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“I f***ing hate you,” she said to the mirror. She stared at her long blond hair and splotchy complexion for a moment, and then turned from the reflective glass as wet drops of salty water fell from her huge grey eyes.
Anna was p***ed at herself, in fact, she was very p***ed at herself. She couldn’t get out of her head the mistake that she had made. “If only I’d tried harder…” she thought.
Then she sighed, and got her butt moving out the door of her apartment to her job as a nurse at St. Peter’s hospital. She was 27, and had been a nurse for 5 years. She loved her job, but she was always living in fear, afraid that her secret would get out…
She walked out the front door of her apartment building, and over to her parking space which housed her crappy blue Chevrolet Cavalier. She made a decent amount of money with her nursing job, but she didn’t believe in spending too much money on cars. Her car was reliable, and didn’t use too much gas, but it certainly was not a sports car.
She wiped the remaining salty traces of tears from her cheeks, and climbed in her “s*** hole” (as she called it, even though it was pretty decent) car, and revved the engine. “I’ve had enough of this guilt,” she thought. “I can’t take anymore, I’m letting it go. Finally.” And then she sighed a sigh of relaxation as she felt the guilt and anger at herself seep away, till she was so refreshed that she began to smile. She turned the radio on and bobbed her head to the tune of a catchy pop song, and peeled out of her parking space, feeling better than she had in weeks.
When she got to St. Peter’s, she pulled into her spot and walked to the front doors. She stopped for a moment to admire the angels carved into the stone over the door. As she was gazing at them, in all their white stoned beauty, her boss, the nurse manager, Sharon Atticus walked up to her.
“Well, I never thought I’d see you again. You’ve been out for three weeks. How’s that flu coming?” the nurse manager asked.
“What?” Anna fumbled, “Oh, it passed on through. I felt horrible though…” Anna laughed bitterly inside as she realized that this was actually the truth. Her light mood of minutes ago vanished, and with a sinking of her heart, she felt all the guilt and fear that she had been feeling the last three weeks sink back in. “So much for absolution,” she thought.
“Well, let’s go on in. No sense wasting time out here,” said Nurse Atticus.
“You’re right,” Anna said, and walked in through the door, holding it open for Nurse Atticus.
Up on the her floor, the medsurge wing, Anna began her rounds of distributing medicine and filling the water jugs of the surgery patients. She greeted each one with a smile, though she felt empty inside. She smiled at old Miss Annie, who reminded her a lot of herself, and spent a little extra time talking to her about her family. She stopped as she looked at the material of the curtains. They were dark red, and velvet. She sucked in her breath and her face turned pale. Then she quickly moved on to the rest of her duties.
Velvet stirred in her bed. She opened her eyes to see the beam of light streaming in through the parted lace curtains of her window. She slowly slipped out of bed, and walked over to the mirror on the back of her door. She stared blankly at her limp dark brown hair and deep brown eyes, which were circled with red from three weeks worth of crying jags. “I f***ing hate life,” she said to herself unhappily.
Ever since Anna had left her, she had been inconsolable. Anna had been Velvet’s muse. Velvet is a poetry writer who publishes books under the pen name Velvet Curtain. She is highly successful, but without her muse, she had written nothing for three weeks…
She ignored the shrill ring of the phone, as it was probably her publisher calling and nagging her to write more for her next book. But Velvet could not write, for Anna was gone.
Velvet and Anna had been girlfriends ever since the night that they had met at a poetry reading in a café called the Little Moon. It was a literary café that had an open mic night for poetry every weekend. Velvet had been testing out some material her publisher had rejected, and Anna had been there simply because she loved to hear poems, but could not write them herself. They met when Anna was 27, and Velvet was 35. The age difference between them only strengthened their connection that night because Velvet was an aged sexy writer and Anna was a young enthusiastic nurse, full of optimism, who wanted to help everyone she came in contact with.
They had hit it off instantly when after Velvet’s reading of a poem she called Charred Flowers, Anna had come up to compliment her. “That was a pretty cool poem,” said Anna smiling shyly at Velvet.
“Thanks,” said Velvet. “I usually write better poems, but I was just testing that one out.”
“Well, all the same, I liked it. I so admire people who have the talent to write poetry” said Anna. “I’ve never been able to do it myself.”
“I could teach you if you like.”
“Why, of course. I love to tutor beautiful women.”
Anna blushed fuschia. “Um…” she stammered. “I wouldn’t really consider myself… beautiful…”
“I would. Come on, let me take you to dinner and then we’ll write together.” She took Anna’s small pale hand in her own, and almost gasped at the smoothness and radiance of her touch. She knew immediately that she was going to like this girl, this woman, that is.
And that is how Anna got her first girlfriend, and how Anna and Velvet became lovers.
Anna got through the rest of her day by avoiding any looks at the curtains and blocking out any thoughts of Velvet. When she finally threw herself down on her apartment couch, she was exhausted and fell asleep instantly.
Velvet was still refusing to eat, sleep, shower, write, or take calls from her manager. But she especially wasn’t taking calls from her mother.
“My mother is what started all this. It’s all her fault… Or maybe it’s mine. If only I hadn’t taken Anna to meet her.”
Velvet sighs as she remembers the scene her mother had made when Velvet finally introduced Anna as her girlfriend, six months after they had been dating.
“Mother, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend Anna. She is the love of my life and the root of my poetry.” Anna’s mother’s brown eyes widened under her wisps of grey hair, and she stood shocked with the frying pan of scrambled eggs she had been fixing laying limply in her hand for a moment, before she yelled, “You are the devil’s children. Get out of my house!” “No mother, it’s not like that. I love Anna. She is my family. You understand family, don’t you?” “All I understand is that you are of Satan. Take this wretch who has corrupted you from my house. Now!” With that she raised the hot frying pan and brought it crashed down on Anna’s head. Scrambled eggs flew everywhere. For one moment Anna stood there shocked, then tears started to form in her eyes, and she ran out of the house sobbing. Velvet gave her mother the dirtiest look she could muster, and ran as fast as she could after Anna. But when she got outside, Anna was already gone.
This had been three weeks ago. Since then, Anna had refused to answer any of Velvet’s calls. Velvet didn’t know what was wrong. She knew that Anna was upset and embarrassed by the scene her mother had made, but she was hurt. She didn’t understand why Anna would reject her because of the wrong her mother had committed. She didn’t understand why Anna would assume they were no longer lovers because of it.
A few more tears seeped out of her red rimmed eyes as she picked up her landline phone and dialed Anna’s number for the hundredth time, knowing that as she did, Anna would fail to answer yet again.
When Anna finally finished her day at work, she was exhausted from the strain of trying to act cheerful. She wouldn’t admit it to anyone, but she missed Velvet. Velvet had been the reason for her existence. She used to think the reason for her existence was helping to take care of people at her nursing job, but that was before she met Velvet. She still loved to care for others, but right now, in her state of mind, it felt like a chore.
Anna fumbled with her silver keys as she strode down the hallway towards her apartment door, trying to get them ready before she reached the door. She gazed at the gray peeling paint of her door as she unlocked it. It did not add to her wonderful mood. When she got in, she plopped down on her brown suede couch, and flipped open her phone. Three missed calls from Velvet… She briefly smiled as she saw this, but then she remembered Velvet’s mother, and the thought wiped the smile from her face.
The shame crept up her neck, turning her face pink in her lonely grey apartment, where no one could see, but she still refused to break down into tears. She hadn’t cried since her outburst when the frying pan had clanged down on her head, and she didn’t plan on starting now.
Velvet sniffed her armpit self-consciously and briefly considered hopping in the shower when the stench reached her nostrils. But then everything came back to her, and weighed her down, like an iron ball on her chest, and she sank back down into her dirty bed sheets that she hadn’t bothered to change in weeks.
She didn’t know what she would do if things kept up like this. She wondered if she ought to get a therapist, but then she remembered that all artists suffer, and make their pain into art. They do not run off and snivel into a handful of tissues at the psychiatrist’s office. She giggled slightly at the image of herself sniveling into some tissues, but then her solemn mood returns. She admonished herself for giggling in such terrible times, but suddenly she felt a little better, and her will to survive returns. “I will get through this. And I will get her back,” she thought with a lighter heart than she’d had in the last three weeks.
Anna was still lying on her couch. She did not know what to do. She knew, that when she’d smiled after seeing Velvet’s name pop up on her phone, that she missed her, and wanted her back. She could finally admit that to herself, but she didn’t know that she could force herself to swallow her shame and pride, and go running back to Velvet after the whole awful ordeal.
And then… Then the epiphany came. For the first time, she thought about how Velvet must be feeling… A wave of guilt washed over her. Anna was supposed to be the care-taker, and here she had let someone suffer when she could have prevented it. In all her shame and self pity, she hadn’t even taken the time to think about how sad and guilty Velvet must have felt. She cursed herself silently for the hell she must have put Velvet through, and picked up her phone to dial Velvet’s number. She took a deep breath, and began pushing the buttons… 5…1…3…. And she continued until she heard the ringing of the phone. “Hello?” Velvet answered. Anna held her breath. “Hello? Anna…?”
Anna slowly let out her breath and counted to three. “Hey, it’s me...” she said softly.
Anna and Velvet had a long talk about their happiness together, and they both realized that they couldn’t let society’s expectations of how they should behave ruin what was important to them. Since Velvet was Anna’s first girlfriend, she had been unaware of the way society would press them to give up their love. Anna was not used to the pressures that came with being gay, but Velvet truly loved her, and agreed to help her work through them. Anna became an even better person through all of this because she learned to recognize how other people were feeling even more. She never forgave herself for the pain she put Velvet through by thinking of her own feelings before Velvet’s. Velvet reaffirmed her own values by helping Anna stand up for her beliefs. They didn’t know where life would take them, but they both promised they’d always be there for each other, and that they’d always stand up for what they believed in from then on.
Missouri City, Texas
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