Lost and Found

Koya-san, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan – April 2013

My life was rapidly becoming a movie.

I figured it had to be one of those comedies with the plucky, young protagonist who was quirky and clumsy, and people connected to her because of her charm in adversity. At least I hoped I was being charming, since I knew for certain I was stuck in an awkward moment.

“You leave tomorrow?” The woman seated beside me was the manager, and her dark eyes were on me. Her English was unfairly good, despite how often she apologized for it.

“Not leaving Japan. I’m going back to Tokyo to meet my friend, Sophie.”

“The French?”

I nodded, managing a smile. “Yes. She’s in Hiroshima right now.”

I was seated on the edge of the raised dais in my leaf green yukata, staring at the hallowed space beside me. The building was a shukubo ryokan—a Buddhist temple where they opened their doors to let anyone stay—a spiritual version of a bed and breakfast. The space was traditional with shoji sliding doors, tatami mats, and even a suit of old samurai armor set up at the far end of the spacious room. The armor was lit from above while the rest of the space was dark, and there seemed to be phantom eyes watching from within the vacant helmet. I imagined myself wearing it the next time I showed up at my karate dojo.

My grandmaster would undoubtedly be pleased.

She said something in Japanese and it took my brain a moment to process that she’d asked how long I would be in Tokyo.

“San nichi.” Only three more days. I already felt a pang of longing at the thought of leaving.

“Your Japanese is so good!”

“Your English is amazing. Don’t give me that face. I’m an English language teacher; I know.”

She waved a hand with a smile. Her dark hair was drawn back in a simple ponytail and her eyes were kind. “To come here and talk, it’s so good. You are strong. You should have pride.”

I blushed and looked down as I thanked her in Japanese. I’d managed a few real conversations—most notably with a taxi driver who did not speak a single word of English—and I was proud of myself. Though not proud of the trouble I was causing her at the moment. I motioned to the open square of wood missing from the hardwood floor as the reflection of a light shifted on the dirt below. “Do you think he’ll find it soon?”

At the draft that smelled of earth, I pulled the blanket around my shoulders. It was chilly since the sun had gone down; the traditional building had no central heating.

Which also explained why the drains on their sinks didn’t have traps.

Her smile was kind. “I hope so.”

I struggled not to cringe at the trouble I’d caused.

It had happened like in the movies—time seemed to slow down as I reached out; the key slid down the edge of the sink like a child on a slip and slide. Except this ride ended with the key and its long metal chain falling into the darkness of the drain.

I rubbed my hands over my face. I’d been prepared to pull the trap apart, only to find there wasn’t one. Instead, I’d gone to the front desk and been forced to pantomime my situation. Shockingly, even intermediate Japanese classes didn’t cover sentences like “I just dropped my key down the sink” or “I’m such an idiot” or “So that just happened”.

The only redeeming part of my disaster had been talking with the manager and seeing the man lift the hidden covering on the floor. It was late and I felt bad I was causing trouble, but it was pretty cool to see how an old Japanese house was made.

“I was so confused when you told me the key, it was down that drain.”

I returned my attention to the woman. “What do you mean?”

“Because.” She pointed to the sign hovering above the door. It looked similar to a western sign: the nebulous shape of a woman wearing a dress separated from a similarly shaped man with a line between them.

I looked at her in confusion. “I needed to go to the bathroom.”

Her eyes met mine. “But why were you in the men’s room?”

“What?!” My mouth dropped open. “No, that sign means it’s for men and women. Unisex, for both.”

The woman shook her head, taking her hand and making a chopping motion into her other palm. “No, it means they are separated. Separated.”

I stared, praying this was a translation issue. “That’s the men’s room?”

“Yes.” She chopped a few more times for emphasis.

And I’d only thought I’d fucked up before.

Out of the hole in the floor, the repairman’s head popped up like a daisy, his headlamp shining. He wore a matching grin and held up a long metal chain with a key dangling at the end. “Mitsuketa!”

The manager got up to help the man out of the hole and I started laughing. Apparently, I was the girl who had dropped a key down the men’s room sink in a Buddhist temple.

The woman offered me the key. “Koko ni kagi desu.”

“Arigato gozaimasu. Sumimasen. Shitsurei shimasu.” I bowed to both her and the man as I took the key, apologizing a few dozen more times for good measure as I made my escape.

I smiled, though, as I walked away. The key wasn’t the only thing I’d found.

I’d found a really good story.

Rule Thirty-Eight: Go big or go home. It’s better to fail brilliantly than to not show up.

Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon Region, France – May, 2010

I stepped off the train onto the platform with my bright red roller bag trailing behind me. I checked the sign—Nîmes. The platform was small, with a few benches and stairs heading down to the left and an elevator far off to the right. Everyone who had gotten off headed straight for the stairs or into the arms of loved ones. A few people brushed against my shoulders as they hurried onto the train behind me.

My eyes scanned the crowd frantically.

Where was Sophie?

There were less people on the platform now but I tried desperately to remember what she looked like. I’d seen her most often in my rear view mirror as I drove her to her student teaching placement back home in New York. I swallowed as I looked back at the sign, checking a dozen times that I was in the right spot. I heard the compression of air and turned to see the train doors closing before it whistled and lurched forward. It grew smaller and smaller until it turned a corner and was out of sight.

I swallowed again. Without the train, it was eerily quiet and nearly everyone had cleared off the platform except for a man reading a newspaper on the bench. Should I wait there? Should I move? What if by moving I missed her?

I should wait.

My fingers twitched.

Shouldn’t I?

I adjusted the straps of my book bag, trying not to make eye contact with Newspaper Guy. A pigeon wandered down by my feet, pecking the platform for stray crumbs. Right. I took a deep breath and told myself I wouldn’t panic. Maybe she was downstairs? I should just go check. That seemed reasonable.

I headed over to the steps, grabbing hold of my roller bag and carefully making my way down. I scanned the empty lower level and then promptly began to panic.

What was I going to do? Where was I going to stay for two weeks? How was I going to afford it? What was I going to do? Breathing wasn’t helping; my lungs felt like paper bags with holes in the bottom. I turned around and headed back to the stairs. I would sit down and wait for another train. How had I let myself get into this position, how had I—

“April? April!”

Oh thank God. I spun. “Sophie?”

She rushed over and wrapped her arms around me. I let out a breath and then inhaled her perfume, the scent of her hair. She somehow smelled French and was just as dazzling as I remembered. “I’m really glad to see you.”

“Oh, April, I’m so sorry. I could not find parking.”

I smiled as we began walking to the exit. “I wasn’t worried.”

Who was I kidding? I’d been terrified of the whole scheme ever since I’d agreed to visit her. When she’d told me that I should come see her in France, I hadn’t been sure if she’d really meant it. But I’d promised myself I’d try new things, try to believe that things wouldn’t always go wrong.

My brows lifted when we came to her car—parked unabashedly illegally.

She put on big sunglasses and loud French pop music. “I must tell you, it will be a little weird at the flat, my friend.”

I blinked. I was in France with a new French friend; everything was weird. “What do you mean?”

She glanced over at me meaningfully. “Richard and I, we have broken.”

I grimaced in understanding. I’d just ended my eleven-year relationship a couple months before. She’d been with Richard for eight years. “I’m so sorry.”

“He is an idiot.” She waved a hand, taking a corner fast enough to make me grab the door. “There will be a ghost in the flat, my friend. He comes only to shower. He knows you are coming, so I hope we do not see him.”

She began telling me a thousand reasons why Richard was an idiot, but I was too distracted by my first drive with a French girl. A three lane roundabout came into view and I felt my eyes do a cartoon-esque bounce out of my head as Sophie drove into the fray. I held onto the door a little more tightly as she turned on her signal and we were suddenly following along with a dozen other cars. She was signaling off just as quickly, taking the exit and speeding away. I glanced over my shoulder at the cityscape, a smile coming to my lips. Was I really me right now? Had I really done this? Even if I didn’t live through it, what did it matter?

“Oh my God, my English is so bad.”

I turned to her. “Are you crazy? You’ve been talking non-stop for almost ten minutes. In English.”

She pulled up beside a fountain and put the car into park. When the car was off, she turned to me with a raised brow. “Do you want coffee?”

I nodded. I was pretty sure I was still on American time.

We walked down the cobbled street and everything was so French, so foreign, so new. I had to rush to keep up. We went through an alleyway and came out into a cobblestone courtyard. The sun was shining brightly, the black metal tables of the café nestled in gentle shadows. We took a table and I looked at the awning of the coffee shop, doves on the far side of the space being fed bread by an old man.

I was sitting in a courtyard in France, across from my new French friend.

This was crazy.

“April, do you know what pisses me off the most about Richard? He would never go on vacation with me. He never wanted to go anywhere.”

I gave a half snort. “Yeah, I asked my ex to come on this trip with me. He didn’t want to. Who doesn’t want to?!”

“Exactly!! I just want to travel. To see. To experience. To live!”

I let out a breath I felt like I’d been holding for years. “I know exactly what you mean.”

She put her shades down on the table. “My friend, I want a new story with someone. Someone who will love me. But I think now, I want to travel. To be crazy!”

“Me too.” I glanced down shyly with a shrug. “Maybe we could go somewhere together?”

She took in a breath and reached over to grab my hand. “Oh my God, my friend, we MUST!”

I felt a smile on my lips.

Who was I becoming?

Rule Twenty-One: You will always be a work in progress and that is a good thing.

Ruth’s childhood bedroom – another life

She was underneath her desk; head buried in her knees, arms wrapped tightly about herself as if she could become a ball and disappear—eyes shut forcefully, yet a never-ending waterfall of tears still escaped. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. She begged for another world, another life. One where no one could go unless she invited them. Someplace else, someplace safe. A world where she could be someone else. Someone stronger, someone whole. The world began to take shape and her mind floated away. But even as she tried to embrace the lightness, she could still hear the weight of words—her own words, being spoken by the lips of the body she was trying to leave behind.

I want go home.

Please. Let me go home. Please.

I just want go home.

Rule Four: Sometimes the darkest moment is actually the beginning of hope.

Shinkansen outside of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan – November 2017

“Why did you decide to marry your husband?”

Tomoko gave a slight nod. “He was the first man who did not tell me to get back in my place.” My eyebrows shot up and she gave a nod. “One of my exes told me that once we married I would stop working.”

“He sounds like a jerk.”

As usual, my Japanese friend gave an inscrutable smile. We’d been traveling together for a few days and I hoped yet again that I wasn’t offending her.

Her eyes fell. “Spending this time with you has been very special. I do not have many female friends.”

I blinked.

“Having my career and my children—many do not understand me. Being with you, having this trip—it is very nice.”

I felt a smile on my lips as she continued to tell me how much the trip had meant, how much our friendship meant. I’d been worried I was offending her and now she was pouring her heart out to me? How quintessentially Japanese.

A voice over the speaker announced the next station—hers.

We both stood and once we were in the aisle I pounced my friend with a hug, trying to channel my inner Sophie. “I love you, my friend.”

Tomoko hugged me a bit sheepishly, a quiet laugh barely heard. I was starting to realize I could be more like the people I admired in my life. I needn’t always be the shy, scared one. I didn’t have to always live in fear, worrying that my life was going to take a downward spiral at any moment. Coming to Japan to spend time with Tomoko, knowing that I had dear friends on multiple continents—I was finding the version of myself I’d always wanted to be.

As the train lurched to a stop we said our goodbyes but I waved boisterously, calling out to her even as she stepped onto the platform. I could see Japanese businessmen laughing at my display of American extroversion—but I wore it as a badge of honor as I reclaimed my seat.

The image of Tomoko’s face began to shrink as we drew away from the station and I felt a blanket of weariness settle over me. I’d been sick for most of the trip but I touched my forehead with a frown. Did I have a fever?

I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. It was a just a fever and I was heading home the next day.

What was the worst that could happen?

Rule Forty-Four: Our tears are the same in every language; so are our smiles.

On the dining room floor — December 2018

I sucked in a breath—my lungs were on fire.

There was pain, so much pain.

It burned. Everything burned—

Another gasping breath and the tingling made me aware of my body again. My head was swirling and trying to open my eyes showed the ceiling moving so I shut them tightly. Trying to move, I cringed in pain—my chest and left arm felt raw, the nerves on fire.

My breath hitched. This pain—I knew this pain. And it could mean only one thing. A warm tear seared down my cheek as a whimper escaped me.

My heart had stopped again.


My head swiveled enough to see him—across the room, his body language showing his trepidation. I felt another tear. “How long was I out?”

“Forty five seconds, maybe.” He swallowed. “I saw you go down.”

It was only in movies that people were caught as they passed out, wasn’t it? The area around my ICD burned, but I felt a different ache inside. It would have been nice to at least wake up being held. “Why are you all the way over there?”

His eyes flicked down with a hint of shame. “You were being defibbed and I…”

I knew what he really meant; he hadn’t wanted to somehow get shocked by my ICD. My eyes closed. Which meant, he wasn’t afraid for me—

He was afraid of me.

I’d come back from Japan feverish only to die in my sleep. Months later a doorbell had done me in one morning. Tonight was undoubtedly from stress—a trifecta of triggers.

I stared at the ceiling.

Perhaps dying three times in thirteen months did make me some sort of a monster.

My heart fluttered; it felt like my heart was skipping beats. I focused on breathing as more tears streamed down my face. Trying to move my hands to wipe my face, I gasped in pain—the shock must have grounded in my arm again.

“Should I take you to emergency?”

I tried to ignore how he was staying steadfastly across the room. “There’s nothing they can do for me.” It was such an odd thing to die regularly; even doctors didn’t know what to do with you. They would just confirm I’d had an event and send me home. Unless I felt something was going to happen again, I may as well not bother to go.

There was more fluttering in my heart, however, and I was beginning to get light headed. That was new. When my vision blurred I closed my eyes, groaning at sudden chest pain.

“What’s wrong?”

This hadn’t happened any of the other times. Was I going to have another event? “I don’t know. My heart, it hurts…” I heard the quivering tone of my voice, the fear in it. I would be fine, I could do this—pushing my elbows into the floor, I found my muscles wouldn’t respond with enough strength. I couldn’t even sit up? I swallowed nervously, making myself look at him even as my heart continued to flutter. “Maybe you should call an ambulance.”

It felt as if time slowed. We both knew the other two times he’d been able to drive me; I’d been able to walk. This was different and it made me feel as if I was losing my grip on my sanity. How was I supposed to keep living with this happening every few months? Or would the next time be the time my defibrillator didn’t save me?

My chest did another aerial flutter, and I saw him scrambling for his phone. I closed my eyes as tears streaked down my cheeks. I was too weak to wipe them away.

I was losing everything.

What was I going to do?

Rule Fifty-One: We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned to have a chance at the life that’s waiting for us.

City Hall, Rochester, NY U.S.A. – July 31, 2008

I tilted my head, watching as the young woman partook of what could only be described as an arts and crafts project.

The clerk had cut a paper in half before stapling it to another sheet. She then turned to a machine that looked somewhere between a medieval torture device and a waffle maker; there were two discs and a large handle. She rubbed the face of the lower circle with wax the red of a diva’s lipstick before pressing the paper between the discs. When the paper was unearthed, there was a circular raised seal that looked both ancient and official. The process seemed surreal, mostly because I hadn’t expected the physical certificate to be the strangest part of my day.

When she handed me the paper, I realized the girl was a little younger than me. Her brow rose. “How many do you need, total?”

I scrunched my nose in thought, counting on my fingers. I needed one for my new social security card, new driver’s license, new passport, and I was probably going to carry one around with me neurotically for a few years in case the FBI thought I was a terrorist so… “How about five, just to be safe?” She nodded and turned back to her waffle maker. My eyes lingered over my paperwork before moving back to the affidavit of name change and the ad that had run in the newspaper.

Today was actually the thirty-first of July and it said my new name was legally binding on the twenty-second. If the name change technically went into effect then, but I couldn’t go by the name because I didn’t have proof, who had I been for those interceding days? I wondered if anyone had ever asked that question outside of a philosophy class. It seemed too existential when my question was purely pragmatic—could I have started using my other name? What if I had gotten arrested, or graduated college, or traveled abroad? Would I have left the country as one person and returned as another? My head was spinning with possibilities.

I decided immediately for my own sanity that I would consider the thirty-first of July as the date my name changed. Maybe make it my own personal holiday. But what would I call it? Second birthday? No, too cliché. Regeneration day? Too weird.

Naming Day?

I paused. Did Hallmark have a card for that?

“I have your papers all set.” I thanked the girl before she continued. “It’s five dollars a piece, so it’s twenty five all together.” I was searching for the money in my wallet when she spoke again. “April McCloud is a pretty name.”

I felt my face flush with pride as I handed her the money with a shaking hand. “Thanks.” I didn’t think anyone had ever said that about my birth name.

“How’d you pick it?”

“It’s actually my pen name.” I smiled like an idiot. Now it could be my new self—I hesitated. But who did I want to be? How did you even decide that? I supposed people always said to think about how you’d feel when you looked back on your life so I thought of myself as a stereotypical old woman sitting in a rocking chair. What gifts did I want to give her?

Stories. I grinned. I wanted crazy stories and international friends and adventures. That was the type of woman that April McCloud would be.

“What’s your alias?”

I blinked dumbly as the girl went to the cash register. “Alias?”

The register chimed. “Your old name. It’s your alias, now.”

I had an alias? I was totally a spy!

“Ruth Marie Stevenson.” My nose scrunched up. “Kind of sounds like a nunnery, huh?”

“Bleh, yeah.” She came back beside me, offering some bills. “How much does changing your name cost, anyway?”

I smiled, finding a strange comfort in what I was doing—finding myself and starting a new life. “Three hundred dollars between you and a new you.”

Rule Sixteen: If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Machu Pichu, Peru – May 2019

I was seated on a rock off to the side at an intersection, ancient steps leading down before me beside a long stone wall covered in vines. Flitting in and out of sight were hundreds of birds that didn’t seem to care at all that this was an Unesco World Heritage site. Or perhaps they were here precisely because of that fact.

At a loud noise, I flinched in terror, anxiously waiting to see how my heart would respond. I’d found ventricular fibrillation to be an odd way to die. It made your heart beat between three to five hundred beats per minute, diminishing blood flow and causing syncope. Barring medical or divine intervention, you rapidly fell victim to Sudden Cardiac Death. Oddly , prior to two of my events, I had been upright when my vision had narrowed. I called it Dead Woman Walking syndrome because I’d actually been dead and just hadn’t known it yet.

My heart rate slowed and I turned up my music.

Apparently, my heart wasn’t going to try to kill me right then.

My fingertips trailed over my familiar medic alert bracelet. The day was still young.

I glanced over my shoulder to see a group of tourists had stopped by the archway for a photo op—they had gray hair and energetic smiles, making expressive poses to commemorate their once in a lifetime trip.

My eyes narrowed and I turned back to the birds, crossing my arms on my knees and slumping forward. It irritated me that at twice my age they looked more spry than I felt. I blew out a breath. Maybe I shouldn’t judge my fellow retirees? I snickered. Now that I’d been deemed totally and permanently disabled by the US government I was technically retired too.

Though that wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined retiring in my thirties.

I smelled her familiar perfume before Sophie sat on the rock beside me. I took out my headphones and her big chestnut eyes met mine. “April, my friend, how are you feeling?” I loved the way she said my name with an Ah, instead of a hard A. She made my name sound foreign, made me feel different, special.

“Weak.” We hooked our arms together and I leaned my head against her shoulder. “How was the view?”

Our other friend Yoan took a few steps down the stairs, looking off. “We did not make it.”

Sophie waved a hand. “It was too much to climb.”

When they’d said they wanted to go climb a peak, I’d told them to go ahead without me. Back when I’d been athletic—back before my events—I would have been eager to go with them. Now though, the thought of standing was intimidating. I wasn’t even sure how I’d made it that far. “Do you two need a break?”

Sophie looked at me with concern. They didn’t get how sick I was—I wasn’t sure anyone really did. I was starting to see that there was a serious problem with being disabled while looking like a young and healthy person. But she did care about me. “Are you okay to continue?”

“Of course.” I smiled and forced myself onto my feet, finding my legs to be heavy and walking cumbersome. I felt as if I was shuffling along behind them but it was nice to be out in the world. I’d gone on disability a few months prior and had been bedridden as I struggled to recover from my last events. I’d only gone on the trip because it had been set up and paid for prior to all that—my eyes caught on the group of retirees. And because this was a once in a lifetime trip and I had to acknowledge… I had no idea how long I had left.

I took in a breath, my legs feeling shaky. “I’m going to sit over here for a minute, go ahead without me.”

“Je t’aime, mon amie!” Sophie winked as they continued on.

I stared at a pair of llamas, grazing sedately. How was I going to go home, how was I going to survive? Tears threatened my eyes at how my life was imploding around me. While I’d been approved for SSDI in record speed, I’d found out that I wasn’t eligible for state disability because I had been a federal employee. Which meant that it would be the end of summer before I’d see a dime. I sniffled. I was already defaulting on credit cards and I had no idea how I was going to stretch the meager food stamps allotment, let alone pay my rent.

The llama seemed to turn to look at me and I covered my mouth with a hand.

What was I going to do?

Rule Two: There are no shortcuts. The only way out is through.

Home, Rochester, NY – October, 2021

I was only half listening to the webinar—I loved the feeling of my fingers moving over the keyboard, the feeling of energy as I knew the word that came next. It felt as if words poured out of me lately and I hadn’t been able to resist writing while I waited.

“But I’m sure you’d rather hear from one of our members who just recently closed on her house, wouldn’t you? Can you unmute yourself, April, and tell us your story?”

I closed my laptop and quickly picked up my phone, tapping the button. I sucked in a breath. There were over five hundred people on this webinar and while I’d thought endlessly about this moment I still wasn’t sure what I should say. “My name is April and I closed on my house in August. The whole process took me about a year. I vividly remember being on this webinar and hearing the testimonial back then—it’s hard to believe I’m the one giving it now. I hope you all can have this feeling too, it’s incredible.”

A dozen encouraging comments flitted across the chat but I focused on what I needed to say. “I want you to know right now, that if I can do this, you can too. I’d been saving for a house when I had to go on disability. Then my landlords offered to sell me the duplex I was living in I hadn’t told them anything about my situation, but my credit was ruined, and I didn’t think there was any way I could make it work. Worse, though, is I knew that if the house sold to anyone my rent would go up, and I’d be homeless because my income was so low I wouldn’t be able to qualify for another apartment. I’d already tried to get section eight housing only to not be chosen in the lottery, and subsidized housing was a year plus wait list—not to mention living in any of those complexes would have put me at risk because of the triggers for my heart.”

I sucked in a breath finding it hard to believe that fear was truly over. “I was rejected for a traditional mortgage. I had no idea what I would do when someone suggested NACA. I went through the program and was approved for a NACA mortgage with no down payment, no closing costs, no private mortgage insurance, and I bought my interest rate down to one percent. Before, I was paying sixty percent of my income solely toward rent. Just a couple days ago my first mortgage payment was taken out, and I’ve never been more proud to pay a bill because it means I’m really a homeowner.”

My eyes lifted to take in my library. There was my comfortable chaise across the room and my bookshelves lining a wall. My cat lounged in her office chair, napping. This was my home now, and my throat hitched. “There are so many of you on this call, and my wish for you is that you can be on the other side of all this, too.”

The moderator asked me questions that I quickly answered and promptly forgot. Once he thanked me I scrolled through the chat box to find dozens of messages.

You’re an inspiration!

Thank you for sharing! You give me hope.

I waited a few minutes before logging off, standing up to release some nervous energy. My eyes wandered again around my library, arms crossed over my stomach. On the back of my closet door was my list of personal rules, of lessons I’d learned and didn’t want to forget—I smiled at the most recent. Rule Fifty-Two: Plan for the worst, hope for the best. That was how I’d survived, after all. Yet, the fear and despondency that had been my norm still seemed a lifetime away. In a lot of ways my life felt unreal, like a story—

Well, that had been what I’d asked for, hadn’t it?

I snorted, pinching the bridge of my nose.

Shame on me for not specifying what type of stories I wanted.

My hand dropped and I moved over to the shelf where I kept my printouts. Picking up the small square it opened like an accordion. There was a single black line crossing the length, lines up and down showing the beating of my heart—

And the lack of vertical lines clearly showing where it had stopped working.

I released a breath. That was what death looked like, in black and white. It was the moment everything had changed.

I felt a slight smile. Yet, given the choice, I wouldn’t change anything.

Life had been unfathomably hard. In a lot of ways, it had confirmed all my deepest fears that life was a struggle and everything was going to go terribly wrong. I actually had lost everything—family, friends, money, security, and my health—in an instant.

What I hadn’t expected was that through surviving death, I would learn how to live.

I brushed my fingertips atop my cat's head, her fur soft. She yawned at me before putting her head back down.

I’d never asked for my life to be easy…

I picked up my laptop, setting it on my lap as I reclaimed my seat, energized by the familiar keys beneath my fingertips.

What I had asked for was stories.

Rule Fifty-Three: It is all part of your story.

APRIL MCCLOUD is from Rochester, NY. She is a librarian and educator. Her short works have appeared or are forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, The Black Fork Review, Knee Brace Press, and Aurtistic Zine, among others. Her debut novel is set to release in 2024 from Rebel Satori Press. Visit her online here: www.aprilmccloud.com