This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and wondered,
“Who am I?”
and have you ever actually been able to answer that question?
“I am a doctor.” “I am an artist.” “I am a car insurance salesman.”
Some may reply.
But that’s not who you are, that’s what you do.
“I am Chinese.” “I am African American.” “I am Peurto Rican.”
But that’s not who you are, that’s your race.
“I am kind.” “I am strong.” “I am faithful.”
But that’s not who you are, those are your traits.
So, if who we are is not based on our occupation, our race, or our traits, then what is it based off of?
What exactly are we?
We are human.
Every single one of us.
Detach from us race, sex, occupation, talent, disability, nationality, status.
And you will come to find that we are human.
I closed the book and looked up at the large crowd of people who had arrived to hear me read. Some were donning a shocked expression, others were nearly in tears.
I felt a wave of pride come over me just as the group began clapping, standing up from the seats they had taken since I began, some on the floor, some on random pillows, others on the few chairs that had been supplied. Quite a few had remained standing throughout the reading of my short book, which in my opinion is a form of commitment that I could never achieve.
“Thank you.” I said as the clapping began to slow, “You can pick up a copy on your way out, I’ll be doing signings in just a few minutes.” The crowd broke off into threes, some going off to buy a copy of my book, others leaving to continue browsing the small book store. Three young ladies came up to me, each holding a copy of Life in an Almond Shell, my book, proudly in their hands.
“We already have our copies, Mr. Eberly,” one of the girls said excitedly, “could you sign them now?”
“Of course.” I reached out and grabbed the first girl’s book, taking my special signing pen, a purple felt tip thin marker, and giving the book’s first blank page my quick signature, A. Eberly.
“What might your name be, young miss?”
“Amanda.” She responded.
I did the same for the other two before excusing myself to the bathroom, where I looked myself in the mirror and turned on the faucet.
How did this even happen? Last month I was handing out copies of my manuscript to friends and family at a dinner party, thinking they might like to see what I had been up to. It was never my intention for the book to gain momentum, I didn’t want to be known as the man who wrote that long poetic look at the human condition, and yet two weeks after the party I received a call from the bookstore asking if I had any extra books on hand, of which I didn’t.
My older brother had decided to make copies of the manuscript and spread them all over town. He’s a quick worker, I’ll give him that. But now I was a small town celebrity for a book that was never intended to reach an audience much farther than blood. I never wanted to be an author at all, actually, I just liked writing.
But my ego enjoyed the attention, so I decided to play this out as far as it would go. I was sure the hype would fall out in a few months anyways.
I walked back out into the store, giving out a sigh as I moved towards the signing booth and prayed that this wouldn’t take as long as the line out the door was suggesting.
Coming home was usually the best part of my day, back when I was working the average 9-5, Monday through Friday job like a normal bacon earner. I’d come home and dinner would be ready and my beautiful wife Julie would be waiting to tell me about her day.
This Monday was different though.
All morning I had been running around, trying to get errands done before the book reading at 12:30pm and the signing at 2:00pm, which took another hour and a half which I wasn’t at all expecting. After that, I had a meeting with an agent who wanted to take me on and make my book international, and at around 6:35pm, my brother wanted to celebrate my accidental success with a movie and a meal.
We finished at nearly 10:00pm, and on my way home I stopped for a cup of tea, my favorite anytime beverage, and finally got in at 10:25pm.
“I’m home.” I said as I walked into the house and dragged my feet against the door mat to get any excess dirt off my shoes. I didn’t hear a response from my wife and started to become a little worried; she usually came to greet me when I got home.
“Julie, I’m home.” I repeated a little louder. I took off my coat and hung it on the rack by the door, then proceeded into the living room, where I still saw no sign of her.
Into the kitchen, its empty.
Into the bathroom, empty.
Onto the back porch, empty.
I finally make my way upstairs to our bedroom, the door was locked and I could hear her crying.
I knocked on the door gently, “Julie?”
Sniffling, and then a voice, “Go away, Alan.”
“Just go away!”
I had no idea what to do, so I stood there and tried to think of whatever could be wrong. Had I done something wrong? Did her mom die in a horrible car wreck? Did I forget our anniversary?
“What is this about, Julie? You know you can talk to me about whatever it is.”
“You’ll hate me if I tell you.”
“I could never hate you.”
“No, I know you will. I know you.”
Silence came over us both. Her tears were muted, and I heard her mumble some words that I couldn’t make out.
The door opened, and I saw her red, wet face look up at me in pain.
With a low, cracked, somewhat skittish voice, she spoke, “We need to talk, Alan.”
“Then we’ll talk, just tell me what this is about.”
She looked away, then took a deep breath and looked into my eyes, still hiding somewhat behind the door, as if she were getting ready to slam it shut at any second.
“I’ve been seeing someone.”
“What?” I asked, hoping for a better explanation than the one I was expecting from her, “Like a therapist?”
“Like a lover.” She said quickly, “I’m cheating on you, Alan.”
I felt my heart drop, and a heavy heat rush up my spine. My mind went into a state of equal parts pausing and rushing, and I wasn’t sure of what was happening anymore.
“Julie,” I began, looking at her as though she were a stranger in my home, “how could you?”
“It wasn’t your fault, Alan. You didn’t drive me away.” She looked straight into my eyes as she struck a dagger through my heart, “I just don’t love you anymore, I love someone else.”
She said it so flawlessly, as though she had been practicing those words all day. They dripped off her tongue and hung around the room, wrapping around my head and suffocating me. The love of my life, the woman I married, is in love with another man.
I felt an emotion that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I couldn’t decide what it was yet, but be it anger, jealousy, betrayal, sadness, or a cesspool filled to the brim with all of them, I felt it hit me like a barrel of bricks.
“So, you lied. You’re a liar.”
“Alan, I never intended for it to be this way-”
I lost my temper, “For it to be what way? For you to hurt me? For you to break my heart?” I stepped closer and breathed heavy, and ultimately hid my feelings of sadness with a boiling rage. “What other way would you rather it be then, Julie? That I’d somehow be okay with this? That I’d invite the guy over and have a beer with him? What did you expect from this?!” She tried closing the door but I swung out my fist and hit the wood hard, flinging it back open and forcing myself into the room.
“Please calm down!” She put out her hands and backed up against our bed. Our bed, the one we use to make love in. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had invited her lover into that very bed of ours, allowing me to unknowingly sleep in the sheets of her treachery.
“We’ve only been married six years, Julie. I love you, I’ve loved you since the day you came into my life, and you know that. You know that, and yet you go and screw around like this?!” I looked straight into her pleading eyes, her cries of “Please stop” and the shivering of her frightened body made me feel like the bad guy.
It’s funny how a woman can make you feel like you’re wrong even though she’s the one who has hurt you.
I took a step back and turned away from her, my throat sore from screaming in her face. Was my reaction truly harsh? Or was it justified? I didn’t quite know. I still don’t.
She spoke through the silence, her words broken from crying,
“Alan, I never lied,” she began, “I truly loved you. I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t. But love is like a garden, and when you don’t water the flowers-”
“Julie, shut the hell up. I gave you a home, security, unconditional love, and you repay me by falling for another man.” I shook my head in disbelief, “You never loved me, it’s obvious that you never did. You only loved what you could get out of me.”
“Don’t tell me how I feel. I did love you, but I fell out of love. I never blamed you for this, it was my fault and my choice to cheat. But you can’t sit entirely innocent either, after our marriage you were far less attentive to me. The only time you told me you loved me was when you wanted sex.”
“Are you seriously trying to label me as the inattentive husband who only notices his wife when she looks sexy? I kissed you goodbye every time I went to work and told you I loved you every night before we went to sleep. And of course I made love to you every chance I could, because I do love you!”
“Marriage is more than that, Alan. Nothing will ever change the fact that you spent 90% of your day at work and the other 10% with your writing.”
“You’re the one who told me to follow my dream and write, Julie. You said if I got published, when I got published, that I would have more time for you and we could start a family together.”
“I wanted to be a supportive wife! I wasn’t going to tell you to quit your dream, to settle for an average life, because I knew you wanted anything but average. I did love you, Alan!”
“Julie, I’m done.” I walked away from her and towards our closet. I grabbed a small suitcase, just enough to hold a couple nights worth of clothing, and placed it on the bed next to my deceitful wife.
“You can’t leave, Alan.” She said with a whine. I shot her a glare and took a step forward.
“I can kick you out of my house instead, consider this a mercy on your part. Now leave me alone.” I turned to walk towards our dresser but her hand caught my shoulder and turned me forward.
“Alan this might sound crazy but we can work this out-”
I pulled away immediately, “You don’t love me, you just told me! How can we work it out, how?!”
“If you would stop screaming at me for a moment I could tell you!”
I gathered up my breath and calmly exhaled, and with a low, non-threatening tone, I responded, “How?”
“Maybe we could just, you know, go about this casually. We can have an open relationship, we-”
“Are you seriously suggesting we become a polygamous couple?”
“In a way, I just don’t want to hurt you... and you could bring as many women in as you want, it would be modern and-”
“Julie are you sick in the head? Or are you truly so desperate to keep your status as a well off wife that you would suggest us having an open relationship so you could have the best of both worlds?”
“I don’t know, Alan... I just don’t want things to change but I can’t deny the way I feel.”
“Stop playing victim! You did wrong, I shouldn’t have to suffer for it!”
“I’m just a girl okay? I was only eighteen when we got married, I haven’t grown up yet.”
“Goodbye Julie.” I ignored her continuous nonsensical pleas for forgiveness, her claims of innocence, her declarations of me being a neglectful husband, and I continued to pack up my things in preparation of leaving, this time packing a little more than a few days worth.
I walked out the door, suitcase in hand, Julie close behind as she changed her tone from that of a stubborn blamer to a woman crying out for forgiveness, either way she showed herself in the most vulnerable state possible.
It took every bone in my body to not turn towards her and either smack her across the face or hold her, but once I was in my car driving away, I finally allowed myself to give into my emotions. Tears streamed down my face, a wave of uncertainty came over me, I had no idea what I was going to do. We were best friends since middle school, high school sweethearts, engaged at graduation and married after college. I loved her since the moment I first laid eyes on her, and I have continued to love her up to this very moment. Ours was a love I thought would last forever, but it was obviously just a lie.
How could a woman who I loved so much and treated so well turn around and stab me in the heart the way she had? I couldn’t understand it.
I didn’t want to understand it.
But very soon, I was going to understand one thing.
Even during the darkest of storms, sunlight will somehow find it’s way in eventually.
Dru83: This is the second or third time I've read this one and I just love it. It has just about everything you could ever want packed into one scifi story. It still has some parts that are a little rough in terms of grammar, punctuation, and word usage, but it's still an awesome story. I love how detai...
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
makaylakay: I love love this story! It's written incredibly and well thought-out plot! I love how it's a different twist in fantasy fiction, other then the usual vampire or werewolves. Love the romantics and drawn to the two characters so much already! This book will draw you in within the first chapter and ...
ayesha wali: This is the BEST novel i have read after a long while. Absolutely in love with this novel and seriously why is it not PUBLISHED YET?!?! THIS NOVEL IS AMAZING,BEAUTIFUL,MAGNIFICENT, I have no words to explain how truly precious this novel is im totally in love with the book and its characters! Goo...
ArgyrisMetaxas: Thrilling story which builds layer ontop of layer. A few mis spellings every few chapters. What I found special was that it took a modern day problem and took it to its logical conclusion and plays this realism with gritting precision. I'm always on edge ready to shout from adrenaline. This is gr...
brettylee: The narrative is slick yet punchy. Life, Family and Friends I believe is the core message so it’s easy to relate to. It’s surprisingly action packed. The author does a good job at keeping you guessing. Just when you think all is right, whack, the unexpected happens. The dialogue is energetic and ...
rudyoxborough46: An action-packed, mystical adventure awaits anyone wishing to read this novel. I’m amazed at how well you’ve managed to flesh out the characters in this book, and I hope to read more of your work.I’ve read books about goblins and elves and all that mumbo-jumbo before, and most accounts of these c...
re8622: The Last Exodus quickly grabbed my attention. Almost as soon as I started reading the story, I couldn't put it down. I found that the ideas the author put forth were very thought provoking given the turmoil we have seen gradually rise over the last several years. I felt that I could understand th...
Diana123: Wow! This story is very emotional to begin with. And then it is also exciting, interesting and amazing. There are so many moment and situations in this story that really moved me and made me want to cry (to begin with – the story about little Norm not knowing what a hug is, then the death of his ...
petew25: I have been reading WW2 novels for years and am a retired Marine pilot. Though the plot in some ways reminded me of the Gregory Peck classic leadership movie, "Twelve O'Clock High" I thought the author did a good job overall. The plot was believable and the characters were as well. In some places...