The Story of Ten

Today’s story is in response to the DP Challenge Prompt: Ten. 

My name is Hortensia Louisa Broadway.  Close family and friends call me Ten. My seventy-five year old mother lives with me. She is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and I am her caretaker. Since I take care of her, I don’t have time to take care of myself. I know. It sounds like a cop-out, but I really don’t. I don’t work so I can go on vacations, or have nights out on the town with my friends and maybe meet a nice guy. No, I work and schedule my time and finances around caring for mama.

I watch a little more of her slip away, day by day. One minute, she knows my name and that I’m her daughter. The next minute, she’s telling me to get out of her house – my house – or she’s going to call the cops. Sometimes, I can make light of her outbursts. Most times, it absolutely shatters me.

It would be nice to be one of those women who have a meltdown and goes traveling to a foreign country to do yoga and find herself, or go hiking in the dead of winter and lose a few toes to frostbite, just for a change of scenery and spiritual enlightenment. But I can’t afford that life. I stay up all night to make sure mama doesn’t leave the house and get lost.

My workday starts at 11 pm and ends at noon. The nurse shows up at 7am to tend to mama. I sleep between noonish and 6pm, while the nurse is there. This is my life, seven days a week.

While I long for the future, mama lives in the past. Most of the time, it sounds like a happy place. Then there are the days she goes room by room, calling for him, the one that got away, only to end up on the living room floor crying for Winston. He was her first love. She loves the man who broke her heart more than she ever loved daddy. I think daddy knew it, too. He loved mama the way mama loved Winston. I remember the last thing my father said to her. He said, “Honey, I love you more than all the sand, on all the beaches.” She said, “I’ll see you when you come out of surgery, baby.” He didn’t survive the surgery.

When I was about fifteen years old, she told me she married my father because she didn’t want to be lonely, but that she grew to love him over time. But, Winston would always have a special place in her heart. There are some things a fifteen year old doesn’t need to know.

Shortly after daddy’s death, she went searching for Winston. She found out from a mutual friend that he married the woman he’d left mama for, and they had seven kids. All girls. He’d passed away the year before daddy died. It wasn’t too long after daddy died that I noticed the signs. She’d forget my name, or that she was ever married, even though she still wore her ring. She’d get dressed to go out, but only have her underwear on. After she left food cooking on the stove for the third time while she went out to grocery store to buy something for dinner, her landlord told me she had to go. He begged me to put her into a nursing home.

Sometimes, it’s not clear to me if I resent mama or her illness. But I’m angry that the day I brought her home to live with me, is the day my life stopped. I don’t have any siblings or other close relatives to spilt the responsibility of her care of with. At the same time, I wasn’t ready to put her in a nursing home. So, I deal with this burden and guilt quietly. I save my tears for the moments when I’m alone. But I think it may be time to let her go.

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Lucid Moments

Mama had good days and bad days. I was grateful for the days she remembered my name, or her wedding day or any part her childhood. I started to record her voice on my phone. I didn’t know how long I would have her with me, so I made it a point to capture her moments of clarity. I tried to record her on video once, and she cussed me out! She called me everything but a child of God!

Sometimes, she talked about daddy. But mostly, she talked about good times with Winston. What I learned about my very proper, buttoned down mother during these moments of reminiscence was, she was a freak. She and Winston enjoyed each other every chance they got, everywhere they could. Not that I wanted these details, but she didn’t speak of daddy so passionately. She spoke of him fondly, matter of factly. For the first time in her life, she removed the filter and spoke her truth.

“It bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“What bothers me, mama?”

“That I wasn’t in love with your dad.”

“I’m fine with it mama. You had a life, a past. It’s not a bad thing.”

“We were good friends. But that was all. You were an accident. I didn’t want children. He did. Now, I’m glad I had you. You weren’t too bad as a child. You were a good kid. You turned out to be a good woman. And now, that I need someone who knows me, you are here. I’m not entirely alone.”

I pretended that her words didn’t sting. I pretended to appreciate her disease driven candor. Somewhere in that moment, I found myself wondering how much longer she would linger. Then, I quietly admonished myself for thinking such a thought and not enjoying her lucid moment. There were fewer moments like this, lately. My feelings would mend, eventually. She didn’t realize that being unfiltered was not her natural state of being. She used to be more diplomatic. At this point, I settled for any moment that brought my mother back to me over the stranger who didn’t recognize me most days.

Today, she felt like talking about the love of her life, Winston.

“Did I ever tell you about how Winston and I met?”

“No mama,” I lied, “Why don’t you tell me?”

“Well, I was young. Maybe about fifteen, if my memory serves me right. I received and invitation to go to Tiffany Jackson’s birthday party. She was the rich, snooty girl at school. I’m still not sure how I ended up on the invitation list. But I heard that Winston was going to be there. I had to be there! It took a lot of convincing for my parents to allow me to go. Daddy was dead set against it because boys would be there. Back then, boys were considered more dangerous than street drugs are today. No parent wanted to lose their precious little girls to some fast-ass boy. Being seen in the company of a boy with no chaperone, was a BIG no-no. Anyway, after much debate, Daddy agreed to let me go, under the condition that he attended as my plus one. Embarrassing, to have your parent as your date! You just don’t know!

“Anyway, I was surprised to see a number of fathers had the same idea when I arrived to the party. Some of the dads sat at the bar watching their daughters like hawks as they danced. A few of them walked up to their daughters while they were on the dance floor to warn the boys not to let their hands slip anywhere below the waist line. They followed their daughters around the hall, and stood outside the ladies room to make sure the girls weren’t trying to sneak off with the boys. My dad intended to dance every dance with me! I drew the line when he tried to  Walk the Dog. I went and sat down in one of the seats along the wall. Daddy didn’t leave the dance floor. He and Mrs. Jackson tried to do all the teen dances that night to demonstrate how silly they thought we looked. He wanted to make sure he embarrassed me enough that I didn’t dance with anyone. He succeeded! All the girls laughed at me until their fathers noticed my daddy’s tactic worked, and began to follow suit.

“Winston noticed me sitting along the wall, pouting. He brought me a drink and sat beside me.

‘Hey there, Wallflower,’ he said. That became his nickname for me. He sat with me until the party was over. He tried to look aloof and uninterested in me to make my father feel good. Daddy came over a few times to make sure I was ok and that Winston wasn’t bothering me. That Winston was so smooth! He was exactly what every parent wanted for their daughter, the perfect gentleman. But when he got me alone, ooooowheee!! That boy was fire!”

Mama gazed into the distance wistfully, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. I watched as she retreated to that place where Alzheimers hides her away from me. I saw the light leave her face, as she turned to me.

“Have you seen Winston? Did you make him leave? Winston! Winston! Where are you?” She stood, and began to wander through the apartment, searching for her first love. I remained in the living room, wondering how long it would be before I got to speak to my mother again.

Photo Credit: Wallflower by Bunky’s Pickle
Inspiration for this post came from the Daily Post’s word prompt: Invitation

Out of Time

Today’s short story is a continuation of a previous post, Ripples. (You might want to read Ripples first!) It’s also a fun twist on the Daily Post prompt: Unseen. Enjoy!

Semaj couldn’t find information on her – no family tree, no school information, no social network information, no pictures, nothing. Neveah Early didn’t exist. Even he was able to find bits and pieces of his own history on line. He didn’t remember the life he found in his research, but somehow it all made sense. He wondered how much Neveah already knew about his past life. Hopefully, not more than he did. He would have to walk into this dinner date cautiously.

He reached the restaurant fifteen minutes early, hoping to scope out the area and see the moment she arrived. She was already standing outside of the restaurant waiting for him. She saw him as he pulled up and smiled. Semaj smiled back but wondered what her game was. Their first meeting was not random. It was planned and deliberate. The fact that she chose the restaurant and was there more than 15 minutes ahead of the suggested time struck him as suspicious.

Dinner was pleasant. To anyone who might have been observing the couple, they appeared to be on their first or second date. Her body language gave the impression that she was interested in him. She leaned in when she spoke to him, her shoulders rounded and pointed toward him, she tilted her head to the right and looked him directly in the eye when speaking and listening to him. Her left hand caressed her exposed neck from time to time. She smiled flirtatiously at him when she wasn’t speaking. She hung on to his every word. He noticed all of this, as well as the direction of the conversation. Where did you go to school? Did you play any sports? What kind of work did you do before coming to Providence? Why the sudden move? Do you enjoy your current line of work? He noticed that she didn’t reveal much about herself and she hadn’t talked about the “ripples” she’d mentioned earlier. She was trying to gauge how much he already knew about his past life. She had no intention of giving him the whole story.

“So, enough small talk,” he said, “Why don’t you tell me about you. Who are you and what is it that you do? You mentioned there was a problem with me being here. You said something about ‘ripples.’ Tell me about that.”

Neveah’s position didn’t change much, but she tilted her head to the left and her expression became less flirtatious.

“Very direct,” she noted with a slight smile. “I’m glad to see that hasn’t changed. I was sent to find you. You may not believe what I’m going to tell you next, but bear with me. You’re out of time. The life you’re living now, is not the timeline you belong to. You and I did use to work together. We were partners at Infinity Events. The event planning business as a cover makes it easier for us to connect with the people we’re looking for without causing major ripples in the timeline. We were on assignment when we lost you. We found you about a month ago and have been watching you since then. We believe the individual we were in pursuit of captured you, wiped your memory and left you here. During the six months that you’ve been here, you’ve come in contact with people that will have a major impact on future events. Your contact and influence over them, has already changed the course of several lives. We have to get you back to the moment you went missing, capture the criminal, and hopefully, that will set some history back on course.”

“I see,” was all he said. He felt like she was leaving out some important details. She leaned back and watched him for a moment.

“Is that all you have to say?”

“For now.”

Neveah nodded, pulled a small photo out of her purse an slid it across the table to Semaj. He picked it up and looked at it. It was a picture of woman. She was sitting on someone’s lap and laughing. The other person in the picture was cut off. Only the hand around her waist and part of the leg she was sitting on were clearly visible.

“She’s beautiful. Friend of yours?”

“No. This is who we are looking for. Have you seen her?”

“I can’t say that I have.” The truth was, he recognized her immediately. “Why are you looking for her? What did she do?”

“She saved a life in our present day that was not supposed to be saved. She’s here, protecting that person.”

“So, what does that have to do with me?”

Neveah didn’t respond right away. She tried to keep her expression blank, but Semaj saw her eyes squint slightly. She knew.

“I don’t know. But if she tries to make contact, we’ll need you to contact us right away. You have my card.”

He nodded. She reached across the table and touched his hand.

“Thank you for meeting me. We’ll be in touch.” She got up to leave before the check came.

“What about the bill,” he asked, not that he minded paying.

She smiled, “It’s taken care of. The restaurant is a part of the Infinity Events network.”

He looked around in surprise, then back to her, but she was already gone. By the time he stepped outside, she was nowhere to be found.

. . . . .

Semaj stepped into his apartment, sat down on the couch and replayed the events of the evening. If they’d been watching him for the last month, they probably had his place bugged. He couldn’t trust anyone. Thankfully, they’d planned for this. He grabbed his tablet, opened his email and sent a group message to his students. The subject line would be enough to alert her. He typed their code word on the subject line: Class canceled.

There is Always One More Time

My shift was finally over. I couldn’t wait to get home and get out of my clothes. My feet were sore in spite of the shock absorbing ergonomic mats they purchased for each register. I stepped outside into the cool November air and was warmed by the notes of a saxophone. It had been a few weeks since I heard that sound. My friend had returned. I smiled and walked over to Drew’s Rotisserie and ordered two platters.

My co-workers told me not to encourage him by feeding him. But he wasn’t homeless as they all had assumed. Leo was an old man that needed something to do with his time.  He just wanted to share his gift. He loved to play. He never accepted my money, but he looked forward to a good meal and a dinner partner from time to time. I stood outside of Drew’s and listened to Leo play.  He was playing, “Learn to Love.” Something in the air made the notes sound perfect. Not too much echo. None of the notes seemed to float too far away. The song could be heard clearly no matter where you stood the parking lot.

I sat on the half-wall across from him. He opened his eyes as the last note drifted above us. I handed him his platter and drink.

“I haven’t seen you in a row of Sundays.”

He smiled at what he referred to as my “old soul” terminology.

“I’ve been a little under the weather. But they patched me up and I feel like new!”

I wanted more details, but didn’t want to be rude and pry. So all I said was, “Well, I’m glad to have you back!” He offered an appreciative smile as he began to eat his meal.

“I’m going to be leaving again. You probably won’t see me here after today.”

“Are you going to a different spot? Let me know where. We can still do dinner.”

“I meant, I’m leaving town. My sister is already here. She had apartment packed and called the movers to haul my stuff before I left the hospital.”

“This is your bossy sister? Not the other sister from New York, right?”

He gave a hearty laugh at my reference to his twin sisters.

“Yes, the bossy one, Loretta. She’s taking me back to New Orleans to live with her. Tracey is actually going to be moving down, early next year. It’s hard to keep up with each other with the distance between us.”

“I figured you’d move with in Tracey. It’s a closer distance to travel. No need to fly.” He told me how much he hated flying, once.

“It is, but Tracey is a bit of a jet setter. She’s always on the go. But she’s moving down next month. She and I were the rebels! We couldn’t wait to leave home and see new things! I saw the world while in the military. She saw the world traveling with this orchestra and that. We’ve had full lives, but this seems like a good time to go back home. That’s where the rest of our family is. All but our kids, that is. They have set up their lives in other places. Living away, just like we did.”

I nodded my head. I planned on “living away,” just like his kids. But not having anyone you knew around, especially if things went south, was a bit of a risk.

“Yeah, I know that look.” I looked up. I didn’t realize that he’d been observing me. “It’s worth the risk. It’s not always lonely. And from what you’ve told me, you come from a good family. They’ll be there if you need them. This is the time for you to live! Take that job overseas! Fall in love, but don’t have no babies too soon! Don’t laugh! I’m serious! Kids will stop you in your tracks! See some things. Build some memories for yourself, then come back home and build your life.”

“Travel, build memories, don’t get pregnant, come back home. Got it!”

We both laughed then fell silent as we finished rest of our meal. I gathered our trash when we were done, and dropped everything in can a few steps away from where we were sitting.

“I hope you’ll come see me in your travels.”

“Of course! I think it might be my first stop! I need to check Mardi Gras off my bucket list!”

“Good! It’s a date!” He handed me a slip of paper with his new address and phone number on it. “Put that in your phone,” he instructed, “I expect to hear from you before the month is out! We may not live in proximity after today, but we can stay in touch.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, pulling out my phone obediently. Leo picked up his sax.

“So, any special requests?”

“There is Always One More Time. It’s my favorite.”

He nodded and played.

The Move

What did I have to lose? If God was trying to give me a hint, I heard Him, this time. The second floor was on the sidewalk. The first floor was no where to be found. The house looked like it had been kicked over by a bratty baby giant. There was nothing left. This was the second storm to level the house my grandfather built. I didn’t have the strength or patience to rebuild it, again. The place was too big for me anyway. Family didn’t come around like they used to, anymore. There was no point in trying to start over in this place.

I didn’t have much left. The furniture was destroyed by the flood. My bedroom was on the first floor. My clothes probably weren’t worth salvaging. They were probably moldy from the summer heat and humidity. I wouldn’t be able to get in to see if there were any pictures or other items that could be rescued, until what was left of the structure was deemed sound. All I had left were the clothes on my back and my car.

I took a few pictures of what was left of the house. The house. It didn’t even feel like home anymore. I wiped the corner of my eye. I don’t know if the moisture was a droplet of sweat or a tear drop. I walked back to my car an willed myself not to look back. I remembered the story of Lot and his family leaving Sodom and Gomorrah. I remembered what happened to his wife. I couldn’t look back. There was nothing in this place for me anymore. I got in my car and drove away without looking in the rear view mirror. As painful and dramatic as this uprooting was going to be for me, I decided to make the best of it.

I had a bucket list, and now seemed to be as good a time as any to chip away at it. I decided that the West was calling me. So I pointed my car in that direction and decided to answer the call. After all, what did I have to lose?

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Damage After Hurricane Irene

Cougar

His mother wasn’t thrilled when we made the announcement. After all, she was only a few years older than me. She regarded me as some kind of pervert that stole her son’s innocence and opportunity to meet younger women, who could produce several offspring with ease. It would probably surprise her to know that I expressed concerns about our age difference on more than one occasion. Contrary to her belief, I’m not the type of woman who was on always the prowl for the attention younger men. As a matter of fact, all of my previous suitors were around my age. This time, it wasn’t an age thing. He and I simply fit together. He is the perfect balance of vigorous youth and old soul. He wasn’t anymore his age, than I was mine.

  As I got dressed, I recalled our last discussion stemming from my insecurities.

“I don’t think it’s too much to ask.”

“I just don’t want us to rush.”

“Since when is five years a rush?”

“You’re making this more difficult than it needs to be.” He sounded exasperated.

“All I’m saying is that if you aren’t sure that you want to take things to the next level, then we shouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. Save that for the woman you really want to be with.”

“I want to be with you. I just don’t want to analyze the mess out of defining what being with you is.”

“After so many years, I’d think you’d know by now!”

“Can we not fight about this, again? Please, come back to bed.”

“We won’t argue. I’m just going to go home and let you figure out what you want.”

“Sweetheart, stop.” He got out of the bed and came around to where I was getting dressed and took my hands in his. I looked down at his hands. They were thick, strong and smooth. They still had the softness youth. Mine, while not wrinkled, showed their age next to his. I pretended not to notice. He let go of my hands, took me into his arms, and rubbed my back gently.

“I’m only 32. I’m not ready for married life, yet. I have plans and things I’d like to do before I settle down.” I pulled away from him.

“What else is there to do that you can’t do as a married man? You have your career, you’re pursuing your second degree, you travel whenever you feel like it – with or without me. What more is there?”

He pressed his lips together and began pacing and rubbing his hands through his hair. He didn’t speak. Maybe he did have other options.

“You want to explore your options are before settling down with an old woman. Don’t you?”  He at least had the decency to look offended by my suggestion. I saw his jaw clench. I did more than offend him with my accusation. I’d angered him. He grabbed my arm and dragged me over to the full length closet mirror on the other side of the room.

“Look,” he commanded. “LOOK! What do you see?”

I looked at our reflection in the mirror. He towered behind me, both of his hands clutched my waist.  He didn’t look boyish at all, especially now. He was the boss. My t-shirt was on inside out. He pushed my hair off my shoulder. I looked like woman trying to hold on the remnants of her youth.

“I see a young man, who is pursuing everything a man his age should; standing behind a woman that is almost twice his age, who has already achieved some of those things for herself, who wants to be by his side as he achieves those things, and more, for himself. I see a man who has been asked by his family and friends why he can’t find a woman his own age. I see a man whose mother wants grandkids, but if her son waits much longer she’s only going to have grand-pets, and I don’t think that will make her happy. I see a woman who may have robbed this intelligent man of a certain part of his youth, stunted his growth, and -” he cut me off.

“And yet, I’m still here. I need you to stop acting like we are on a strict schedule. We get to go at our own pace. You haven’t deprived me of anything. I’ve had a chance to date women my age. They didn’t satisfy me. You are exactly my speed. I love YOU. I want YOU. When the time is right, I want to give you the proposal you deserve and the wedding you’ve dreamed about since you were a little girl. No eloping. No Vegas chapel. I’m going to stand proudly at one end of the aisle in a tux, and you will be at the other end in a beautiful gown, walking toward me. And you better not take off like that chick in the movie, because I will chase your ass!”

He proposed two weeks later. I smiled, remembering his proposal. He came to my office, and proposed to me in front of everyone. He even brought wine and plastic wine glasses for everyone to share the moment. He tossed confetti when I said, “yes.” The little stinker didn’t let on that he’d bought the ring and had the proposal planned weeks before our argument. He let me believe that I would have to wait even longer for this day. Three months later, here we are, about to get married. I had a secret of my own. I had the stick packed in my luggage for the honeymoon. I’d let him think my recent bouts of queasiness were wedding jitters instead of morning sickness. He was right. Everything was happening at our pace. What other people thought about our relationship was none of our business. I took one more look in the mirror. What did I see? I saw a woman about to meet her husband.

Ipseity

Hello, there!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been busy working on an upcoming anthology. Take a look at the teaser under the “Books” option on the menu above. I’ll be sharing more about this anthology project in the coming weeks! Stay tuned!

i-belong-here-sadiq

 

Empty Chairs

I’ve reposted this story before, but came across it on my Facebook page today. I actually forgot about this story! (I know, I should know ALL my stories, right?!) Empty Chairs takes a look at what happens to the families of criminals and victims. They both lose something, but the way most of us see justice, is that it has to take as much away from guilty as possible, their livelihood, even their life. I can’t say whether that is right or wrong. Take a read and share your thoughts. Who lost more? Who deserves to mourn?

empty chair

I was angry. Even though two years had passed, the pain was still deep. I understood her attempt at an apology was meant to bring closure to me and my family, but I felt like she was just trying to ease her conscience…

Source: Empty Chairs

Carry My Burdens Away

Today’s Flash Fiction piece is based on a one word writing prompt from the Daily Post. Today’s word is: Carry.

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Elderly Woman, Valvettiturai by Adam Jones

 

My mother had me when she was young. She and my father never married. That was a great scandal in her day, to be found with child and unmarried. Though my mother and father loved each other, his family would not allow him to marry her. Any girl who would behave in such a way to get pregnant before marriage was not a suitable match for their son. They sent him off to live with another relative and made sure he attended university far away. Mother tried to abort me but her methods failed. My father’s family told him my mother died in childbirth, and that I was stillborn. He met another woman, fell in love, married and started a family.

Mother bore the burden of the sin, as did I to some extent. She never married, not for a lack of admirers, but because she was considered “damaged goods.” Father, however, was free to love again. Shame never touch him, but it etched fines lines of sadness around my mother’s eyes and mouth,  and broke her heart. I believe she was hard on me when I was child because she didn’t want me to be the type of man that hid from his responsibility. “It took two people to create you, but only one is here to raise you. If you love a woman, fight for her! Don’t let anyone make you ashamed of her.”

She took ill about three months ago. The doctors said she had a year to live. They wanted to schedule treatments and keep her in a nursing home to live out the rest of her days, but mother said no.

“I’m tired. I lived to see you grow to be a successful man. You studied hard and built a career for yourself, you married a lovely woman, and have raised 4 beautiful children. They have children now. I’m happy and blessed, but now it’s time for me to go. I won’t live my last days in a strange place with strangers looking after me. I want to die with the ones I love nearby. At the point that I can’t feed myself and you have to change my diaper, that is the day I must leave this earth.” We had discussed this over the years. I knew what to do. She told me which herbs to use when the time came, but I didn’t want to kill my mother. Even there, she assured me there would be no blood on my hands. “My life. My choice. I will just need your help.”

The day came. She hadn’t eaten much. She was weak and tired. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to say good-bye. Even a few relatives that shunned her when she became pregnant with me sent messages offering and seeking forgiveness. They waited until the end of her life to show her the love she need so much earlier in her life. They were selfish as far as I was concerned. Their olive branches were as good as a pile twigs. But Mother was gracious.  “My son,” she said, reading my expression, “I cannot carry hurt and anger to the other side. I forgive them and trust God to deal with them fairly.” As the family gathered to pray and thank God for the time we had with her, I lifted her from her recliner and carried her to her bed. She felt like she weighed no more than a sheet of paper. I thought of all the times she carried me in her arms as a toddler, or in a sling on her back when I was just a little boy. As petite as she was, as frail as she appeared back then, she carried me with little effort and never a complaint. I made sure her room was prepared ahead of time. She had fresh white linens and pillows on the bed, and lavender and white roses by her bedside. When she was comfortable, I fed her the berries and put out of my mind the thought that I was feeding her the thing that would take her from me. She chewed slowly, taking sips of water in between. Just before she closed her eyes and drifted off to permanent rest, she reminded me, “My life, my choice. This is not your burden to bear. You’ve been a good son. I’ll be at peace because I know you will continue to do well. I want you to be at peace that I’m not in pain anymore.” Then, she closed her eyes and slept. I couldn’t speak. I just nodded and cried at the thought of her taking the burden of guilt off of me and carrying it away with her.

Dear Vonnie

Seeking forgiveness is a tricky thing. Your history is examined; your track record, post-offense, is doubted; your motives are questioned and the risk of rejection is great. But sometimes, to be welcomed back into a loved one’s good graces is worth the risk.

vonnie-letter

Dear Vonnie, I have to live my life in such a way that makes you feel a sense of pride, in spite of my brokenness.  My imperfections are like a scarlet letter on your chest. Everyone can see how mu…

Source: Dear Vonnie