Today we have a post from the working novel The Ghosts of Shelby Fierce. In this work, we learn of the ghosts that haunt a young woman (Shelby) throughout the years thus shaping the woman she ultimately becomes. This excerpt features, Louis, a man Shelby has known for twenty years but dated for only three days. Readers, please feel free to leave any comments or feedback below!
Louis was a beautiful and curious man. And he knew it. He liked the game. I was married as a young woman, long before Facebook or text messaging. Then one day, here I was eight years later, looking at a naked man staring back at me from a text message. There he was in all his glory – the top of his head to his other one. It’s odd to think about now. I didn’t know men did these things – like it was a new norm or something.
As I glance down from my thoughts, I see my toe sticking out of the corner of my sheets. Fat little toe. Attached to a fat little leg. I feel the curvature of my face. I know I am not fat. But that is not what Louis wanted me to think. Louis couldn’t help it I suppose; he remembered me from our days together in high school when I was slender. Maybe that is what he meant when he questioned whether I was going to get sexy for him.
It was an unusual spring that went from frost to hazy warmth overnight. We were sitting in the formal living room of my great grandmother’s house looking at each other. I was spending the spring there watching her empty home while she was vacationing in Europe. Louis came down to spend the weekend with me. I was gazing at him from the armchair across from the couch where he was splayed gratuitously. My hair wrecked from our night together. The light coming in from the side window bathed the living room in sunshine and lit up the crystal lotus flower on the glass table between us. The spring air filtered around his face, bringing to life the creases and shadows of a decade hard lived. His wide-toothed smile and sparkling green eyes were staring back at me. “So.. are you like, gonna get sexy for me?” he said through his furrowed brow.
I felt the hard spring of the straight-backed antique chair press against my body, rebelling against the weight placed on it. I was aware of how much of me touched the space in the chair. “What do you mean” I breathed, unconsciously tugging my shirt away from my belly.
With a flirtatious grin, he strung together some words about working out and going to the gym. I blinked at him. What kind of man spends three months romancing a woman only to tell her that she isn’t pretty enough. Louis, that’s who. It’s funny how one comment can undo a thousand nice ones.
Louis was my favorite kind of man. He reached his arm into the space that divided us and beckoned me to the spot on the couch he cleared for me. With a gentle tug, I found myself enveloped in his muscular frame. I took the pleasure of his company the way someone cuts their wrists. Each scratch revealing a beautiful divide between what you desire and what your reality is – pain juxtaposed to the longing for love. Intoxicating pain and pleasure of unrequited love, like a good wine drunk. So fun in the moment, so uninhibited – only to be met by a raging hangover when you awake the next day. And the promise that you’ll never do it again.
Unbeknownst to Louis, he would become the standard to which every picture I took was judged. The sting of ugly when I looked in the mirror. And he wasn’t even that remarkable. However, there is something about revealing yourself to someone who intends on putting a pin in your spirit. They’ve got you. And you want them with a force that becomes magnified not by their good looks, but by their casual presence in your life. This ghost would spend years haunting me. It crowded out my sensibilities and turned me into that girl. That girl who cares more about her looks than anything else. Constantly doing whatever fad diet or workout plan promised to make me sexy and then painstakingly getting the right photos to seek Louis’s approval. It’s not that I wanted Louis. I wanted his type to want me.
One day I came across a book written by Maya Angelou about her life growing up. As a young woman she met a good-looking, charming man who seemed nice. He ended up beating the shit out of her, locking her away in his house with a plan to do horrific things to her. The story reminded me of the first man that I met when I was going through my separation and divorce. He was ridiculously charming and handsome like Louis. We started chatting and went on a date that ended up in me being intoxicated to the point I wondered if I had been drugged. Later when I looked him up on the internet, he had a dozen domestic battery charges. As in twelve instances where he was picked up for beating a woman. I consider myself to be lucky.
We do not find these men, they find us. Louis’s ghost reminds me of him not because I believe Louis would ever harm me, but because that type of ghost lives inside of insecurity. I recently met a gentleman who has dedicated many years to researching the paranormal and telling tales of town’s haunted spaces. He said something quite striking to me. When speaking about spirits he said that energy has to have something to contain it, it usually manifests in water. It made me think about how I have lived with these ghosts all these years as a container for their energy.
Louis got up from the couch, picked up the worn brown-leather weekender by the door and rolled his SUV out of the driveway. I was sure I would never see him again.
Ch 2: The Ghosts of Shelby Fierce – by Brandi L. Holder