breakfast. The day had gone by fast and before she knew it, it was time for the viewing. As she entered the room with her daughters Aleena, 10 years, and Raya, 7 years, a wave of immense grief washed over her. Her two daughters no longer had a father, they would go through life without his love and support. And finally the tears she had bottled up began to pour down her face. 

The days following the burial, there had been an influx of relatives, friends and members of the Ahmadiyya community coming to the house to pay their respects. Salma had thought about extending her visit but all she really wanted to do was run back to Canada. Her family, parents and in-laws, had insisted upon her staying indefinitely. But the girls’ schools were about to start and she wanted them to have stability in life.  Salma and her girls packed their belongings and boarded their plane to return home. Who knew she’d be returning to Canada without her husband?

Upon their arrival Salma waited for the relief and excitement to be back home but the house just felt lonely and empty without Musa. 

“It’s ok, all will be alright when school starts again. We will be busy,” thought Salma, who was firm in her decision to return home to Canada.

Salma and her daughters went through the motions of everyday life preparing for the upcoming school year. In between their preparations, hoards of people from the community in Toronto would come to pay their respects to her.

A few days after school started, Salma decided it was time to go to Musa’s office and clear out his things. With a heavy heart she started boxing everything in the office. As she rummaged through his papers, documents and diaries, she came across a file with pages upon pages written in Musa’s writing. They were plans for the school in Baluchistan. Musa had thought out every last detail, from the curriculum to the amount of staff members to scholarships he wanted to give out for those wanting to seek higher education. And it wasn’t just for one school, it was for several schools Musa wanted to build across Pakistan. Salma was astonished. She knew how much this project meant to him but this was his mission, the true love of his life.

As she drove home, she couldn’t shake this feeling, couldn’t get this one thought out of her mind: she had to return. She couldn’t abandon his dream and she couldn’t let a few ignorant hateful people deprive those children from the necessity of a true education. Salma was not a coward and she wouldn’t raise her daughters that way either.

Salma gathered her daughters after school that day. She took a deep breath held both of her daughter’s hands and said:

“Your father went to Pakistan to do a very important and noble thing. To help little boys and girls who aren’t as lucky as you two. Did you girls know that?”

The two girls nodded.

“Did you also know that we as Ahmadi Muslims believe that a martyr never truly is dead? And your father was a martyr. He gave his life for something he believed in. That is why we must go back to Pakistan to keep his memory alive by carrying out his dream and seeing it through. We are going to be brave like your daddy. How do you feel about that?”

Aleena nodded, kissed Salma’s cheek and smiled; Raya followed suit.  The room started to become blurry from the tears in her eyes but she felt relieved. For the first time since Musa’s death she truly felt like everything would be alright. She finally felt at peace.

Photo: Deposit Photos 

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Summer Fiction Reading Series: Good Girl- Yuri’s Story Mon, 22 Jun 2015 13:00:20 +0000 7 Months

“Can I have the toy, sweetie?”

Small sticky fingers hold tight a soft, orange elephant. One leg is crushed between pink gums. It emerges, dark and moist with saliva. Yuri examines the toy, for a moment, before slowly and cautiously handing it to her mother.

“Good girl!” She exclaims.

A smile lights up Yuri’s young face. She doesn’t understand the words but the tone is one of happiness and praise. She wants this. Mother’s praise is nourishment for her still-forming mind.

4 Years

“Be a good girl for grandma,” mother says as she waves goodbye.

Yuri loves grandma’s house. Here there are areas yet to be explored, toys she has yet to play with, and grandma. Grandma is always so eager to make her smile with snacks, games and songs.

They play for hours – well past nap time. The drowsiness settles in and Yuri’s mind feels foggy. Her colouring page is becoming messy. More and more colours stray past the bold, black lines. Good girls colour inside the lines.

She becomes frustrated with her tiredness and lack of focus. Overcome with irritation, she presses too hard with the red crayon and it snaps in two. It leaves a great red blemish on her picture. In a moment of anger she throws a piece of crayon and yells.

“Now now,” Grandma chides, “Good girls don’t throw things.”

Yuri immediately regrets what she has done. She imagines her mother’s disappointed face. She hears her stern voice in her head. She cannot take back the bad thing she has done. Mother will be disappointed and there’s nothing she can do and she’s so tired and she begins to cry. She wails and sobs herself into a fitful sleep.

When her mother returns she asks the question: “Was she a good girl?”

Refreshed from her nap, Yuri is no longer in a panic but she stares nervously at her grandmother. “We had a grumpy spell but mostly she was a very good girl.”

Her mother smiles and Yuri basks in her approval.

13 Years

It is Yuri’s first day of high school. She has excelled in school and the thought of a greater challenge is both exciting and nerve wracking.

All of her classes have been in the main building of the school. Math, her last class of the day, is listed as classroom A114. She knows this means it is in the Annex building but she can’t find the way. She doesn’t recognize any of the faces walking by and she decides to look a little harder before asking a stranger.

Yuri doesn’t realize how much time has passed since the last bell. When the second bell rings, the one that signals the start of class, it startles her. The blood drains from her face and she feels a panic build in the pit of her stomach. She walks faster.

She’s never been late before. Good girls are always on time. She is a good girl, any of her old teachers would say as much. They would know it wasn’t her fault. But her old teachers aren’t here. There will be a new teacher and her lateness will create a first impression. A bad impression. Yuri wonders if she will vomit.

Tears sting her eyes as she slowly enters the classroom with her head downwards, her hands gripping her books. Her entire body radiates apology. Students stare at her as she makes her way to her seat. The teacher has not arrived yet. Warm relief washes over Yuri.

17 Years

Yuri fills out the application forms. She can make three selections for university. She stares down at the list she has made. Three health and medicine programs and two visual art programs. She considers selecting at least one of the art programs but the requirements for the med programs are high, even for a student as accomplished as herself. She might not get into them all. What if she doesn’t get into any? She feels her muscles tense at the thought.

She thinks back to the career path meeting she had attended earlier that day. Her parents and the student counsellors had smiled at the arts pamphlets clutched tightly in her hands.

“Why exactly are you thinking about taking those programs?” her counsellor asks. There is a slight emphasis on those – as if they are beneath Yuri. She continues, “You have a lot of talent in the sciences and there’s so much potential in medicine. Your parents say you are thinking about becoming a doctor.”

Yuri concedes to this. Her parents had been so excited when she mentioned it, she finds it hard to talk about any other possibilities. Both the counsellor and her parents have told her that she could do so much good for the world if she pursues medicine. It would almost be a waste for her not to go into the sciences.

She feels embarrassed for even having brought up the arts programs. Good girls want to help other people. Doing anything else would be selfish.

She loves the arts and, staring at the application page, she feels torn. Inside though, she knows what she will pick – there has never been any real doubt in her mind. She writes down the names of three universities followed by the titles of the med programs.

26 Years

Yuri unlocks the door to her apartment. The dishes in the sink are piled high and there are text books everywhere. She has just come off of a 24 hour rotation at the hospital and is too exhausted to tidy up now. She makes a mental note to tidy up in the morning before the seminar she is planning to attend. Her parents will be there in a couple of days and she doesn’t want them to think she neglects her home.

Yuri feels overwhelmed. Between clinical placements, saving to pay off her student loan and keeping up her apartment, she has fallen into depression. Tonight is a bad night. She looks at the clock – 9:06 pm – and considers calling her mother. She decides against it.

Yuri has noticed that her mother becomes upset when she complains about home or work. If she complains that she’s behind on the chores, her mother says she’s just being lazy. If she tells her it’s been a rough day at the hospital, her mother reminds her that she is going to be a doctor. Apparently there is no higher compliment than that – being a doctor. It always makes her mother happy.

She has even told her mother once, just once, that she thought she might be depressed.

“Well you’ll just have to find a way to be happy,” had been her simple, confident response.

Yuri doesn’t want to disappoint her mother but she knows that she can’t avoid expressing herself tonight. So she doesn’t call. She walks to the bedroom and lays down on the bed, fully clothed. Her life is a physical and metaphorical mess.

Good girls don’t make messes.

29 Years

Another long day. When Yuri comes home her husband is asleep. She is tired and stressed. She wants him to hold her in his arms. She wants him to touch her, to make her feel good, to make her forget the pain she has witnessed all day.

She lays down beside him and stares at the strong muscles in his back. At the waves in his dark hair. Her hand drifts downwards, stopping just above the waistband of her pyjamas. She thinks about this man whose warmth she can feel beside her.

When they had started dating, he had told her that he liked good girls. That it made her even more cute.

Yuri doesn’t think good girls ask for sexual favours. She rolls over and eventually she falls asleep.

31 Years

The labour lasts for nearly a day. Yuri is exhausted and sore, but also relieved.

She holds her tiny, sleeping baby in her arms. A little girl with her own delicate features and a shock of black hair that had surprised the nurses. Yuri thinks that this is the first time in her life that she has ever felt true happiness.

Her mother walks in the room. She takes the baby and rocks her gently.

“She’s already smiling in her sleep. She’s going to be a good girl, just like you.”

Yuri stands, shakily, and walks to her mother. She takes her baby back and holds her against her skin. For the first time, she doesn’t care that her mother is disappointed.

“I hope not. I’d rather she be a happy one,” Yuri says.

Photo Credit:

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Summer Fiction Reading Series: SAM Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:00:41 +0000 “Hi, welcome to Colossus Theatre. Would you like to try one of our combos?” I say, robotically.

The girl on the other side of the counter twirls a lock of blonde hair around her index finger, pops her bubble gum, and says something that sounds remotely like pepperoni.

“That’ll be $4.50.”

I pull a pepperoni slice from the warmer and throw it on a cardboard Pizza Pizza tray.

“Enjoy your show.”

I look out across the empty foyer of the movie theatre. It’s Thursday morning in April, which automatically means that the theatre barely has any moviegoers.

I began working at Colossus Theatre a few months ago only on evenings and weekends, but now that I’m done my university exams, I have way too much free time on my hands. No one wants the morning shifts, so I take as many as I can get.

The concession stand in the middle of the foyer looks pathetic. Amar, Tina, and Rob are supposed to be manning the popcorn, but there’s no one in sight. This would be the part of the movie where tumbleweed might blow across the screen. I lean up off the counter and pivot on the greasy floor, about to head to the back of the Pizza Pizza unit where no one can see me checking my texts. I stop when I hear the heavy door of the treasury office swing open.

I lean back on the counter and try to look inconspicuous, while actually struggling to see exactly which treasurer is going to be crossing the foyer to the concession stand.

I hope it’s her.

Sam makes her way across the carpeted room. The pant legs of her black dress pants swing with the movement of her thin legs. She holds a purple pencil case in her right hand. On it, in permanent marker, is written “BILLS.” I know because I stared at it for most of yesterday’s shift. It was the only thing I could do to avoid her eyes and keep from blushing. Sam runs her left hand through her short black hair.

“Hot enough for ya?”

I jump back from the counter. My elbows feel raw from digging them into the plastic countertop. “You scared me!”

Tanya, my friend since high school, stands on the other side of the counter. She adjusts her Supervisor nametag. She’s worked here for three years and is the reason I got the job.

“You know, if you keep drooling like that, I’m going to have to bring the mop over here.”

“Ha ha. Very funny! I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Mhmm! You know she has a girlfriend, right? Unless she dumps her, you don’t really have much of a chance.”

“I know! It’s not like I would actually do anything. I’m not one to break people up.”

Tanya pulls her ginger hair through the hole at the back of her black baseball cap.

“Okaaaay, but I know you and when you want something … or someone, you manage to get them. Just be careful, okay? I’ve heard a few things around here.”

“I’m fine, mom! Just relax and grab that mop for my drool.” I wink.


After my shift I knock on the treasury door. Today is payday and no one’s come by to give me my pay stub. The door swings open.

“Oh hey, it’s you.” Sam says and smiles.

“Uhh … hey. It’s me. Just wanted to grab my paycheque.”

“Hmm, dunno where they are. You’ll have to wait for Brian. He said he’d be back in a few. You can wait in here if you want.” She says and holds the door open for me.

“Thanks.” I step into the small purple room and graze Sam’s arm.

I’ve never actually been in the treasury office. I’ve stood outside it and peered in and seen the single black swivel chair, long desk, and many cupboards and shelves piled high with pencil cases and cash register trays.

Tanya’s warned me about this office. Apparently it’s one of the few places that doesn’t have a camera. You’d think a treasury office would have one. In any case, managers tend to take advantage of that fact and bring their favourite employees in here for some afternoon delight between shifts.

“Sorry, only one chair.” Sam says and spins the black swivel chair in a circle.

“No worries, I can stand.” I lean back on the long wooden desk, which is also purple. Not one, but three cash register trays clatter to the ground. “Oops.” Grace has never been my strong suit.

I lean down to pick the trays off the carpeted floor. “Oh, I’m sorry.” I grab hold of one of the trays and feel Sam’s cold fingers over mine.

“No problem,” she chuckles still touching my hand. “Nice ring.” Sam moves her thumb across the smooth silver band on my middle finger.


“Your nails are short.”

“Umm… yeah.”

“Sorry, it’s nothing, just that most girls like to keep their nails long. A little too long for my taste.”

“I’m not most girls, I guess.”

“No. Definitely not.” Sam grabs my hand tighter and pulls it toward her. She keeps her eyes on my nails.

Smash. The register trays slip from my sweaty hands again. “I’m sorry … again.” I drop down to pick up the trays. Sam tugs at her pant legs and bends down. She grabs one of the trays. I hold the other two.

“You okay?” Her warm breath is on my cheek this time. I can feel my cheeks burning. My face is on fire and butterflies are killing me on the inside.

“Ye…ye…yeah. Fine. I’m okay.”

Keys jingle and the door to the treasury office swings open.

“Whoa, Sam! Should have said you were going to have company! I’d have taken a longer time out there.” Brain winks.

Sam chuckles, stands up, and throws the register tray on the desk. It hits the desk with a loud clatter.

“Ummm …” I stand up and place the other two trays on the desk. “Hey Brian, I just wanted to grab my pay stub. Sam wasn’t sure where they were.”

“Didn’t know where they were? Sam, you put them in the drawer. Did you forget already?”

“Guess I must have.” She smirks.

I am so not going to be a part of this. I will not be responsible for a break up. I will not — Oh god, that smile. I imagine myself undoing the buttons on Sam’s burgundy dress shirt. I can’t imagine her as the type to wear any girly bras. Maybe something sporty.

“Kat? Hello? Here’s your pay cheque.” Brian hands me a white envelope. How long has he been holding it in front of me? “You okay over there?”

“Yeah. Fine. Thanks.”

I rush past Sam and Brian and pull the door open. I jet past the Pizza Pizza unit and slam open the squeaky side door; the exit to the trash bins that also doubles as the employee entrance and exit.

“What the hell is wrong with you?!” I scream at the top of my lungs. “You know you can’t have her!”

“Have who?”

I turn around and see Sam standing by the door behind me. She must have followed me out. “Sorry, just wanted a smoke. Didn’t mean to intrude on your pep talk with yourself.”

“Uhhh … no one. I’m just, talking to myself about uhhh… stuff.”

“Alright. What are you doing now? I’m done in about 10 minutes and I was going to grab a coffee or something. Come with?”

“Sure.” What is wrong with you?! She has a girlfriend!


Okay, who cares if she has a girlfriend. Obviously not Sam. Sam doesn’t care if Sam has a girlfriend. Sam doesn’t care if her girlfriend calls while we’re out. Sam doesn’t care that her girlfriend is obviously jealous and knows something is going on. Why am I talking to myself like this? Get it together, Kat!

I tap my paper cup on the metal table outside Second Cup. Sam and I have been meeting almost every day, before work, after work, during work for the past year. Don’t misunderstand me. We’re just friends. Nothing other than an accidental graze of her arm has happened.

“Babe, I told you. I’m just at home. Watching TV. … Yes, of course I’m alone. Who else would be here?” Sam mutters in her husky voice into her cell phone. I watch the bubbles pop in the foam of my cappuccino.

“K. You too. … I mean, I love you too. … Yeah.” She snaps her phone shut. “Jeez! She’s always calling me! No trust.”

“Yeah, sucks.”

“Hey, you’ve never seen my new place! You should come up and have a look around.”

Sam recently got kicked out of her parents’ place. She wouldn’t tell me what happened, she just said, “it was bad” and left it at that. I offered her my futon, but she decided to sleep on another friend’s couch instead, which was probably wise. Last week, she moved into a condo with her brother.

“Umm … sure. Yeah, I guess I can come up for a bit.” I grab my paper cup and throw it into the trash. Half a cup of coffee splatters on the black garbage bag.

We turn the corner from Second Cup and walk to the entrance of Sam’s condo. Fifteen flights later, we survive a long, awkward elevator ride. This was a bad idea.

Sam takes me down a long hallway to a door at the end. “So this is it.” She slides a key into the lock.

The condo is small, but I wasn’t expecting anything bigger. The building itself was built last year and all the condos seem to be getting tinier and tinier these days.

“So this is the kitchen,” Sam says, pointing toward a short countertop, sink, stove, and refrigerator. “And this is the living room.” Sunlight streams in through a huge window and lights up the light wooden floors. The living room is empty except for a pair of Sam’s black work shoes.

“And this is my bedroom.” She points to an open door to my right. I walk into the small space.

A mattress lies on the floor, covered in disheveled sheets. Black, maroon, and navy dress shirts hang in an open closet.

I move across the room and look out the window to the street below. I look down at the people walking along the sidewalks, oblivious to my raging butterflies.

“Where’s your brother?”

“At work. He works long hours. Probably won’t be back until late.”

“Mmm,” I nod and stare out at Mississauga’s skyline.

I turn my gaze from the world outside to Sam. For the first time, her cheeks look flushed. I move away from the window and lean my back against the wall of her bedroom. I watch her move across the room toward me. Her red shirt hangs off her shoulders.


Sam lifts her arms and places her hands on the wall on either side of my head. She leans in close to me. For the millionth time, I feel her breath on my skin. This time it’s sweeter.

I imagine pulling her shirt up over her head and finding her small breasts beneath it. I imagine Sam running her fingers along the inside of my thigh, up under my dress, and ripping off my lacey underwear. I imagine her fingers sliding inside me.

My body throbs with ecstasy. Sam’s breath quickens. Or maybe that’s mine.

FOCUS! I snap my eyes open and see that Sam’s face is closer to mine than it’s ever been.

“Mmmmm,” I hear Sam’s hoarse voice in my ear.

“I think we should go back outside.”

“What?” Sam opens her eyes. Her nose grazes mine. “Why?”

“Because your girlfriend might call.”

I slip out from under her arm and head for the front door.


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Summer Fiction Reading Series: My Addictive Love Mon, 08 Jun 2015 13:00:24 +0000 Over the sound of sizzling bacon I hear the words, “I’m sorry, Julie.” I can’t tell if he really knows what he’s saying sorry for, or if it’s become part of his morning routine. But as his lips reach mine, I forget as much of last night as he does. I never thought a person could be as addicting as drugs, but when I fell in love with Meyer, I couldn’t tell the difference between his addiction and mine.

“How did you sleep?” I ask, already knowing the answer: much better than me.

“Slept great, thanks,” he replies, clearly unaware of his irregular breathing, excessive sweating, and constant twitching throughout the night. “How did you sleep, darling?”

Easily charmed, I tell him, “If you sleep well, I sleep well.”

He tilts his head up to me as I stand above him loading his plate with his favourite breakfast, looks into my eyes, and sighs, “I love you.”

There it is, my first high of the day. As the words leave his mouth, I feel the serotonin and the dopamine release from my brain and electrify my body. Nothing else seems to matter more to me than that look he gives me. If I ever had to live without it, I’d skip the withdrawal stage and head straight to suicidal.

As I dress myself, I feel Meyer’s bourbon-brown eyes studying my body. I could close my eyes and still be able to feel him watching. It seems as if he’s taking mental photographs of every move I make. His magnetic gaze paralyzes me.

He delicately takes off the shirt I just put on and whispers in my ear, “Let’s call in sick.”

The thought makes me laugh, but he is so persuasive. “Don’t you have a meeting today?” I ask, trying to deflect the pressure.

“Arrangements can be made.” He pushes my hair back from my diffident face. “Please, my sweet girl, indulge me.” With a kiss he breaks any plans I had for the rest of the day.

We lay in bed, our bodies intertwined. I feel intoxicated. No drug could create this euphoria, no money could buy this happiness, and nobody could replace Meyer. I sigh, for it’s the only thing to elucidate my contentment.

Meyer clings to me like I’m his only hope in this world. Running his fingers up and down my back, goose bumps rise on my skin. He chuckles at my sensitivity, but is aroused by the power of his touch. “Whenever I feel powerless, your skin reminds me of my worth.”

I pause and look at him, then ask him the questions that have resonated within me for years, “Then what do opiates do for you that I can’t? Why not indulge in me?”

Meyer looks toward the bathroom, then back at me, and I feel his body start to sweat. “I’ll tell you my secret, my dear. One should never overindulge on one fixation, for when they lose it, they lose themselves.”

Meyer presses his lips to my forehead, slips from the bed to the bathroom and grabs the pill container from the cabinet.

“Please don’t.”

“It’s our day off, and if I only binge on you, I’ll never leave this house again.” There is no sense in arguing; it would only ruin the day more and still have the same result. As much as I wished Meyer could make it through one day without killing his brain cells after every line he takes, I know it’s impossible at this point. His body relies on opiates. Somehow, however, I understand.

I’ve never had to live without Meyer. We grew up in the same neighbourhood, went to the same school, and then the same college. Now we live together and work at the same bank. My whole life, I’ve never been without him, and surely, I rely on the fact that I never have to be.

“No more than two, please Meyer, it’s our day off remember.” If I can’t stop him, at least I can try to limit him.

“Anything for you,” he begins to slur with an unusual confidence, “but in return, you have to shower with me.”

“I guess that’s fair.” I roll out of bed dart to the shower. I turn on the water and wait for it to warm up. I step in first and look back at him crushing and snorting his last pill. “Hurry! I miss you already!” I call, in hopes he leaves his last line for later. Within seconds he is climbing into the shower behind me. He starts running his fingers through my hair. Every kiss he plants on my shoulders is a dose on its own; shooting shivers down my spine. He grabs my hand tight… really tight, as if he was holding on for his life. “Ouch! Meyer, that hurts!” I turn around to see his eyes are rolled back into his head, his nose bleeding over his purple lips, and then we drop. “MEYER!” I’m screaming at the top of my lungs, “MEYER HOW MANY DID YOU TAKE? HOW MANY DID YOU TAKE MEYER?” I bolt to the counter where the pill container stands still three quarters full. I examine the bottle to find that the pills were four times stronger than usual. What have I done? What do I do? 

I grab the phone; my hands tremble as I dial 911. I’m standing above Meyer’s cold, limp body screaming at the top of my lungs, “Help us! Please! Help us”

They say withdrawal from heroine can leave you wishing you were dead. The withdrawals from a human start killing you the minute you lose them.

Your body sets limits on what it can handle. Too much of a bad thing will kill you quick, which happened to Meyer. Yet, too much of a good thing kills you slowly, then all at once. It fills you up with temporary rapture; it makes you feel invincible. But when it’s gone, it’s like everything that ever touched your heart turned out to be a knife.

I feel my body become numb as I look into the dead eyes of the only person to ever make me feel something. My heart begins to tighten as if it’s shrinking into nothing… and suddenly, I am nothing.


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Inspiration From A Bicycle Seat Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:15 +0000 Do you know who must be very patient, thoughtful people? Olympians. I realized that yesterday as I did a sixty-kilometre training ride (impatiently) to prepare for the Cycle for Sight, a 140-km charity bike ride raising funds for vision research. I find training difficult because it’s so terribly boring — nothing to do but think and sweat for hours on end. After ten minutes I found myself wishing I could somehow stream Netflix into my brain and binge on Ray Donovan.

After I resigned myself to the fact that brain-streaming technology isn’t quite there yet (give the good people of Netflix another year, mark my words) I forgot about being bored, because I was suddenly faced with a ninety-degree slope of quad-ripping dread-terror. This was the kind of hill that makes you want to spin your bike in the opposite direction to find the closest pub and call it a day. Unfortunately, I had only cycled for fifteen minutes and I wasn’t about to give up yet. I soldiered on.

And do you know what happened? The mountain of misery wasn’t so bad! I was reminded of something I always think when cycling, which goes something like “Wow, hills look a lot scarier from the bottom than they ever turn out to be when you’ve reached the top.” I began to think of work projects I had been afraid of that had also turned out well, and realized that this little cycling analogy was true for many other challenges I had faced in my life. I wondered if there might be other life learnings I could take away from cycling, and suddenly I wasn’t bored anymore as I played a game to think of this list below. So here goes: inspiration from the back of a bicycle seat.

  1. The first ten minutes is not a good barometer for how you’ll do

The beginning hurts. In sport, it’s your body getting into its groove and sometimes in that first ten or twenty or even forty minutes you want to quit. But weirdly, if you persevere, at minute fifty you find yourself breathing calmly, as though you were walking even though you’re pedaling full out. I find the same thing with learning something new. If you quit in the beginning, you’ll never get to the part where you’re breathing easy.

  1. It’s good to learn to change your own flat

This is more “do what I say, not what I do,” because I’ve always managed to find someone to change my flats, but I hope one day I’ll be able to do this myself. It’s empowering to learn how to do your own maintenance, especially if it’s something you’d otherwise have to pay someone for. If you’re a woman, it’s especially exciting to learn to do a “manly” job. Having the courage to learn a few skills can help you come to your own rescue.

  1. Having a destination makes you go farther

I’d have only gone ten kilometres rather than sixty yesterday if Gravenhurst had been five K from Bala. Also, when I work out on my own I usually quit at minute twenty in the gym instead of doing forty-five or sixty in a class. Goals help with perseverance, especially those without many options for escape.

  1. The arts make everything easier 

A little Rihanna goes a long way with me. When I’m really slogging it on the bike, a good song gives me that extra boost that I need. I think this has been true throughout my life – enjoying someone else’s art (books! film!) or creating your own can give that emotional energy you need to keep going when feeling drained.

  1. Don’t skip the stretching or the beer

I always wonder about people who do a whole spin class but then sneak out before the stretching is done. That’s the best part! Take time to enjoy that reward after you’ve worked hard. At the end of the annual 140 km ride there’s beer, and those are the best tasting drinks I have all year.

  1. When you think you’re at full capacity, completely exhausted, you’re only half way to your potential

This might be a load of BS that they tell real Olympians, but it’s what my friend Victoria Nolan, blind ex-Paralympic rower for Team Canada, told the Cycle for Sight crowd trying to motivate them before the main event one year. The crowd giggled. Maybe you don’t know how tired I am at those times, I bet they thought. But even if you’re skeptical, it’s a nice idea when you apply it to other areas. Have you truly exhausted yourself in trying to reach your goals, or is there still more gas in the tank?

  1. Fear bears

Bears are scary, and they can eat you. I was quite *concerned* that I was going to run into one yesterday. There are also dangerous human bears around who can make life terrible — avoid those ones too. Oh, and back to me and the real bears, don’t be afraid to take calculated risks. I didn’t get eaten! Yay!

  1. Bugs will only bite you in the behind if they can catch you

This truth made me think of entrepreneurial friends. Stay four steps ahead of the naysayers and critics, and it will be like they’re not even there.

  1. Nothing can be done about the rain

There are times when you’re pedaling uphill in the pouring rain with the wind in your face, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that. My husband’s cousin is a marathon runner with three young kids and he was just diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Another friend has been fighting brain tumours for years. It completely sucks. Enjoy the love and support of those around you on the sidelines when it’s raining.

  1. You want a hard body? You want a Maserati? You better work

This convenient Brittany Spears song came on while I was playing my game. But let’s forget about hard bodies and be happy with ourselves. And while we’re at it, let’s forget about the Maserati, too. I could work 24/7 but I don’t think a Maserati is in my future. Anyway. Looking past a few unfortunate lyrics, Brittany’s general point is that success comes with hard work. If you want something, commit and go for it.

After all, the hill is never as big as it seems.

  • CycleforSight
  • CycleforSight
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Summer Fiction Reading Series: Letti Sun, 31 May 2015 19:55:16 +0000 I was that girl who was always planning something. Always reading, learning and discovering. Boyfriends came and left and girlfriends couldn’t stand my over ambitious personality. While others abused alcohol, drugs and indulged in unprotected sex, I was at the library, the museum, or in front of a computer figuring out my next move. And I was happy doing so.

I woke up at 6 a.m. everyday to do my exercise before heading to work. I owned a marketing firm. Then I would rush to the office to deal with people who are not perfectionists, stressful right? My assistant Letti greets me with a cup of coffee and she has 45 seconds until i get into my office to read me messages and emails. She never has enough time to do both. The rest of the day is filled with countless meetings, and a lot of sitting in front of a computer or persuading clients to do things they don’t want to do.

Some nights, I’ll attend dinner with colleagues who seek to brown nose their way into my good books. I loved everything about my life. I had an amazing career and a killer apartment. It was the best, until one Thursday night when I realized it wasn’t. 

I was stuck in traffic, on my way home when I got a call from my assistant. She told me she forgot her keys in the copy room and was locked out of her apartment. It really annoyed me when people made mistakes like this.
An hour later the cab pulled up to the office and I asked him to wait for me. I grabbed my purse and went inside. I saw a light in the copy room and in an agitated tone I called out “Letti?” 

A tiny scared voice responded “I’ll be right out”. I wanted to hurry and get home to watch Jeopardy. Letti came to repeatedly thank and apologize to me for interrupting my evening. She tried to engage in small talk as we made our way out of the building to find no cab waiting for us. I yelled out “OH CRAP!”and went back inside. Minutes later Letti came into my office with a cup of coffee. “I called another cab, should be here in 15 to 20” she said. I gave her a look and said nothing. She started to walk out when I invited her to sit with me to chat.

I had never noticed how full her lips were. When I was listening to her talk about work, I couldn’t stop looking at them. She was wearing a low cut long sleeve shirt with a black high waist skirt and had switched from flats to runners. What a strange outfit it was. She had a tiny voice when she spoke, it was as if she was always afraid of something. Letti went on to ramble on about school, her family and pets. I know I wasn’t listening, because I was trying to figure out where to order my takeout from. She started asking me questions about where I grew up. I wanted to stick to a topic where I could pretend I was listening and get through the conversation by saying the bare minimum. 

I eyed her outfit and asked her where she got her skirt, her hands brushed her thighs as she spoke of the shop and the material of the garment. I suddenly felt like a whoosh of heat through my body. I asked Letti to get me some water and when she stood up, I caught a glimpse of her inner thighs, I wondered how soft her legs were, what was going on? Minutes ago I was on my way home to my couch where I had a date with Alex Trebek and now I was thinking about my assistant’s legs? I felt like I was high. She came back quick as a fox and sat back down. “I love this office, it’s warmer than mine” she said. She stood up again to take off her long sleeve shirt to reveal a plain white pocket tee underneath, it was very thin, and Letti wasn’t wearing a bra. She had a beautiful set of perky breasts with tiny nipples. 

I asked her to stand up and turn on my computer. She gave me a puzzled look then came around the desk to do so. She smelled like lavender, it was  refreshing. She turned it on and stood there awkwardly not knowing whether to return back to her seat or stand there until redirected. I told her to take off her runners and sit on my lap facing the computer, without a word, she did. “Read me my emails, please” I said to her. she started clicking away and I watched as her little bottom sank into my crotch. “Take off your shirt”, I whispered, and without thinking I started running my hands up her skirt, her eyelids fell over her big brown eyes and she opened her mouth to let out a silent moan. She slowly stood up and took off her shirt to reveal her breasts. I pulled her back down and placed her back in my lap. I wanted to tell her to take off her skirt, but I didn’t. I grabbed her neck and pulled her close to me, her heart was beating so fast it was terrifying, but also exciting. “Call and cancel the cab please” i told her as she was dialing the number.

I took her nipples in between my fingers, her mouth opened wide but again, nothing came out. I squeezed her breasts and began to kiss her neck. Letti tried to keep from vocalizing her current circumstance, but couldn’t hold it in. Her voice was shaking and it was softer than usual. She disconnected the call and I repositioned her on my lap. She started to squirm.

I started rubbing her back gently, penetrating my fingers in her spine, I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt like I had been possessed by some spirit. She threw her head back and leaned on me so I could get a better angle, I whispered in her ear “Do you like this?” she said nothing. I let my hands wander down her skirt and began to rub her inner thigh. She was breathing heavily. Her body was trembling and her hands were searching for something to grip on to. She got up from my lap and sat facing me on the table, she opened her legs for me and with a smirk she said, “you’re a bitch of a boss”. 

As if I was getting ready to discipline a toddler I rose slowly from my office chair and came face to face with Letti, I could smell her fear. It was intoxicating. I told her to lay down on my table, I slid off her blue cotton panties but kept her skirt on. Her cookie was exposed, yes i call it cookie. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by showcasing skills I did not have. I wanted to be dominant and sweet at the same time.

I started to rub her cookie, her lips were overflowing with excitement. I rubbed it gently trying not to put too much pressure but her moans and grunts  made it difficult to hold back. We were playing for about 15 minutes when i started to feel hot and sweaty. I ripped off my skirt suit and sat back down in my chair wearing only my panties and bra. Letti got up from the table and came to sit on top of me. She started grinding her body against mine, she was playing with my nipples when her phone beeped. 
Suddenly, I felt naked, exposed and vulnerable. It was as if I was hypnotized. I got up from my chair and I was about to put my clothes back on when she said, “I don’t want this to affect my job, are things gonna be weird at work?”

I took one last look at her and reflected on why I had behaved this way, what had come over me? I felt great, empowered and sexy. I was so focused on achieving my goals that I forgot to have a social life and spent most of my college days planning for my future. “It won’t, you’re a great assistant”, I said, and with that I got dressed and went home. On my way home, I wondered if I would ever have an experience like that again, I played it over and over in my head before I finally hit my pillow and slept a soundless sleep.


  • LettibyMandy
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