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Lauren Johnson

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Member Since: Nov, 2006

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Slow Return to Life
By Lauren Johnson
Monday, April 23, 2007

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Recent stories by Lauren Johnson
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Carly has been hiding her creativity and she can't find out why. She has a friend in college student Clara, but with the help of her boyfriend, who is always there but never seems to be there helps her through it.

Carly had planned her night as she always did. Leave from work, pick up her dinner, and then go home and watch he news and then go to sleep and wake up to repeat the same boring day. She was walking by this fancy restaurant that she lives near by, she’s always wanted to go in, but never did for no reason at all. A stranger called out to her, “Excuse me miss, do you have the time?” “Oh, it’s 7:30.” The stranger smiled and thanked her. She smiled back and went home.

Carly repeated the same thing the next night. And the stranger was there again and he asked her for the time again. And again it was 7:30 exactly. Carly started to turn around and go home un-phased by this unusual event but the man called out to her. “Would you like to join me?” he had a nice smile she thought. “Uh, no, I really have to get home.” She lied and went on her way.

When Carly got home she started to get ready for bed like she did every night. Except this time she thought about the stranger, he was trying to talk to her and get to know her and she wouldn’t let him. Carly stared at herself in the mirror with a blank expression, trying to get on with her night, but she couldn’t and she cried.

“What are you crying for?” a male voice called from behind her. “This isn’t healthy for you to be here.” She said to the man behind her. She turned around to face her and it was a tall man, with dark brown hair smiling at her. “Well, that’s true , but neither is self-hatred.” Carly looked offended, “I don’t hate myself.” She got up and sat on the bed. “I’m sorry babe, did I hurt your feelings?” She gave him an angry look. “It’s over, why won’t you leave me alone?” she whined. “Whoa, you’re the one who’s been calling me.” He chuckled. “Daniel, I’ve never called you.” She looked cross. “And by the way, if we’re over then, why did you blow off that guy at the restaurant today. Since you’re not concerned about how I feel, since you know we’re over.” Daniel said in a nasty tone. “Get out.” She said breathlessly. “Get out. Get out!” she shouted.

The next morning, her neighbors were giving her strange looks. They must of heard the shouting last night. Not many people knew Carly here in Philadelphia, so a lot of people tried to get to know her and be friendly. In response to their kindness Carly was cold and distant. A lot of her co-workers at the bank thought she was creepy. The other’s thought she was just lonely. Even though Carly always dreamt of being a movie director, she had to settle for bank manager. She quit business school a few months before she came to Philly because she just didn’t want to do it anymore. Daniel said it was because she was afraid to fail. That night they argued and every night since. He felt like as if she gave up on herself.

Carly left for her lunch break. She’d always take her mp3 player to avoid having conversations with people. It made life easier. She was an outside recluse. She lived in the world and walked among the people but didn’t not interact with them unless she had to. While standing in line for her lunch. She felt a tap on her shoulder. “Oh gosh it’s you.” A girl said. “You’re Caroline Witts, you wrote Aftershock.” It was a very short story that Carly wrote a long time ago and won an award from it, among the many other short stories and plays she’s written and won awards for them. “How did you know…” “You and I went to the same high school. I want to be a writer too. Do you have any new work? Oh, I’m sorry, my name is Clara.” “Nice to meet you Clara, well, I’m working in business now, I work at a bank.” Carly felt ashamed to say. “Oh, so you don’t write anymore?” the girl seemed so discouraged. “I still write, just it’s hard getting it published.” The girl gave Carly a big smile. “Cool.”

“I think I made a new friend today.” Daniel was walking around in her apartment that night. “Really, what’s his name?” She shot him a look. “Her, name is Clara.” “Clara? Who names their children Clara anymore, that’s like naming your child Ruth or Ethel.” Carly ignored him. “I lied to her today.” Daniel laughed. “You just met her!” he shouted. “She wants me to come to her school tomorrow.” Carly sighed. “I’m not going.” “Why not?” Daniel said sternly. “I don’t want to.” Daniel pulled up a seat and sat down behind her as she stared in the mirror. “You’re pathetic. When are you going to move forward? You said it yourself, we’re over; so move on.” He said to her sternly. “I would love to move on, but you’re still here.” She shouted at his reflection. She could feel his breath on her neck. “That’s because you keep calling me.” He said softly. “I didn’t call you.” Carly said fighting back tears. Daniel stood up and sighed. “I want a coke and rum.”

Carly woke up the next morning to her cell phone ringing. “Hello.” She answered sleepily. “Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot not everyone gets up at 7:00 in the morning to go to class. Should I call back?” “Clara, it’s okay. What’s up?” “I’m apart of a creative writing group. We’re trying to be the next Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, ya know, we’re working on a screenplay. Do you want to come? It’s at 5:00.” While Clara was talking Carly realized she was on the floor, with an empty bottle of rum beside her. “Sure, ok, I’ll come.” “Great!”

Carly was aghast at the lack of creativity the students had. Which was surprising to her for many reasons, Carly wasn’t much older than the students so it couldn’t of been a generation gap, maybe a maturity gap she wondered. All of the students kept suggesting ideas that had been used before, or ideas that were cliché or ideas that were just stupid. All of the students except for Clara, she had okay ideas, ideas that could be worked with, but no one was hearing her. A lot of the students thought that Carly was a student because she was so young looking, so a few guys tried to pick her up. By the end of the meeting Clara was a little discouraged, but not defeated. Carly liked that. “Let’s go somewhere.”

“You said you write poetry, right?” Carly asked her. “Yes, but I never read it to anyone.” Clara said in a small voice as they walked into the building. “What good is that to anyone?” Carly asked annoyed. It was open poetry night at this small café, it was a cross between Borders and Starbucks. “Anyone can come up at any time and say what they want, as long as it’s poetry. That’s the rule, okay.” It was a Tuesday night so not many people were inside the place, it was still enough to surprise Carly. “Go up there.” “No, you go up there.” She whined. Carly got frustrated with Clara and jumped on stage.

Love ya babe
I love ya babe
No matter what you’re shape
I love ya darlin
No matter how loud you’re snorin’
I love ya sweetie
Especially when you hug me
I love ya cutie
Even when you’re a pain in my booty
You’re pain is my pain
You’re success is my gain
When you bleed I hurt
You sweat while I work
I love you baby
I love you darlin
You’re my sweetie
Come dance with me

The crowd cheered. Carly held out her hand for Clara and she still looked terrified. Carly drove Clara home. You can’t expect to get anywhere if you’re afraid to express you’re work. “I can’t be like you, you’ve been doing this longer than me, I bet you had memorized for a long time now.” Clara said. Carly laughed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry for laughing, that is by far not my best work.” Carly put the car in park. Clara just stared at her. “I made up that poem as soon as my foot hit the stage. Goodnight.” Carly left Clara shocked that night.

“Dan, she has these great thoughts, but doesn’t want to share them with anybody!” Dan laughed. “You cease to amaze me. You know who she is right?” Carly paused and shrugged her shoulders. “How’d you get in here?” “She’s you!” “Me!” “Yes, you, you refuse to show you’re talents.” “Whoa, wait you wanted me to finish Business school.” “I wanted you to finish something! Something for yourself! Do something for you.” “I can’t.” “You can’t.” “So, I should just take all of this and throw it away.” Dan turned on the stove and held a bunch of papers over the stove. “What are you doing?” “It’s the same thing. You not pursuing your writing career is the same as throwing these papers in the fire.” Dan held her papers closer to the fire. “Now you stop it. Put it down.” “Put it down?” “Not in the fire! What do you want me to say?!” Carly shouted.

The next morning Carly went to work and ran into an old friend of hers. “Caroline?” It had to of been Marly, but everyone called her Lola due to a drunken night the summer before college. Very little people knew why. “Well, if it isn’t Lola.” Marly’s face dropped. “Don’t ever call me that again.” The two hugged. “How have you been? What can I help you with?” Marly smiled. “Do you remember creepy Paul?” Creepy Paul used to go to parties during high school and just stare at everyone, people were too afraid to go near or talk to him, except for Marly. Again, it was something a lot of people didn’t understand. “Well, he and I got together and we wrote a couple of books, we’re starting our own publishing company and we’re having them published this summer.” And like a trigger, Carly remembered seeing Daniel smiling at her on a beach. “You, okay?” “Yes.” “So, we’ve already started publishing other people’s projects which has pushed ours back, but we’re already making profit. I need a brand new account to handle all of our funds.” Carly smiled a little and invited Marly to sit down. And in that moment Carly felt like she should of told Marly that she had a book she almost finished, but was too afraid to.

Carly walked past the restaurant again that night and ran into the handsome man. “What do I have to do to get you to sit down and have a meal with me?” he said very charmingly. Carly smiled and hesitated. “Well, since you asked so nicely.” Carly sat down and looked really nervous. “My name is Oliver, but you can call me Ollie. What’s yours?” Feeling a little calmer now Carly answered. “My name is Caroline, but just call me Carly.” The two talked for about an hour and a half, until Carly’s phone rang. “Who’s the stud?” It was Clara, who spoke loud enough for Oliver to hear her; it was very hard for him to pretend he hadn’t. “What is the matter with you? Where are you?” Carly said very annoyed while looking around. Ollie chuckled a little. “Nothing is wrong with me and I’m at the corner behind you, you’ve got really good posture. You should bring him along?” Carly didn’t answer. “I think I might go straight home.” Carly said breathlessly. “Why? I think I might actually recite something today.” Clara said cheerfully. “We’ll go tomorrow okay?” Carly said calmly. “Can’t tomorrow, I’m kidnapping you from work and we’re going to the beach.” Clara said into the phone. Carly remembered Dan’s face again; he was laying out a chair for her to sit in. “No. No, I don’t want to go to the beach. Just leave me alone for awhile.” Ollie heard the change in her voice. “Everything okay?” Carly began to tear up, but didn’t answer him. “Do you want to order dessert?” Carly smiled a little. “No, that’s okay. I’ve eaten enough, I couldn’t…” Ollie stopped her, “Don’t worry about it. Order what you want.” Her smile grew bigger and her apparent tears dried up.

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell Marly about your book.” Dan said in a stern voice. “A date? What do you care? We’re not together anymore!” Carly shouted. “No, we were when you called me back here!” he shouted at her. “Why do you keep saying that?” Carly began to cry. Dan pulled up a seat to her while she sat on the edge of the bed. “Because you did; I left. You could of left me where I was, you could of left me alone, but because you were lonely, you brought me back. You can get rid of me whenever you want, but you won’t. You need to move on with your life. You need to get that book published. Why haven’t you done it yet, because you’re still stuck on me!” Dan then left the room and slammed the door.

Carly didn’t go to work the next morning. She stared at pictures of Daniel instead and put everything that reminded her of him in a chest. All except for one picture of him; it was a picture his cousin had taken of him when the three of them went out to the park one day. It was an odd picture because he was looking in another direction. He was looking at Carly when it was taken and she was looking back at him.

Daniel hadn’t stopped by in a few days. Carly was too busy to notice, she’d contacted Ollie and went out on another date with him. She got together with Marly and Clara and they worked on Carly’s book as well as Clara’s collection of poems and short stories. Her life felt lighter and like she had meaning again. While at a meeting with Clara and Marly in Marly’s new business building Paul’s Publishing, even though it was named after Paul Marly co-owned it, Marly found an unfinished screenplay of hers. The one page she found read like an argument between a guy and his girlfriend. With the same two lines over and over again. The guy’s lines would be “Let me go, let go of me. You shouldn’t of called me here.” And the girl’s lines were, “I don’t know what you mean. I didn’t call you here leave me alone.” Carly rushed home and on her way home she called Daniel’s house. “Hello.” A tired female voice answered the phone. Carly hung up, she rushed inside her apartment and shuffled through the papers. The same papers Daniel was going to throw out a few weeks ago.

Carly put the papers in order. She was only able to do that because they were numbered. And read it from beginning to end. “Oh my God.” She whispered to herself. “Yup.” Daniel was sitting on the bed beside her. “I’m crazy.” At the end of the screenplay was a title, Working Title: “The Life and Death of Daniel Sommers”. “This whole time, I’ve been....” “Talking to a ghost.” Daniel finished. “Well, not a ghost, but a figment of your imagination, really.” Carly recalled the hot beach and the warm sand. She recalled Dan’s last words, “You’re beautiful and I’d love to stare at you all day, but first I’m going to take a swim.” “The undertow took you.” Dan nodded and kissed her on her forehead and knelled before her, I do love you and you moving on with what you want is what I want for you. So don’t feel guilty. There was nothing you could of done.” He said in a soothing voice. “I could of asked you to stop or to wait awhile or something.” Carly had tears in her eyes. “Goodbye Dan. I love you.” “I know. I love you too.”

It was another month before Carly re-wrote “Daniel Sommers” and it was another six months before she reached the courage to get it published. She felt it was better to change the name of the characters for several reasons, she didn’t want to upset his family and she didn’t want people to think it was selfish of her self to write a story about herself and her ex-boyfriend. Ollie and Carly fell in love with each other and she quit her job to join with Marly and Paul in the publishing business. Clara revolutionized poetry and through Paul’s Publishing made poetry mainstream and popular again. More and more people were reading poetry now than before.


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