Birthday musings

Hello,
My name is lujain and I just turned 26.
I realize it’s just a moment in time, a fleeting memory for when I’m old and wrinkly. But today it feels immensely significant.
It feels like the whole world is encompassed in the cavity of my body where my soul resides.
Like all the possibilities are magnified and tangible.
I can taste the morning on my tongue, sweet and chaotic
I can taste the tears and laughter of my future bubbling in my throat
I can feel worry and hope stretching in my heart
I am a moment and all moments of my life.
I want to love them, to live them, to see them with fresh eyes
I want to be patient and kind
I want my daughters to be proud of me
I want to be cheered on with gusto and sincerity.
I need to be … Me
Happy birthday, soul, it’s a new day tomorrow.

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Chapter 2: Part 1/4

Chances

If there were a time to be lucky, the time would be now, Jade thought as she arranged the books back into their shelves after a bustling day at the bookstore. Today a book club of mothers and children was held at the store and the lively energy made Jade yearn for something more; for a sense of belonging and need. The women welcomed her in like their own and encouraged her to join them next month when they met to discuss the book of that month. One of the members gave her the book as a gift and the rest signed it. Jade didn’t know what to do, being on her own for so long any form of affection was foreign and scared her. She swallowed her fears and continued to sort the books the children enjoyed. Her heart ached at the visions of the little ones with their mothers, the safety they had was unmarred by the cruelty of the world. Knowing they would always be protected by the ones who gave them life, and loved for who they are brought tears to her eyes. Sometimes she wished she had that unconditional pure love. She hoped that she had it in her to give when the day came, that she wasn’t so much of a cynic that her well of love had dried out. That in her yearning for love she drained her own reserves. Jade tried to distract herself by thinking of the fair, it was drawing near, yet she hadn’t received the letter of acceptance, but she was holding out hope so she had stayed up almost every night crafting and creating the most delicate pieces of jewelry. The rush of beauty appearing between her hands dissipated some of the frustration she was feeling and gave her a sense of purpose. “see I am worth something” she would say under her breath as she worked.

it was an hour before closing when the bell chimed indicating someone entered the shop, but Jade was immersed in her little bubble she paid it no heed. Her skin jumped when a large form squatted down next to her and picked up one of the scattered books. She quelled her surprise as her eyes locked with the beautiful stranger from the other day. What was his name? She racked her brain trying to remember, a name that rolled around in her mouth, breathe Jade breathe James! Yes that’s his name.

She tilted her head to the side and smiled “Hello, James right?”

Her heart tripped as he flashed a wide smile “Yes it is, Jade”

The way he said her name made her feel like the only one in the world. Like everything quieted and vanished. The trees stopped dancing with the wind and the stars held their twinkling. The world caught it’s breath and so did she. Then as soon as it began it went on like nothing happened. But the blow was etched in her, Jade took it and closed the door on it to examine later. She straightened and dusted off her legs. He stood next to her reaching his full height, a foot and a bit towering over her ‘no need to show off’ she thought to herself smiling at her silliness.

James saw her try to suppress her smile “something funny?” he asked

She gave him her brightest one, “nope” she said shaking her head trying to be serious but failing.

Her smile undid him a bit, it lit up her face and transformed her, he swallowed whatever he was about to say, knowing it would’ve been unseemly to tell a perfect stranger what their smile did to them.

She realized that they were just standing there staring at each other, each not knowing what to do next. At a loss for words, Jade went back to work, arranging the books back in the shelves.

“It was very nice seeing you again James” she said dismissing him.

“You too Jade” he was frowning and Jade resisted the urge to apologize and ask what the matter was.

James shook his head at the absurdity of his thoughts and went into the bakery, she could see him talk to Jeremiah and leave with a box of pastries a few minutes later. Was it odd to feel like a piece of her was missing? She looked around her thinking she might find it under her desk or lying on the floor waiting for her to return it. Then shook her head attempting to clear it. She sat at her desk and inhaled deeply letting it out slowly as she opened her email… Please please please be here she hummed to her inbox as it loaded. Closing her eyes envisioning the invitation there and prolonging the inevitable a few more seconds.

“what are you doing?” Jeremiah whispered

She resisted the urge to be startled “Willing the invitation to be in my inbox”

“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news … but you don’t posses magical powers… unless you’ve been keeping them from me.” a smile played down his serious tone

That made Jade laugh “Oh, it always slips my mind” she said peeking between her fingers “will you stay and check with me?”

“Of course, I’m here for you”

She took a deep breath and clicked”new Messages” and scrolled to the bottom, reading every new entry title slowly her heartbeat began the drum of anticipation “its here, I can feel it” and lo and behold it was there. Jade wanted to freeze the moment and scribble BEFORE on it; The moment before all the good things to come would pour into her life. Opening it, she asked Jeremiah to read it for her.

“Dear Jade,

We are honored to have received your application to The 32nd Annual Craftsmanship Gala. As you well know the Gala is a yearly event hosted by the prestigious arts community here in Aurora. The patrons are some of the world’s greatest artists and critics, and every year the select only a handful of designers to present and sell their work, They have reviewed your submission pieces and are proud to announce your acceptance in this year’s event.

The specifics of your contribution are as follows:

  1. A fee of 250 dollars is to be paid in order to reserve your spot for the event, it includes:
    1. A name tag
    2. A booth
    3. Seven exclusive minutes with the movers and shakers.
  2. You are expected to arrive a day before to prepare your booth, and 3 hours before the event to set everything up. Having an organized space is key to a successful business.
  3. The revenue you collect is ALL yours.
  4. In the case of a last minute cancellation a fee of 150 dollars must be paid.

We look forward to seeing you.

Sincerely,

The Annual Craftsmanship Gala Committee”

Jade couldn’t believe what she heard, she could feel the happy radiating from jeremiah so she turned around and asked him if it was true. He chuckled and pulled her in a bear hug, and started twirling her.

She felt like her heart was soaring, like little wings were trying to help it escape her chest so she let out all her joy and laughed.

Her mind was buzzing with ideas and plans so when he set her down she didn’t notice the look in his eyes or the language it was speaking. It was a millisecond that could’ve changed everything and she missed it.

“Oh Jer, I’m so excited! I have to go home and finish my pieces and I have to call Luther and tell him too, oh my I feel dizzy and alert all at the same time, listen to me babbling, I’m going to stop now” she did a happy dance, kissed Jeremiah goodbye and gathered her things. At the door she looked back “Hey ‘Miah, thank you”

He smiled at her use of his favorite nickname, it soothed the sting of rejection.

“Anytime, Jay, anytime”

Chapter 1 Part 4/4

Part 4

James arrived work on monday in a crisp suit, refreshed after a weekend spent with his family and ready for the weekly board meeting. Every Monday morning first reader’s pick out their favorites from the slush pile of manuscripts submitted the week before. This group of fresh faced bookworms helped him discover talented writers of this generation. They were a colorful bunch, that bonded over beautiful prose which transported its readers to a different world and poems that carved rivers in the hardest of hearts. James chose them based on individuality and reading range. He had decided since the first memory of a book being placed in his hands that rigidity inhibits creativity and wonder. He sought out new genres and encouraged his staff to do so, to go out of their comfort zones and be led on an experience that could change their lives and keep changing until one day find themselves as new beings. When his company first began he would seek out poetry clubs and coffee houses that hosted spoken word listen to the voices of the people who would be the future of the industry. His business card would be slipped into the hands of the poets and authors he shook hands with encouraging them to send in their favorite pieces. He would comb through piles of entries with his assistant, an intern from the community college a block away, who became his VP. The memories filled him with pride and joy. It was worth the sweat and sleepless nights to see his family comfortable and safe, no longer worrying about the next meal and the winter cold. Remembering the events of the weekend made James smile, he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his kid siblings were growing up. It seemed like yesterday Violet and Olive were newborn babies with set of lungs that never tired of screaming through the night, now they were a fiery 15 year old duo on a mission to drive their mother up the wall and succeeding with flying colors. Noah was always the silent one, but since his growth spurt and the looks he inherited from their father he was growing into a different sort of silent altogether, the one that exuded charisma and attracted girls like moths to a flame. They were ten different people who shared a love that knew no bounds, a mother that gave them the strength to pave their own paths and a friendship that was honest and full of joy. The house was different with the youngest six dominating the space: Charlie, Charlotte, Oliver, Noah and the twins Violet and Olive and the eldest four living on their own: James, Oscar, Bella and Lily.

Chapter 1 Part 3

Part 3

A week later, The memories choked Jade as she fell asleep. The darkness managed to hold onto her, sinking its claws into her skin. She tried to shake it off, to stop the roll of the memory film that was her past from pulling her into the abyss. She pulled air into her lungs hopelessly urging them to fill to expand and replace the smoke-filled images that haunted her for the past nine years. It was hard work and Jade was at sea with her thoughts, reliving everything she ran away from, moment by moment until her body shut down, her breathing labored and her pillow soaked from the tears she shed.

Desperation. It’s a catalyst, a changer. It gives those living in fear the courage to get up and change their fate. It gave Jade the strength to become the master of her life. No longer a victim of circumstances. Years of hiding under her bed, covering her ears to silence the violence erupting all around her. You’re Next was the message being repeated to her. You’re turn is coming and there is no way out. So at 14 she knew what she had to do: Become invisible and save every penny. Her 15th birthday was the day she dreaded, it was the day she’d be taken on a “test-drive” by her step-father. She marked down the days; in order for her for her plan to work she gad to cut it close, leaving a few days prior. Her family was waiting for her turn with bated breath. Her step-father would thank her mother for providing such beautiful daughters for them to live off; her mother would nod regally like it was her due. She knew the morning her mother came into her room face overdone with maquillage and freshly painted nails, the scent of hairspray and vintage cigarettes like a second skin encasing her when her mother hugged her it was awkward and burned Jade’s nostrils and raised bile in her throat in disgust, that she would be leaving that day, before nightfall and not look back. She had saved enough money to get far enough away that they wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of looking for her. She wished she could take her sisters with her, but they were dead inside; broken. That was what she would look like if she stayed. So being the youngest she worried about herself from now on. So she concentrated on her plan, stopped washing her face and purposely forgot to shower until her hair tangled and crusted. Her mother would “tut-tut” and tell her she wouldn’t get good tips looking like a sewage rat but she had good bones and her mother promised she would scrub her until she shone.

It didn’t count as sleep, it was a place between a coma and lights-out. Waking startled and shivering hours later with the sun rise, she took a moment to remember where she was. The warm rays drifting through her curtains assured her that it was just a dream. She padded inter bathroom and took a hot shower, the water warming her all the way down to her weary bones. She eyed her aromatherapy oils lining the bathtub and chose lavender to soothe her and wrapped herself in her towel, she then sat on her bed and dried herself off. The light reflected off the bottle as she set it on her night stand, her hands shook as she held her warmed massage bowl and poured ten drops of the gold-tinged liquid with an ounce of clear sweet almond oil then swirled her fingertips through, warming the contents of the porcelain bowl and mixing them into a healing liquid. She scooped some onto her palms and rubbed them onto her skin, starting with her arms, massaging its magic and spreading it over her body, she rubbed the soreness from her neck. Taking her time while concentrating on pressure points and hidden aches, she stopped at her chest circulating her palm on the point above her heart trying to reach where it ached the most, she moved onto her belly and legs, her soles tingled and she moved her hands over them circulating her blood stream and feeling the effects of the oil rushing through her. She finished with a few drops on her temples and behind her ears. The aroma calmed her nerves and chased away the anxiety and stress. She hummed to herself as she massaged, a relaxing hymn she heard sung by the gypsy living next door. She pulled on her softest shirtdress and brushed her long tresses then French braided them. As she sat at her dresser she catalogued her face while rubbing lotion onto it. Her reflection blinked back at her, a vision of beauty masking the pain that shone in her eyes. I will not cry today she resolved and smiled at herself, feeling empowered and stronger with every passing day gave her will the boost to keep moving and shake off the remnants of darkness away. A few swipes of mascara and eyeliner on her eyes and sheer lipgloss accentuating her full cherry lips and she was ready to leave for work. Her starry blue leggings were hanging off the foot of the bed, she pulled them over her long legs and put on her favorite flats. Slinging her leather bag over her shoulder she walked out of the apartment feeling alive and new.

Warmth engulfed her as she entered the bakery; vanilla and chocolate filled her senses and awakened her appetite. She found Jeremiah -the baker- covered in flour at the counter making drool-worthy pastries. She sat on the counter opposite and concentrated on the movement of his hands as he rolled out the dough onto the warm marble top. Mesmerized by the soothing hum of early morning singing the place to peaceful wakefulness. The sound of flour tossed onto the dough, the butter brushed onto its surface, the roll of the rolling pin gently coaxing the dough into its lightness. The bubbling gooey goodness simmering on the stove sending wafts of blueberry vanilla aroma into her lungs. The gently rays drifting in from the picture windows glistening onto the dough. It was the part of the day she loved the most, the time she felt at peace with the world. They fell into this rhythm Jeremiah and her, she would arrive super early to watch him prepare the delicacies of the day and she would watch and clean after him. They were the siblings that shared no blood. He picked up the cutter and sliced into the soft buttered sheet. He had porcelain bowls brimming with filling, organized from tooth-achingly sweet to heart-warningly savory; orange cinnamon, peach and mascarpone, chocolate ganache, fresh-mint mixed in chocolate chips, strawberry jam, blueberry lavender jelly, feta cheese mint mix, cheddar cheese with diced tart pear, creamy spinach and cooked spicy chicken and cashews. Jade tasted them each resisting the urge to moan in delight as each flavor burst into her mouth, sending waves of ecstasy throughout her body. Jeremiah winked at her as She went back to her perch and continued to watch him scooping morsels of heaven onto each strip, then rolling them into perfect crescents. Jeremiah glanced over at Jade as he worked and saw that she was somewhere far away, smiling at her expression; he knew how good he was and was proud of it, having graduated at the top of his class in France at Ferrandi, The French School of Culinary Arts, in both the French Pastry and the French Cuisine courses, he then interned at a pastry boutique run by a Family that had bloodlines running back to King Henry I of France which concentrated on classical French pastries, creations he had only read about in literature and couldn’t imagine would appear under the ministrations of his mentors from swirling creams as light as clouds and puff pastry that melted on the tongue. Jeremiah then moved onto chocolates and interned at Monsieur Jean-Paul Hevin’s shop where he dived into the world of chocolates, it was Willy Wonka’s factory for adults; ganaches made to entice, rich truffles that soothed the deepest hurts filled silver bowls, bars, chocolate based macaroons and pastries meant for indulgence lined trays on the displays. By the end of a long day there wasn’t a scrap left. Customers had waited patiently to buy the treats they’d share with loved ones or enjoy by oneself on cool parisian nights next to the fire wrapped around an enchanting book.

From his experience in the world of exquisite food, he discovered that it was a form of therapy for the makers and the indulgers, a way to revive the senses and escape reality into a world of flavor and joy. He understood that for Jade; watching him every morning prepare delectable treats was helping her heal. She never told him her story but he gave her the care and space she needed for her to open up. He finished with the last croissant and lined them up on the greased trays into the oven, he checked the timer then turned to Jade.

“Hi, Honey” he smiled; she was lost in her thoughts again and he wished he could help take away the sadness in her eyes but somehow knew it wasn’t going to be him, so he accepted that fact and managed to become her brother. Breathing deeply he started clearing the counter tops and wiping them down.

“Hey, I’ll do that” She said silently from behind him.

****