Relent - a short story by Diane Corriette

Uploaded on - Isabella Milne is a woman in pain. She has left behind her business and her friends and gone off in search of love and affection from strange men she never remembers … - Isabella Milne is a woman in pain. She has left behind her business and her friends and gone off in search of love and affection from strange men she never remembers in the morning. One morning, after waking up in bed with yet another naked stranger Isabella goes home in disgust and falls asleep. The dream that follows convinces her to abandon her self-sabotaging ways. During a visit to a workshop Isabella discovers tools that help put her on the path towards changing her life. One day her past comes back to haunt her and Isabella must decide whether she continues towards her compelling future or goes back to a past she had planned to leave behind.

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  • 1. A woman on a mission to change her life and the past that wants her back Written by Diane Corriette Diane Corriette Pen and I 1
  • 2. re.lent Isabella Milne is a woman in pain. She has left behind her business and her friends and gone off in search of love and affection from strange men she never remembers in the morning. One morning, after waking up in bed with yet another naked stranger Isabella goes home in disgust and falls asleep. The dream that follows convinces her to abandon her self-sabotaging ways. During a visit to a workshop Isabella discovers tools that help put her on the path towards changing her life. One day her past comes back to haunt her and Isabella must decide whether she continues towards her compelling future or goes back to a past she had planned to leave behind. Diane Corriette Pen and I 2
  • 3. The Catalyst Isabella opened her eyes and looked at her surrounds. Through her drunken haze her mind wasn’t registering anything as familiar. She closed her eyes and gave the room a minute or two to stop spinning before opening them again. As her eyeballs moved from left to right without recognition she had to face the fact that she had done it again. The soft breathing next to her let her know she was not alone and Isabella turned her body over slowly so as not to wake the man sleeping next to her. As she turned over her eyes settled on a body with a mop of shoulder length blond hair. Strange, she thought to herself, as she never really went for men with long hair. The body moved and as it did the cover slipped down and revealed two large firm breasts. Isabella jumped back in shock falling out of bed as she did so “Fuck!” she screamed as she hit the floor. Now there wasn’t just pain rushing through her head but through her body too. The body in the bed hardly moved. She rolled over and continued to sleep. Isabella got dressed and left. The noise of the traffic was the first thing to hit her ears as she opened the front door and the smell of freshly baked bread the next. Both made her feel nauseas. As she made her way up the road with no idea where she was or where she was going her only relief was the feeling of the sun on her battered body. Isabella stopped the next man she saw (she found men far more likely to help her than women) and asked for the time and directions to the nearest subway station. As it was nearly 3.30pm she guessed that her night had turned into an early morning session before falling off into sleep and waking up in the middle of the day. It wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last she thought to herself. The nearest station turned out to be Harrow & Wealdstone and her journey back to Fulham was a long and arduous one made worse by the heat of the train and the pounding of her head. Isabella approached her front door and noticed a large A4 sheet stuck over the keyhole. “We have gone without you!” was all it said and she frantically began to wonder if that was for her. She remembered needing to get home for something but couldn’t remember what. Her memory loss was beginning to scare her. A feeling of safety filled her as she entered the house she shares with two of her friends from her university days and recognised her surroundings. The house was quiet and after making coffee Isabella made her way into her bedroom where she fell onto her bed and into a deep sleep. Diane Corriette Pen and I 3
  • 4. The Awakening It felt like she had only been asleep for a few minutes when Isabella opened her eyes to find herself outside in a park. She recognised it as Battersea Park, she had grown up close by, and she sat confused about how she got there. Isabella began to frantically search her memory to see if she could piece together what was going on. She remembered getting home and going into her bedroom but nothing after that. She began to feel a shortness of breathe grip her chest and her hands went out to steady herself meeting the hardness of a tree trunk as she feel forward. She lent against it and did her best to calm herself. As she looked up Isabella had the fright of her life as she saw her older brother Harry walking towards her with that big grin on his face that always made her laugh. She felt as if she was about to faint and her legs began to give way. Harry ran up and caught her “steady now sis” he said “breathe!” Isabella looked into the eyes of her brother and tears fell down her face. She hugged him hard and looked at him again. “I don’t understand Harry” she said. Harry said nothing but just continued to smile at her and encouraged her to sit down. Suddenly a realisation hit Isabella and panic began to rise in her once again. “Am I dead?” she screamed. She began to fight for breathe at the thought of being dead. “Slow down little sister and give me a second to explain” Harry said. He waited for her to calm down before continuing “You are not dead, just sleeping” he said “I had to pull a lot of strings to come back here and talk to you and I don’t have long” he held her body close to his which helped her to calm down “I need you to listen closely to me because I have this one opportunity to come here and be with you. You are 43 years old and you are a mess Isabella. It pains me to say this to you because you know how much I love you and I know how much you love me. Your life is on the fast track towards joining me if you do not stop living the way you are now. My death was not your fault. You couldn’t help me. No one could. When a person is not open to being helped no amount of begging and pleading can stop them. My fate does not have to be yours. You are following in my footsteps. Living the way I used to live. You may feel like you have too many responsibilities but they are ones you have chosen for yourself and if you want to you can change them. Get rid of some. Keep others. The power to change your life is in your hands little sister. Please listen to me and do all you can to make your life different. There are people around you who love you and will help you if you ask. Nothing that has gone so far is so far gone as to not be able to put it right. I love you little sister. I am always with you but I can do nothing to change your actions. Please find the inner strength you need to take the first step and change your life. PLEASE.” Diane Corriette Pen and I 4
  • 5. Changing for Lent Once Harry had stopped speaking Isabella opened her eyes to promise that she would do all she could to change but Harry was gone. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was about everything. He was the only man who ever listened to her and supported her and without him self felt lost. Isabella screamed out his name and began to cry. She had so many questions for her brother and she wanted to be able to speak to him a little more. Isabella woke up gasping for air, sweating and afraid. She was in total darkness but recognised the lamp next to the bed and knew she was in her own bedroom. She woke up, walked into her en suite bathroom and washed her face. Her eyes were still sore so rather than turn on the light she turned on the salt lamp that sat next to her bed. A soft glow of orange light filled her room and Isabella picked up the clock to look at the time. It was 9pm and she had spent the day sleeping. Feeling physically exhausted and still deep in emotional turmoil because of her dream she wanted to go back to sleep. Maybe she might be able to see Harry again she thought. Her stomach reminded her that it had only been fed a cup of coffee all day and refused to let her sleep so Isabella got up and went downstairs in search of food. The kitchen was tidy and nothing had been cooked. Usually there was always food available or something to eat that one of her housemates had made that day. Not known for her cooking skills Isabella looked at the easiest option. A bowl of muesli and two slices of hot toast smothered in butter and jam. As the last piece of toast slipped down her throat her thoughts turned to her dream. Harry was right. She was allowing his death to throw her into the arms of the very things that killed him – chain smoking, drugs and alcohol. Her salon was suffering without her presence and her staff worried about her behaviour. She had lived with her housemates for the last three years after their grown children had left home. They decided to move in together and spend their more mature years having fun. Isabella had been absent from a lot of that fun choosing instead to become a frequent visitor of seedy bars where she picked up men and went home with them. Three months ago she was given the fright of her life when a man she went home with wanted to strangle her in a perverse sex game. She managed to convince him she should tie him to the bed instead and once done she picked up her clothes and ran for her life. She had promised to change after that but hadn’t. Instead she had continued to visit bars and continued to go home with men snorting cocaine, smoking weed and drinking neat whiskey or vodka. She looked at the calendar. Today was lent and although she wasn’t religious at all it seemed like as good a day as any to change for the better. Diane Corriette Pen and I 5
  • 6. Apologies and forgiveness Isabella picked up a piece of large yellow card that was lying on the coffee table. Her housemate Lucia was an interior decorator and her daughter Alice an artist so there were always lovely fabrics and card around especially after Alice had paid a visit to the house to see her mother. With the card in hand Isabella found a black marker and wrote on the card “REGARDING LENT: I Isabella Milne have chosen to give up all forms of alcohol, cigarettes and illegal substances for 40 days and 40 nights” She found another four pieces of card. Wrote the same message on them and stuck them in different locations around the house. The next morning she awoke to the sound of Lucia and her other housemate Millie laughing in the kitchen. The smell of cooked bacon encouraged her to get out of bed and join them. As she walked into the kitchen both women became silent and looked at her “I want to say I am sorry.” Isabella began “Sorry for the pain I have been causing. Sorry for being a no show at so many of our outings together. Sorry for pushing the two people who mean the most to me in the world and who I regard as my only family away from me. My life has become a mess of my own making. My dream of expanding my salon has been put on hold for the last four years as I mourned losing Harry. I have made the commitment to give up smoking, drinking and any other destructive behaviour for the next 40 days and hopefully forever. I know I probably don’t deserve it but I am asking for your love and support because I don’t think I can do this without you.” As the tears flowed down Isabella’s face and fell onto her carefully prepared speech that she had written the night before her two friends stood up and put their arms around her “Whatever you need my darling” Millie said. The three women stood there and hugged each other. Monday morning Isabella walked into her salon and greeted Manager Sofia who had been holding down her business almost on her own for several months. “Isabella it is so great to see you” Sofia said as she ran up to hug her. They had been friends for many years after meeting at an anti-apartheid concert in London in 1983 that her college union had arranged. “I need to talk to you Sofia can you come into my office for a second.” The two women faced each other and Isabella made a heartfelt apology to Sofia and a plea for support. To the other women in the salon who were outside the office looking in all they could see were two women crying and hugging. They hoped this was the beginning of stability and that Isabella was now back but no one could be sure. With less than 10 minutes before the salon was due to open Isabella spoke to her staff and apologised for her behaviour and absence. Diane Corriette Pen and I 6
  • 7. Pushing through difficulties Isabella was feeling quietly confident about managing 40 whole days on day one but by day three her mood had become dark and her thoughts were haunting her. Last night she dreamt about a faceless person with just am mouth who shouted obscenities at her. Every name she had ever called herself came out of the faceless being. She woke up feeling unhappy and her thoughts turned to having a cigarette to take the edge off. She knew those thoughts would haunt her until she had one so she opted instead to go to the gym. On her way out she bumped into Lucia who dropped what she was doing to join her. After a 45 minute workout and 30 minutes in the sauna Isabella’s craving was still there but much lighter. She decided to pick up some nicotine gum on the way to the salon. As she entered the salon Sofia sat talking to the receptionist about an event she had planned to attend. “There’s this life coach who runs sessions about meditation and visualization. Each session is different. Tonight is all about counter-intentions and limiting beliefs; the type of things that might stop us from moving forward to pursue our dream.” Isabella walked into her office and waited for Sofia to enter. She spoke to her friend about the event and Sofia handed her a book. “It’s called Feel and Rebuild SelfConfidence” she said “I know you haven’t felt very confident about pushing forward with the expansion plans we spoke about years ago. Maybe this might be just the thing to help you reconnect to it. Why don’t you come with me?” she asked. As Isabella sat and listened to the life coach talk about the way we sabotage our life and the counter-intentions we use to stop us from going for what we want she recognised her own self-sabotaging behaviour in the description. She was doing her best to focus on what was being said but her desire for a cigarette was screaming at her to smoke. She had smokers gum but that wasn’t enough. The desire to hold and inhale a cigarette was the only thing she could focus on. The life coach was introducing them to a technique called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help with working through the emotional effects of our sabotaging habits. She had asked for a volunteer and Isabella’s hand and arm shot in the air. Not because she had put it up but because Sofia had grabbed hold of her elbow and pushed it up. Still, she couldn’t help but think it might be an idea to see if she could get help with her nicotine addiction. As the two women walked home Isabella was suspicious. Although the craving had completely disappeared she couldn’t help but think it was probably going to be temporary. Still, she had committed to writing out different ways she would help herself work through difficulties and tomorrow she had promised to hand that list to Sofia. As she fell asleep that night she couldn’t help but feel that this was the beginning of something new for her. Diane Corriette Pen and I 7
  • 8. Isabella’s First breakthrough After writing out 10 different ways she would help herself get through her desire to smoke, drink and party Isabella picked up the book that Sofia had given her and began to read it. She became so engrossed in what she was reading it was 3am before she stopped and went to bed. In the morning she would pick up a journal and begin answering the questions outlined in the book. 10 days later and only two small slip ups (a couple of drinks at a birthday party) but still no desire to smoke Isabella had finished the book. She wanted to continue learning and had paid to join an online self-confidence course. She used the exercises and information to help her develop an awareness of why she is choosing to punish herself. Being unable to help Harry she had blamed herself for his death and believed as he was dead and could no longer experience happiness then she had no right to either. As siblings Isabella was usually the crazy irresponsible one with the easy life and Harry had rescued her from so many ‘unfortunate events’ that without him she felt she wasn’t worth rescuing anymore. The many responsibilities Harry had to deal with (including taking on her problems) had pushed him to find comfort in drink and drugs. Something Isabella had begun to imitate. She had managed to use EFT to remove and quiet the emotional turmoil connected with all of these events and used affirmations to express her desire and choice to feel nothing but love and forgiveness for herself. Whenever she found herself in a panic about the future, or thinking about her mistakes of the past she used the deep breathing techniques she had learnt to bring herself back to the present moment. Isabella felt stronger about her ability to handle her own life than she had in years. She could feel herself become better at handling her mood swings – although they still plagued her from time to time – and even with her small setbacks she was feeling ready to take on looking at her current responsibilities with a view to letting go of some of them. Being a kind hearted soul who was always campaigning for others Isabella had taken on being chairperson of various charities and spokes woman of others. It took another six days to work through this part of her life but at the end of it, and after resigning her post and ending things that no longer suited her Isabella felt life was easier to bare. Some things were going to take longer to end and sort out but the end was in sight. She had just one more thing to do. She went into the cupboard under the stairs and pulled out a pink box. Inside were the plans she had made with Sofia to expand the business. She took the box upstairs, opened it up and began to read. Diane Corriette Pen and I 8
  • 9. A tempting past 36 days into her 40 day promise with another couple of small slips under her belt (a snort of cocaine at a jazz club with a handsome stranger who she ended up going home with!) and Isabella was about to face her toughest challenge. Their business loan to expand the business had been agreed with the bank and Sofia’s father had wanted to support his only daughter by providing a financial contribution himself. He wasn’t a wealthy man at all and his contribution would only pay for some press advertising for a few weeks before running out but they were thankful for the gift. Sofia had signed the papers to become equal partner in the business and the future looked great. That weekend Isabella had promised to go see her friend take part in a play being run at a local theatre. After collecting her ticket and being an hour early she went into the theatre’s restaurant. A waitress came up to take her order and smiled at her. She seemed vaguely familiar but Isabella couldn’t place her. She brushed it off. After all she had visited this restaurant many times in the past when she was here to watch her friend in one or another different play. Her plays were always local and never really went any further. Isabella decided to tell her about the Feel and Rebuild Confidence book and course – maybe she has a few counter-intentions of her own she thought. Her thoughts were interrupted by the waitress. “Hi, can I take your order?” Isabella looked up “Yes, I will have the mackerel with Italian side salad please” as she closed her menu the women asked “and would you like a neat vodka with that Isabella?” Isabella looked up and desperately tried to recognize the waitress “It seems you have me at a slight disadvantage” she said “You obviously know me but I can’t seem to place your face.” The woman giggled “You spent the night in my bed a few weeks ago and ran off like a thief in the night without even saying goodbye or leaving a note. You must remember the night you had with me and Martin my husband? We certainly do and at the time we all enjoyed ourselves although you were more than a little drunk.” as the waitress stopped speaking Isabella noticed her husband Martin walking towards them. The memory came flooding back. He managed this theatre. He had told her he was single and wanted her that night. When she got to the flat they shared above a shop on the high street she had met his wife and agreed to have a threesome.” After the play Martin and his wife waited for Isabella. “Fancy a night cap?” he asked. Despite her heart telling her not to go her head had spent the entire length of the play reminding her of the fun the three of them had enjoyed together. The whole event had come back to her and Isabella got in her car and followed them as they drove back to their flat. Diane Corriette Pen and I 9
  • 10. A compelling future While in the car Sofia called. She wanted to go over some figures with Isabella and wondered if she could call round on her way home. Isabella made her excuses and said she would catch up with her tomorrow. As she hung up she had a strong feeling of déjà vu. She had lied to Sofia many times in the past and here she was doing it again. The excitement of the night was proving too much of a pull for Isabella and as much as she wanted to turn around and drive home there was a part of her that wanted to keep following Martin and his wife. Her thoughts turned to the salon and her plans for the future. Both women had spent time planning out where their first salon would be and what it would look like. Most mornings and at times while they were both in the salon they sat and visualized their wonderful new salon. They felt the excitement about achieving their goal and the pride at being able to help women look amazing and they used those feelings to motivate them in to take action. At first when Isabella found out about the power of visualization she wanted to see 15 salons in place, all of them profitable and full to the brim with women wanting their hair done and attending their talks on how to look after their hair. However, she found the dreams bought up issues of responsibility and made her want to run away into the arms of a man. Since losing her brother and never knowing her father the men she met a bars and clubs were all she had in terms of male affection and attention. Her panic at visualizing such a big goal was the reason for her slip up at the jazz club with a very handsome stranger. The next morning she decided to forgive herself and to write out a few other ways to deal with her need for male attention. Isabella used EFT to tap on her fear of responsibility and being able to handle everything and then ‘chunk down’ her visualization so that not only did it include having the 15 salons but she focused only on the opening of the next one. She found it easier to think about focusing on one only rather than them all. As she thought about her future and her promise to find another way to deal with her need for sex and affection she realized she was on her way towards breaking her promise unless she could find a way to stop herself. Although sex with strangers wasn’t on her original list of things to give up she had added it into her journal after she became aware of her actions. “Come on Isabella” she said to herself out loud. “You are worth more than this aren’t you?” She felt as if she was going crazy. She was driving the car and had every right to stop and go home but she was compelled to go and be with these two people yet she knew in her heart that this wasn’t the way she wanted her life to be going. Diane Corriette Pen and I 10
  • 11. A decision that needs to be made Martin had to stop off to ‘see a friend’ and Isabella remembered him stopping off at this place before. He had stopped to buy cocaine and she decided that was a good idea because if she was going to be part of a threesome there was no way she could be sober. He returned to his car 20 minutes later and the journey continued towards their house. Isabella recognised the area and knew she was only a few minutes away from where they lived. She thought it was strange how everything had come back to her after seeing Martin and hearing his voice. Her phone rang again and this time it was Millie. “I have left you some dinner” she said. The mother hen of the group Millie liked to make sure everyone was always fed and happy. “Lucia’s out with Winston so I’m home alone. Are you going to be out much longer hun?” At that moment Isabella knew that she could either lie or tell her friend the truth. Whatever happened next would determine how she would feel about herself in the morning and whether she woke up excited about her plans to expand the salon or with a sore head and a dry mouth after taking in her usual poisons. This threesome could be seen as just a bit of fun but Isabella knew it went much deeper than that. Her search for love and affection was leading her to do things she wasn’t proud of doing. After taking part in some of the activities available in the self-confidence course she had realized that rather than find one man to love her and run the risk of him dying too she was finding love in all the wrong places and with all the wrong people. Still she tried to convince herself that it was different now and that this could be seen as just a bit of harmless fun. It certainly felt different. She was excited about the sexual pleasure but not so attached to the need to get attention from this man or his wife and she was convinced that was down to the visualization and EFT but maybe there was still something deeper compelling her to follow these two anyway. “Isabella” Millie said “Are you still there?” “Sorry hun, yes I’m here. How long before I get home. Is that what you wanted to know?” “Yes” Millie said Isabella waited a couple of seconds and opened her mouth to reply. Diane Corriette Pen and I 11
  • 12. Pen and I Thank you, for downloading this free short story from my blog at I hope you enjoyed reading it and will share the link on Facebook so family and friends can download their own copy. Click the link below to be taken to the page You can register to receive my latest flash fiction story (stories under 1,000 words long), short story or poem delivered straight into your inbox - CLICK here Diane Corriette Pen and I 12