2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– III –


Tara pushed closer to Mina’s warm body, snuggling as close as she could, hoping she could find peace in sleep the way Mina did. Tara ran her fingers through Mina’s russet curls, watching as they wrapped around her fingertips. The silkiness of her hair, so warm and touchable, drew a gasp from her lips.

She deserves better than me. She’s so happy and perfect and me, I’m just—I’m broken. I’m damaged goods. I’m—

A loud bang jolted her eyes open and she lifted up on all fours, her right hand sliding in something slick that sent her face first into the cold tile of the bathroom floor. Pain exploded in her cheek, and Tara yelped as the banging continued. She shivered at the chill crawling across her skin, slowly rising up once more, feeling a warmth spilling down her chin. Sitting back on her feet, she rubbed her arms to warm them, succeeding only in making herself colder.

The banging grew louder… Tara heard Mina’s cries mixing in with it as she begged and pleaded.

What is she begging for? Who is she pleading with? What is going on?

“Open the door! Please, baby, open the door and let me in!” Mina shouted, confusing Tara.

She’s begging me? Where’m I, that she needs to ask me to let her in?

Her vision blurred a bit, scaring her since the room was already dark. She shuffled over to a line of light broken by a moving shadow Tara figured must be her girlfriend. Her hands searched for the doorknob, slipping on the metal handle two or three times before managing to unlock the door. As it opened slowly, Mina careful of her proximity, Tara whispered, “We were snuggling… weren’t we?”

“You said you needed to pee,” Mina answered calmly, but her facial expression told Tara of the terror filling her. “I’m going to turn the light on, babe, because I need to see you.”

“I’m cold,” Tara whispered. “Can I have a blanket?”

The lights came on and Mina gasped. “Jesus… baby… we need to get you to a hospital.”

“No!” Tara forced herself to her feet. “They’ll tell me the same things they always do!”

“Tara, do you remember doing this?” Mina gently took hold of Tara’s right arm, her fingers like fire on Tara’s skin. “Do you?”

Tara shook her head. “I was snuggling with you. Your hair was warm on my fingers.”

Mina grabbed the hand towel, wrapping it tightly around Tara’s wrist. “If you’re not going to consciously seek help, I’m going to make you do it, Tara. I will not lose the woman I love. Do you understand, babe?”

Time blurred on by until Tara found herself curled up in the smallest ball possible at the head of her hospital bed. Her mother dozed in one chair, her father in another. Mina snuggled behind her, one hand splayed over Tara’s belly. Tara threaded her fingers through Mina’s, shifting to lay partially on her back. “Mina,” she murmured.

Mina nuzzled Tara’s cheek, ghosting a kiss over Tara’s lips. “’M here.”

“They have me on meds, don’t they?” Tara sought another kiss, and Mina deepened it briefly before she nodded, answering, “A mild sedative, due to the pain from the staples and to calm you.”

“I’m so sorry—”

“Don’t apologize, baby. Just promise me you’ll talk to me… or to someone. I can’t handle the idea of living life without you. Hell, it’s selfish of me to say, but I love you so much… and waking up beside you every morning is a dream I never want to wake from!” Mina sniffled, wrapping around Tara. “God, I swore I wouldn’t make it all about me!”

“I feel like I’m failing you, Mina. I feel like something in me broke when I killed that man—”

“But you didn’t. It didn’t. For the first time in your life, you made a decision about living and dying. You decided you weren’t ready to let go. In that moment, baby, you took the choice away from your attacker. Your reaction personified the Voltaire quote you like so much from The Crow—”

It isn’t death if you refuse it.” Tara nodded. “I don’t want to die. I want to stop feeling broken.”

“Are you ready?”

Tara lifted her gaze to the door, where her mother stood in a pretty blue dress sprinkled with a pink and lavender floral pattern. Her airy white sweater matched the handbag in her left hand. Tara nodded, pushing her blue-streaked red hair over her shoulders, whispering, “Mom?”

Rebecca Webster crossed the room, reaching one hand out to cup Tara’s chin, her words quiet, “You are beautiful. You are a wonderful woman, you are my daughter, and I am so proud of you. Nothing will ever change that, Tara Diane; your dad and I couldn’t be prouder of you.”

“He found out in a way I didn’t—”

Rebecca smiled softly, shaking her head. “We already knew. You and Mina live in a one-bedroom apartment. You share a bed. I suspect you have since the first night she moved in. You do everything together. It wasn’t hard to figure out.”

“Is she ready?”

Tara blinked as Lee Webster strode over to her, his face pale and drawn as he bent to press a tender kiss to her tousled mane. “There you are, Tara-Tara.” His big hands carefully smoothed her hair, fingertips curling in the ends as he let out a ragged sigh. “I am so proud of you, dearheart.”

“Daddy—” She bowed her head, squeezing her eyes shut against the tears.

“Your Mina is one smart lady.” His hands framed her face, his thumbs drying her cheeks as he lifted her glistening cocoa gaze to his matching one. “She loves you.”

“I love her!” Tara cried, burrowing against her father’s chest as he sat on the edge of her bed. “You really still love me?”

Lee chuckled, enfolding her in a tight embrace. “Bunches and gobs, dearheart. Bunches and gobs.”

The long ride back to her parents’ rural home lulled Tara into an impromptu nap, one she woke from when their car finally ground to a stop on the gravel drive behind her father’s truck inside the Webster garage. Mina helped Tara out of the vehicle and into the house. As they laid down on the soft bed in the guest room, Tara told her lady, “Daddy likes you.”

Mina smiled widely. “I like him.”

On to Part IV


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– II –

“You got a light?”

Yanking her from the safety of her own world, Tara stumbled a bit in haste as she attempted to put space between herself and the owner of the voice, who stood close behind her… too close. Tara shook her head, tugging one earbud from her ear in effort to keep David with her and her voice calm. “I-I’m sorry. I don’t—I don’t smoke.”

The man laughed, the sound thick with menace. “I scare ya?” He loomed over her, intentionally stepping forward, into her personal space.

Tara retreated a second time, but this time her back hit a chest and hands fell to her hips, clamping tight, holding her fast. She struggled, lashing out with her fists, receiving a slap across the face for her efforts. The sting startled her into momentary stillness and she tried to determine what her next move should be. Bare seconds passed, but it only took seconds for the men to force her into the alleyway beside the tattoo parlor, and cold steel touched her throat.

Is this really happening? Am I really—

Fabric ripping alerted her to the sudden reality rapidly becoming her own. Her eyes darted up to the man pinning her body against the rough brick wall. His knife created a shallow cut down her chest, the blade breaking the front clasp of her bra. The loss of her clothing snapped her into a terrifying awareness.


Setting her jaw, Tara inhaled sharply and slid one hand over the outside of the arm barring her escape, fingers catching the inside of his elbow. Without a second thought, Tara took her other hand to the man’s jaw. Yanking his arm inward and rotating his head sent his back hard to the wall… and the knife skittering across the alley floor.


HEY!” The man’s partner—he’d stayed close to the alley’s mouth to keep watch—ran at her and Tara tried to sidestep him, but he managed to get a hold of her arm. A frightened shriek tore from her lips as she allowed herself to be whirled around and, fear fueling her, she made a fist and yanked her arm up towards her chest. Stronger than her, the man laughed at her and squeezed, heightening her anxiety, and when Tara brought her free hand down to shove his wrist and free herself, the force of the blow she dealt broke something beneath the skin.


Howling, the man went down, curling around his arm, but movement at the wall spurred her into motion once more. Her eyes caught the gleam of metal in the dim light of the alley, and she ran towards it. Tara dove for it, but a heavy body landed on top of her, knocking the air from her. She closed her fingers around the handle as she rolled, swinging the blade in a desperate arc to slam it hard into the man’s neck. Hot blood spurted across her face and she shouted, pushing him off of her and scooting backwards on her ass until her back hit the side of the green metal dumpster.


Mina’s voice shocked Tara out of fight or flight mode. Tara curled up into a ball, wrapping her arms around her knees as she began to shake. Lifting her gaze to Mina’s horrified countenance, Tara stammered, “He-He was going to—He h-h-hurt me!”

“I know, baby, I know—”

Tara felt tears slipping down her cheeks and she turned away. Unintentionally, Tara found herself faced with the sudden end of her attack: a man laid face down in a pool of his own blood, his eyes open and sightless. Her lower lip trembled and she turned back to Mina. “I killed him.”

“Baby, you—“ Mina broke off to answer a call Tara didn’t realized she’d initiated. “I need help. My girlfriend was attacked outside of Tigger’s Body Art. We need an ambulance, her attacker had a knife.”

“He hurt me!” Tara shouted. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“I know, baby. I know—yes, she’s hurt. Yes, she stopped him… with his own knife. Please, send someone!”

Tara heard sirens and her wild eyes watched the mouth of the alley. “I didn’t do anything wrong!”

Mina wrapped her arms around Tara’s form. “I know. I know. Baby, I know.” Her lips pressed a kiss to Tara’s hair. “It’s going to be okay, baby. You’re going to be okay. God, I don’t know what I’d do without you—yes, we’ll stay on the line until they get here.”

Tara stared off into the distance; she didn’t listen to the doctor speaking with Mina. Apparently, the cut spanning her neck and upper chest had been deeper than she’d realized and the doctor had stapled it closed. After investigating the crime scene and surrounding area, the police had not charged her. The man who’d attacked her had died, and the police had found the lookout. His confession confirmed her story.

Mina slid a hand over her cheek. “Hey beautiful, the doctor says we can take you home if you feel up to it.”

“I want to go home.” Tara exhaled a shaky breath. “I don’t want to be here. I remember here and I hate it. I hate it. I just want to go home. Mina, please—”

Mina smiled at her, her eyes shining with tears as she nodded. “We’ll go home.”

Tara jolted awake, bolting from the bed to stumble down the hall to the bathroom. Her heart pounded hard in her chest as she slammed the door closed and locked it. Sliding down the door, she tried hard to regulate her breathing in the cool darkness of the small room.

Please don’t please don’t please don’t please don’t—

A quiet knock came on the other side of the thin wood. “It’s me, baby. Tara, it’s me. It’s Mina. Let me in.”

She’s not real. She’s not real. Mina’s not real. They probably—

Another knock, this one a tiny bit louder and with enough force to be felt through the door. Tara shifted to press her cheek to the cool surface of the wall, scooting on her bottom away from the door. Tugging her knees to her chest, she reached up and worked the lock on the doorknob. Her eyes widened as she watched the door swing inwards to reveal Mina’s patient countenance. Tears slipped down both their cheeks as Tara whispered, “Are you real?”

Mina edged closer… closer… reaching a hand out to push Tara’s tousled hair over the shell of her right ear. “I’m real, sweetie. I promise.”

“If you were a delusion, do you think you’d promise me you were real?”

“I suppose I would, because I want you to see me as hope.” Mina’s full lips spread in a tender smile and she twirled the blue ends of Tara’s hair around her fingertips. “I’m really here, though, babe. I promise.”

Tara considered Mina’s answer for a long moment before asking, “Did you get a hold of my parents?”

“I did, yes.” Mina cupped Tara’s cheek, and Tara realized she’d been relocated to her girlfriend’s lap. “They’re already here, remember? They’re in the office, asleep on the daybed.”

“I didn’t—I must’ve—”

Mina pressed a gentle kiss to Tara’s mouth. “You were pretty out of it. Your mother is talking to your doctor about the scrips.”

“My pills?”

Mina nodded. “I know how you feel about them, but both your mom and your doctor think they’ll help to calm you, maybe even keep the nightmares away until your mind can process—”

“What do you think? You’re my filter—you know me better than—” Tara felt her throat tighten and her face screwed up as she turned it away, leaning her forehead to Mina’s shoulder. “I don’t know—I—Mina, I—Mina—”

“No, sweetie. No. I will not let you do this to yourself. You lived. You lived.” Mina brought both her hands up to frame Tara’s face. “You did that on your own. You didn’t let them take you. You fought back and I—” Her smile stretched wide across her lips. “Baby, I am so proud of you.”

“But I killed—”

Mina shook her head. “No, Tara. No, you acted out of self-preservation. That is entirely different. Self-defense is not murder.” Mina kissed her mouth a second time. “You wanted to live, so you did!”

On to Part III


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– I –

The new ink made her forearm throb. Looking down at the finished product, Tara smiled. “It’s perfect,” she told the tattoo artist. “Absolutely stunning.”

An astronaut with a semi-colon jetpack floated in the galaxy-filled lightning bolt taken from the cover of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album. Written along the top of the bolt was a lyric from 1974’s Diamond Dogs—“Living on the breath of a hope”—while along the bottom was a lyric off his 1969 self-titled album—“I think my spaceship knows which way to go”. It matched the semi-colon phoenix-winged butterfly on her left forearm. The slightly modified words belonged to a band she listened to frequently now, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and echoed pain she had experienced as a youth—“And my story goes on and on and on and on…” Three capital letters blazed brightly behind the exquisite creature—AKF, always keep fighting. This new tattoo spoke of the pain she lived in presently. Spun from Bowie’s genius, the astronaut and 1969 quote expressed her loneliness now, while the line about hope represented the ecstasy she’d barely begun to experience with Wilhemina Bennington.

They’d met by chance in a Starbucks the day she—

Tara looked up as the door to the famous coffee shop swung open and a tall, curvy brunette rushed inside, dropping her dripping, makeshift newspaper umbrella into the black trashcan by the door. Sighing heavily, she sat down in the chair nearest Tara’s table and finger-combed her hair, commenting, “It’s supposed to be sunny and dry today, right?”

“According to Channel 8,” Tara answered without thinking.

The woman faced her, an easy smile on her full lips, her brilliant blue-green eyes dancing as they lifted to meet Tara’s honey-brown gaze. “Well, I think the weatherman’s got some explaining to do.”

Tara smirked, nodding. “To lots of people, I’m sure.” She eyed the woman, eyes lighting on the roller-bag docked next to her. “Tell me you’ve got somewhere to stay and get dry!”

She shook her head. “Actually, I don’t. When I got here, my room had been double-booked. Since I arrived second, the hotel booted me with an apology, but they had no vacancies.”

Tara frowned, leaning forward. “Anyone you know here? I mean, anyone at all?”

She shook her head again. “Not a soul.” She sighed heavily. “I was supposed to meet with a client, but his flight was cancelled due to weather. Any last minute hotel recommendations for a girl?”

“Well, yeah… maybe?” Tara’s lips turned up at the corners. “You look about my size, so I could lend you something dry and put your wet clothes in to wash. If you like my home, you’re more than welcome to stay.”

“Because I would turn down the hospitality of a beautiful woman?” She chuckled, holding out a wet hand to Tara. “Mina Bennington, and you are?”

Blushing, Tara shook the proffered slender hand and shook, a trembling smile on her lips. “Tara. Tara Webster.”

A few hours later, Tara and Mina sat on the couch in Tara’s tiny apartment, eating drunken noodles from a nearby Thai place, and watching Elena Undone on Tara’s television. A knock came at the door and Tara set her plate down on the coffee table, murmuring, “I’ll be right back.”

Crossing to the door, she picked up a box and unlocked the deadbolt. Turning the handle, she gave a tiny polite smile to the woman on the other side of the portal before pushing the box into her arms. Five minutes later, she hugged her arms and suffered through a diatribe of accusations. Tara wondered if it would ever end as arms wrapped around her from behind and a warm cheek pressed against hers, a steely voice growling, “Leave. Her. Be. I will be caring for Tara from now on. If I see you near her again, you will regret it.”

The door shut firmly in the other woman’s surprised face, Tara turned in Mina’s arms to bury her face in the taller woman’s chest, whispering, “Why did you—”

“Because she’s a bitch who doesn’t care about anyone but herself. That’s why.” Mina pressed a kiss to Tara’s red hair. “Don’t think about her. Come finish dinner with me.”

Tara nodded. “I just need to wash my face first.” She didn’t wait for a reply, but hurried over to the bathroom and shut herself away from the world. Leaning against the door, she took a couple of deep breaths before taking the two steps to the sink. Lifting the metal handle to run the cold water, she used both hands to splash water on her face two or three times. Raising her gaze to her reflection in the mirror, she took a shaky breath, whispering, “Not alone. Keep… keep fighting. She’s—” hiccup “she’s gone. She’s—” hiccup “she’s wrong. She’s mean.”

Opening her mirrored medicine cabinet, she gave a slight smile, reaching in for the partial box of razor blades. Ready to feel the comforting bite, she slid it open, fingertips reaching in practiced movements to find the right weapon to mar the smooth skin of her forearm. Before she could take the steel from its cardboard home, her mind screamed at her to focus on the ink on her forearm.

AKF—Always Keep Fighting. My story goes on and on and on and on…

Tara tried to shake off learned guilt, but her reflection caught her attention: dark eyes, wide and red-rimmed.

A light knock jerked her out of introspection.

Tara focused on the girl in the mirror, her face crumpling as she gasped, “I don’t think my spaceship knows which way to go!”

“Tara, baby, let me in!”

Whirling on her heel in a split second, she opened the door, pushing the blades into Mina’s hands. “Mina, I’m broken! My spaceship doesn’t know which way to go anymore!”

Tears slipped down Mina’s cheeks even as her lips spread in a shaky smile. “It’s okay, my pretty Major Tom. I’ll help you pilot it. Promise.” Stepping in to wrap her arms around Tara, Mina whispered, “Thank you for trusting me with you, baby. We’ll get through this, and we’ll do it together.”


Tara realized for the thousandth time, she could have easily ended it then, after Allie had ripped her to pieces by telling her she wished she’d been successful in her attempt to end it all. Glancing down at her spaceman, she smiled, grabbing her phone to take a picture of the new ink as the artist rang up her total. Sending it to Mina, she pocketed the phone and opened her wallet to pay the artist. Shouldering her satchel seconds later, she pushed earbuds into her ears, setting her iPod to repeat David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” before tugging a grey slouch beanie onto her head as she left. Her phone vibrated, and Tara felt her heart lift a little. Digging the phone out to run her finger across the screen, Mina’s words were the sun breaking through the clouds—On my way, babe. Can’t wait to see it in the flesh! XOXO

On to Part II


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book Cover

– Proem –

Tara pressed the Play button on her blue iPod before tugging the AKF sweatshirt over her blue-streaked hair. Tears fell from her eyes as she shoved the long sleeves up her arms, her gaze catching on her left forearm as she ignored her phone when it began to vibrate; she knew the caller was almost certainly her boss, just as she also knew his call would be to beg her to change her vacation dates. The loss of another manager weighed heavily on the franchise and they needed her there because he needed to be elsewhere.

Guilt still compelled her to do as they asked, to push her personal life aside and be there for them, but she couldn’t force herself to do it… not again. Not this time. She had to take care of her own house first. Shoving the thoughts aside, she tugged the shirt down over her belly.

It buzzed again, but the trilled purr of the gorgeous feline who shared her bedroom offered a pleasant and momentary distraction from her thoughts. She whirled and bent to lift the calico into her arms, nuzzling her wet face into the cat’s side, and as if her furry companion knew she needed comforting, the purr grew louder.

“Almost time, babe.”

She looked up at the door, finding the comforting visage of her girlfriend leaning against the jamb. Nuzzling the cat’s soft fur, Tara gently set the animal on the bed, giving her a good scratch. She nodded. “I know.”

“You’re worried.”

She nodded again. “Mina, I am. I’m worried… really worried.”

“You shouldn’t be, sweetie. Your mother knows you both so well, and she says to talk to him.” Mina crossed the room. “Tara—” She lifted her hands to push a lock of Tara’s fiery hair over her ears. “She definitely wouldn’t steer you wrong. Not after everything you’ve been through. She thinks he’s ready.”

Tara bowed her head, leaning her cheek into Mina’s touch. “She asked if I had a girlfriend.”

“Right?” Mina smiled, her lips turning up at the corners. “She loves you and she wants you to be happy, baby.”

Tara took a deep breath, reaching back to grab her satchel. Tossing the strap over her head, she murmured, “I can do this, right? I can do this.”

Wrapping her up in strong arms, Mina pressed a kiss to the crook of Tara’s neck. “You can do this.” Another kiss to Tara’s temple. “I promise.”

On to Part I


2.1 Through Her Sunken Dream E-Book CoverI’ve always been depressed. In fact, I think I’ve suffered from depression probably as long as I’ve been a writer. If not, it’s a pretty close contest.

I didn’t have an easy time of it in grade school or junior high. I’ve been overweight most of my life. To be fair, I’m not as overweight as some people. I fit in one airplane seat. I can wear most of the things I want to wear and do most of the things I want to do. The only restrictions I bear are my own, and when I look in the mirror, I don’t cringe… most of the time.

Some days are harder than others.

Those words are often the mantra a depressed person tells themselves. Those words are, sometimes, the only words to get them through the day.

Kids are mean.

Those words ring true, too. Kids are meaner than hell, and I took the brunt for whatever they could find. I have a club thumb and the days they didn’t feel like calling me “fatso,” they zinged me for that. I was a bookworm, a nerd, a fat kid, too quiet, and my parents raised me somewhat sheltered, so I didn’t know any of the popular music or television shows until I was about fourteen. You can only imagine what growing up like this did for me in the 1980’s. My parents didn’t do it to be mean, but it happened. I was bullied and the words… well, they hurt. They did massive damage I still deal with today, and in my younger years, this was killer.

I was fortunate enough, as life dealt a succession of trials and tribulations this past year, to have added cushioning when I fell. That cushioning came in the form of a man I truly admire, Jared Padalecki, and the birth of AKF, or Always Keep Fighting. I didn’t realize a man who always smiled could be just like me, who had to really think about it to see the glass as half-full. As AKF went into full swing, I would save money to get a permanent reminder to do just that on my left forearm. On good days, it reminds me I am strong. On bad days, it pisses me off just enough that I realize the reminder is doing its job: I am good enough. I am worth it. I am strong. My story… it goes on and on. We aren’t done yet and my stories are not all told.


Tara Webster and her girlfriend, Mina Bennington, travel to visit Tara’s parents in Texas, where Tara plans to finally come out to her father. On their first day there, Tara is attacked outside a tattoo parlor in Deep Ellum, and in self defense, she kills her attacker. A life-long sufferer of severe depression, the trauma sends her spiraling into a web of guilt, pain, and despair. Will she be able to muster the courage it takes to always keep fighting, or will she no longer refuse death?

On to the PROEM

Missing You: A Memoriam One Year Later


I was twelve and staying at home with my two little brothers when my aunt arrived to babysit us. She brought a movie and two board games with her. Clue and Monopoly were (and remain) my favorites, and since she and I were only eight years apart in age, we liked many of the same things. She pushed the videocassette into the player and hit the play button before crashing to the floor in front of the coffee table and tugging the lid off of Clue. The first notes of “Underground” came over the television speakers, and the barn owl flew onto the shiny black screen.

This was the night I met David Bowie.

Labyrinth would go on to stay with me for my whole life; to this day, Jareth, King of the Goblins is one of my favorite villains—and to this day, I also think he was more the victim than Sarah… but that’s probably just my bias, haha!—and Bowie’s songs for the film are some of my favorite songs. In fact, “Within You” is up in my top ten very favorite songs, and if I’m completely and utterly honest, it’s probably in my top three. That year, I begged my mother for the soundtrack for the movie and I played it over and over and over… I think I probably played it until it was dead. I started to write what we now know is fan fiction, and it was called Return to Labyrinth. I buried myself in the story, and wrote on it until I was fourteen. During the interim, I helped my aunt move into her new apartment across town. During unpacking, I saw the cover of the Heroes album and I asked her about it. She told me David Bowie was the man who’d portrayed Jareth in Labyrinth, and that he was a musician.

I wanted to know everything about him, and as was often back in those days, I was able to get pretty much everything I wanted while I was at her house, but as soon as I arrived at home, education was cut short. I did manage to convince my mother I needed his Never Let Me Down album, and I saved my money for a proper stereo, complete with a phonograph and a dual cassette player. His words really cut straight through me in the two albums I had of his. I already knew I wanted to be an author when I grew up, and the dreamer in me felt entirely summed up in these lines from “As the World Falls Down”:

There’s such a fooled heart
Beating so fast,
In search of new dreams,
A love that will last
Within your heart.
I’ll place the moon
Within your heart.

As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you.
Every thrill is gone.
Wasn’t too much fun at all,
But I’ll be there for you
As the world falls down.

And he was. Bowie took me straight through the end of junior high school, where I didn’t really fit in with anyone, and into high school, with his Never Let Me Down album. I’d dance in my room, twisting and spinning to make the only dress I ever loved flare and swirl. “Beat of Your Drum” and “Too Dizzy” spoke to teenage me.

You can go on dreaming every night
But I’m not letting you out of my sight
I’m ten times the man than any guy around
But you’re just itchin’-twitchin’-itchin’ for a break

There’s too much talking for a night drive
Too much mist in front of my eyes
But I’m helpless in love with you
But you’re just looking for a break

I was always and forever daydreaming, and trying to sort out if I was like all the other girls I knew, or if I was as different as I thought I was. As it turns out, some of the signs I was too busy burying, or convincing myself weren’t what they really were (wanting to kiss my best friend, but telling myself it was just wanting to kiss); were the cause of much turmoil for me. It didn’t help that I was continually bullied. My parents told me what most parents told their kids, “If you ignore them, they’ll stop.” The problem was that they didn’t; I just didn’t talk about it as much, and I tried not to draw attention to myself. I buried myself in writing, reading, and music.

My high school years could take me a zillion years to speak about, and while I was still heavily influenced by my aunt for much of my music taste during those years, we had a falling out my senior year that resulted in us not really speaking for a couple of years. During this quite dark time for me, I spent much time listening to The Cure, Depeche Mode, Bowie, George Michael, and Duran Duran. Bowie started the ascent for me, because these men helped me to understand my quirks give me power, give me an identity which solely belongs to me. I have only one choice: to embrace me for all my imperfections, or to be my own worst enemy and not accept what makes me ME.

Please help me!
Who can I be now? You found me.
Who can I be? Fell apart, you found me.
Now can I be now? You found me.
Now can I be real?
Can I be real? Somebody real.

From 1993-1999, I submersed myself in what I call my “goth years”. This means I let myself do all the things I wanted to do, and I made a wild array of choices. Many, many of them were not healthy choices, and for a variety of reasons. Some of them were good and have stuck with me to this day. On Halloween in 1993, the world lost a bright light as River Phoenix left this plane for the next. I’d been quite enamored with him, and I took his name as my pen name, partially to honor him, and partially to symbolize recognition of my changing life. Six months later, I discovered The Crow, and everything changed after I lost myself inside the dark world of James O’Barr’s world. I must have seen the film fifteen to twenty times in theatres, and when I found out it was a comic, I went hunting.

Love out of tune.
Sweet is the night,
Bright light destroys me!

I rekindled two friendships during this period, and both redirected me back to Bowie. In 1994, one of them brought me into the realms of Simon Gallup of The Cure. In 1995, I went to England with my aunt and thoroughly explored the island to which I’d still like to move. 1996-1997 brought me to Depeche Mode, and then 1998 brought me to terms with all that it meant to be me.

I fell in love. I’m talking arse over appetite, all in kind of love, and it was consuming. I’d posted some of my DM fan-fiction up on an Angelfire website, and linked my Depeche Mode email if they wanted to comment. She did, and we started talking on AOL instant messenger. Things I’d felt, things I’d wanted, things I’d been warned against in all my years of church going but found myself yearning for—they exploded in each conversation with Shanne. I even went up to visit her in Utah for a weekend, and the trip was amazing. A slight miscommunication when I returned to Texas split us up, and it wasn’t until 2002, on a chance instant messenger conversation—we were both in relationships at the time—that we were able to sort it out. Shanne was the one that got away, and she set the bar pretty damn high.

You touch me
I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me
And with your kiss my life begins
You’re spring to me
All things to me
Don’t you know you’re life itself?

With Shanne, as I said, I started to realize I was gay, and yet, years of programming still caused me to deny it, to call it bicurious, to call it the result of what had happened to me the night before senior prom. I tried so hard to keep from being what I called a glutton for punishment, by Southern Baptist Christian standards. In 1997, I came out of the broomcloset to my father and it went… well, to be blunt? HORRIFICALLY. I didn’t want that chasm to be reopened, so I kept it hidden. My brothers knew I’d experimented, but I don’t think they entertained it could be serious, that I could really be a lesbian.

Femme fatales emerged from the shadows
To watch this creature fair
Boys stood up on their chairs
To make their point of view
I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey

So I used the AOL personals section after her and started to talk to someone who went by the handle SandNSurf, I think. We hit it off quite nicely, until she came to pick me up for our date with her best bud in the car. All three of us went to the place she was going to take me, but they were closed, so we went back to her apartment, and watched a movie. I don’t remember her name, but when we went to dinner at Denny’s afterward, she told me I wasn’t gay enough for her because I wasn’t out yet. This hurt me and made me angry, because no-one has the right to tell anyone else when they should come out nor how they should do it, and they definitely don’t have the right to demand I do it to be with them.

This really confused me, and I was already confused. Was I gay? Was I straight? My earliest crush had been Jenny Barfield, my first real kiss had been Shanne, but I wasn’t gay enough?

So what you wanna know, Calamity’s child?
Where’d you wanna go?
What can I do for you? Looks like you been there, too.
‘Cause you’ve torn your dress
And your face is a mess…

2001 brought me to my twenty-sixth birthday and a job at an airline in July. I loved that job, and I met the man I’d call home for a year and a half afterwards. It ended horribly, and when I couldn’t function at the end, I picked up the pen I’d put down to spend more time with him, and tried very hard to recapture the level I thought I’d been writing at when I stopped. I started with a good fanfiction, one called Who Wants to Live Forever? and it was an alternate universe timeline, because my main character landed the character of Willow Rosenberg on Buffy the Vampire Slayer instead of her good friend Alyson Hannigan. She and a waiter at a local Italian restaurant, curiously named Orlando Bloom, become good friends, and when her relationship with her girlfriend goes south, she runs to him. Yes, eventually they become a couple, but then I wrote another story, one called I Feel You, and it explored me if I was in a same-sex relationship with a woman. I was able to write it, but I wasn’t able to say it. I still don’t understand why.

I, I can remember
Standing by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed
As though nothing could fall
And the shame was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them
Forever and ever

2005 brought about a friendship made with a wonderful woman, made over Yahoo instant messenger. We met through a writing group, where I was a moderator and she was the archivist. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong that year. I lost the job I’d had for two years, and the one I got to replace it wasn’t paying the bills. My car died a year after I got it, and when it died, I called her and told her I didn’t know what I was going to do. She called me back and told me her husband suggested me moving to Nevada. I laughed, and she told me to hold off until morning, because she wanted to be sure it wasn’t just the alcohol talking. In the morning, she called me and told me he was dead serious. We kind of threw things together over the next couple of months and then October 30, 2006 we took to the road.

I’d fallen pretty hard for her over the year of knowing her, and then over the next couple of years, it became worse. In July 2009, I finally took the step to come out. It was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, and I came out first to my best friend. The second person I came out to was a woman named Cindi, who ran a newsletter of Vegas lesbian/Pride events. I tried hard to make it to events, and I went to their July pool party, and in so doing, met the Hollys. We’re still friends. My job made it hard to get to much past the annual night Pride parade. (As much as I wish that had changed, my job still makes it hard to be active in the Las Vegas LGBT+ community.) I still had not come out to my parents or family in Texas; I was afraid to lose them, and in 2014, I found out my reasons why had merit.

No one can blame you
For walking away
But too much rejection
No love injection

My older younger brother, one I’d been close to for almost the entire time we’d been growing up until I moved to Nevada, decided I’d been the one to put a photo of two men kissing onto my personal Facebook timeline, which meant my entire Southern Baptist family could see it. There’s no way in the world I’d have ever let that happen, and even though my mother knew I wrote gay romance, she didn’t know her daughter was gay. I asked her to go through my whole timeline, and she said she couldn’t find it. I called my brother on the phone, asked him to explain to me where he found such a photo, because I wasn’t finding it. He stated repeatedly that he “wasn’t down with that gay shit,” and he “didn’t want to see two dudes kissing,” and that I “was the only one he could think of that was cool with that.” He told me it wasn’t personal, he just didn’t want to see it, so he was unfriending me on Facebook to avoid it. I told him I had gay friends, and so the only photo I had that was remotely controversial was the pink equal sign overlay on my profile photo that said I was for marriage equality. He stated again that I was the only one, and that he “couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate that gay shit.”

Because of this incident, I resolved to never tell him I was gay. Also, the influx of his hate created a chasm between us, a chasm that still exists. Sometimes I wonder if it will ever close, other times I’m pretty certain it won’t.

But the film is a saddening bore
Because I wrote it ten times or more
It’s about to be writ again
As I ask you to focus on
Sailors fighting in the dance hall…

I began publishing that year, and this led me to some people who retaught me to write. I learned quite a bit about self-publishing and I learned I am not a good marketer. Another thing I noticed? It was becoming harder and harder not to reveal myself to my mom and dad. Marriage equality and hate crimes against the LGBT+ community, were on the rise. I felt passionately about keeping my brothers and sisters safe, and so many were dying… I talked about it all the time. I got involved when I could, and I broached the subject when I was dating a girl briefly, broached it with my mother.

“What would you do if you found out one of your kids was gay?” I asked, disguising it as research for a book.

“I’d love them,” she replied simply. I think she saw right through me.

You can’t make love with money
You can’t make mistakes with babies

The election campaigning started full blast at the end of 2015 and I finally came to terms with myself. I was going to tell them. I prepared myself for this by writing a short story called “Glittering Soul” in which the events go down, and much of it was premonitory. I wish the love interest part had happened, but I was glad the incident with her brother did not. I looked towards going down for Christmas 2015, and telling them then, but I could not get the time off from the job that paid the bills. I was crushed, and all the tension that had built with knowledge there’d be release, compounded.

I heard David Bowie was coming out with a new album, and it was to coincide with his 69th birthday. Blew my mind he was going to be 69, but I made plans to buy it and I gave the first single a listen. “Blackstar” was (and is) so cool, so addictive, so incredibly Bowie, and I knew I’d love the whole album. After Christmas, things in my life took a swift turn for the worse. At 1:41am on January 11, 2016, I saw a post on Facebook from one of my dear friends, Anna. Simply, it said: “No, no, no, no, no. Not David, not yet.” I answered back, “What’s going on?” Her reply was, “We have lost David Bowie.” It felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I mean, I’d never thought he was mortal. I never contemplated a life without him. In 1997, when he teamed up with Reznor for the Outside tour and for “I’m Afraid of Americans” I wasn’t certain he even aged, but dead? No… it wasn’t (isn’t) possible! He’s the Starman! He’s Ziggy! He’s the freaking Goblin King!

Live without your sunlight
Love without your heartbeat

How? What part of my life have you not influenced? You taught me it was okay to be me! You taught me it was okay to be different and to revel in it, and you taught me to appreciate life and that its very soundtrack was music. How am I supposed to live without you here? In this world? This world?!

Now. Not tomorrow.
Not tomorrow.

And it happened. It really happened. We lost you. In the coming weeks and months, I’d watch the tributes to you—my favorite was Annie Lennox and Gary Oldman’s intro to Lorde’s “Life on Mars?” I still have it bookmarked in a tab from the day I watched it last February, and I still can’t watch it without tears.

I don’t know how to say it all with the right words. I don’t know how to convey how much my heart still hurts knowing you’ve returned to the stars. I don’t know how to tell you how much I, like many others, miss you. Most of all, I don’t know how to thank you for what all you’ve done in my life. Until the day I figure out my “right words,” I’ll look to the sky and when I see stars, I’ll think of you, resting amongst them, home again.

But man, do I miss your presence among us. I really do.

A city full of flowers
A city full of rain
I’ve got seven days to life my life
Or seven ways to die


Sweet & Scary Flash Fiction Blog Hop:


Here’s mine, called “A Lifetime Away from You,” and it’s a clip from a story which needs an overhaul. It’s always been a favorite scene of mine. Hope you also like it!

“A Lifetime Away from You” by M. LeAnne Phoenix


Kaiyu remembered hearing the shōji slide shut as he sat up in bed, a slow smile stretching across his lips as his nose caught the scent of breakfast and tea. His eyes turned to the disarray of the bed and surrounding room, and he bit his lower lip as he remembered the heat of the night. We made love all night. All night was I inside him… I will teach him how to take me, too! He slipped from underneath the coverlets, reaching for his pyjama bottoms and robe. The bamboo cool beneath his feet, he ran his fingers through his hair and stretched, listening for a much beloved voice.

Glancing down at the mat next to the door, he saw only his boots. Rasmus’ were conspicuously missing. Lifting his gaze to the landscape, his brow furrowed as he scanned the trees for any sign of his pale lover. “Where did you go?” he asked the wind. “Where would you go?”

A shout from the main house jerked his head around, and he rushed to the edge of the verandah to see Takeshi running hard in the direction of the glade. Kaiyu called out through mindspeak, Captain, what is it?

The answer came immediately. Your tiger is cornered. I go to help him. He is blind, Kaiyu-san!

Slamming his feet into his boots, Kaiyu took off running, following Rasmus’ scent to the glade, returned to its icy beauty… though now, it was stained with crimson, and he could not tell on sight what was blood and what was blossoms. A trail of blood led out of the glade, and he followed it, finding the struggle had moved to the forest just beyond Nakamura clan borders. He heard the sounds of fighting as he neared, Takeshi joining him, his eyes concerned. I smell blood. I smell a lot of blood. Someone is hurt.

Kaiyu’s eyes flashed. You better hope it isn’t Rasmus or there will be hell to pay.

Takeshi nodded. From both of us.

They emerged to find Rasmus standing on shaky legs, his arms up to protect his injured face, opposite a creature from forbidden Nakamura family lore. It stood tall, taller than Kaiyu, bearing undeniable leonine features, hollow eyes, and claws stained red with Rasmus’ blood. Kaiyu noticed Rasmus’ head did not face his opponent, though his body did. He responded to the creature’s vicious attack with deadly force, repeatedly slamming a hidden makeshift weapon down into its eyes, growling, “An eye for an eye, fucking bastard!”

Kaiyu blinked, realizing what his lover used for a weapon: the broken wire frames of his glasses. Ras is blind. He hurried to catch Rasmus when he stumbled back from the body of the Child of the Sun. Rasmus startled, going on the defensive, but Kaiyu shushed him, “Shhhhh… Ras, it’s me, it’s Kaiyu—” His voice died in his throat when his love turned his face to his.

“Kaiyu?” His hands, covered in blood, reached up to feel his face. “It’s dead, isn’t it? I killed it?”

“Oh, Rasmus…” Kaiyu looked over at Takeshi, who nodded at him from the creature’s side. “Yeah, you killed it. We gotta get you looked at—“

“An optometrist is kinda out of the question. Don’t think they have a prescription to fix this—” Rasmus gave a dry laugh, hissing when Kaiyu lifted him into his arms, alerting him to other wounds not so visible. It’s hard to see through all the blood. How the hell did Rasmus—barely three months of training—best a Child of the Sun? I don’t know many samurai able to do what he did, and he did it blind! He glanced over at Takeshi, saying aloud, “You will be all right?”

“I will take care of the body, dispose of it properly so its soul will return to the good King of Cats, then I will follow. Get him to the daimyō, musuko. He will know what to do. Perhaps he can restore him.”

Kaiyu nodded, whirling and fixing his mind on his father. He staggered as his icy surroundings faded and the clean lines of his father’s verandah came into view. Relief flooded Kaiyu when Nakamura Ryuichi wrapped his arms around him, asking, “What is it? What happened to Rasmus-san?”

Kaiyu sank down to the floor. “He defeated a Child of the Sun, Oto-san. It took his eyes and I don’t know where he isn’t bleeding from! Chichi—I-I don’t know what—”

Nakamura Ryuichi pressed a kiss to his son’s temple as he knelt beside them. “I will teach you this. Hold him, he is losing consciousness and you must calm him.”

Kaiyu kissed Rasmus’ forehead, whispering, “Stay with me, Ras. Stay with me, stay with me forever—”

His father placed his hands together over Rasmus’ prone body, intoning a low note, drawing them apart, fingers splayed as energy stretched and grew like glowing gossamer between his hands until he’d created a web large enough to encompass his lover’s head and neck. Dropping it over Rasmus’ face, he started again, making one next large enough for his torso, one for each leg, and one for each arm. The tone changed to a lower note as he clapped his hands together, yanking them apart to slam them onto the web, sending a blast of energy bright enough to cause Kaiyu to squint as he felt it pulsing through Rasmus’ body. He couldn’t see what the light did to his lover, but he knew his father would do nothing to hurt Rasmus. As the light dissipated, so did the web, drawing back into Nakamura Ryuichi’s hands. The blood gone, still the clothing remained destroyed, and when Kaiyu cupped Rasmus’ cheek, it roused him, causing him to blink as he smiled sleepily, covering his hand with his lithe one. “I went back for my glasses—”

“Do you have a spare pair, Rasmus-san?” Nakamura Ryuichi interjected. “If so, you will need to rely on it since you used your others as a weapon. Quite ingenious, I must say, musuko-chan.”

The amber orbs widened as they met Kaiyu’s wet jade. “A weapon? Whaaat?” He rubbed his eyes as he remembered. “Oh, wait… I did. I used them—” Rasmus pushed his face into Kaiyu’s chest, shuddering. “I don’t want to remember that… that creature. It looked like something out of a horror movie.”

“They are extremely rare. There were only seven recorded on the planet,” Nakamura Ryuichi divulged. “It is unlikely you need worry about seeing another. Do you hurt anywhere or did I restore you completely, Rasmus-san?”

Kaiyu helped his lover sit up, watching closely as Rasmus stretched, checking himself over before he answered, “Everything seems okay. I don’t feel any more pain, things are just a little blurry—a lot blurry, actually.”

“Ranma-kun, take him to your chambers. I will send food and tea to you. Takeshi, please accompany them.” Nakamura Ryuichi pressed a tender kiss to Rasmus’ hair. “I will come to check on you shortly. I must report this incident before I come to see you. We must all be alert; it has been long since a Child of the Sun has been sighted.”

FINIS… for now. 🙂