Protected

The inspiration behind this post:

My grandfather was a Navy Seal. When he returned from Vietnam he began to drink, a lot. Thankfully, he realized the hole that he was digging for himself and forced himself to stop drinking. This post is loosely based on that need to numb the pain and past that is thought to be found at the bottom of a bottle.

 

She woke up screaming that night, still feeling the Afghan sun beat down on her back as she sat straight up. She closed her mouth once realizing that it was just a dream. Less like a dream and more like memories. Her heart pounded in her ears, pulsating the sweat through her shirt. She stared into the dark corners of her room. She lunged to her bedside table and began dialing David’s number. Before he could pick up the phone, she hung up. A feeling of terror combined with extreme depression gripped her heart. She rushed into the kitchen flinging on the lights while she rummaged through the cabinets. Finally, she found what she was looking for. She reached for a glass but decided that she didn’t need one and started to guzzle the vodka. Choking on the strong taste, she spit it out into the sink only to press her lips against the bottle and tip her head to the ceiling. She stopped drinking long enough to catch her breath only to take another mouthful. The last thing she remembered before she blacked out was the sound of the vodka bottle crashing to the floor.
She awoke a few hours later lying in a sea of broken glass. The vodka bottle had shattered to a million pieces around her. She pulled herself to her feet and carefully stepped around the broken glass to reach the broom. After cleaning the puddle of liquor and what was left of the bottle, she stepped into the shower hoping to wash the stench of vodka from herself. Zehira could smell liquor coming from her as the warm water ran down her olive toned skin. Still tipsy from the night before, she stumbled out of the bathroom and to the closet where she pulled on the first thing she saw.
She thought back to her parents and the stories they would tell her of Israel. She could almost hear their voices in her head constantly reminding her of her namesake. “Zehira.” they would say. “It means protected. Never forget that. God will always protect you”. Her chest felt weighted down by a heavy rock when she thought back to her parents. Both killed by a roadside bomb in Israel on a vacation, it was that day that forced Zehira to become a Marine. The unmistakable call of duty knocked on her heart that day. Fresh outta high school she drove herself to Camp Pendleton and enlisted.

Needing to sober up, she made herself a pot of coffee and chowed down on a burrito-her favorite hangover food. Her mind kept going back to last night’s escapades. The vodka had finally helped numb the pain that was so painfully prevalent in her life. She knew that drinking was a bad road to go down so she resisted the temptation and instead walked outside to take her mind off the nagging alcohol craving. The air wasn’t as warm today as she dug her toes into the sand. She followed the surfers on the waves with her head. In the distance, she still make out the unmistakable silhouette of David on the water. She gave him a wave with her hand as he walked out of the water to her direction. He looked like a model as he jogged out the water with his surfboard under her arm.
She met him halfway. He shook his water from his hair and sprayed water on her tan skin. He smiled at her and then his nose squished at the smell of liquor on her breath as her neared.
“Have you been drinking?” He asked taking a step back.
“I had a few drinks last night. Why?” She asked curiously.
“Cause I can smell it on you. You sure that it was only a few drinks?”He watched her facial expressions. doubting her.
“Yeah. Just one shot of Vodka.” She lied.
David still doubted her but decided to let it go.They walked along the shore line for a bit until the sun rose higher in the sky and he had to leave for work. He kissed her gently goodbye and resisted the urge to wrinkle his nose at the taste of vodka on her lips.
She was preparing for bed that when she could feel the memories begin to flood her mind. Night was always her weak spot. She walked over to the pantry and stared at the bottle of wine on the shelf. She stands there for a few seconds fighting her willpower until she forced her feet to move in the opposite direction. She walked aimlessly around the house until she got in car. She drove up and down the PCH until the sky was pitch black with the LA lights

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First Date

People who have been through traumatic experiences that have shaped them and made them into the people they are, have sometimes wondered if someone will be able to look past their scars to the real them. David is that person for Zehira. He sees past her hurt, her struggles and looks directly to her heart.  He sees the real her and finds her beautiful despite her scars. On a personal level, I pray everyday for someone to see me the way that David sees Zehira and the way God sees us: with unconditional love.

Chapter 12

Around an hour before David was going to pick her up, Zehira headed to her room to prepare. Searching her closet she pulled out a white flowing peasant top with beading along the v-neckline. She found dark blue-jeans in the back of her closet as well. She pulled on her outfit and looked into the mirror. She may not dress like a girl often, but she could admit that it look pretty darn good. She spent a few moment in the mirror staring at her long brown hair. She decided to keep her hair down loose and wavy. Grabbing a few strands of brown hair, she pulled it back with a hibiscus flower clip that her mother gave her for her 16th birthday. Thrilled with her casual yet elegant look, she even decided to apply some mascara and lip gloss. She stepped back to admire herself in the mirror. Reading the clock at a quarter to one, she rushed to front door where David had just rang the doorbell. She quickly slipped her black flip-flops on her feet and opened the door. David seemed frozen for a few seconds until he let out a low whistle.
“Wow! You sure do clean up nice.” His eyes giving her the once over.
Zehira could feel her cheeks turn red and hoped he didn’t notice. He took her hand in his. He guided her to his black jeep waiting in the driveway. Like a gentlemen, he opened the door for her.
Once seated at the restaurant, they made small conversation as they waited for their food to arrive. David then asked: “So, you want to tell what happened yesterday?” She explained parts of her memories, but only scratched the surface. She didn’t want scare him away with the details of war, but she told how she often felt like drowning. Unfortunately, she had even experienced survivor’s guilt especially after one of her unit stepped on a mine and blew up in front of her. Though this was the first time that she opened up, she felt totally safe with him. David listened intently as Zehira told him some of what she had seen overseas.
“Anyway, enough talk about me. What about you? Any traumatic experiences you’ve gone through?” She asked, attempting to change the subject.
“Aside from falling through icy pond in the winter, nothing like what you have gone through.” He rested his hand on hers as it lay on the table and gave it a tender squeeze. Being with him felt like a movie, like it wasn’t even real. Like she was just watching herself and David from across the room talking and laughing with this amazing guy. She felt so comfortable with him. They continued to talk and share stories about their past and opinions on recent subjects. She laughed had so much fun with David that she was sad when their plates were cleared until he said:
“Care for a cup of coffee and a walk on the beach?” He said straightening up.
“Really? You still want to be with me, after all that? I mean, there isn’t much left of me.” She asked unsure of what he thought of her.
“Absolutely. I’m sure that there is more to you then war stories.” He stood and extended his hand to her.
“If you’re sure.” She took his hand and stood up right next to him.
“I’m sure.” He said looking deep into her green eyes. And they walked out hand in hand.

They arrived at the sparkling beach after a quick coffee stop at Starbucks. They combed the beach for seashells. Many of the seashells seemed to be taken away from the high tide last night, but there were still a few mussels scattered in the damp sand. David collected the mussels in one hand and held Zehira’s hand in the other. It felt so good to be free and happy with David.
Walking along the beach, Zehira stopped and turn to him looking straight into his soft blue eyes.
“Why? Why do you like me? I am a sobbing mess half the time, but you don’t seem to care. I don’t get it.” She stared at his face for a reply.
“Because I do. I like that you are real. I don’t see you as broken. I see a smoking hot woman who has some wounds; it will just take time to learn to heal. You have such an amazing heart that it’s impossible not to like you.” He glanced at the shimmering water and then to Zehira’s face. He pulled her closer to him. She tenderly looked up into his eyes.
“You really think so?” She asked in almost a whisper as she leaned in closer.
He leaned in to her and sweetly met his lips with hers in response. They stood there in a tender kiss with the waves crashing onto the shore as a backdrop. He released her, still feeling her warm breath on his chin.
“I promise.” He said in a low whisper and turned to the ocean waves. She slipped an arm around his waist, feeling grateful that she wasn’t alone anymore. The water rushed up to a nearby rocky cliff and sprayed its mist over the rocks and high into the air.

Happy? Me? HA!

The inspiration behind this post:

In continuation from the previous post, David was the knight in leather flip-flops. As a knight, he stays with the damsel in distress until he knows that she is safe and taken care of. 

It was nearly dark when David drove into Zehira’s driveway and parked the car. Turning off the ignition, he turned to look at her and spoke in a serious tone.

“I think I want to stay the night with you, in case anything happens. I’ll crash on the couch so you won’t even know I’m there.”

Her eyes widened. “I really don’t think that necessary. I’ll be fine.” She contradicted.

“I think it is. I don’t want anything to happen and have you running out into the water again.” David in turn spoke powerfully.

She was too tired to argue, so she gave in. Besides, it might be nice having someone there with her. Once inside, she went to the closet and pulled out an extra pillow and blankets. She set them on the spare couch. She turned to walk to her bedroom when David spoke gently.

“I’ll be right here if you need me okay?” David reassured her. She nodded and mustered a smiled in return.

She laid in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. She was so afraid of having another nightmare that she forced herself to stay awake. Remembering that David was just in the other room, she climbed out of bed and walked softly to the couch where he was lying. David was still awake and staring out the window into the darkness. Noticing her, he propped himself up on his elbow.

“Hey. Are you okay? What are you still doing awake?” He asked with concern.

“Um…would you mind?” She said softly motioning to the couch where he was lying. David opened up the blanket and she slid in, facing the dark ocean. She laid her head on his open arm and brought the blanket up to her chin. Her bare feet moved across his legs; she felt electric currents shoot up her legs as she settled in front of his chest. She felt his defined chest muscles ripple as he gently stroked her arm and nestled in behind her. It didn’t take long before they both fell asleep, safe in each other’s arms.  

She awoke the next morning to find David gone. Instead, there was a post-it stuck to her forehead. It read: Sorry I had to leave. I had to go work. See you later. David.

She chuckled at his clever way to leave her a note. She rose from the couch with a lightness in her step, despite the pain in her side. For the first time in…well, a long time, she didn’t feel so alone. She sauntered across the room to the kitchen. As she filled up the coffee maker with vanilla flavored coffee beans, she noticed another post-it on her refrigerator door. It was David’s handwriting and on it with his phone number. She smiled and pulled out her phone from her robe pocket. She typed: thanks for hanging out last night, it meant a lot. She pressed ‘send’ and turned back to the coffee maker as the delicious aroma of vanilla extract filled the warm air. She took her coffee on the back porch to watch the ocean. Perched on the glistening sand, her house had a beautiful view of the beach.  She watched as the surfers paddled out to sea and sat atop their boards, waiting for the perfect wave. Her eyes were fixated on a surfer in particular. She had short black hair that was barely past her shoulders. Zehira watched as the woman caught the perfect and stood up on the board with the ease of a very experienced surfer. Her eyes were following the woman as surge through the water when she heard her phone’s text tone sound. She saw that there was a text from David:

Anytime :). Before she could reply, he had already sent another message.  How would you feel about lunch? Maybe around 1? We would go somewhere super casual. She placed her coffee on the patio table needing two hands to respond.

That sounds nice. Where? She pressed send and anxiously waited his text. Her phone went off again signaling her of his David’s reply.

I know this great place just off the highway. It’s Italian, but not fancy. You in? I can pick you up at a quarter to one?

Yes. I’m in. She quickly texted back.

Okay. See you soon.

Zehira dropped her phone in her lap. She felt a smile spread across her face. She, for the first time in a very long time, felt happy. She really was excited to see David. This time, she had no plans to go crazy on him like she did yesterday.

Knight in Leather Flip-Flops

The Inspiration behind this post.

When writing this post, the feelings and emotions of the character flowed out me and to the keyboard. I really enjoy writing these scenes because it felt so real. Everyone has felt at one time or another, like life is too much to handle sometimes. Our pain can manifest in many different ways: lashing out at people, lashing out at ourselves, and sometimes the pain can be so overwhelming that it just spills over and we can’t control it like it is with this character.

Chapter 10

She drove mindless down the road to the nearest grocery store. She felt like a true California girl as she entered the store and noticed all the sun-bleached blond hair scattered around the store. She wandered through the aisles grabbing cooking and baking ingredients alike. She looked around store and smiled to herself at the sight of all the customers wearing flip-flops and the same brand of black shades. She passed the junk food aisle feeling a temptation for a big bag of frosted pink animals cookies. The frosted animal cookies brought back childhood memories of her parents giving her the cookies for dessert while telling her stories about their life in Israel. They would now be memories of her parents, of stories told. She made her way to the produce aisle where she picked out the freshest and most colorful looking batch of tomatoes, carrots, apples, grapes and lettuce.

She was finding the freshest batch of lettuce when she felt her hands begin to tremble. She quickly paid for her items and left the store. She rushed to her car tossing the bags in the back seat. Attempting to lower her soaring heart rate, she gripped her hands on the steering wheel, focusing on the ocean horizon. Although she knew from experience that the more you try to push the past aside, the more they come to the surface.
“Hey. Is everything okay?” She looked up to see David standing above her with grocery bags in hand. “I saw you in the store but you left so abruptly that I didn’t have a chance to say ‘hi’.”
“Yeah. I just have to get out of here.” Zehira replied trying to turn the keys in the ignition despite her shaking hands. David suddenly understood the circumstances and placed his bags in her backseat. Being a doctor he studied the psychology of the mind. Knowing that these were not regular emotions and feelings, he opened the driver’s door.
“Okay. You are in no shape to drive. Move over.” Zehira obeyed moving to the passenger seat. David took control over the situation by climbing in the driver’s seat and peeling out of the parking lot. He would glance over at Zehira every few minutes who seemed to be numb despite the vacant eyes and shaking hands. He finally pulled over to an empty beach spot. Before David had even turned off the car, Zehira threw open the door and sprinted toward the water. David took off running after her.
The hurt she felt within was too much for her to handle. The memories proved too real and painful. She reached the water, slowing her down. She stopped just long enough to vomit into the surf. Once the her stomach was empty, she continued into the water. When she had reached waist deep water, David caught up to her. He reached out and grabbed her by the arm before she went too far out. He took hold of her waist keeping Zehira close.
“Hey, it going to be okay.” He said taking the numb Marine in his arms. He stroked her hair and back in efforts to bring life back into her.
Suddenly, she felt like she just didn’t want to do it anymore. The hurt, the memories, the loneliness, it all felt too much. Her legs gave out. David had quickly caught her before she went under. He held her up with his hands on her rib cage. She collapsed into his arms, feeling his strong and tanned arms keep her from sinking into the cold water. David stood there holding Zehira, swaying with the rolling tide as the water broke under their feet. Her head pressed against his cotton shirt.
They stayed there waist deep in the cold southern California ocean until Zehira came back to the present. As the unbearable pain subsided into a heavy, dull ache in her chest and strength came back to her legs, Zehira wrapped her arms around David’s own waist. It was a long time until she felt that she could stand up on her own. David waited in the cold numbing water for her hands to stop trembling until he gently led her away from the breaking waves and to the sandy shore. The seagulls cried overhead and soared through the salty air before coming to a halt on the wet sand. They sat down at the shore line, Zehira’s eyes fixated on the empty blue water before them.
“You want to share with me?” He spoke gently, one hand in hers.
“I just… I feel like I’m being swallowed by the memories.” She managed to get out. He enclosed his hands in hers.
“Memories from being over there?”
She nodded in response. “It just feels like there is no way out. No way to stop the hurt.” She dropped her head to her chest as if in embarrassment. David lifted her chin to look in her eyes.
“I’m here. And if I may say so myself, I have impeccable timing.” He chuckled attempting to lighten the mood.
“I can’t put this on you.” She whispered.
David spoke softly: “There is no way I am letting you go through this alone. No one should have to go through this alone. Besides my part-time job as a doctor, my life in comically boring. Nothing in my life is exciting or new. That is until you came along. You have made life new and exciting again.” David brushed the wavy hair out of her face and pushed it behind her ear. Zehira looked in his blue eyes.
“Really?” She seemed to ask in disbelief.
“I promise.” He pulled her closer to him and wrapped his arm around her shoulder and looked off into the beginnings of a sunset. Zehira in turn rested her head on his strong shoulder. couple at beach

Swallowed

 

I wanted to do this scene at night because it served as a backdrop as what she feels, this all-encompassing darkness. This post serves as a window into the feelings of someone who struggles with PTSD. I like to place subtle symbolism is my story such as Zehira feels that the only family she has is the ocean and the water is where she goes to escape the memories. Then moon breaks through the fog as a sign that there is hope for her, she will be okay.

 

Zehira went to bed happy (and tipsy) that night after her girls-night-out.  She fell asleep quickly, but tossed and turned all night in a fitful sleep. She woke up a few hours later sobbing hysterically. Her heart was in so much pain that there was a physical manifestation of a dull ache. She tried like hell to calm herself down, but the feelings only grew. She rushed outside to the beach and fell to her knees in the sand, sobbing into her shaking hands. Without a moon to light to reflect off the water, the water before her was pitch black. Even the stars were covered by fog that seemed to have rolled in overnight. She splashed the cold ocean water on her face, licking off the salty water on her lips.
Her face soon became wet from the tears falling freely from her eyes. But Zehira was in too much pain from her reality of a dream that she didn’t even bother to wipe them on her night-shirt. She could feel a rising in her stomach that was timed to each hysterical sob. Her hands were shaking as she placed them on her stomach as the contents of her stomach emptied in front of her. She stood to her feet and rushed to the cold water to cup her shaking hands in an effort to wash the acid from her mouth. The salty water splashed on her face washing away the vomit from her lips. Some of the water in her mouth slipped down the wrong pipe causing Zehira to cough furiously, stopping the tears for a few seconds as she clutched her stomach. The coughing stopped long enough for her to catch her breath.

She looked upwards to the starless sky and wished that the memories would stop. As passionate as she felt about serving her country and killing the bad guys, she still saw all the casualties of war in her unit or in the form of innocent civilians. She was taught that returning home would sometimes be the best part and the worst part of the end of a tour. The best being back home with loved ones, the worst being the dreams and memories. Even though Zehira had no ‘loved ones’ to come home to, she considered the sparkling ocean in the afternoon her family. The tears had finally stopped flying out of her eyes as they finished falling into the water below. She face, still turned upwards watched the fog roll in. A break formed in the clouds above letting the moonlight stream down to the beach. Watching the waves glimmer in the moonlight, Zehira took it as a sign of hope from Heaven.Beach at night

Her hands were still shaking and her chest still felt a blunt pain heavy on her heart. She looked around her grateful that no had seen her performance. Well, almost no one. She could make out a silhouette of a person off on the distance. But, Zehira was in such a world of hurt, that she didn’t even care. She shuffled back inside her house and collapsed on the couch. She felt wired yet exhausted. Her shaking hands brought a throw pillow to her chest. Terrified of falling asleep again, she stayed awake throughout the rest of early morning. She positioned herself to look out the window at the sunrise. She sees David jogging by her house with Jedi. She watches him glance at the house as he passes by. Although she could use some company, she wouldn’t want anyone to see her in her current state. He continues jogging past her, much to her relief.  She turned her back on beach and pulled her knees to her chest, sighing into the pillow.

She stepped into the shower letting the warm water fall over her shoulders. She fingered the stitches that were basically holding her stomach together.  She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and willed herself to relax. She focused on the warm water falling down her bare shoulder and onto the gray tile below. She grabbed the bar soap from the bathroom and ran it along her wet skin. She stepped back into the warm water droplets watching the soap run off her skin and down the drain, imagining that the water was cleansing her of her inner struggle. She turned the nozzle until the water stopped falling. Pulling a plush towel from the hook outside the shower curtain she brought the towel to her face and noticed that her hands had finally stopped shaking. She stepped out of the shower and took a deep breath, allowing the steam to course through her lungs. She had always favored gym clothes over a fancy top and jeans. She ran a brush through her wet hair fingering it through her fingers. Not bothering to fix it, she let it hang loose past her shoulders. She walked into the kitchen, hoping for a small lunch now that she was hungry. She opened the fridge door but was disappointed when she found it empty. Her evening with David pretty much cleared all the food that she had previously saved. She grabbed her convertible key by the front door and slipped on her favorite flip-flops.

The Best Kind of Friend

The inspiration behind this post:

This post was really fun to write. I wanted to bring out a fun side of Zehira that we haven’t seen before. I liked the juxtaposition of these two characters life. Her friend Shira has a husband and a child while Zehira is single and doesn’t even own a pet. Though these character are almost a complete contrast in their life choices, they are best friends. 

“Hey cutie. Come here often?” Zehira and her best friend Shira were at a bar just down the road when a classic-hollywood looking man leaned up against the bar and gave Shira a small smile that showcased his dimples.
Shira faced him and stared into his brown eyes.
“I have a husband and a 6 month old. My friend here is a Marine, so if you want to leave here in one piece, go hit on some other hot piece of ass.” Shira stared directly into the man’s face until he walked away from the bar, already eyeing other blonde across the room.
“I see that you haven’t changed.” Zehira took a sip from her wine glass.
Shira chuckled and glanced up at the wooden beams.
“No. I haven’t changed. And you… have you changed?” Shira placed her chin on her hands and leaned on the table. “Cause the last time I saw you, you didn’t want to break from a relationship even when the guy was a pathetic loser, until I saw him with another chick.”
Zehira looked down at her empty wineglass and motioned to the bartender for a refill.
“I did eventually break-up with Ramon.”
“Yeah. Only after I caught him cheating on you with a brainless bimbo.” Shira smiled and brushed the strawberry-blonde hair from her face.
“But I did it.” Zehira praised herself and took another sip from the wineglass feeling the wine slip down her throat and settle in her stomach.
“Uh huh. Okay. Sure.” She smirked. “You know this…me and you here…enjoying a glass a wine…catching up like old friends-”
“Uh… we are old friends.” Zehira interrupted and corrected her friend.
“Despite you almost dying from a gunshot wound and me almost-”
“Almost what? Dying from sleep deprivation?” She teased her friend.
“Sure. Let’s call it that.”
Zehira lifted the glass of the wine and swallowed.
Zehira typically wasn’t a big fan a liquor mostly because of the bitter taste. But as she drank the wine, she began to feel more relaxed. She laughed as Shira talked about her life over the past year.
“Any other potentials on the horizon?” Shira asked about Zehira’s love life.
“Well, there this one guy…” Her cheeks turned a bright shade of red.
“Really?” She drew out the word, pressing for more details.
Zehira described her new love interest in intricate details from his kind heart to his defined body. The more she talked about David, the more she felt her heart race in excitement for him.
The time came and went until Shira decided that she had to get home to her little one.  Shira seemed to be so happy to be out away from her kid that Zehira was surprised when she called a cab to take them both home at 10:00.

Though it was great to see her, Zehira knew that it was time to get her friend home to her family. The cab dropped them both off at home at 10:30 and drove off into the darkness. She was tipsy but aware of her feelings. Or that she couldn’t feel. It felt so good to Zehira to not have a dark cloud hanging over her head. That she could live without the feeling of being swallowed as long as the liquor was still in her system. She entered her house keeping one hand on various object to keep her steady as she walked into her bedroom. Falling on her bed, she pulled a pillow down to her head and passed out in her street clothes.

Beachside Conversations: Part 2

The inspiration behind this post: 

This is part 2 of this chapter. Part 1 held a lot of symbolism. This post dives deeper into Zehira’s past as well as sheds some light onto David’s background. Because of Zehira’s current tender mental state, David had to be very careful with his choice of actions and words. 

“I was born on a farm in Northern Minnesota. The thing I remember the most are the cold winters.” David’s smile softens as he thinks back to his childhood. “They were your typical winters like you would see in as movie with the snow falling for days on end and you would wake up and have to shovel your car out of your driveway. Our town wasn’t very big. Most of the main snowplows would be on the main roads. Sometimes it wouldn’t be until the end of the day for the plow to reach our street. But my mom, she always kept the kitchen stocked with food for the says we weren’t able to go to the store.”

Zehira nodded as she listened intently to David recollect his past. “I guess that’s why I like it here. The warm sun in the winter feels much better than a snow storm in negative degree weather.”

“I have only lived here. I mean, I didn’t grow up in this house. I lived downtown for most of my childhood in one of the high rises. My family moved here in my junior year of high-school.” Zehira leaned back against the patio chair and stared into David’s blue eyes.patio_malibu_beach-inn_wavecation

“Wow! Fancy. My childhood home was a basic suburban house in a basic suburban neighborhood.” He replied feigning envy.

“Do you go back home often?” She asked picking up a slice of pepperoni pizza and placing in on the orange plastic plate.

“I try to go a few times a year. My family is pretty close. My brothers live close by with their families and I’m the one that moved far away. So there is always a lot of guilting  me to visit more often.” He takes a bite of his pizza and smiles in satisfaction. “This is amazing pizza. What about you? Do you have any family to visit?”

Zehira sighed and shook her head. “I’m an only child. I think I have family in Israel but I don’t know who or where.” She sank her teeth in the warm cheesy pizza and smiled in agreement. “This is amazing pizza.”

“What about your parents?”

“My parents were killed when I was 17. It was a roadside bomb. An IED. They were on a trip to Israel and they were in the wrong place and the wrong time.”

“Oh. Wow. I’m so sorry.” David whole-heartedly apologized.

“It’s okay. It was a long time ago anyway.” But to Zehira, it felt like only yesterday when she received the phone call that her parents wouldn’t be coming home.

They talked for hours about life and careers. David told stories about growing up in Minnesota and the below freezing temperatures in the winter.

Laughing at David’s recollection of his childhood, Zehira began to clear plates and bring them to the sink. She dipped her hands into the soapy water as David began to dry the plates off; they continued to laugh and tell stories about their childhood.

Wiping her hands on a dry towel, she turned to David and leaned on the counter. He took her hands in his and brought her close. Expecting him to kiss her, she brought her arms around his neck. Instead of bringing her face close to his, he put one hand on her bare waist and the other on her ribs, careful not to disturb her wounds. He began to gently sway from side to side. Zehira rested her head on his finely toned chest. The salty smell of the beach on his skin floated by her nose. They swayed together for a few minutes enjoying each other’s close company, until Jedi began to whine outside on the patio.

“Dude! You just interrupted a moment!” David said annoyed at the dog. Zehira just laughed at his candid comment. “Well, I should probably get the old man to bed. This was nice.”

“Yeah. It was. We should do it again sometime.” She pulled back from him.

“Absolutely.” He backed up, eyes still on her. Then he smiled and walked off into the sunset with his dog. Zehira chuckled to herself. It looked just like what you would see in the movies. The hot guy walking off in the sunset after spending the afternoon with a girl. Zehira leaned on the edge of the kitchen counter and smiled still feeling his warms hands on her waist and rib cage.

 

Beachside Conversations: Part 1

Inspiration behind this post:

Because this story is mostly about the character struggling to overcome PTSD, I wanted to her to relax and enjoy her without the threat of danger like she had to do just a week before. I figured that it would be a great way for Zehira to slowly let down her guard with someone who she is comfortable with. I hope that you catch the symbolism in this part of the story, its subtle so it may be hard to recognize. This is only one part of this chapter. I will post the other part tomorrow.

 

 

Chapter 6: Part 1

Zehira had just put a frozen pizza into the oven when she heard a tapping on her back door. She had taken off her shirt and the bandage around her wounds to allow them to air out revealing her black sports bra, a staple in her wardrobe. Her wavy brown hair was blowing in the breeze that was coming through the large open kitchen windows and patio door. Donning her favorite Lululemon pants, she looked like she had just gotten back from a run on the beach. Zehira looked up from the chopping board where she was preparing a salad to see David standing at her back door with his black dog in tow.

“Hey there.” She said surprised to see David at her door. “What are you doing here?”

“Jedi and I were out on a walk and I figured I would stop by and see how you’re doing?” David smiled down at his dog. She placed the knife down, walked over to him and opened the screen door with a smile gracing her olive-toned skin.

“Oh, come on in. I just put a pizza in the oven if you want some. Wait. Did you just say that you named your dog ‘Jedi’?” Zehira asked walking back to the cutting board.

“Yep. This is Jedi. I had just seen Star Wars when I got him. Although he is living up to his name; he has this uncanny ability to make saliva fly around the room.” David replied, his blue eyes sparkling. He bent down to tie Jedi up around a the patio post outside and walked to where Zehira was chopping carrots.

“So how are you feelin’?” He stared at the colored indentations in Zehira’s toned tummy.

“I’m doing fine. Better than the last time you saw me.” Zehira stared back into his blue eyes which were glued to her wounds.“So what’s with the outfit? Did you just get back from the gym or something?” He said glancing at her sports bra.

“No. I figured that I should them air out. The bullet holes I mean” She replied suddenly very aware of her bare stomach. She took a few steps to where her white button-down shirt hung over the bar stools and slipped her arms through. She fastened a few buttons over her bra but left her waist open to the beach air. 

He brought his eyes from her tummy to her olive-toned face.

“Are you doing okay considering your break-up?” Zehira hoped to change the subject.

“Yeah. Yeah. It was a long time coming. It’s not the first time I have had to break up with someone because of their obsession the whole ‘celebrity status’.”

“Oh?”

“A couple years ago, this chick wanted to get serious with me but she had just gotten a job shooting in Australia for a few months. Once I realized that I was happy to see her go I broke up with her a couple of days before she left. I guess that is one of the downfalls living here. Everyone wants to be an actress and be famous or something.” David sighed and looked up to Zehira’s face.

 “So what do you do? You said that you’re a doctor?” She placed the chopped carrots into a large bowl.

“Yeah. I’m a part-time doctor at a practice here. I specialize in the cardiovascular system.”

“Then why aren’t you working at a hospital?” 

“I did for a few years, but I didn’t like being on-call all the time. It just wasn’t for me. I like having specific days to work and surf. So I took a job at an office here in Malibu. What about you? What were you doing before you were shot?” He asked looking around the house at the expensive decor.

“I enlisted as a Marine in the corps just after high school. My parents left me this house after they died. They came over from Israel when they were first married. She was a singer and he was a director. They did well enough to purchase this beauty before I was born.” She said giving the white counters a small pat. The oven timer went off and they moved their meal and conservation outside to the patio.

End of Part 1

Santa Barbara

The inspiration behind this post:

I wrote this part of the story because I wanted to dive into Zehira’s background. And what better way to do that then to have her in the beautiful and historical Santa Barbara. I chose Santa Barbara for the history and because of the history it is such a beautiful place. I wanted that symbolism to be parallel with the character. I wanted her to feel that her history and past is what makes her an amazing person.

 

Chapter 6:

 

After a warm shower and clean clothes, Zehira climbed into her red convertible and pulled out of her driveway. Driving down the PCH, she stopped at a Starbucks for a little pick-me-up after her restless night/morning. After picking up her latte at the counter she, instead of getting right back into her car, walked outside and sat at one of the empty tables overlooking the ocean. She watched as expensive cars sped up and down the street. Surfers still in their wetsuits walked the street carrying their boards. The sun slowly rose into the sky and the coffee shop became busier with celebrities, surfers and regular people like Zehira. She threw away her latte cup and walked to her car. She had already seen her fair share of celebrities between tours, so the star status meant nothing to her. 20150711_141255.jpgShe turned the keys into the ignition, pulled out of the parking lot and drove north up the highway. She passed the Malibu rock and continued driving until she was out of the city. She continued up the road driving passed the farmers in the fields of Camarillo, the run-down neighborhoods of Oxnard and the piers of Ventura until she entered Historic Santa Barbara. The pristine blue water shone in the light as the water sparkled like gems in the sunshine.  Turning onto State Street, she pulled into a parking spot in Old Town.

She walked down State Street for about an hour entering the clothing stores but never buying anything. Trees lined the two-way street casting a shadow over the planter boxes filled with pink flowers and other green plants. The spanish architecture of the buildings rose on the border of Historic State Street. She wandered on the semi-crowded walk until she ended on Stearns Wharf. She leaned on the wooden railing watching the small sailboats glide across the water.

Zehira let her thoughts wander in the warm sun. She resisted thinking about her tours and settled on David. Though she didn’t know him, she respected him. She liked the way he didn’t push her this morning into talking about her feelings, yet he expressed care toward her. Her ex-fiance Ramon, didn’t care about her feelings unless they benefitted him. When she would talk about her feelings of sadness after her parents died, he would get annoyed. Ramon was a manager’s assistant. She was pretty sure that his boss managed Jennifer Lawrence and few other big time celebrities. She understood that he dealt with a lot of drama in his line of work, but she needed someone who cared about her at least enough to ask about her day or to listen to her express grief over her dead parents. But Zehira was gone so much on tours or training sessions in Pendleton that she rarely had time to think about their relationship, until one day it became painfully clear that he didn’t care about her. She didn’t want to think about how she had found out he was cheating or her quick response to accepting a third tour just to get away from her failure of a relationship. So instead she focused on the horizon where the blue water met the blue sky. Seagulls flew overhead seemed to call her back home to the famous beaches of Malibu. The warm sun began to cool down as she drove back down the PCH to her house.

Alone?

The Inspiration behind this post:

I wrote this particular piece of the story because I wanted to explore PTSD and the beginnings of it. I have a passion for returning and active soldiers with PTSD and learning how to help those struggling with overcoming it. This post is shorter than my other ones because there is so much more than the words I have written.

 

Zehira woke up in the middle of the night covered in sweat. She knew that nightmares were very common in returning Marines, but that didn’t make them any less real. She glanced at the clock and read: 0237. She climbed out of bed cautiously and placed her bare feet on the hardwood floor below her. She stepped outside in the cool damp air onto the sand. Instead of sitting on the shore, she stood with her feet in the cold numbing water. She wrapped her arms around her chest and felt the slight ocean breeze brush across her face as she stood looking out into the dark morning.

It was a dark night. The only light came from a few scattered stars and the crescent moon. She stared into the darkness listening to the crashing of the waves and focused on the sinking feeling as the waves washed over her feet and retracted. A small tear fell from her face and onto her arm. Her ears filled with the sounds of gunfire as she thought back to her dream or more like the past. She went back in her mind to the feeling of the hot sun beating down on her back and the wind kicking up dust particles that hit her sunburned lips. She remembered storming into the cool dark house of a suspected terrorist with her unit. As they went through room by room Zehira found a woman, beaten and bruised laying on a cot with the saddest eyes Zehira had ever seen. It took her a second to realize that the woman had been shot in the chest. She was gasping for air. Because she was so malnourished the woman didn’t have the energy to stay alive much longer.  Once hearing the all clear sound from the team leader, she rushed to the woman’s side and held her in her arms as the last breath left her lungs. Zehira felt the life leave the battered woman and another tear fell from her face.

Even now, standing in the water she could feel the woman fall limp in her arms. The pain in her side brought Zehira back to the present. She fell to her knees letting the water flow around her shins. The pain she felt in her stomach moved to her heart. She tried to breathe through the memories in a desperate attempt to stop her hands from shaking. Slowing her heart rate, she returned to standing. Zehira stared out into the darkness wishing nothing more than to be out there, alone with nothing but water surrounding her. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a soft male voice behind her.

“Zehira?” David asked in bewilderment. Zehira brushed the tears from her face.

“Hey, what are you doing out here?” Attempting to mask the hurt in her voice. She continued to face the dark water as he joined her side.

“I just broke up with my girlfriend. We had been drifting apart for a while now, but it over now. I wanted to get out and clear my head. She is aspiring actress and spends all her time in clubs or shopping on Rodeo blowing her money. It’s just not really my scene. I am more of the hang ten, surfer type kind of dude.” David rambled on. The moonlight reflected off the water and onto Zehira’s tear-stained cheeks facing the ocean. He turned to face to the dark water and took a deep breath. He stood there with her, letting the water flow over his feet again and again. After a few minutes, David gently laid his hand on the Marine’s shoulder before turning and walking back the way he came.

 

Zehira was grateful that he didn’t ask how she was doing because to be honest, she didn’t know. She let her arms hang by her side as the breeze gently blew around them. She stood there for about another hour until her hands stopped shaking and her heart rate returned to normal. She walked back to her beach-house, wiping the remaining tears on her sweatshirt.