Surprise and Disbelief: A Short Story from Smart Girl, Dumb Love

Surprise and Disbelief

A short story from Smart Girl, Dumb Love of The Breakup Girl Series

Surprise-and-DisbeliefCarl was my first love. It took One Week for me to fall in love with him. One Week. That’s it. Giddy teenage love, propelled by hormones and insecurity. Intense. We lost our virginity together, in a tent, fumbling adolescent sex. Did it go in? I think so. We tried to stifle our moans, to keep our secret, but we failed. Between breaths I could hear my best friend sobbing through the thin nylon walls of her nearby tent.

I went through two years of high school romance with Carl before I decided I needed to experience something fresh. I loved him, the same love as that first Week, only a little less urgent and intense. Now our love was full, soft, familiar. Problem. I was seventeen. I craved the new, the unique. Carl was kind, unfailingly tender, but no longer expressed the same surprise and disbelief when I told him I loved him, or when I let him pull my pants down in the back of his car. I wanted someone to worship me. I told Carl I needed a break. Just a little one. Surprise and Disbelief.

Mark was ten years older than me. He welded bikes at Klein during the week, then raced them down cliff faces on weekends. He sent giant bouquets of roses to my father’s house. We went on weekend trips to the mountains. I acted wild and certain. I pretended to know what I was doing. We had sex in hotel rooms. I would get on top and fuck with a ferocity that would have shocked Carl. Mark would tell me that the guys at work made comments about the bruises on his body. But I knew he lifted his shirt for them, to show where I dug my nails into his skin.

Mark was in love with me. We rode in horse-drawn carriages around Pioneer Square. He wrote me sentimental poetry and wanted me to meet his parents. Roses kept coming. I stopped hanging them upside down from my bedroom ceiling to dry. My father’s compost bin never smelled so sweet. Mark was over-anxious. Sex was too fast, jerky. I felt like I was the one riding down the rocky mountainside on a bike without shocks. One Month. That’s it. Mark drove two hours to see me. I took him to my coffee shop, the one with the smoky upstairs and the rain-drenched windows. I put his finger in the flame of the candle and held it there. He didn’t flinch. He held my gaze and smiled. I told him it was over. Surprise and Disbelief.

I sat in Carl’s car and sobbed. He was the one I loved. Of course he would take me back. He loved me. What? I’d slept with him! He got out and paced around the car, in the rain. At first I thought it was rage that made him clench his hand and smash his fist against the back window, but then he collapsed on the wet pavement. I’d done a Terrible Thing.

When I graduated from high school, I joined the volunteer youth corps. I was going to redeem myself. I was going to build houses, save wild prairie chickens, and be a Good Person.

I was away. Carl was in Seattle, flunking out of community college. I stood at the pay phone in front of the Piggly Wiggly and talked to him for hours. I was a Good Person. I missed my ever-faithful boyfriend just like I thought I should.

Nathaniel was a poet. We met at the Denver coffee shop, the one all the writers go to. He drank Earl Grey tea and quoted Whitman and Hemingway. We had dinner at the Italian restaurant across the street. I drank wine that he ordered. I told him I had a boyfriend and was In Love. I was a Good Person. I was Faithful. He held his hand at his heart; all he wanted was my friendship. Tight curls of black hair covered his eyes. I felt like kissing his lips, but Resisted. We met again and again at the coffee shop, scribbling in tandem in black leather journals. One night I followed him out onto the streets. We wandered for hours, commenting on moonlight and laughing at the stars. Compadre, he called me. Sister Soul. I slept in his bed that night, too weary to make the drive across town to my own bed. He lay beside me, just for closeness, he said. He wrapped his arms around me, just for warmth, he said. I got nervous. This didn’t feel like being a Good Person. It was time to leave. I said please, but he didn’t let me go. I said no, but he quoted Poe and held me tighter.

There is no greater indignity than to be raped by a poet.

The gentleman drove me home in the morning. I sat like stone in the seat next to him. He opened my door for me. Sister Soul, he whispered in my ear. The worst thing ever would be to lose your friendship. The Worst Thing. I had another Worst Thing.

This time Carl and I sat in my car and we both sobbed. You got in his bed, he said. I said no, I said. I had messed up. I had failed at being a Good Person. Carl’s heart was broken, again, by me. His eyes hardened. Marry me, he said. I recoiled. I am poison. Yes, I said, but not now. We moved to New Orleans instead.

I found us an apartment one block off of Bourbon Street. We got corporate jobs and Grew Up. We established credit. We took weekend trips to Florida. I didn’t Act Out. I Led A Good Life. I never got drunk on Bourbon Street. I earned my beads with my demure smile. I lost all sexual impulse. I drank mochas in the back alley cafe and made friends with the transvestites and practicing vampires. They all drank absinthe. Carl and I went to drag queen shows and flirted with boys far prettier than me. I thought I was becoming a lesbian. I wanted to kiss the girls in the cafes. I didn’t feel like kissing Carl. One Year. One Terrible Year.

Carl started to suspect that I wasn’t attracted to him. We took starlit walks along the Mississippi River, drank red wine at quaint cafes, and danced in sudden rainstorms. But I lay still and quiet in our bed at night. I let him move above me, enter me, but I simply lay back and watched the air thicken with southern heat. Marry Me, he said, and I saw The Pain, and I knew I had done It again. Yes, I said, but not now.

Instead I took to writing in the cafes for hours, Carl home alone, waiting for me to return. When he was at work, I found the online chat rooms. I clicked on Pain. One quick typer spelled out my fantasies. I bookmarked his name. Carl went away, back home. Just for One Week. I gave the quick-typer my phone number. He spoke to me in whispers. He was a producer. He was married. He was twice my age. We talked every night, every morning. I felt flush and renewed. I walked through the French Quarter wearing loose summer dresses and no underwear, let the hot air slide between my thighs and up my belly.

The producer was captivated. Could he fly down and see me? No. Would I come to him? To New York? To Cannes, just for One Week? I delayed. I stammered. What if the fantasy died in person? Technically, I hadn’t yet consummated. Failed. Cheated. Done It. Technicality.

Carl came back. Two plane tickets arrived in the mail. One to New York, one to France. Carl saw. What are those?

I threw them on the table. We need to separate, I said. He looked at the tickets then at me. Yes, he said. Marry me firstthen go.

I pulled at the hem of my dress. Yes, but not now.

We made plans to part. He would go North; I would go West. I wouldn’t go to New York. I wouldn’t go to Cannes. I would be a Good Person and miss my boyfriend like I was supposed to. He would sleep with women and catch up with me. That was The Deal. I was horribly, voraciously attracted to him. We had One Week before we moved out, moved on. We got drunk on Bourbon. The transvestites gave us drugs, and we devoured them. We had sex for an entire day. I put Miles Davis on repeat. The CD cycled around and around until the wail of the trumpet became as familiar as Carl’s breaths, my moans. Then we left.

I ran into the mountains, volunteering as an interpretive educator. I missed my boyfriend like a Good Person. I imagined him sleeping with other women. I walked out of my cabin at night into a field of buffalo, imagining Carl kissing other women. Wolves howled at night, and I imagined the moans of other women. A young ranger who worked in the park led me up a mountain to see the peregrine nests. I smoked his weed and made him laugh. I said I was crazy in love with the man I sent away. He said I was crazy. We had sex under the stars, in the prairie grass. The young ranger liked the taste of women. He stuck his whole hand inside me, licked the moisture off his fingertips. I imagined Carl tasting new tastes. I didn’t love the young ranger. He didn’t love me. We got along great. We had sex everywhere. I didn’t feel like a Good Person, but I didn’t feel like a Bad Person either. I didn’t feel. I sensed. I sensed the dirt under my back and the cool air on my thighs. I sensed Pain and I sensed Waiting. Then I sensed Life, and the young ranger drove me three hours to the closest gynecologist. Surprise and Disbelief.

I had Life. The doctor placed conception in New Orleans. In that One Week. The young ranger waited for me in the Laundromat, the only place he could sit and wait and not have to pay for something or be looked at by women waiting to have their privates examined. He told me to call Carl. He said He’d Want To Know. He drove me back to the mountains, singing me love songs. I called Carl from a payphone at the Lodge. Carl said, Marry me.

Yes, I said, but not now.

Instead we met in Salt Lake City, Utah. I picked him up at the airport, and we drove to a Holiday Inn. He stripped me down and laid me on the bed. He looked at my flat belly. There had been no other women. I had known it before he told me. Ever-Faithful. He touched the pink slit between my legs. Other men, he said and stepped away from me. I cried. I had done It again. But Carl did not cry.

We moved back home. Close to parents. I paced around the house and waited for my belly to get big.

Marry Me! Carl demanded.

Yes, I said, but not now.

He left at odd hours. He didn’t tell me where he was going. I went shopping and ran into Mark. He quivered when he saw me. He begged me to come to his apartment, to see the art he made. Fine, I said. But I have Life.

He shook it off. I had to come see.

He’d welded bicycle parts into a jagged womb, a melted lump of metal caged inside. It’s called Don’t Touch My Heart, he said. He read a poem he had written me years before. He tried to kiss me. I felt Nothing. I told him not to speak to me in public and took the bus home.

Carl was suddenly attentive. For One Week he followed me as if I were the sun and the bearer of all light. Tender. Miles Davis hummed in my ear. Walks in the woods and ice cream in bed. Then I found his cell phone. Unaware. I saw the other woman’s phone number. I knew. Surprise and Disbelief.

Carl was gone for the day, working on a house with his friend up north. One hundred miles separated us. I called the friend, and he gave the phone to Carl. I know, I said. He moaned and wrenched. It would be so easy, I said. Rocks in my pockets. The pretty green lake.

No, he said. Come, he said.

So I came. One hundred miles imagining the other woman. Every mile a new moan, a new glint of skin, a new position in bed.

I stepped out of the car. The friend moved quickly into the house. Carl ran to me. He pulled me to the grass, and we collapsed. I wrapped my arms around him, my legs. He held me tight and sobbed into my shoulder.

I did It, he said. I’m a Bad Person, he said.

Bright bright sunlight all around. Summer scents. Marry me, I said.

Yes, he said, now.

SGDL1_600 >> Get the entire collection on Amazon.

Smart like Lydia Davis, bold like Chelsea Handler and relentlessly funny like Mindy Kaling, these short stories these three fast-paced stories about smart girls making dumb love will smack you off your feet and have you pleading for more.
        • Read a checklist of the top five things your lovers will hate about you.
        • Take a journey with the girl who just can't commit, even though her high-school sweetheart is practically perfect.
        • Live the life of a girl exposed, literally, to prying eyes.
Bonus story: 
Includes an excerpt from Kelsye Nelson's upcoming novel, The Secret Life of Sensei Shi. 


About The Breakup Girl Series:
Simply, A Breakup Girl is a woman that repeatedly, reliably breaks up with entities of all sorts, with boyfriends, with cities, with careers, with families. A Breakup Girl may even break up with herself, move on to claim a new identity. A Breakup Girl is a woman in the midst of change.

Buy now or view Kelsye's other books


I Bought Pot the First Day It Was Legal in Washington

legal-weedOn Tuesday, the first retail marijuana store opened in Seattle.  As this coincided nicely with our weekly date night, I made the executive decision that my husband and I should head on down to Cannabis City to buy some historic bud.

I should mention that neither of us actually smoke weed. That wasn't really the point. Our country's relentless war on drugs has won us mass incarceration and stunning displays of racism in America. Three in four Americans say we have lost this war. Some venture to say its a total failure, causing more harm than good. Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana provides small, but important progress in our "troop removal" from the war on drugs. It's kind of a big deal. I don't want to miss it.

Plus, I have what I refer to as The Writers Defense. As an artiste, it's my job to experience life to the fullest. I would be slacking to let this historic day pass by without notice.

Enough rationalization. Here's exactly how it went down...

Imagine its a regular Tuesday night. My husband and I, two respectable, not-quite middle-aged professionals are going to score some weed from our friendly neighborhood cannabis store.

Hoping to avoid massive lines and intrusive media cameras, we rolled up pretty late, about 8:30pm. Despite the opening hoards long ago dispersal, a bevy of media trucks, personalities and mobile video techs milled about on the side walk outside. At this point, the line was pretty short, only about twenty people or so. It felt... awkward, as though a has-been rock star threw a surprise concert and more media than fans showed up as audience.

All of this leads me to a very important decision I had to make earlier in the evening: what does one wear when going to legally buy weed for the first time? A quick look at the meager line showed the consensus as slim jeans and ironic t-shirts, possibly accessorized with a ball cap. I, however, chose to wear a summer dress and high heels. I straightened my hair and made up my face. My husband came in his business casual work clothes. We looked out of place. For this, we were rewarded with the attention of the cameras. My poor, long-suffering husband. He still works for The Man. I, a consultant and author, have no boss or corporate policy to worry about. My husband turned his back to the camera, free to make all kinds of faces at me as I struggled to not wuss out and retreat to the Kia. We simply have to hope his accompanying me on my mission doesn't come around to bite him later.

It still felt wrong - standing there, in broad daylight, our intent to buy a drug that's been illegal for years very clear to all who saw us. It doesn't matter that it's legal now. It still feels bad. Which is also why buying the first day was so much fun.

After about a 25-minute wait in line, the door man checked our IDs and we were free to enter the shop. Five or so clerks stood behind glass counters with bemused smiles, ready to assist. We approached the display with faux-confidence.

"We're here for weed," I said in a loud, clear voice.

"What are looking for?" asked the friendly clerk.

"I have no idea."

Turns out, it didn't matter much. There were only three choices - three different strains vacuum packed in 2-gram packets, all priced the exact same at $40. I chose the one with the lowest THC content - 19%. The highest was 21 point something. I paid in cash because I am still not convinced all of this will be illegal again next week. My husband took a picture of me proudly holding my little baggy up for the camera, then the clerk put it in a nondescript paper bag, stapled it shut and told us not to open it in public. On the way out, I took a picture of the Q13 Fox news cameraman filming us. He immediately put down his camera and smiled sheepishly.

We were in and out within five minutes. There was barely enough time to smell the new paint on the walls or admire the polished wood planks the store owner had thoughtfully laid in at an angle which references 420 in some obscure way I still don't quite understand. Back in the car, we examined our purchase carefully, reading every word on the label.

"How are you going to take this?" My husband asked. "Do you have to get a pipe or bong or something?"

"No, no," I said. " Keep it simple. I'll get rolling papers and just make joints."

"You know how to do that?" he asked.

I puffed out my chest with pride. "Of course! My parents were hippies. I've known how to roll a joint since I was about eight, even if I didn't know what it was."

I registered both awe and horror in the look my husband gave me.

Curiosity getting the better of us, we opened the little vacuum pack to take a whiff. Oh yeah. There it is. We laughed, sealed it back up and stashed it in my dashboard compartment, then walked arm and arm to dinner and bingo. (No, not joking about the bingo.)

Imagine our horror when we slid back into the car an hour or so later. Sniff. Sniff. "Oh my god! The car smells like pot! What will the kids think?!"

Here we came to a major dilemma. Now that we have it, what the heck do we do with it? I didn't want to smoke it that night. Date night is just a couple hours away from the kids. I don't want to smoke anything altering when I must take care of kids. That means I have to keep this for some later time. We have to stash it!

(Notice how I switched to the plural "we" as I instantly assumed my problem now also belonged to my husband, my ever reluctant co-conspirator.)

We drove home with the windows rolled down, experiencing the side effect of paranoia without taking a single puff. We discussed all the possible hiding places, the parent-child role reversal acutely obvious to us both. Really, no place will be safe for long in our household of curious, and (suddenly inconveniently) self-possessed kids. I'm going to have to smoke it or trash it soon. Throwing it away would be such a cop-out. As such, I've been reading the guides and hoping to avoid an experience like Maureen Dowd's.

What happens now that weed is legal? I am very curious as to how this will all play out in the next few years. Will marijuana remain an illicit substance kept to basements and backseats? Or will pot appear in our parlors, where we may offer our guests white, red or weed?

My favorite uncle happens to be a retired cop. While enjoying grilled meats and fireworks on the 4th, I asked him what he thinks will happen. He said that while he views pot as less harmful than alcohol, he's certain we'll see a sharp rise in impaired drivers on the road. He attributes this to our general lack of experience with the drug. We may know our limits with beer or cocktails, but what about weed? He said that today's strains are much stronger than those of 20 years ago and folks that haven't used it since their college days are in for a shock.

As for me, I have one main problem with pot that will keep me from being a regular user. Marijuana sucks you dry of motivation. I'm an ambitious person. I have books to write, kids to raise, and all kinds of dreams I chase with relentless abandon. Weed just doesn't work with my desired lifestyle.

That said, I bought pot the first day it was legal in Washington. I'll be proud to tell my kids all about it... in about fifteen years or so.

Keep Dreaming: The Bittersweet Experience of Quitting Your Own Company

As many of you already know, last week I announced my departure from I stepped down from the role of CEO of the company I started in order to write more books. This is both a terrible and wonderful thing. Note: This rest of this post was originally published on the community site.

Kelsye bids adieu

It is with both heavy heart and great excitement that I announce my departure from I am stepping down as CEO to focus on my career as an author. My capable co-founder Abigail Carter will be taking up the reigns and charging forth on the mission of helping writers become authors.

I'm not going very far! You can easily contact me through my author website or on twitter. Writing has always been my number one love. A great believer in the wondrous new age of publishing, I have experimented with a variety of paths to publishing. I self-published my Breakup Girl Series and crowd-funded Book Lush: What to Drink with What to Read. Now I am finishing my first novel and just signed with agent Gordon Warnock of Foreword Literary.

I am, and forever will be, a champion and believer in and all the writers in our community. These past two years have been incredible! Here are some of my favorite highlights:

The day we launched. The moment the site went live, a full year's worth of planning, dreaming and development came to fruition. As anyone that's every worked on a startup form the very beginning will tell you, seeing your dream materialized in the real world is an awesome moment.

Pubcamp! Pubcamp! In both San Francisco and Seattle, our one-day writing and publishing conferences inspired, informed and empowered writers. Local writing community members gathered together to support and celebrate the great endeavor of the writing life. Personally, I found these events incredibly fun and always learned something new.

Working with my hero Guy Kawasaki. I met Guy just after APE came out while he was keynoting at the San Francisco Writers Conference. He generously gifted me his time to and moved by the mission and purpose. Not only did guy come on as an advisor and give all of our users a free copy of his book, but he also brought along Peg Fitzpatrick and Shawn Welch, a formidable trip of publishing and social knowledge if ever there was one!

Your success stories. Many of you out there that used during your publishing journey sent me a personal note and thanks when your books debuted in the big wide world. I teared up with each and every one of these I received. Transitioning from writer to author is the stuff of dreams. Big, crazy, beautiful dreams. I am honored that I was able to be a part of yours.

If there is one thing I learned through, it is that we are better when we work together. One author's success does nothing to diminish another's. We, the writers of the world, collectively rise when we encourage, support and celebrate each other. This applies to our journey of finding our voice and improving our craft, as well as producing and selling our books.

I'm terribly excited to see what comes next in the wildly changing industry of publishing. I am proud to have been a part of it with and know the company, and community, is in great hands with Abigail.

All my love, Kelsye

In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about a monster.


In SIX WORDS or fewer, write a story about a monster.

(Leave your story in the comments below.)

What the heck is this? Based on the response to my six word challenges on twitter, I decided to move the prompts to my blog so that you may all enjoy the responses. Hemingway was the first to write a six word story, though the truth of that is up for debate.


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