Writing: Beast + Beauty IV

Thursday, April 30, 2015

For those of you who have been reading along, here's part IV of my fairy-tale retelling of Beauty & the Beast. No idea what's going on or need to go back and re-read? Here's Part I, II, and III. If you're a visual lover, here's the inspiration board for this story. 

Every single comment means so much, so thank you thank you - apologies in advance for being very cruel and leaving you on a cliffhanger. I'd like to point out that I decided to give you part four AND five because I felt bad about giving you so little. Also, I'd love to hear what you think will happen next. Any guesses?


Over the next week, she fell into an odd, but pleasant sort of routine. Stopping by Brooklyn every two or so days to peruse Adam’s library, switch out newly bound-books for ones in severe need, slowly converse more and more with Adam who – she learned – was in and out of the house multiple times each day, and to exchange insults with Lee.
“What does your name mean?” he asked randomly when she arrived one afternoon, nearly a week after the subway incident.
Alina blinked, surprised. “Light.”
“Hmm, sounds Italian,” he said interestedly. “Aaaaaaaaaaaalinaaa! Bella Alina!” he cried out in a horrible Italian accent, pinching his thumb and finger together, gesturing wildly. “Bellina, Aliniana beautiful Alina!”
She raised an eyebrow, biting back a smile at his ridiculous display. And inwardly glad Adam wasn’t present to hear all this ‘beautiful’ talk being thrown around.
“It’s a Greek name. And I’m Scottish, not Italian.”
Lee deflated mid-gesture, his mouth rounded in an O. “Well, that’s just wrong...pity you’re not actually Italian. Or, you know, beautiful. You’re not even really pretty, though.” He scrutinized her and shrugged, twirling a kitchen knife between his fingers. “I’d do you if you were,” he offered magnanimously. “For free, too.”  
Alina stared at him blankly. Hurt spilled into her lungs, squeezing the air from them. Her scar felt heavy and hideous on her lips – not even enough for Lee to consider, a little voice mocked. A new low.
“What? I said for free! That’s a compliment,” Lee reassured her.
She got up, blinking back tears. “Right. Silly me,” she mumbled and fled.
“You’re welcome!” he called down the hall after her.
Alina made it to the library and collapsed, sinking down by the fireplace. She pressed a hand to her mouth, trying to keep it in, push back everything she’d held down for so long.
Stupid, idiotic – did you really think you’d ever be enough again – broken…all you’ll ever be -
‘Just like her mother...except for that nasty scar.’
A sob tore from her throat and she wrapped her arms around herself, trying to hold her heart, catch the splintering pieces digging deeper with her – sharper and colder – stealing her breath. Rage flared up, stinging her eyes with hot tears. Alina’s hand clenched over her mouth; she rubbed at her scar roughly, gasping for breath. As if she rubbed hard and angrily enough, she could wipe it away, feel smoothness beneath her fingers...be whole once more.
She froze, mid-sob at the rough, deep voice that carried in the hush of the dark library. Alina stumbled to her feet and lurched against the fireplace mantle.
“Sorry, I just -”
She caught a faint glimpse of her eyes, huge and dark in her pale face, still streaming tears. She hurriedly wiped them and turned away from the cruel, mocking mirror. The scar was still there.
He moved forward urgently, towering above her.
"Why are you crying?" 
Adam’s fingers lifted, the faintest brush against her face. As if he hardly dared touch her. His hand lingered in the air, trembling, a breath away from her cheek, the space in between her skin and his vibrating with fraught tension.
Alina shook her head, trying to choke back the mutinous liquid. There was no point in rehashing Lee’s stupid comments – he hadn’t meant it cruelly. "It’s nothing." 
The thrumming intensified and then vanished as his fingertips lowered from her face. They carefully wrapped around her wrist - cool and calloused against her racing pulse, holding her as carefully and painstakingly as one of the precious roses twisted in the ivy. 
She dared to look up. His dark eyes, black in the shadowed room, fixed on her. 
"Try me." 
"I used to...to feel beautiful," she whispered at last. "And I haven't felt that way - in a long time. Beautiful things...aren't the same after they're broken." 
The dark eyes regarded her steadily as she went on, words spilling from places she'd never know existed. 
 “And I know I've never been beautiful. I'm just ordinary. But now, I don't even feel beautiful. In any way. I just feel..."
"Broken," he said softly. 
"Yes," she whispered, eyes brimming over again. 
His grip tightened around her wrist more securely and he stepped closer, the heat of his body warmth enveloping her. 
Alina looked up at him, at the pale thin scars winding over the strong, elegant face. Even despite the faded lines, she could still see the man he once was. 
A crooked smile pulled at his mouth."I spent my entire life surrounded by beautiful things and people, Alina Barra. And it stopped meaning anything..."  Adam bent his head closer, forehead brushing against hers. 
"Because it's ordinary to love what's beautiful," he whispered, his breath warm against her lips. "But to find the beauty in what's ordinary...that's something to live for."
Blood thrummed in her pulse, stealing strength from her knees. Just like in the subway, she felt boneless, like she was falling.
Only his firm grip kept her standing, ever so gently pulling her towards him –
Something clattered in the hallway. The door banged open.
Zvijer!” Lee burst in, panic in his voice. “I just got a call. Iain – he just killed another one. Vince.”
Adam straightened up, his fingers leaving her wrist instantly. Alina shivered, suddenly cold. He grabbed his jacket and jerked it on, his eyes hard flint. “Stay here,” he ordered without looking at her. “You’ll be safe.”
The door slammed behind them, her hand still hanging mid-air where he’d held it.
Alina blinked. “Okay.”

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.


Two hours later, a creak in the hallway alerted her of their return. She stood just someone stumbled through the door – Adam, supporting a limp figure. A slight moan escaped the latter and Alina gasped as Lee’s head rolled forward into the light, badly bruised. Blood trickled down his nose and one eye was purple.
“They corned him, four to one,” Adam grunted, bowed under the weight of the almost-unconscious boy. “Help me lay him down.”
She rushed forward and slipped an arm around Lee; together they managed to drag him forward and lower him onto the couch. Alina hurried to the kitchen, wet a hand towel, and slipped back to the room. A first aid kit, shabby and nearly depleted, sat by Adam’s heels as he applied disinfectant to the worse of Lee’s open wounds.
“You’re okay?” She scanned him anxiously, but saw nothing other than disheveled hair and a slight bruise on his cheek.
Adam’s gaze didn’t move from Lee. “I’ve been on the streets longer than he has...you learn how to fight out of a corner pretty quickly.”
She knelt down next to him and concentrated on wiping any trace of blood and dirt on Lee’s face, willing her hands not to tremble. 
Breathe...don’t think about – fists smashing into bodies – the click of a gun – Adam trying to drag the boy to safety.
Her fingers shook.
Adam’s administrations halted next to her. His hand closed around hers, warm and solid, jerking her out of her thoughts.
“I’m sorry,” she breathed raggedly, trying to calm her racing heart. “I can do this, I just -”
Brief confusion clouded his eyes, instantly replaced by understanding. He kept her hand in his as she tried to turn back to Lee.
“Alina.” Quiet, commanding. Gentle.
She lifted her gaze to him, aware of the fear in her face; she inhaled, squaring her shoulders with determination. I can do this, she told him wordlessly. Let me help you.
“I’m taking you home,” he said calmly. I know you can. You already have. He lifted her up, his grasp gentle. Let me help you now.

“You’re sure you have the key?”
Alina turned on the doorstep to face him, thrusting her hands in her coat pockets. “Yep. See?” She pulled out the small golden piece of metal, instinctually glancing around them. They’d kept to the shadows on Adam’s motorcycle which was parked two streets over. He’d insisted on walking the rest, his hand on the small of her back as he’d scanned their surroundings intently.
He stared at her now, his features thrown into sharp relief by the streetlights. She wrapped her coat tighter around herself at the faint rumble of thunder. Somehow this was how they always parted, on her doorstep with wet shadows and night all around them.
“Alina...what happened tonight...” he hesitated. “Will probably happen again. Iain won’t stop, not until there’s a full-blown bloodbath.” He stopped again, searching for words. Dark eyes looked down at hers, stormy and...regretful? “It’s not safe to be around me anymore.”
Her hand tightened; the jagged edge of the key dug into her skin, piercing sharply through the abrupt daze. Stay standing -
Adam continued, oblivious to her shock. “Lee and I need to disappear underground for a while. No more visits, no more contact - I’m not going to give Iain another person to hurt. He wants control of the gang, he can have it.”
She finally found her voice. “You think that’s going to help?” Angry tears choked her throat, made her tone harsher than she meant. Ignoring his startled look, she plunged on.
“Iain – isn’t going to stop just because you leave...If anything, that’s going to encourage him, give him more of a motive to hunt you down. He won’t rest until he knows you’re not a threat anymore!”
Adam’s face hardened. “And what do you know about any of this? You’ve spent your whole life in a bookshop.”
“I know enough to stay alive – without losing my morality,” she spat. 
"Don't treat me like some vigilante," he growled. "That's not who I am, Alina. I don't keep the streets safe, I don't have some secret mission. So if you have some dammed fantasy in your head about a fairy-tale ending, I suggest you forget it.”
“No, I don't - I want you to do the right thing. Go to the police, put him behind bars!”
“Are you out of your mind?” he snarled, stepping up on the doorstep.
She shrank back against the door involuntarily as he towered over her, his eyes flashing.
 “There’s at least twenty warrants out for “Zvijer”! I’ve spent the past five years trying to stay alive, so if you expect me to waltz straight into their arms, think again.”
“So what then?” she yelled back. “How many people are you going to let die?!”
I am not a hero!” Adam roared, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Do you understand me? There is nothing and no one that I care about enough to fight for!”
The breath left her body.
Paralyzing silence stretched out, broken by a second rumble of thunder. She stepped back, her eyes fixated on his jacket collar.
Drip. Drip. As if mirroring her emotions, a slight drizzle began to fall in a mournful whisper.
“Get away from me,” she whispered, her chin trembling.
He was frozen, his hands still around her shoulders. “Alina -”
“Get. Away. Before I call the police...Zvijer.”
Adam stepped back unsteadily onto the street. She turned, fitted the key into the lock with a twist, and pushed inside, slamming the door behind her. Alina stayed there, pressed against it and waited for his shadow to disappear. Then and only then, she let herself slump down and sob - furious at him and at herself, at her stupidity. At the horrible, awful rain that had begun this all.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day

Eventually her tears slowed; she leaned her head back against the door, filling her lungs with air. The shop was silent, as if respectfully wrapping itself in quiet darkness while she wept. Alina rubbed her eyes dry. Thankfully, her dad was out like a light– the sleeping pills that he’d taken ever since the accident ensured he was a heavy sleeper.
She pushed herself up unsteadily and caught sight of a crumpled receipt by the young adult shelf just ahead of her. Great...she’d forgotten to take out the trash. Swallowing, she took two steps and bent down, smoothing it out. A copy of Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
Her lips tightened.
Of course.
If she wrenched the trashbag up roughly and slammed the back door a little louder as she stomped through the mist of rain to the dirty green trash bin in the back alleyway, no one could blame her. She tossed the trash and bit back a gag at the ripe odor – wet pages and rotting vegetables.
A hand slammed over her mouth, yanking her backwards.  
“So you’re his not-so-beautiful little beauty,” Iain’s voice hissed in her ear. “Shhh, no screaming Not yet.”
Disobediently, Alina screamed with all her might, thrashing desperately in his grip, but his hand was too large and heavy.
Something squeezed her neck – she sagged, sharp blackness crowding her vision.
A loud rip of duct tape. Hands grabbed her, pressed cold tape against her mouth. Up, thrown over a shoulder, obliterated by darkness and dripping water. 


A Midnight Letter to the Girls of the World

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Dear girls, I hope you stand beneath the moon tonight - it's beautiful and pale, half hidden from sight and half resplendent against the soft blue-black velvetness of the sky. I hope you look at the scattering of stars and stand in a field or with wet grass under your feet, even if there's no one there to hold your hand. I hope you feel the sweet, calm glimmer of joy when the night breeze brushes your cheek. 

I hope you are told you're beautiful by a boy who does not mean it romantically. I hope you sit in quiet with a soul, even if he's not your soulmate, and talk for hours about the small and the silly. I hope you feel the rush of exhilaration of driving with the roof down or on the back of a motocycle or with the window rolled down as the wind streams in your hair and streetlights are a blur of white light and you feel alive.

I hope you remember when it feels like no one is choosing you and everyone else is being chosen and lauded and loved, that the moon and the stars will always be there for you...that looks, talent, and cleverness don't matter to them and they will always gaze down on you with a gentle kindness even when humans don't. 

I hope you breathe in when your lungs and heart feel empty, because breathing means you're still alive, that you've made it this far. I hope you understand that heartbreak is sweet and bitter, that it hurts, but that no boy or man will ever make you happy - that Prince Charming doesn't appear to ease your troubles, that sometimes you will stand alone and unloved by someone...but that you will beat on, like boats against the river. Like the moon against streams of clouds. 

I hope you treasure the midnights, because that's when your soul is most alive. 

I hope you know you are not alone. 

Writing: Beast + Beauty Part III

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for all of your wonderful feedback - I rarely share what I've written with others, so there's an enormous amount of vulnerability in posting this. But you've all been so encouraging in the comments and on IG, so thank you! Hopefully I'm halfway decent at doing these characters justice...it's easy for writers to think themselves good, so I try to prepare myself for the worse when others read my work.

In case you're reading along for the first time, this a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast that I've been working on all semester. You can read Part I and Part II, as well as see the inspiration board for this story here. This is a nine-part story, so I'll be posting a chapter each Thursday. 

-slight disclaimer: there is language and slight sexual references in this story. I believe in realistic -not crude - writing. As such, a story about gang members means the dialogue will not be of Victorian standards. It is used for certain characters and in order to move the plot along - there is not, however, anything dirty or extremely vulgar. But in consideration of your discretion, you have been informed. 

Also, for those of you trying to imagine what Adam looks like...this is similar to how I see him. ;)


The next morning seemed unreal. Her father’s cheerful prattle, steaming coffee biting her tongue, the bell’s jingle as the usual Thursday customers stepped in for their orders all blended together in a haze.
“– Alina, I said Mrs. Goddard’s come for the Shakespeares.”
She blinked and refocused on him.
Elias Barra, a short and grizzled man, raised formidable grey eyebrows over amused blue eyes; he gave his only daughter a benevolent smile. “Daydreamin’ again, huh?” he chuckled. “That’s what I get for letting you pick up orders – I had a whole crowd on my hands yesterday while you were off playing hooky.”
“Sorry, Dad,” she murmured automatically, her hand brushing against her forehead before she could stop it. The painful pressure where it’d slammed against the floor brought her back to reality. “The subway...was insane.”
“Yeah, for all we know it’s Fashion Week and those damned designers are clogging up the subways” he snorted. “Now be a good girl and get the Sir Williams. Or Mrs. Goddard’s class might explode if they don’t learn whether ‘to be or not to be.’”
She hurried to the classics corner in the back of the small, shabby but clean room. Paperback copies of Hamlet peered down at her besides the Othellos and Dr. Faustuses; she quickly counted out twenty.
“Is that your daughter, Mr. Barra? So quiet and polite – looks just her mother,” the elderly woman’s voice chirped, carrying from the front of the room. Her voice lowered in what was apparently supposed to be a whisper. “Except for that nasty scar, of course.”
Alina’s hand slipped. The twentieth Hamlet tumbled to the floor with a soft thud.
A moment of silence. 
“It’s from the accident,” her father’s gruff voice replied. “She was in the car with her mother when...” He cleared his throat. “Doctors managed to stitch everything else up. But that one - was from the giant piece of shrapnel. The one that went through Claire’s heart.”
Breathe. In. Out.
“Oh dear...I’m so very sorry.”
“’S all right,” Mr. Barra said with false cheerfulness as she picked up the book and carried the stack to the front. “Looks never mattered much to Alina anyhow.”
She deposited them on the counter and turned away, suddenly needing fresh air. Her eye fell on an illustrated children’s book with a tower of ivy on the cover  - no roses... She stiffened, almost able to smell the leaves' faint, fresh aroma. Images flickered in her mind of golden wood, musty books, the shadowed stairs, and dark eyes following her every move from the doorway.  
I never said thank you. 
“Dad?” Alina called over her shoulder, reaching for her purse hanging on a hook by the storage room door. “I just remembered an order. House delivery. See you later!”

Alina stared up at the sprawling brownstone house covered in ivy, just as she’d remembered it. It had been a formidable feat tracking down his address on her phone at first, but there weren’t that many old houses like this left – and anyone in their right mind knew Brooklyn when they were in it. That and Google satellite imaging had made it all too easy.
And now here she was, standing on Admiral’s Row in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. She’d found it.
She’d found him.
Alina climbed up the large steps cautiously, clutching the purse holding her father’s oldest edition of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo and a tiny, shabby Tennyson’s In Memoriam. The latter was the least she could offer after what he’d done for her yesterday.
She halted at the door, peering hesitatingly at the thick ivy swallowing it. Now that she was here, the stupidity of her actions loomed alarmingly...it had seemed a good plan in the shop. But she had no idea who this man really was or what another encounter with him would involve.
Alina straightened up. No. He didn’t have to help her, much less take her back home. But he had. And that was somehow enough for her.
Disregarding every bit of common sense that her entire life as a New Yorker had taught her, Alina pushed aside the ivy and banged on the door.
Nothing happened.
Undaunted, she banged again, her hand landing on something hard and dangling. Lifting up a particularly thick patch of foliage, she discovered a rusty chain attached to an enormous bell. She pulled it and winced at the loud clang that resounded. It kept on, like a small gong growing louder with each reverberation.
“-the hell!?
Something yelled on the other side of the door and with a painful groan, the front door creaked open. A spiky head poked out, spouting an impressive fount of profanities. The owner of the head – Lee, she assumed, recognizing the younger voice from the warehouse – caught sight of her and froze, his mouth falling open. He couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen.
“Fuck,” he said at the same time she said “Hi.”
Alina shifted, embarrassed. “I...was in the neighborhood. And – wanted to drop something off.”
Lee’s eyes, huge with panic, widened even more. “Zvijer!” he bellowed over his shoulder without moving.
She frowned. Was that some foreign curse word? No matter. She’d come, and no spiky-haired, foul-mouthed gang member was going to stop her. Ignoring his horrified sputtering, she pushed past him and ducked under the ivy, through the door.
A huge, carpeted hall. It led away, lined on either side with portraits and valuable-looking paintings encased in heavy frames. Alina hurried forward, casting a glance at the harsh faces that peered down at her. The mammoth library beckoned tantalizingly from double doors on her right, but she kept moving forward to the door at the end of the hall. Water streamed and she could hear someone moving around, dishes clinking faintly.
Lee’s panicked shout – “Hey, uptown girl! You really can’t be here!” gave her the courage to push against the door and step in.
She stood in a small, shabby kitchen; his tall, wide frame was bent over the sink, rinsing a plate off. The door creaked under her touch and he turned, dripping plate in hand.
Crack.  Old patterned china smashed against the wooden floor.
The boy stumbled in behind her. “Zvijer! She’s inside! I couldn’t...stop her,” he finished slowly, looking between the two of them guiltily. “Sorry, Zvijer. I tried.”
The man was still staring at her, his mouth slightly open like Lee’s. “How did you find this house?”
Alina raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms, feeling bolder at his complete bewilderment.
“I might been been in shock when you took me home, but I'm not blind. Do you know how rare houses like this are? Besides,” she smiled – prompting further shock on the man’s face – “Your library called to me.”
He blinked, as if unsure whether she was joking or serious.
“You saved my life,” she said quietly. “And I don’t know your name or who you are, but...” she hesitated. “I couldn’t not say thank you.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the two books; she held them out, looking him fully in the eyes. “I figured even your collection can use some additions.”
Still frozen, he let his gaze flicker down to the titles in her hands; the dark eyes swung back up to hers. “Count of Monte Cristo? Interesting choice.”
Alina bit back a smile. “I thought you might identify with it...since you seem to be exiled in this grand place. That and your insistence that you don’t have a name.”
Dark eyes surveyed her intensely. Several seconds passed.
He held out his hand. “Thank you...”
“Alina,” she said firmly, placing the books in his hand.
He set them down on the table next to him without breaking eye contact. “A pleasure to meet you, Alina,” he said, his rough voice holding a trace of smile in it.
“I’m Adam.”
Lee choked behind her, sputtering and flailing his hands.
Zvijer, are you out of your fu-”
“Lee,” he barked. “Language. We have a guest now.” He bent down to pick up the plate shards.
“What does ‘Zvijer’ mean?” Alina asked, stealing a glance at the outraged boy.
Adam hesitated, focusing on sweeping the larger pieces into his hand. “It’s my street name.”
“Oh, sure!” Lee threw his hands up in the air, looking thoroughly pissed off. “Tell her everything why don’t you... ‘It’s my street name,’” he mocked, imitating the other’s deep voice. “Why not just dial 911 and let her call the cops while you’re at it?” He glared at Alina.
“Lee’s a little protective,” Adam murmured in an undertone, standing up and dumping the broken china in a trashcan by the sink. “But he means well.”
“Then consider the subject dropped,” she said, silently deciding it was time for her to leave. “Thank you again.” She turned around and stepped through the doorway.
“It’s Croatian.” The boy’s sullen voice mumbled, stopping her in her tracks. “Means ‘Beast.’”
Adam looked somewhat embarrassed. “I had quite the temper when I first joined.”
Resolving not to push Lee’s limits, Alina nodded and continued through the door. “Oh, and some of your books need to be re-bound,” she turned around and looked at Adam. “I’ll just take the most obviously derelict ones and come back for the others.”

Contrary to Lee’s loudly-voiced wishes, Alina returned two days later with Adam’s books newly-bound and instructions from her delighted father to maintain the new, mysterious client for as long as possible.
“Oh, book-binding? Is that what you two are calling it?” Lee snorted. “For the love of God, get a room!” Seeing the murderous glint in Adam’s eyes, the teenager wisely and hastily made an exit.


Dorm Diaries // What No One Tells You About College

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

There are a number of things no one tells you about college...just like everything else in life. Because some things you cannot tell, some things you cannot describe. Some things you cannot not even imagine and understand until you actually experience them - like heartbreak, living in another country, marriage, parenthood, etc.

People say that your college years are your best years. But in no way does that mean that your four years at college (or the four years following high school) are blithe, happy, and always full of sunshine.

What they really mean  - but don't say - is that your college years are the best formative years of your life.

Because never again will you have simultaneously such freedom, independence, and security. You are on your own, yet not having to work for your living full time. You make your own choices, but can still turn to your parents when you're confused about adult matters. You live in a secure bubble when often the most stressful things are tests, GPAs, or worrying about scholarships - not taxes, rent, or the possibility of getting fired.

And so they say that college is a blissful four years before true reality sets in. But I do not agree...in many ways, yes, college students do not have to worry about certain "real life" things.

Yet, there are so very many things about college that no one prepares you for. College is not a "get out of real-life problems" card. The most formative years can be the most restless, unsettling, and turbulent years of your life. I smile as I type this because I am aware of how cynical and omniscient I sound. And yet, I think most students would agree with me.

I photographed a private school's homecoming + senior night a while back...and at one point, I lowered my camera and simply watched the high school seniors  - so old and yet so, so young - advance amidst cheers with their parents beside them.

They were so happy. So excited. So innocent.

I laughed at myself during that moment for my cynicism, but I knew the truth. They were walking forward with confidence, ebullience, and enthusiasm towards the next part of their life. And they had no idea of the twists, heartbreak, confusion, despair, and struggles that awaited them.

When you are young and clear-eyed and standing on the threshold of your old world, the one that lies ahead does indeed seem to be your oyster.

But there are some things that no one tells you about college.

No one tells you that you might get poor grades and feel a crushing sense of defeat. No one tells you that work and classes and homework and extracurricular commitments pile up and leave you feeling stretched thin.

No one tells you that free time vanishes when you join college because suddenly everything is a choice that you make - you either choose to go out for a three hour dinner with friends on Thursday night or study all night (it's not until you reach college that you realize how much free time you actually had in high school).

No one tells you that you'll meet both nice guys who are actually nice and nice guys who sometimes turn out to be not very nice guys. No one tells you that you will inevitably gain at least a couple pounds just from eating dining hall food your freshman year. 

No one tells you that you might become incredibly homesick at the most random times, whether it's for your family, friends, or even the surroundings/seasons of your hometown. No one tells you that it can be absolutely terrifying to be on your own, surrounded by strangers. No one tells you that some of the best conversations happen at 2 or 4 a.m., sometimes in the hallway of your dorm. No one tells you that it's ok and even normal if you feel depressed your first semester...or at any point in college.

No one tells you that people will be incredibly different in their views on sex, drugs, and drinking - even if they're Christians and seem like good people. No one tells you that some of the most bitter arguments you and your best friend'll have will be over a boy - either the one you're dating or the one she's dating. 

No one tells you that you'll go through some semesters in a funk and even feel stupid. No one tells you that it's OKAY to go on a date with a guy and not become his girlfriend. No one tells you it's also okay to tell a guy 'no' if you don't want to go on a date with him.

No one tells you that you'll fall hard for someone, despite all your best efforts and previous proclamations. No one tells you how hard your emotions can mess with you. No one tells you that there'll be nights when you're sitting on the bathroom floor crying so hard you can't stop. 

No one tells you how unbelievably overwhelming it is to supposed to have your entire life planned out between the ages of 18-22. No one tells you that it's okay to change your major once, twice, three times. No one tells you it's okay to decide you don't want to go to medical school after all. No one tells you it's okay to be single in college, that it doesn't make you a freak.

No one tells you it's okay if you struggle with anxiety. No one tells you that while cliques exist to a lesser degree in college, there's still separate friend groups at times and you might not always feel like you belong. 

No one tells you that your self-esteem might take a hit because you're surrounded by so many different types of girls who are slender or curvy or thin or model-esque or look like Barbie. No one tells you that you can have fun with fashion + style in college because no one knows you so you can reinvent yourself as many times as you want.

No one tells you that friendships and relationships can end. No one tells you that it will suck for a long time. No one tells you that it's okay if you don't feel okay. No one tells you that you'll probably become close to an amazing senior each year and have to say the most painful goodbye year after year.

However, no one also tells you that you will learn again and again, and again just how strong you are. That you'll pick yourself up and stand up. That you'll laugh and love like you never have before. 

That you can have a drink (after 21!) and it's okay. That it's also okay if you don't like drinking and prefer mocktails. That you can have a hilarious, amazing time without partying or getting drunk. 

That you will learn new skills and finally realize sleep is more important than pulling all nighters. That new friendships will surprise you each year. That you will finally learn to put yourself first and make self-care a priority.

That if you orient Christ as the center of your life, everything else will fall into place. Life will still be challenging, but with His grace and peace, you will make it.

So now you know.

Roots + Stripes

Monday, April 20, 2015


glasses//Ralph Lauren

It's no secret that I love stripes...they're versatile, effortlessly chic, and delightful in any form of clothing on any body type! I adore them so much they're kind of my signature look. Right after my last post (with this same top), we had a string of rainy, nasty grey days...so the leggings came back out.

This has been one of my go-to outfits this semester. Whether I'm making a coffee run, going to class, studying in my room, or anything else really. It's one of those outfits that feels like cheating because it has a "I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-want-to-be-ultry-comfy-today" feel, but looks instantly relaxed casual + cute. Yes, please.

Also, can we talk about my roots for a moment? They are very much there...a friend asked if I'm going to re-dye my hair and I've seriously considered it because that's how much I love being blonde, but I'm going to go ahead and let it grow out. I'm actually enjoying the process as I will finally get to live out my blonde ombre dreams that I've had for the past four years.

What's your go-to outfit, friends? Happy Monday - may your coffee and tea be extra strong today!

Friday Feelings

Friday, April 17, 2015

image via

It's FRIDAY, friends - and oh, am I glad! So glad I couldn't not share one of my favorite morning/throw-a-dance-party-because-it's-the-weekend song....

1. Yesterday I had my usual lunch - salad with grilled chicken, chickpeas, and hard boiled eggs. Then I had pudding. Chocolate pudding to be specific. Because sometimes you eat things that are good for your body, and then sometimes you eat things that are good for your soul. 

2. I got my eyebrows "did" the other day, and by that, I mean I found a pair of tweezers at the bottom of my makeup bag that weren't as dull as my other ones. I may or may not have screamed in triumph and then spent an hour plucking. It's been looooong overdue. #femaleprobs

3. I inhale Cholula at each meal like it's going out of style....really, though. I drench my SALADS in it. Who does that?? So good, though. Can't stop, won't stop.

4. I went to Austin the other day with friends, and the day before, my guy friend asked me what I wanted to do there.

Friend: "How do you feel about hiking?"
Me: stare
Friend: "Ooookay, How about frisbee?"
Me: stare
Friend: "Canoeing?" 
Me: stare
Friend: "Or...a zoo?"
Me: stare 

Suffice it to say, my idea of road-tripping to a fun city involves good food, coffeeshops, taking pictures, and enjoying being lazy. This outdoors sporty Man Vs. Wild stuff? No, thank you. I'm happy to report Austin lived up to my expectations: a food truck with a giant hummus pita, the first and best lavender iced latte of my life, a leisurely stroll in a park, and dinner on a lake while watching the sunset. My kind of day.

5. I don't what it's been about this week, but my brain has been OFF. O-F-F. As in zero motivation and zilch intelligent, rational thought. It was so bad at one point I tried to say "essay" and pronounced it "ess-ah-eye." Sigh. I'm hoping normalcy returns this weekend.

6. You guys...the most non-dramatic and yet simultaneously crazy thing happened this week.

I decided I WANT to be single.


I know. I was pretty shocked myself. Because I've been riding the "Yeah, I like being single...I'm enjoying it, I'm in a good season of life right now" train for a while. And then...somehow, it hit me. Boom. And I stopped straight in my tracks and realized, holy crud...I don't want to date someone right now. I really, really don't.

It was like all of a sudden the doors were thrown upon and the lights turned on and I realized the glorious freedom that I currently revel in within my life: I can make my own plans without having to factor in a specific someone else's, jam out to whatever music I want, watch aaaaallll the chick flicks in a row, don't have to worry about wearing makeup or looking cute for dates (ain't nobody got time for that this semester), and best of all, can hang out with all and as many of my guy friends that I want for meals or studying.

AND I DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT SHAVING MY LEGS ON A REGULAR BASIS. When there's no boyfriend around to make you self-conscious about leg hair, life is good, peeps.

This is all currently still blowing my mind and I don't even know what to do with myself. I just feel a ridiculously good amount of independance and love for my life.

7. On a completely different side note, part of me wants to chop my hair even more in a chin length/above chin bob...like this, this, or this. And the other part of me wants to keep it as is, as I love being able to pull it back at least a bit + I can currently put it back in a ponytail. Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. Thoughts?

8. I have some very mysterious, secret, very exciting news that I'm looking forward to announcing soon.

That is all.

Haaaaaaaaappy weekend, friends! May it be full of sleep, good food, and quality Netflix time. Looking for a good rom-com to watch this weekend? Check out this list of the 10 best ones. Enjoy!

Writing: Beast + Beauty Part II

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Due to popular demand, I'm pleased to present part two of the Beauty and Beast retelling - your feedback on the first part was such a delightful surprise! You can read Part I here and see the storyboard that inspire this story here. Enjoy, friends. 


Alina came to gradually; her eyes flickered, refusing to open completely. Everything was still dark. Ow. Her memory rushed back with the screaming pain in her head. The subway. Blood splattered everywhere. The men who attacked her – something that attacked them. She forced her eyes open. A dirty concrete wall stared back, inches away from her face. She was slumped on a dingy floor on her side, somewhere dry. Not the subway.
A pair of voices cut through the haze and shadows - hushed but heated, as if arguing. 
"Zvijer, are you crazy? What is she doing here?" a young male voice hissed behind her.
"It's all right.” Deeper and rougher, almost a low growl. 
"No, it is not all right - you brought a girl here! You're endangering both of us and her -"
"What was I supposed to do, leave her there? They would have killed her! She'll be fine here.” 
"That's what you said about the last one. And look how that turned out."
A short growl followed his words. "That – won’t happen again.”
"Of course. Tell that to this one's parents when she's dead."
There was a taunt pause for a moment; the first voice continued, sounding distracted. 
"Couldn't you at least pick an attractive one?" A snort. "I'd think you of anyone would want a bit of beauty around here...she's not even close to a looker."
Alina inhaled sharply, a slight hiss of hurt piercing the air like the faintest sound of a pebble falling against stone.
She held her breath, willing them to continue.
"Are you finished?"  said the deeper voice, his voice still curt and rough as jagged rock. 
The other didn't bother to reply, but must have made a careless gesture. His footsteps echoed and faded away. 
Alina instantly shut her eyes, trying to still look unconscious or at the worst, asleep. She was alone with the rough voice now. 
"I know you're awake." 
She kept her eyes shut, still pretending. Maybe, maybe if she was perfectly still enough, he would think her asleep and leave - and then all of this would only be a nightmare.
The voice's owner shattered her desperate wish. "You're shaking."
She tensed, but knew there was no use in pretending any more. He might come closer if she did. But...she wasn’t dead. Whoever he and the other voice were
"Who are you?" she whispered without moving, her own voice rough with fear and disuse.
A bark cut through the air. If it had contained humor, she would have thought it was a laugh.
"Someone without a name...I had one. Once." 
There was the slightest pause.
"But if you really want to know -" his voice deepened even more, so rough she had to strain to hear - "...why don't you take a look?"
A tumult of emotions swirled in her stomach and rose up, snatching the strength from her limbs. Squeezing her eyes shut momentarily for courage, Alina pushed herself up slowly and looked over her shoulder.
Her breath lodged in her throat.
Dark hair, tanned skin, and so many scars, intersecting and twisting together over a narrow face, as if beaten badly and put back together with a shaky hand. Dark eyes glittered with something she did not understand, watching her keenly like a hawk.
Alina blinked dazedly at her surroundings, feeling her grip on reality slipping – a dilapidated, empty warehouse; cold air stealing through the threads of her sweater; her long hair stuck to the side of her neck; head smarting...and a tall scarred man in a battered leather jacket and boots staring down at her.
His mouth pulled in what might have once been a grin. “Brave, aren’t you?”
“Wha – what happened? Where am I?” She backed up into the concrete wall behind her, stealing reassurance from the solidness against her shoulders.
He crouched down slowly, as if she was a wild animal he wanted to approach. “You were attacked...do you remember anything?”
She stared at him. “They killed someone. On – on the tracks. Then...” Alina’s voice failed, her throat tightening.
The man held up a reassuring hand. “It’s all right, you’re safe now. They’re not going to hurt you again. I made sure of that.”
Her eyes widened. The shadow that had sprung at the men – a deep roar.
“That was you?”
Inscrutable dark orbs gleamed in the faint warehouse light. “The next time a gang tries to attack you, they’ll think better of it.” He stiffened, an undercurrent of anger tinging his voice. “You’re bleeding.”
Horrified, Alina clutched her head and hissed. Not smart. Wet stickiness stained her hand.
“Don’t worry about this – it’s just a pressure point,” the man said, leaning forward before she realized what was happening. His hand gripped her shoulder, his thumb pressing deeply above her collarbone.
“Hang on, I’ve got you,” she dimly heard him say; she fell forward, slipping into oblivion.

Alina opened her eyes. Gold and brown filled her vision.
She had to be dreaming. Either that or she had finally died, because the gorgeous sight that greeted her could only be heaven. Gleaming mahogany shelves towered above her, endless rows holding books with spines of faded sage, burgundy, and saffron; an enormous fireplace with a mirrored wall above it reflected the fading light from arching windows on the opposite side of the room.
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.
An elegant grandfather clock murmured sympathetically in the soft, blanketed silence that wrapped around her securely. She lay stretched out on a brocade chaise lounge chair. Grunting with effort, she sat up, her head swimming.
“Feeling any better?”
Alina tensed, turning towards the rough voice’s inquiry from the doorway. The man stood there expectantly, as though he’d heard her wake up.
She reached up to feel her head and blinked with surprise, feeling raised sutures on her left temple.
“You needed a few stitches. I thought it’d be less painful if you weren’t conscious for that part.”
She found her voice. “Thank you,” she stammered. “Where...am I?”
His eyebrows raised – was that amusement beneath the scars? “My house.”
Alina stared at him.
He shrugged his shoulders. “I realize it’s a little early to be bringing you home when we haven’t even been on a date, but why drag things out? That was a joke,” he said hurriedly at what must have been a look of terror on her face. “I brought you here since I could hardly take you to a hospital -”
Why not?
“Besides, the farther away you are from that subway, the better.” He stared at her intently – again, as if she was some wild specimen he’d stumbled upon.
She shifted, heat rising in her cheeks like always when she felt someone looking at her. At it.
“It’s not from them,” she said abruptly, unable to bear it any longer, her fingers jerking up to cover the left side of her mouth.
He frowned, suddenly growing taller; his dark eyes flashed. “What isn’t?”
“My scar. I’ve – had it for a while.” She pressed her fingers against the jagged, raised line that started by her nose and crossed her lips, curving down her chin.
He stared at her, something in his expression sharpening. In the next instance, it was gone.
“I’m hardly one to judge.”
Without meaning to, her gaze flew to his face, scanning the thin, faded pale lines overlapping his skin.
“Gang initiations are anything but pretty,” he said abruptly. “Then when you’re chosen as the new leader...” The man shrugged his shoulders again, stepping further into the room and sitting down in a chair by the chaise.
In the back of her mind, Alina knew she should feel stunned - frightened for her life, even, but adrenaline must have rewired her reactions. Nothing seemed shocking now.
“What type of gang exactly?” Alina looked around at the luxurious room.The words came out of her mouth before she could stop them. “It must pay well.”
His mouth twisted crookedly. “Not quite. I had the good fortune, you might say, to be born into a family with old money.” His tone was bitter. “Now they’re all gone, so it’s just Lee and I. You heard his voice earlier. He’s one of the few original members who’ve stayed loyal.” He looked around at the hushed room also. “It makes for a good hiding place. When we’re not on the streets.”
“The person who killed that man...”
“Iain,” he finished quietly. “He was initiated a few years ago, not long after I took over. He’s always had...anger issues. Doesn’t like taking orders. So he decided to start giving his own – and go after my men.” His face hardened. “It wasn’t just any hate crime you saw. You walked straight into a city-wide war.”
That alarming fact should have made her head swim, but instead all she felt was curious.
“What side are you on?”
He paused, surprise flickering beneath the twisting scars. It vanished and he stood up, offering her his hand. “Mine. Let’s get you home – before you stumble anywhere else you shouldn’t.”
With one last regretful look at the unreal library, Alina followed him out of a door by the mirrored fireplace. She pointedly avoided looking at the reflective surface – as did he.
She followed him into a sprawling hallway, past gorgeous dark wood stairs and out through a small side door. A labyrinth of ivy greeted them, brushing down against their heads and winding up the sides of the door. Thickly entwined in the deep mossy green mass were flecks of crimson – rosebuds.
He plunged forward on the barely visible brick path, striding quickly through what she realized was the back garden. Alina turned and her mouth dropped. The outside of the house was enormous, even grander than she suspected from the library – an old brownstone, no doubt once a treasured historical building, but now overgrown with explosions of ivy and grey, twisted vines and dead twigs. As if the house was slowly being encircled and overcome by an ancient, sinister enchantment. She shivered.
“Here, you need this.”
She turned back to him, a million questions on her lips and promptly forgot all of them at the black motorcycle parked behind him. He held out a scuffed helmet.
“I’d rather not redo those stitches.”
Feeling slightly weak and wanting nothing more than to sleep in her own safe bed, Alina shut her mouth and took it. She gave him the bookshop’s address and climbed on behind him.
They roared off, speeding down the street, away from the desolate, enchanted house. She shut her eyes, gripping his leather jacket tightly as the streets and sounds blurred around her, cool air whipping against her hands. The rain had stopped...the sun was setting, pulling down streaks of obsidian shadows.  
Breathe. In. Out.

Hours (or was it minutes?) later, the motorcycle’s growl faded and they screeched to a stop. Alina swayed, looking up at the familiar, tiny shop. Her father’s red and brown-painted sign Barra’s Books and Binding swung above the door, an old-fashioned carved piece that beckoned instantly to ardent literature adorers. The street was closed down for the evening, the shops and businesses all locked up.
She dug in her jean pockets for the key and slid off of the motorcycle, almost falling as the street tilted beneath her feet. Strong hands clutched her arm and he was suddenly beside her.
A touch of amusement softened his rough voice. “Easy – you might think you’re a hardened street person now, but you’ve had a long day.”
Two quick strides and he had her on the doorstep of the shop, his other hand secure around her shoulders.
Alina grasped the door knob for support, pressing her hand against the window pane in the door.  She looked up at the glass and stilled suddenly.
“Who are you?” she breathed, fingers frozen on the glass – smooth, cold, and hard as ice against her skin.
His eyes flickered to his reflection and he froze, any warmth in them vanishing at her question. He stepped back, moonlight spilling upon his face. The scarred lines seemed to deepen with a bitter acceptance. He stared at her in the glass, the silence pressing in around them, heavy and smothering.
She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Just stared at the dark eyes boring into hers with a sharp blackness she’d never seen before.
“You don’t want to know.”
Then he was gone, leaving her staring at the reflected empty street dipped in rain and shadows.

Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand.