This is a completed short story that I did for English 359 – Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop and while I may add to it some day, I find myself proud of what I accomplished and would love to hear your thoughts!

If you have the time, please read, enjoy, and leave a comment. Thanks!


Just Speak

Aiden jangled the keys in the lock, pushing against the door with a portfolio stuffed into his other hand. Papers with scribbles and notes, threatened to fly out as he continued shoving his weight against the door, but one final kick managed to get the door open.

“Geez, got to get that fixed,” he shuffled into the studio flipping the door shut with the back of his heel. Throwing his keys on the side table, Aiden tugged his coat and scarf off hanging them on hooks. He also removed his beanie, ruffling his stiff brown hair, and stuffing the hat into his coat pocket. Aiden grabbed his portfolio and ambled over to his desk. Slumping into the chair, Aiden stretched, throwing the portfolio on the desk, and took a moment to breath.

It had been a stressful morning, but Aiden had pushed himself through the experience and now he only had to wait for a verdict. Hopefully a positive one this time, the two previous interviews ended badly with Aiden’s anxiety resulting in him losing the contents of his stomach, it had been awful. This interview had gone much better, but he had lost so much sleep over it that his eyes were burning. Now that his interviews were finished, he could finally get some sleep. Leaning forward, Aiden cushioned his head in his crossed arms and began dozing at his desk. Feeling his muscles relax, he had almost fallen asleep when his cell buzzed.

“No…” Glaring at his cell, Aiden quickly checked the message and his mother’s number popped on the screen. She had left a voice-mail and there was an alert next to her name. Aiden didn’t put too much faith in the alert, mainly because his mother tended to always leave a message urgently. The last text he got from her was an urgent alert letting him know that she’d seen the newest superhero film with dad that he’d recommended, and they loved it. Yeah, that was super serious. To be honest, it had been some time since he’d heard from either of his parents.

Tapping on her name, he placed the phone to his ear. At the beginning of the message, there was a few moments of silence, only a faint sound of breathing. When his mother started talking, Aiden could immediately tell she’d been crying. Her voice was shaky and scratchy. He was wide awake now.

‘Your father’s condition has gotten worse and I’ve had to place him in a home… I knew that he needed the best care, and I am not the best person for the job.’ She choked up a little here, letting out a small sob, ‘And, don’t even think about coming back here just for me either young man… He’s safe, stable, and… happy. You finally got out and have your own place now,’ Her voice softened, ‘But, when you get a chance, call me. We-we need to talk, please…love you. We both love you.’

Aiden couldn’t move. All the muscles in his body had frozen and the thoughts running in his head made him dizzy. What had his mother just said? His father’s condition was worse. With his dad moving into a home, Aiden knew that his dad’s failing memory was completely lost to him. His grandfather with Alzheimer’s, now his father with early on-set Dementia. Was his mind next? He wasn’t sure how to tell his mother that. What could she say? What could she do? Aiden stared at his mother’s number, his fingers frozen over the call button.

The burning in his eyes came back, but this time it was coming from his eyes tearing up. His anxiety had built up in his stomach and his throat was tightening. His hands were shaking and his knuckles were turning white from his firm grasp.

“Do it…come on,” Aiden said. He was squeezing his eyes shut hoping to trick his mind into calling his mother. This only caused his hands to tremble more, and bubbles started forming in his stomach. If he didn’t do something quick he was going to have a panic attack.

He tossed his cell away, it landed adjacent to the portfolio on his desk, “I-I can’t…”

Blinking and taking deep continuous breaths, Aiden moved his hazel gaze away from the flashing phone and back towards his writing desk. This desk had been a gift from his father when he was moving, only a few months ago. His writing portfolio from the interview stared back at him. All his confidence and happiness from the interview was sucked out of him. All he could see was his father’s strong face, his powerful gaze filled with joy. His father had always encouraged him to go out and write, reviewing novels and movies that they’d all enjoy together. Aiden remembered telling his father he was moving out to New York City for writing positions, it had been his boldest move. The smile on his father’s face made all the struggles semi-worth it. Now, his father probably wouldn’t even remember him.

He heard himself gasping and his vision began getting blurry. The pain in his chest and throat had him hunched over his desk. Aiden pounded a fist on the desk, gasping for air. A sob left his throat giving him a second to breath. This second of air pushed Aiden to shut his eyes and get himself into a calm, happy place. Usually he would try to think of his writing, or his family, but now he only found peace thinking about Jamie.

“Sh-shit!” Aiden forcibly pushed himself from the plush chair and paced around his studio apartment, his fists clenched. The clean hardwood squealed with the hasty movement of Aiden’s sneakers. The place was so small but it held all the essentials that Aiden needed. All of his furnishings were visible from the front door, and the largest piece he probably owned was his twin-sized bed. His oak writing desk wasn’t even that big, just enough room for some paper, his laptop and some of his current reads. The wall he placed his writing desk against was brick and had a large window facing the busy street. This window gave Aiden the best view of McKaffe Café.

Aiden needed to see Jamie. His nerves were fried and these tiny panic attacks were going to eat him alive. Hearing the wind outside, Aiden rushed over and whipped on his black overcoat back on. Forgoing his scarf, Aiden squashed the beanie on his head, smothering the dark hair. Just as he had grabbed the door-handle, Aiden stopped himself and turned towards the mirror on the side wall, it was almost completely covered in scraps of motivational words.

Taking a moment to read some of these scraps, Aiden tried straightening his glasses but his hands were shaking too much. Aiden swallowed heavily and gazed at his reflection. He lifted his head and pushed his chest forward. Nodding to himself, Aiden took one more glance at his beloved writing desk and as his chest tightened, he sped out the door.

-____________________________________________________________-

Icy wind nipped his cheeks as Aiden stood outside the Café window. Ever since he had moved to New York a few months ago, this café had become a place of comfort. Patrons of all shapes and sizes gathered for either a good book to read or a nice dose of caffeine. December was creeping closer, and as the threat of snow heightened, the room was packed every morning.

Even with more bodies in the cramped space, Aiden felt calm inside as long as Jamie was there. Her frizzy red mane held atop her head with a silky bandana, and her porcelain skin hinting at her Irish descent. She was a petite woman, standing shorter than Aiden’s five and a half feet, only barely reaching five feet tall. Her movements were sporadic and energetic, which intrigued Aiden. Ever since their first chance meeting a few months ago, she had always seemed like this confident woman, flittering about her domain.

They had first met at a movie theater, Aiden had just moved in and he had been waiting to see X-Men: Apocalypse. Gathering every ounce of his courage, he forced himself to leave his comfort zone and go to the movies alone. Sitting alone to watch a popular film meant he had to sit next to strangers, but he was adamant to get a good seat. He had also brought his notepad along with his trusty pen, it was this pen that caused him to meet Jamie that night. During the film, Aiden’s trusty pen exploded. Ink escaped onto his left arm along with the woman’s blue shirt next to him.

Expecting a raging woman screaming in his face, Aiden scrambled to clean the mess with extra sheets of paper. He felt like the entire theater was watching this pathetic display, but his fears disappeared when the woman patted his frantic hands and smiled sweetly at him.

“It’s all good sweet cheeks. You can pay for the cleaning,” she winked her big green eyes at him, “after the movie, kay?” Aiden nodded slowly, his jaw slack. The woman snorted but shifted holding her hand up to Aiden, “My name’s Jamie.” When the film finished, Jamie had attached herself to Aiden.

“What would your powers be?” Jamie said jumping next to Aiden.

Patting his clammy hands together, Aiden raised an eyebrow at Jamie’s enthusiasm, “Do you mean mutation?” He wondered, biting his bottom lip. Aiden couldn’t understand why this woman continued to talk to him. Her energy was a bit contagious though.

She nodded waving her hand, “Yeah, mutation. I think telepathy would be mine,” she winked again, “it’s why I already know I like you.”

The way she said it, without any hesitation, made Aiden smile, “Oh? I guess, if I’m being honest… Rogue’s absorption power.”

Tilting her head, Jamie squinted her eyes at Aiden, “Why?”

Shrugging, Aiden said, “She’s kind of a loner, like me. Her abilities keep people away-”

“What, like you?” Jamie said shocked, “I think you’re selling yourself short sweet cheeks.” She suddenly grasped Aiden’s hand with the messy pages, “We just met but you have a passion in this,” her face turned a light pink and softly she said, “I was reading this before your pen inked all over me, and there was something about it that made me smile. Something about you.”

“I-” Aiden’s face was on fire and his throat was constricting. Jamie let go of his hand and apologized. They stood in silence before Jamie asked Aiden where he grew up and where he was currently living as if nothing had happened.

“No way! That’s across the street,” Jamie said.

“Across from what? The café?”

“Yea, that’s where I work and live,” she stated excitedly. Before Aiden could comment she continued, “You said you just moved in right? Well, if you need any help, let me know. In fact, I’ll come over tomorrow? 11:30? I’ll bring this shirt along to, that way you’ll have it.”

Watching her leave, Aiden couldn’t fathom how she managed to squeeze into his life. But, he was grateful for her nature, she didn’t seem to mind his quietness, probably because she wouldn’t shut up. It was cute.

Aiden’s musings were cut off by an irritated, gruff sound beside him.

“Son, what are you doin’ out here? People want to get inside, not stare at people from the outside.”

Blinking, Aiden focused his gaze on the face in front of him.

“Oh! I’m sorry Mr. McKaffe… I got, distracted.” Aiden stumbled forward, tripping on the door jam, forcing Mr. McKaffe backwards.

“Whoa, my boy. Bit more off steady than usual, eh? Usually make it past the front door at least,” Mr. McKaffe belted out a chuckle that reminded Aiden of St. Nick. Steadying himself, Aiden flushed and ignored the few snickers surrounding him.

“And, I keep telling you lad, it’s Sean. No more of this Mr. McKaffe.”

Unlike his petite, spritely daughter, Sean McKaffe was a grizzly bear of a man. There was a graying bushy beard that filled his face and he had an intimidating figure at six feet.

Aiden nodded, “Would I be able to speak with Jamie?”

One of Sean’s broad hands settled heavily on Aiden’s shoulder giving a gentle squeeze to reassure him.

“Of course my boy. I’ll get Jamie over to ya, but first let’s set you down somewhere, ya look like you’re gonna fall over,” as Sean spoke he guided Aiden to his favorite table in the back corner. Planting himself in the corner leather chair next to one of the fireplaces, Aiden gave a sigh of relief. He tugged off his beanie ruffling his hair, his pale green eyes now brighter in the warmth. He couldn’t meet Sean’s hard gaze, so he glanced around trying to spot Jamie.

Sitting in silence for a moment, Sean cleared his throat as if pushing for Aiden to speak. “You didn’t bring one of ya books today? What’s up?”

Feeling a loss for words, Aiden sighed, frustrated. The beanie was tightly twisted around his sweaty hands, he was fidgeting constantly, “I’ve been kinda out of it today. My… well I-” Aiden stopped feeling his throat tighten.

“Take your time, son. Deep breaths and such, like Jamie tells ya,” Sean said rubbing a soothing hand across Aiden’s arm. It was comforting to Aiden, recalling his father’s warm touch. He was reminded of his father’s own rough voice with the scent of the outdoors and coffee grounds. Looking past Sean’s face Aiden could see Jamie’s wild red hair whip around the café.

Sean smirked, “Uh, how ‘bout I get Jamie for ya. I can cover for her, while you two lovebirds talk.”

“Uh!” Aiden gasped, shaking his head in denial he made a motion to stand and Sean pushed him back in the leather while he turned towards Jamie.

“Jamie darlin’ someone to see ya!” Sean said raising his voice. Aiden seemed to sink even lower in the plush chair as some eyes traveled over to them.

“Th-thanks, Sean.” Aiden grumbled. Winking teasingly, Sean stomped back towards the front of the café. As he left, Jamie bounded over. Her gait was bubbly and bouncing, her bright red hair clashing with the evergreen apron she wore. In her slim hands, she was holding two cups and from the smell Aiden could tell at least one of them was his favorite, caramel macchiato.

“Here’s your drink. How ya doing sweet cheeks?” Jamie daintily sat on the chair, handing out the coffee for Aiden. Before he could answer she spit out more questions.

“How’s the interviews? Have you gotten any calls from those newspaper douchbags? You didn’t get sick this time did ya?” Her velvety voice made the harsh words lose their punch, but it still did the job in making Aiden choke on his drink with a small laugh.

“They aren’t douchbags,” Aiden said, “Not completely…”

Jamie leaned closer to Aiden, and stared expectedly at him. The only response Aiden could muster was a crooked, shaky smile. This wasn’t, apparently, the response Jamie was hoping for and quickly set her cup on the coffee table.

“Okay, what’s up?”

Aiden blinked rapidly and shook his head. “Nothing’s wrong… I’m just out of sorts this morning…” He gripped her hand tighter and tried to ignore the twitching in his left eyelid. Jamie gave him a knowing glance and scoffed, “Yeah, like I believe that…”

After a moment Jamie cleared her throat, “Something in the family?” Aiden’s chest felt tight, and his entire body trembled so much he placed his cup down on the table. Wrapping his hands together he tried to resume a calm outer appearance, but failed. “It’s okay, breathe. Keep breathing.” Jamie pushed Aiden’s glasses back up his nose and smoothed his chaotic hair.

“U-upstairs!?” Aiden said urgently. He stumbled out of the chair over to the staircase which led to the living quarters above the café. Jamie followed, waving her father back behind the counter. Jamie guided them to the loveseat in the living area. The room was warm, and it had a sweet aroma from the coffee downstairs. Or it was from Jamie’s perfume, Aiden didn’t really care. He sunk into the dark cream loveseat, rubbing at his wet eyes. There were DVD’s and snacks littered across the coffee table and Jamie quickly moved them aside.

“Sorry,” she said shrugging, “Movie night with Dad.”

Blinking rapidly, Aiden nodded with a slim smile. Ignoring the rest of the mess, Jamie gently sat next to Aiden.

“Okay, that better?” Her hand rubbed across Aiden’s tense shoulders. Nodding, Aiden hid his flushed face.

“I’m s-sorry… I’m being stupid.”

Jamie shook her head in denial. “No, no you’re not! Talk.” Jamie’s soft steel-blue eyes seemed to calm something inside Aiden. Her eyes lowered as she grasped his left hand. Jamie leaned down again and smiled brightly, which Aiden returned with a snort.

Losing her smile, Jamie scowled, “What’s funny!?”

Aiden’s left eyelid flickered again as he pointed to her mouth, “Your teeth… I mean there’s lipstick on them.”

Now Jamie flushed and she turned, rubbing her teeth franticly. When she finished she turned back to Aiden with her teeth bared.

“Better!?”

Aiden took this moment to gaze at Jamie’s face. Her frizzy hair was flying out from the bandana and her mascara was smudging on the corner of her round eyes. The pale glow of her skin made the hundreds of tiny red freckles stand out, and her teeth were now free of any lipstick. Aiden nodded, the tension he previously felt had disappeared.

“Yeah, perfect…”

Jamie replied with a shove and giggled, “I’m trying to be serious here.”

“I know, it’s just…” whispered Aiden. He leaned back into the chair and Jamie kneeled on the chair beside him silently for a moment taking his hand back in hers.

“How is he? Has he, has he gotten worse then?” Nodding again, Aiden tightened his grasp and cleared his constricting throat.

“My mom called. This morning, it was after my interview with the ‘douchbags,’” Aiden mumbled the word along with air-quotes. Jamie gave him a smile and nodded him to continue. “He’s been moved to a home.” Aiden finished in a rush, some of the words mixing together, but Jamie still seemed to understand.

“You’ve talked to your mom, right?” Aiden kept his gaze to the ground. Jamie glared at him, her face flushing.

“How could you not!” Releasing her hand Aiden stood and paced in front of Jamie.

“I’m- I don’t kn-”

“Yes, you do! Don’t give me that bullshit!” Jamie jumped to her feet and gripped both of Aiden’s hands tightly.

“Whatever this fear is, you can always talk to your own mother about it, can’t you?” Aiden stood gaping at her. Shaking his head, he snatched his hand away and rushed away from Jamie. His anxiety transformed into a burst of anger, marching back over to Jamie, forcing her to sit back on the loveseat.

“My dad’s diagnosed with early on-set dementia… I Googled it,” Aiden fumbled to bring out his cell. Practically shoving the screen in Jamie’s face he pointed at the article, “There, there this-this gene in families can create ‘familial Alzheimer’s disease’, which means I could end up with his disease.”

“That doesn’t mea-”

“I’m not done! My dad’s father also had dementia. I-it wasn’t early, but he still had it.” Aiden’s tenor voice cracked, and his vision grew fuzzy.

“I don’t want… my mom can’t do anything. It’ll only make her feel worse… I can’t-I can’t do that to her. Not now!” Aiden roughly brushed the tears away.

Slowly rising from the loveseat, Jamie cleared her throat, “Finished? Feel better?”

Heaving a large sigh, Aiden shrugged, “I gues-“

“Okay… you’re being stupid.”

Aiden recoiled with a grunt, but this time Jamie hushed him by pressing a finger to his lips.

“I don’t mean the fear is stupid, but – you got to talk to her. She wants to talk to you.”

“I-I- I can’t!” Aiden’s wavering voice was muffled by Jamie’s slim finger.

“Yes! I know you can! All that fear is messin’ with you, making you think you can’t talk to her. What you just said was the most you’ve said to me at one time. You don’t have to make your fear a burden,” Jamie moved her hand and caressed Aiden’s stubbled cheek. “I may not understand how you’re feeling exactly, but just seeing your ma might help.”

Smirking, Jamie stood on her tip-toes and gave Aiden a light kiss on the lips. Completely flustered Aiden stumbled backwards.

“Go!” Jamie said pushing him back down the steps.

His body didn’t seem to connect with his brain. Jamie’s hand was pressed to his back as she moved him towards the front door. Seeing his studio window across the way Aiden’s steps slowed. He turned back to Jamie.

“I know you’re trying to help, but I don’t think this is going to work… Maybe after a while it’ll be better.” When Jamie went to speak, Aiden closed his eyes, shaking his head. Leaving his cold Macchiato on the back table, he ran back to his studio.

-____________________________________________________________-

A few days passed, Aiden had all but locked himself in his apartment. He tried keeping himself busy by reading, watching TV, and even cleaning up the apartment, but nothing worked. There were times when he looked out the window and just seeing McKaffe’s café, or seeing his portfolio sitting on his desk, would ignite his fears.

One particularly cold morning Aiden woke to another message blinking on his phone. Aiden’s glazed eyes focused on this light. He still wasn’t sure if he wanted to hear his mother’s voice. Sitting up, Aiden was stretching when the buzzer rang. Jumping, Aiden wrapped the covers around his bare chest, “Jesus…Shit!”

A stern, yet soothing voice answered from the other side of the door, “Aiden Jackson Foley! I know you didn’t just say what I think you said!”

Aiden glanced at the mess scattered across the floor. His writing desk was in complete disarray, all of his work hidden under ruined scraps. The door chimed again, and Aiden stuttered looking back and forth between the door and the state of is studio.

“Uh, wait one sec mom. It’s a… mess in here!”

His mother chuckled, “Like I haven’t seen that before. Let me in.”

Aiden hesitated, his mother’s voice was both soothing and terrifying him.

In his pause, his mother continued, “I thought you knew I was coming dear. Your friend, Jamie, called me. Darling girl, she said you wanted to talk?” Aiden wrinkled his brows and groaned softly.

‘Of course she called…’

Aiden glared at the door, his chest was tightening again.

He felt a panic attack coming, but instead of sitting down, he stomped over to the door and swung it open. His mother, a short plump woman, stood there with wide eyes. Just seeing her face had Aiden trembling, but his chest felt lighter. Gasping, Aiden fell into his mother’s arms. He felt relieved and exhausted.

Aiden’s mother, Violet, composed herself and brushed her son’s unruly hair. Bringing them inside, she closed the door and set him back down on his bed.

“Honey… why didn’t you call me?”

The only phrase he could utter was, “C-could I end up… like d-d-dad!?”

Shocked, Violet stammered, “You-you can’t think like that. What does it matter now, huh? You’ll only eat yourself alive thinking that.” Brushing the remaining tears from his face, Violet rested her head against Aiden’s. Aiden nodded, shaking his head.

“I know, I ju-just…”

“Just nothing’. It’s fine to be afraid, but you can’t let that eat you up.”

“Y-yeah”

Violet crushed her son in a hug, “Don’t leave me out again.” The door behind them creaked making both Violet and Aiden jump.

Jamie stepped into the room, waving hesitantly. “Hey”

Leaving the comfort of his mother’s grasp, Aiden timidly returned the wave, “Hey Jamie. So, this-” Aiden vaguely gestured towards his smiling mother, “-this was you, right?”

Gaining some of her confidence back, Jamie plopped down on the nearby couch with a satisfied smile, “yep!”

Aiden shook his head, “How’d you even get her number?”

Crossing her legs, Jamie leaned back into the couch with a satisfied grin, “Your phone, duh. After the first interview fiascos I helped clean up remember, and I might have looked at your contacts,” she turned towards Violet, “You know you’re number 1 on speed dial? Isn’t that sweet?”

Violet sat down next to Jamie and nodded, “I thought it was real sweet for her to do something like that for you.”

Rubbing his red eyes, Aiden groaned, “Sure, just snoop through my phone.”

Jamie snorted, ignoring Aiden’s last statement, “You know this was a fantastic idea, it was me.” Leaning over the side of the couch, she picked up a wrinkled sweatshirt and threw it towards Aiden, “Here, you’re looking a bit chilly.”

Reminded of his state of undress and the horrendous appearance of his apartment, Aiden flushed and quickly fumbled into the sweatshirt. Jamie’s chirpy laugh filled the studio and Aiden felt so relieved to see a toothy grin spread across his mother’s face.

“Oh! Wait,” Jamie shouted as she jumped from the couch, pointing at Aiden’s face, “You’re still missing something…”

Jamie took Aiden’s glasses from his nightstand and placed them across his nose. They sat cock-eyed, but Jamie still seemed pleased with herself. When Aiden reached to fix the angle, Jamie smacked his hands.

“Ouch, wha-?”

Cutting him off, Jamie leaned in closer, “Now,” She said straightening the frames, “I want you to relax with your ma and talk with her.” Taking a step back to admire his face Jamie nodded, “I can already tell that this is helping. You’re so comfortable with her.” With a smirk she backed up to the doorway, “Or, is it because I’m here?”

Not taking a moment for Aiden to respond, Jamie waved to Violet, “We’ll have to meet up sometime. I live across the street at the café. Your son’s a regular. See-ya!”

The door closed loudly behind her. Turning to her son, Violet smiled knowingly.

“So… I like her. Are we going to visit her later?”

Without Jamie’s bubbly presence, Aiden felt his muscles tense a little and was reminded why his mother was here to begin with. Before he lost his nerve he forced himself to sit next to his mom grabbing her hand, “Sure,” he said softly, “But first, I- I’m ready to talk.”