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Chapter 3: A Chance Encounter

Champagne Braswell

“I just don’t understand why she needs to dress like a whore. It’s work not a Rachel’s gentleman’s lounge!

Shanna was always a riot at work.  She was my type of lady. She hated people and was messy. That’s all I needed.   We would sit at our desk sending instant messages and making eye contact when we would see someone dressing tacky. Every now and then we would meet outside of work for happy hour and talk about family, dating and everything else in between.  A divorced mother of 2, Shanna worked as the treasury manager while I worked as a compliance manager.  We griped about how boring work was and wished we could hit the lottery and just travel the world.

It had been a week since I had failed at dying. I didn't take much time to recoup. That's just how I am. I don't need time to cry, I accepted what I tried to do and I move on.  It happened on a Friday and I was back to work on Monday, just like a good little peon.

“So how’s sweet ass Cotton? When are ya’ll going to jump the broom?” She laughed so hard and so did I.

“You know how I feel Shan. He’s a great guy, I’m just having fun and so is he.”

She rolled her eyes in disbelief, but it was actually true. Regardless of the passion that we felt for each other, Cotton isn’t interested in marriage. There was one point during the relationship when my biological clock was ticking pretty loudly and I blurted out to Cotton that maybe we should get married.  You would have thought I said I slaughtered babies for a living. When I saw that response my feelings were hurt a little bit but I was able to infer that maybe it’s not his thing. I quickly got past that emotion and moved on like it never happened. 

Well that fine little Caramel Frappucino will not be on the market long. You better quit playing around and become Mrs. Doctor Hart.” She waived her hand around as if she was swinging an imaginary flag. 

“That’s not even how that works. I wouldn’t be Mrs. Doctor Hart. Maybe, Mrs. Doctor Beard ma’am.” We laughed so loud that people shushed us.

“Awww shush your damn selves!” Shanna responded flipping her dirty blonde hair at the complainants. 

She was truly the life of the party.


I left my job at about 7pm.  It was still sunny outside and the weather was just perfect. Warm enough to knock off the frost I had earned sitting in our building for an 8 hour day. I’m assuming because we have so many computers that they need to put the AC on the 'North Pole' setting.

I stood still with my arms stretched out wide in what I thought was an empty parking lot, letting the sun thaw my body. I felt like Superman being rejuvenated by the sun. It was then that I felt this presence. Something small and light, but warm and non-threatening. Something was disturbing my force as I was able to feel their presence without looking at them. I lowered my arms, raised my head to its normal position, and opened my eyes. It was a young boy.


He had this big Kool-Aide smile.

“Why are you doing that” he asked, still smiling.

I looked at the boy in disgust. His clothes were ratty. Torn around the edges of the shirt and shorts. His shirt said “We’re Dealin!’ the old slogan from the Ricart car dealership, but was missing parts of the blue letters. His once bright yellow cargo shorts were more of a tan due to being covered in dirt and grass stains. His shoes strings were unkempt and long. They looked like they were in one of those knots that someone accidentally uses and can never be taken out. They use those knots because they get tired tying shoes and instead of being cool about the situation, they create a mega knot that no one can get out and always look super stretched out from times when the kid has to squeeze their foot into their shoe.

He looked like a boy who loved the outdoors and smelled definitely like he loved the outdoors.

“Why do you stink like that?” I asked annoyed that this tiny presence had disrupted my morning. 

He laughed really hard,as if I told the most amazing joke ever.

Uh because I didn’t take a shower! Duh!” He made this silly face as if that answer was so simple, while smacking his forehead with the palm of his hand.

I’m not the biggest fan of kids, so I walked off. Obviously he was on some kid shit and I had no time for it.

He didn’t understand that me walking off was the end of the conversation, so he walked with me.  

“I like cars and I’m Carmelo, I’m 8.My mom named me Carmelo because I like Carmels."

You can tell he was trying to say caramel.  I won't be that person, though it was annoying that he couldn't say it right. 

“Is Carmelo your real name?”


“and it’s Carmelo because you like caramel?”


“If she named you Carmelo before you were out her stomach, how would your mom know  you would like caramel?”

I got his little butt, I thought.

“I dunno. Probably because she’s Psycho!”

“Psycho!?!” I asked

“Yep! She can tell the future!”

Now this kid is just being a dumbass.

“It’s psychic kid. Psychic. If your mom is a psycho, then you would be living in a group home with other kids whose mom’s are psychos.”



I had finally made it to my car. I hurried in, turning on the car and rolling down my windows to allow the heat to escape. I tried to hurry up and get settled so I could pull off and escape this useless conversation. I buckled my seat belt as the kid kept yammering on. He wasn't bothered by my lack of attention. He was just happy to have someone to talk to.  I went back to the little boy who was now standing by my driver’s side window, continuing what seemed like an interesting conversation to him.

“.and I said no one likes boogers!” and then he laughed. 

“So I’m going to go now. But you have a good day.” I put my car in reverse.

“You should move out the way or I’ll hit you and you’ll just be stuck in the parking lot. I’ve had a long day and I’m not taking any kids to the hospital.”

“But, you didn’t tell me your name!” He seemed sad. I didn’t care.

I stared at him waiting for him to move back so I wouldn’t smash his raggedy little toes. I realized he wasn’t budging.

“Marlee. Marlee Rogers. Can I go now?”

“Hi Marlee! I will see you later!” he then skipped out excited.

I watched him as he disappeared out of the parking lot into the residential neighborhood.They need to tighten up our security here, I thought. I pulled out the parking spot, turned on my radio and drove off the lot.


Chapter 2: Life After Death

Champagne Braswell

Can you imagine if the Hulk was real? How fearful would he truly be? How big would he be? Is he just an 8 foot really buff guy in reality? Or is he short and stout, but his image was greatly exaggerated? If you were hit by the Hulk would you survive? I wouldn’t think so, but if you did I would imagine the pain you’d feel is how I now feel.

Tubes ran through the top of my wrist.  The heart monitor's constant slow beeps interrupted my jumbled thoughts. I thought I saw him. It was unexpected and stopped my process of moving to the next level. 

In reality, Thomas was the one who stopped my transcendence to the afterlife.  Thomas, or Cotton as he was called, saw me in the bathtub after he woke up.  He saw that I had passed out and administered medical services quickly.  I guess that’s a perk when you are dating a doctor.  He lifted my naked body out of the bathtub and placed me on the bed that we had shared so many times. He bandaged my wrist, covered my nude body, and called the emergency services.  I hadn’t bled out enough to die, but the wine had accelerated my fatigue. Another couple hours and it would have been fatal.  I guess even Satan didn’t want me.


“I just don’t understand Marlee. You have so much going for you.  I don’t understand why you would do this.”

My dear, sweet, sensitive Cotton. I often look at him and realize, I don’t deserve such a great guy like him.  The only reason he’s with me is because he’s gay and he needs a beard. Well, he doesn’t know he’s gay but I have a strong sneaking suspicious that some young woman in the future will be crying into her sheets because her brother and Cotton let things “get out of hand”.

He may not be gay but he has a lot of suspicious qualities.  Our sex life is nonexistence.  He arches his eyebrows with threading. He speaks softly even when he’s angered. He’s 36 and has only had two official girlfriends in his life. One of them was when he was in Kindergarten. His response was that he was so focused on medical school that he didn’t want to let anything distract him. Fair enough. But here’s the kicker ladies and gentlemen, he loves taking bubble baths, drinking out of my “My Kind of Wine Lady" glass, and listening to Brandy. May not be the most damning evidence, but we are very sure he’s not an alpha male.

Regardless if he’s gay or not, I find myself quite fond of him.  We have dated for over a year and I’ve grown to enjoy his freeing personality.  He comes from a loving Christian family who spends a sickening amount of time together. They go to Church every Sunday and have dinner afterward. They have monthly newsletters to keep all the family abreast of what’s going on due to their sheer size. Cotton has 4 siblings and they are all best friends. Whenever they come around it’s like a big celebration full of warmth and love. They even call themselves "The Five Hartbeats" due to their last name being Hart.

I love hanging out with him and his siblings. They are so warm and welcoming. Not to mention hilarious beyond belief. Even on my saddest days, when the Hartbeats get together (especially my favorite, Rita) my sad tears turn into laugh tears.


Marlee, what are we doing?

I had forgotten Cotton was there.  But what could I say? How awkward is this! No one gives you a plan on what to do if you fail your suicide attempt. Is there a plan? Can I look it up so that I can prepare for this uncomfortable situation?

Cotton, I’m so happy you found me. I was cutting my steak and I lost the grip of the knife. I took a huge chuck out my wrist. I thought I would take a warm bath to help the blood congeal.”  I lied.

He looked at me with the “reaaaaally?” look on his face.

I mean I couldn’t blame him. It seemed far-fetched. I decided to press on.

You know how awkwardly I hold my steaks when I’m trying to cute! You are always telling me I’m going to lose a finger!

This is very true, to be honest. I’m horrible at cutting steaks, cakes, anything. I’m just a really bad knife person. One time I was cutting tape and accidentally cut my thumb.  I’m very klutzy.

He seemed unconvinced, which makes sense.  He may have been soft, but he was no idiot. I had to sell this. I didn't want to talk about this.  In my family we don't talk and I had grown to prefer it that way. 

Plus you saw the steak I was baking when you came in. You went to sleep and I ate my steak and put yours in the fridge.

This is also true. My plan was to have one final fancy meal with Cotton and then one last night of what we call, “lovemaking”.  He often comes in tired but after his shift in the emergency room, he was royally wiped. He came in, gave me a kiss, showered, and jumped into the bed.

He sat quietly trying to process if whether there was any truth to what I was saying or if I was trying to pull the wool over his eyes.  He’s never known me to be suicidal but he knows that I’m very accident prone.

Whatever his thoughts I had already made the decision that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore.  I attempted and I failed. No one needed to know that but me. I figured if I can change the topic and break the ice maybe he can just let it go. That’s how we avoided most conflict.  I can impose my will on Cotton and he just blindly follows in efforts to make me happy.

Thank you, Cotton.  I don’t know what I would have done without you.”

He got up from his chair, still unconvinced but understanding that maybe that’s not the most important thing right now.  He leaned over the bed and kissed me on my forehead.

Please don’t do that again. You’ve got so muc-

I grabbed his head and kissed him.  I didn’t want to hear anything else. I just wanted to get past this moment. I wanted to love. I wanted comfort. In that moment, I wanted Cotton. 

Almost dying makes you feel a bit different.  Like you have a different appetite for life. I almost left this world without feeling man’s last intimate touch. I needed Cotton in a way that no one else could provide. Though I tease about Cotton’s mannerisms, his body was something to die for. Being a doctor made him very health conscience. He stayed in the gym in his spare time and ate very clean. His regime and determination created a man whose body looked like it was made from chiseled bronze. My hands moved from his head and traveled down to his pants. He had been waiting for me.

What are you-“ he tried to say, but I wouldn’t let him say it.

I took his hands and pulled it to my breasts.  I wanted to feel wanted. I need Cotton right now. I need him to physically counsel me.

We then heard a knock at the door.

I had forgotten where we were. What led us here in the first place. I had become so wrapped up in the passion that I forgot I still had a faux pas on my had. 

We straightened ourselves up quickly as if we were teenagers and our parents were coming in. “Come in” I spoke. The door opened and this beautifully short Latina walked in.  She was very curvy and attractive. Her make up wasn’t heavy but enough for others to notice.

“Glad to see your awake. I’m the physician on duty Dr. Santos. How are you feeling?”

I told her I was sore but other than that I was fine. She explained that they gave me stitches on my wrist and other than that I was okay to leave if I wanted, which of course I did. She prescribed me some pain medication and told me that I could leave when I wanted.

Cotton excused himself out the room. He said he had to use the bathroom and would be right back. I thought Dr. Santos would follow him but she stayed behind.

Mrs. Rogers”, she started.

It’s just Ms. I thought to myself. I didn't care to correct her, however. 

“We see things like this often.  I do not mean to get out of line but it’s my job as a medical physician to recommend mental services in situations such as this. “

She waited for me to say something.

I didn’t. She doesn’t know me or my life. Since she thinks she does, she can have the conversation with herself.

She realized that this conversation wouldn’t be as productive as she thought it would be. She wrote down something on her notepad. She ripped off the paper and set it down on my hospital nightstand.

“This is here for you, should you need. I truly recommend it.”


I looked at her after she sat it down.  I said, "You are right Dr. Santos. You are out of line."

She turned around and left the room, passing Cotton in the doorway.

I get up and motion Cotton to come and take these tubes out. I was ready to go home and get some real rest. Hospitals made me uneasy.

“I cant babe.  I could get them in trouble if something happens. You have to wait until they are ready to formally discharge you.  I know they said that you can leave but you may not get home until tomorrow.” 

I slumped back in my bed and made my face into an ugly sad face. I was ready to leave and get this behind me. I wanted to move on.

“I know it sucks, but would it make you feel better if I called your mom and tell her you were here?”

“No” I replied sharply.

Chapter 1: I Just Died

Champagne Braswell

The pain feelsgood.  I didn’t think it would but it does. I feel at ease.  It started as a simple trickle but then it grew to a steady stream.  I watched as the blood ran away from me and tainted my bathtub water. It mixed in with the bubbles creating a beautiful death scene, scented with vanilla and lavender.  My head grew even lighter, assisted with a small glass of Malbec.  I rest my head on the back of the tub and look up at my recessed lights.  It was a bitch trying to get those installed.  My contractor kept adding additional costs to my requests. First $200, then $300.  “You don’t just want 3 lights. You want it to be even” he said.  But I wasn’t an even person. I was odd. I loved odd things.  I loved odd shows and stories. I loved odd food and clothes. At least that’s what my family always told me.

I can’t see how you can eat that mess” My mother Alice would always say.

We were at the north market and I had just ordered a Mango Lassi, an indian yougurt based drink.   The thickness of the smoothie and the sweet taste was something I had grown to admire. 

It’s just like a milkshake.” I retorted

If it was just a milkshake, it would be called a mikeshake.  You can’t just go around drinking and eating what those people make. You never know what they could have put into your food. They could drug you and have you some place passed out and raping you.

You can’t rape the willing” I said taking another sip.

My mother cut her eyes at me. “Don’t be a smart ass” she stated

But it’s who I was. My mother was the overcritical, small minded, lovable lady.  I was the cynical smart ass who was difficult to get along with. I always had been.


I normally keep my visits with my mother no longer than 30 minutes but on this day she tricked me to taking her to the sweet shop, Pistacia Vera.  She loved the macaroons.  I mean she really, really, loved the way they taste. So much so, that she learned how to make her own version. It pains me to say that they were really good. I say pains me because when you give my mother a compliment, she can't take it gracefully. Her response can be translated to something such as "what took you so long to compliment me." That is one thing that I envied about my mother. She’s so creative and such a great cook. Her refusal to not let me forget it, created my stubbornness in not publicly acknowledging it.  She doesn’t need any more compliments; I don’t need that type of negativity in my life.

My mother and I have a complicated relationship. I truly love her with all my heart, but we don’t mix. She’s oil, smooth and a great conduit for creating wonderful creations. I’m water tasteless and bland.  Though let her tell it, she’s water because she’s life and pure, while I’m used oil, a kitchen nuisance. No one knows how to dispose of it, so they let it sit and ignore it until they find a proper way for disposal.

My mother doesn’t like to talk about uncomfortable things. She only liked to talk about happy things.  Her life was stressed as a young mother and she often wanted to be absent from her adult responsibilities. She spent much of her time working, watching TV, and griping about how hard motherhood was. That if I hadn’t come along she would have been somebody instead of being a mother.  She complained so much about motherhood that growing up, I was sure it was something that I didn’t want to experience.  And so far at the age of 36, I was holding on to that promise.  My mother on the other hand was ready for me to receive my “motherhood retribution”.  This is when mother’s can’t wait for their daughters to have children so they can sit back and say “now you see what I meant back then?” and chuckle at your hardships. It’s that gratification they received after waiting so long for you to “reap what you sow”.  Unfortunately for my mother, it seems like her “nan nan a boo boo” party was talking too long. She’d always find a way to inject into the conversation my inability to find a good man and settle down. 

“You don’t have forever, ya know”, she’d start.

I know”, I’d retort, like so many other times.

Well what are you waiting on?  You don’t need to be married to have kids.” As if that’s the reason why I don’t have kids.

I’ll find the nearest bum on the corner and we will get this worked out for you mom.  It’s my solemn duty to make you happy and if I have to get some bum s*x so you can have a baby, well dang it I’m there.”

This would normally cause her to catch an attitude and change the conversation.  That’s my likable mother. She only likes to talk about the happy things and doesn’t like confrontation. I can’t say she’s alone in that thought.  I normally use sarcasm.  Perhaps we aren’t too different.


We finally came to the store and they were closed.  I thought they were open until 6pm but noticed the sign said they were closed on Mondays.

“Really?!?” My mom exclaimed. “that’s not even the Lord’s day!”

I chuckled a bit. I had to agree, most stores are closed during the weekend. 

Nothing Bundt Cakes is close. I’ll take you there and you can get whatever you like.

My mother’s face turned in to a big smile  

Well let’s go! I don’t have all day!” She reached out and grabbed my hand.  She never does that. It’s great that this is the last memory she’ll have with me.  All the arguments and pain we’ve gone through, I’m glad she’ll have this last hoorah.


My eyes are so heavy. I forgot where I was.  The mind is a powerful thing. The moreyou believe something, the more it becomes true. I had went so deep into my memories that I had almost thought I was happy. I obviously couldn’t be happy or I wouldn’t be here. In my tub. With my life face moving into the world. I don’t expect to meet God. I don’t think he wouldknow me.  I know now that I’m committing this sin, he will never want to know me.

I slowly begin slipping away. My mind stops running. My heart's song gets lower and lower.  I have died.