I can’t tell you what it was that made me leave that night. Nothing abnormal happened. I was making dinner––honey mustard chicken, his favorite––when he strolled into the kitchen. He opened the fridge door and looked inside. A few seconds later, it slammed shut so hard, the fridge shook. He was in my face before I could take another breath. The yelling began. He wasn’t pleased with the way I’d wrapped the leftovers from lunch. His face was red, his eyes were fireballs, his mouth was twisted. I’d seen it so many times before. And, after too many years together, I knew what was coming.
Yet, for a reason I still don’t understand, a deep calm penetrated my soul. I remember I stared at him and whispered, “I’m leaving you.”
He didn’t take the news well.
After a scene upstairs, he said he was taking something from the car’s engine so I couldn’t go, and stormed downstairs. Banging and crashing sounds echoed through the floorboards. I knew the lower level would soon match the destruction he’d left around me.
My heart pounded. How could I get away if I had no car? At night? The neighbors wouldn’t help, as usual. I began to panic. If I was still there when he came back upstairs, I knew the situation would get worse.
Again, I can’t really explain what happened next.
I felt the same deep calm I’d experienced in the kitchen . . . then something inside me yelled, “Run!”
I grabbed a bag, stuffed the bare essentials inside and crept toward the front door.
Outside, the night sky seemed blacker than usual. I couldn’t see well even with the street lamps lighting the way. The noises made by the wind made me think I was being chased.
That was the night I learned to run.
And I didn’t stop there. I ran, figuratively speaking, from every other man that came into my life, especially if commitment or intimacy seemed probable. Most didn’t make it past the first date. None made it to the third. I became reconciled to the idea that I’d be single forever.
Three years passed that way. Then, one of my sisters arranged a blind date for me. I agreed, thinking I would give dating one last try and be done with it. His name was John. It took about half an hour before I noticed something different about him. I liked him. Really liked him. He asked me out again. And again. He made it past the third date. It was official. We were ‘dating’. Friends started making jokes about love and marriage.
That’s when it all went wrong.
After another fantastic date, the reality of commitment closed in on me. My lungs squeezed the air from my chest, my heart raced and my mind spat ‘what-if’s’ at me so fast I couldn’t think. I had a full blown panic attack.
Of course, I reacted the only way I knew how: I ran . . . straight to one of my sister’s.
After making me a chamomile tea and letting me freak out, she asked, “And how is he different from (ex’s name)?”
That question made me stop. The more I talked with her, the clearer I saw things. My sister asked me to give John one more chance before I made a decision about calling things off. I’m so glad I listened to her.
Less than three months later, we were at a lighthouse overlooking the sea. The weather was perfect: no clouds, soft breeze and bright sun. He popped onto one knee and proposed, with strangers smiling and looking on. I said, “Yes,” without hesitation.
That was the day I stopped running.
And I haven’t since. Turns out, it was easier than I’d expected.
I was nine when I wrote my first love story. It was about a boy in my class at school who I was head over heels for at the time. He was tall (for a fellow nine year old), tan and blond. I won’t mention his name because he is now a well-known Australian Triathlete, Olympian and Iron man! I know, I couldn't have written a more perfect romance hero, right? What I will say is it ended with him confessing his undying love for me and vice versa.
Of course this didn’t happen in real life, but it didn’t matter, I’d developed the writing bug. My teachers would complain in my report cards that I was an excellent student who had a tendency to “daydream” and “stare out the window”. Little did they know I was developing plot twists.
Over the years, I continued to scribble stories and ideas in notepads, but didn’t consider attempting a full length novel until I turned seventeen. As it does, life got in the way and I pushed plans of novel writing aside.
Until a series of dreams in 2011 changed that.
For three nights in a row, parts of a story played out in my dreams. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The characters, the town, the story was so real to me, and because of the subject matter––domestic violence, which I have experienced––I felt a particular affinity to it.
I told my supportive husband that I thought the dreams were a book and needed to be written down.
He said, “So write it down.”
My childhood scribbling returned. So did the daydreamer and window gazer. By the end of 2012 I had a full length manuscript of about 84000 words. Ah. But what to do with it? I sent it off to publishers and agents and entered competitions. Any feedback I received I used to improve my manuscript. I attended workshops and conferences, booked myself in for master classes and read books on the craft of writing.
In 2014, I applied for, and received, an interview with the Commissioning Editor at Pan Macmillan. I was ecstatic. As a result of that interview, I was offered a contract for the release of my book through their digital imprint, Momentum. I thought I would hit the clouds I was so high. Never in my childhood imaginings did I think this would happen. But it has. On 26th February 2015, my debut novel, See Her Run, the result of those dreams in 2011, will be released through all digital formats.
There are some people who don’t believe in dreams. After reading this, I hope they do.
Everybody knows that Valentine’s Day evolved from the martyrdom of St. Valentine right? Right? Well, not exactly. The real origins of this celebration have a deeper, more ancient, and Pagan link, which has nothing to do with love and romance.
In ancient Greece, the period around the middle of February celebrated the Hieros Gamos (sacred marriage) of the Deities, Hera and Zeus. Not to be outdone, the Romans had Lupercalia, a fertility festival in honor of the Goddess-wolf Lupa, and Lupercus, the God of wolves and shepherds, which was observed around the 13th to 15th of February each year. Other parts of Italy celebrated ‘Juno Februa’, a month long festival dedicated to Juno, the Goddess of marriage.
When the Holy Roman Empire adopted Catholicism as its official religion in 313AD, many of the pseudo converted Pagans continued to celebrate Lupercalia, the Hieros Gamos and Juno Februa in secret. To combat this, in 496 AD, Pope Gelasius established Saint Valentine’s Day as a kind of compromise.
Still, the strong romantic, rather than fertility and marriage, based connections to the day were more or less unknown. So, why do we associate love and romance with this day in modern times?
We can thank poet Geoffrey Chaucer for that. His 1382 ‘Parlement of Foules’ (the Parliament of Fowls) is the earliest existing evidence that links Valentine’s Day with romance, courtship and the Deities of love:
“For this was on Saint Valentine’s day,
When every fowl comes there his mate to take . . .
I will not serve fair Venus nor Cupid,
In truth, as yet, in no manner of way . . .”
As to why Chaucer made this connection, nobody knows for certain, though there has been plenty of speculation.
The next, and arguably most famous, reference to a romantic Valentine’s Day after this is over two hundred years later in William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, where it states:
“Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day . . . and I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine”.
By the 1800’s the exchange of love notes and cards on Valentine’s Day was the norm. From here, the day continued to gain popularity, along with the link to romance, until it became the celebration of fuzzy teddy bears, helium-filled balloons and chocolate roses that we observe today.
However you decide to mark Valentine’s Day, whether the old way, the new way, or not at all, I wish you a happy one.
About A.K. Leigh
A.K. Leigh is an international-selling romance author, identical triplet, writing instructor, incurable romantic, love guru, self-love advocate, amateur mystic, mother, sometimes blogger and vlogger, and trauma survivor.