by Eileen Cruz Coleman
Twenty-three-year old Jadie Santiago has a secret.
One morning on her way to work she stops to offer a homeless man a bottle of water. As she meets the man's eyes, Jadie instantly recognizes they belong to her father, whom she hasn't seen since she was sixteen. Unable to accept the truth of her encounter, Jadie flees, hoping eventually to forget the experience and continue leading a normal life.
But then she meets Reece, an aspiring writer with a mysterious past who is set on capturing Jadie's affection. Jadie wants nothing more than to give her heart to Reece, but her broken past and crippling secret keep her from surrendering it to him fully.
Things won't come easy to Jadie as she fights for her place in the world, but there is strength in her, and she is determined never to stop struggling for what so many others have: love, happiness, and a sense of belonging.
I have a secret and I need to tell someone.
So it went something like this. I passed him every day on my way to and from work. He lived on the sidewalk under the train tracks. Sometimes, he was asleep, a stained blanket on his thin and frail body. Sometimes, he was awake and sitting against a concrete wall, his folded blanket at his side, glazed eyes staring at nothingness. Sometimes, I chose to walk on the other side of the street because I just couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t stand seeing him. And sometimes, when he wasn’t there, I felt my heart sink, wondering if he was okay, if he was hurt, if he had left me again, this time forever. Those were the worst days. I’d spend all day worried about him, feeling guilty, unable to close my mind to the dark thoughts that screamed I was a horrible, horrible person.
The next day, I’d get up earlier than usual, frantic, no coffee, no ironing my clothes, no combing my hair, and dart out of the apartment I shared with two other girls. I’d fly down the Metro escalator.
Once on the platform, I’d shove my way to the front and wait for the flashing lights, signaling an approaching train. Come on, come on, stupid train. There we stood, a crowd of commuters waiting to be whisked off.
In my most frantic moments, I’d often wonder what the people standing next to me or behind me were thinking. I wanted to ask them to let me take a peek inside, a small, quick glance at their souls. Excuse me, mind if I ask you a question? Are you happy? Ridiculous, I know.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Eileen Cruz Coleman was born in Washington, D.C. to an immigrant El Salvadoran mother and a Puerto Rican father. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in History. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals both online and in print. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.
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