the short story project


Jade Labrada


I revealed a devilish smile to the one who held my heart, but he only laughed and met my affections with pious intent. Could it be the disarray of his tousled locks? Possibly, it was the way he defied all social constructs. He and he alone, took each day as if it was his own. I envied this. I wished to be as free. My discomfort found in the company of others came natural to me. Only to realize, that my desires were conflicting.
Amorette is my name. My mother found love in me for a moment. I emerged from her womb into tender arms, which soon turned limp. Violo said my name was given to me because of the love I stole from her. He often used me as a resource to alleviate his pain. Our relationship was never strained because we never had one. In my youth I never struggled with the lack of intimacy between us because I knew he lacked the capability to give it to me. His shattered heart never mended after her. I was only seven when I found him hanging in the bedroom.
Little did I know there was a family waiting for me. These people are who I grew to call my parents, so don’t pity me. Their names are Jessenia and Marcus. They adopted me at the age of 10 after I spent two years in the system because “no one wanted me,” according to Violo. I could hear him in my head. If only I could remove his stained voice from echoing in my mind. It later became evident he was there to stay. If only I’d found him sooner. Jessenia was who I met first. As soon as her eyes had met mine, she smiled. I immediately felt the warmth of her heart. It was as if I was in a frigid classroom all day and walked outside to meet the hot rays of the sun with my skin. That was how I always felt around her.
I never experienced anything like that before and it intimidated me. She then took me home to meet Marcus. He was a tall burly man embodying a disheveled handsomeness. They were a beautiful couple. I imagined one day having someone like the way they had each other, but in that moment, I wanted to be alone. Away from her penetrating smile.
“Hello Amorette,” he said. “My name is Marcus, and I am overjoyed that you are now a part of our family.”
I’ll never forget the first thing my dad said to me. When I was ignorant to the bond we would presently share. I am currently 23 and the epitome of wasted potential. I like to believe that I’m smart and capable, because that’s what my parents religiously told me. You’d think with all this potential I would be in college, but I’m not. I work in a bookstore. In fact, my job entails helping college students pick out their textbooks. Ironic isn’t it? Especially since both Jessenia and Marcus have PhDs.
Now look, it’s not that I don’t want to go to school. I love reading and learning. How else am I to escape the mundane reality of everyday life? Books can give insight into the author’s deepest fears and desires. They can try and hide it, but it bleeds out on the pages for all to see.
“Excuse me ma’am.”
Quickly, I had looked up to find a tall man with thick, wavy hair pulled back into a messy man bun. His face and arms were chiseled like the living sculptures of Pemberley. He had piercing greenish amber eyes. I couldn’t escape their gaze. I remember thinking, what a rude creep! There I was deep in profound thought, and boom, he rudely interrupted me.
“Rude, can I help you?” I said.
“Rude?” He questioned with a puzzled face.
“Can I help you?” I assertively repeated the inquiry.
He smiled, “Could you please help me find the Atlas of Anatomy?”
“Sure, follow me.” Walking from behind the counter, I led the way. Then, before I could even make it to the aisle, I’m pulled back by the force of my caught shoelace. Falling into him, he grabbed me prior to my gigantic head colliding with his.
“Woah, Are you okay?”
“I am fine.” I could sense the heat radiating down my neck. I bursted out laughing. The man grinned, bending down to liberate me from my entanglement. Afterwards, I led him to what he desired.
“Here you go,” I handed him the book.
“Thank you.” As I turned to leave his voice stops me. “Wait.” I looked back instantly catching his attentive gaze.
“Why did you initially call me rude?” He pondered.
“Don’t worry about it.” I rolled my eyes whilst I walked away. I had to fight everything within me not to smile, especially when I could hear him chuckling behind me.
For the rest of the week my mind was consumed. He riveted every last bit of me and I didn’t even know his name. Two weeks passed, and I still perfectly recalled the curvatures of his face down to the manner in which he smiled. I figured this was some divine occurrence of nothingness. I would never see him again, and it was but of moment of amusement.
Friday came, and I was burrowed into my favorite novel, Pride and Prejudice. What a literary work of art! Primarily, I identified with Elizabeth Bennet. Her quick-witted tongue and victory over societal obstacles freed her to love Mr. Darcy. My mind began to race, then I heard a familiar voice.
“Hey there Ms. Sass.”
Could this voice I heard in fact be him? I met his eyes like a scared stray dog unsure of whether to growl or sniff. “Hello,” I said.
He laughed. “What is your name?”
“Amorette. Yours?”
“Callum.” He replied, whilst scoping out the store. “I would love to take you to coffee.”
I laughed and questioned teasingly, “When? Now?”
“Hmm, I can do now. Let’s go.”
“But, I’m working.” I said as I checked the cameras for customers, but he was already patiently holding the door open. So, I quickly wrote a note with a fabricated reasonable excuse to satisfy my boss, locked the front door and left. The day passed with us getting to know one another. He told me how he is a med student which generally consumed his time. He was born in Philadelphia and was 28. He then asked every possible question about me, which I was selective in my responses reflecting most back to him. Vulnerability is something I’ve always struggled with. It felt like jumping off a bridge for the first time with the uncertainty of the water’s depth. His presence obtained an essence of warmth, like my mother’s, persuading my heart’s sentiments to change. I craved to feel safe with him but they remained guarded.
I shifted my eyes back to him watching as his temperament transitioned into one of an intimidated little boy. “Amorette,” he said nervously, “I hope this isn’t too forward or awkward but I’m glad we met.” I blushed as my disposition softened into mush, I truly wanted to be fully his, liberating myself from Violo’s sting.
Our romance had blossomed for months and soon he asked me to be his which I rejected, twice. Despite his injured pride he continued to pursue me breaking down my inhibitions. He led me to an answer I never imagined I could give- I said yes and we shared our first kiss. Callum was very poetic in his thoughts more than your typical math and science nerd. He often wrote me letters which I refused to read around him. It never failed, everytime I read one my eyes welled up. Pathetic, I know but it’s honestly terrifying. He saw straight through me and told me this- repeatedly. It was irritating but it oddly comforted me.
I can vividly remember the night when he first said he loved me because I sat on my living room couch for hours with my father’s voice replaying in my head. Marcus would always say, “A plant cannot grow solely with water. To flourish it needs the warmth of the sun.” I shook my head to prevent the hot beads of liquid, and went to sleep.
Dawn’s golden light stretched through the blinds, waking me up. Callum then picked me up for breakfast. I loved how he dressed. He looked like a total dork, but still professional. He often wore t-shirts but with slacks. Not jeans. Black, tailored slacks. My sweet Callum. He always listened to me ramble for hours, of course with his occasional stabs in efforts to amuse me. As we sat at the breakfast table, he spoke about his struggles with school and family. Why couldn’t I express myself freely as he did? It took me ten years to tell my parents I loved them, even though I knew it from the moment we met. With Callum it was different because he changed everything.
“My love?” Callum said.
“Yes Callum.” I replied.
“I have something to give you,” he said, “but later.”
“Okay, my love.” I smiled. He leaned in and kissed me.
“I love you.” He said as he pulled me in for a hug.
I whispered in his ear, “I love you, too.”
My sweet Callum. I felt the anxiety rush in. I wanted back the part of my heart I had given him. Violo never obtained anything of mine, but Callum had it all. Violo hurt me deeply, but not because of the trust I put in him; it was his intentional slander. Callum had my trust, which he was worthy of, but still my fear lingerd.
I had worked a long shift at the library after we had breakfast. That same day I received the phone call that redirected the course of my life. I had called Callum twice; both times he didn’t answer. Moments later an out of state number appeared on my phone. I picked up and a woman answered. After I heard her say she was Callum’s mother, I could feel my legs go numb. How could this be true? She told me Callum was killed in a car crash. My sweet Callum. How? I snatched my car keys and left. I went to his apartment. I needed to be alone. As I frantically drove 5.5 miles away with cloudy eyes, I fought my urge to weep. I wished it to be a dream. I needed it to be a lie or some ridiculously cruel joke. I prayed I would find him there in his room, writing in his journal or reading some pompous book about medicine. I parked and ran up the stairs. Standing before the room door, I fell to my knees and balled. What if he wasn’t there? Could this really be true?
I entered in to find no one but the heart wrenching silence. I cuddled up in his bed and cried myself to sleep. As I dreamed memories of him flooded my mind, soothing reality’s sting briefly. Heartbreak’s wailing song of sorrow shook me back to reality. Then I found a journal tucked beneath his pillow. A braided bracelet was wedged snug to the spine between two pages. My finger followed the smooth sides of the paper, separating it to reveal an entry titled Amorette.
“She was the first thing I saw, when I walked in the book store. Leaning over the counter with head perched on her hand. Her deep, dark curly hair blanketed her face like a veil. As I moved closer, her beautiful olive skin was revealed to me. Her full eyebrows and lips were tense, but softened once I spoke to her. She fought me like an adorable, frightened puppy. She was effortlessly beautiful. Guarding her affections from the moment we made eye contact, clumsily falling into me, yet laughing at herself for it. I found her hiding in an ocean of books, drowning in literature to escape the realities of life. She was my intelligent, quick-witted non-fictional Elizabeth Bennet. Obtaining more strength within her frame than she willed herself to believe. I wanted to care for her, the way she needed. Welcoming her walls and scars. The girl named after love, had taken all of mine, but only to return it tenfold.”
He was my sweet Callum. My white dove securing hope after the waters settled from the storm. Free to feel the heat of the sun’s gaze. Though pain riddled me with new conflicts old ones were resolved to reveal a tainted joy. This derived from a new found hope in my future, which tears frequently clouded, but nonetheless it persevered. He had removed the ropes of fear that I had allowed to entangle me for years. These fears of intimacy, love and being loved were revealed through our relationship, only to be comforted in his love for me.
“…Forever will I be grateful for my sweet Callum specifically because I am now free to love you- both,” I said as looked up at my husband who was carrying our daughter in his arms. Then he placed her in my arms. Gazing down at my sweet baby girl I could feel that familiar fervor encompass my whole being but this time I didn’t run.

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