Claudia sits on her borrowed couch, sips Theraflu, and twists her hair from nervousness. She licks the edge of her gold tooth and sucks in the wild air of the night. It’s not hot. It’s not cold. It’s an in-between seasons kind of evening, yet there’s snow on the ground. She pets her cat Louie on the back of his head, scratches his little ears, and licks that gold tooth once more. She acquired it back in ’94 on a dare from her then-girlfriend, Cindy.
Cindy was a powerhouse. She had everything going for her, including being a mom and wife — house with the picket fence, Benz, and thousand-dollar breasts. She wanted Claudia, though, and she had her.
Then there was Dave. He was a news correspondent for a prominent journal in their city. He had red hair, freckles, and a laugh that reminded Claudia of Santa Claus. The things she did for that man . . . They snuck around town late at night, crept into places where a significant amount of money was definitely an option and had sex on every inch of furniture in her home.
He was married too. No kids. His wife caught them out together at a museum. That was the end of Dave.
Paula . . . Sexy. Sassy. Paula. She had moonbeam eyes, plump, kissable lips, and smelled like a broken heart. Claudia fell for her easily, even got her name tattooed on her left breast. A memento. A keepsake. Something she now regrets.
Paula wasn’t married, but she wanted an open relationship. She couldn’t see herself tied down to just one person and Claudia loved her so much she agreed. She made so many changes to her life and herself, she began to notice that she no longer knew what she wanted.
She wanted to be loved. She wanted to be lifted up and gazed upon as if the sun rose from the cleft of her chin. She wanted commitment — the totality of oneness with a mate, and happiness. She wanted happiness.
Leon, the gas station guy, changed her whole perspective on dating and she thought, This is what I want. Yes, this is it!
But Leon had a long-standing relationship as a coke-head and Claudia found out the day a few items began missing from her home. It broke her, the last straw. Her back shattered in places bones were not supposed to be.
Take away the addiction and Leon was perfect. And maybe that was the problem. He was so well-put-together that Claudia did not search for hints of faults or flaws. At the age of fifty-two, she made the decision to just say “No” and live her life without someone else attached to her.
When she did this, the doors of opportunity opened. New job. An advance of $2,500.00 on her first fantasy fiction novel. Relocation. Two new books edited and published within six months of each other. Bestseller’s list. And on and on and on, it went. Her life was an avenue of great things and she enjoyed skipping down the unknown path.
Until . . .
Laura. Five years later, she was forced to say “No” out of fear of who Laura could actually be and what she would potentially lose. Laura was single. No kids. No drug habits. No crazy antics of horrible events to come. And to Claudia, something was wrong with this. She was too perfect. Laura could not be true.
Because of her past, Claudia passed on Laura. She wasn’t going to take another chance at being the underbelly of a broken creature. She skipped her casually — afraid of what could be behind that unopened door. She used “No” so often after her, she forgot “Yes” existed.