Mirror to the Soul

This story was inspired by a beautiful young woman who battles her demons every day.

When I was a girl, my grandmother gifted me with an antique mirror. It belonged to a set, a pretty, gilded looking glass that should have been a prized possession. Instead, it became a curse, the object of my obsessive need to understand why the man I trusted above all others wanted to hurt me.

Each time I stared into my reflection, the girl looking back at me disappeared a little bit more. I saw the pain, the longing to be free, and the desperate need to run from the monster who stole her innocence.

He was the first, this man who was meant to protect and to cherish. I wish I could say he was the last. He wasn’t. Others recognised the broken pieces of the creature he left behind and felt compelled to play in the tortured ruins.

It took years to find the girl again, the one who loved with all her heart and found joy in the little things.

Years when the only way I could face each new day was to begin it by punishing myself. Countless professionals tried their best to put me back together. At least internally. The cracks on the outside I put there myself.

It wasn’t until I forced myself to look, really look, at my reflection that I began to heal. It became my new daily routine. I put down the blade, and forced myself to absorb the pain of what stared back at me in the glass. Cut after cut I endured as I stared at the evidence of my self-loathing and recounted each separate slice of the knife.

There are times I still see the damaged soul I became at the hands of a monster, but it’s rare. Today, standing in front of a full-length mirror in my hotel suite, there is only excitement in the deep green eyes staring back. The scars on my arms and legs are mostly hidden by the dress, and the gossamer material of the sleeves. My hair is no longer dull and lifeless, hanging like rats’ tails around my shoulders. It is layered in soft glossy waves that add to the romantic cut of my outfit.

“Yes, my sweet, gorgeous girl, you are the fairest of them all,” Drew says from the doorway.

Turning, I beam at my best friend. “Well, don’t you look dapper.” His dark suit fits his tall, lanky frame to perfection. The exuberant yellow bow tie is so very Drew. A ray of sunshine in my once dark world.

He takes the hand I offer and twirls me around, a series of dizzying turns that has me laughing in delight. “We both scrub up pretty well. The schizophrenic and the…what is your diagnosis these days?”

“Who knows. I’ve lost count.” Pulling out of his grasp, I reach to the dressing table for the two champagne flutes.

Drew tilts his head to the side, considering. “Hmm…how about the schizo and bridezilla?”

“I have been a little obsessive, haven’t I?” Handing him a glass, I clink mine against it before taking a sip. “I just wanted the day to be perfect.”

“All Jack needs is you, decked out like that, to make it so.” He winks and downs the contents of his flute. “And speaking of the gorgeous groom, you’ve kept him waiting long enough.”

My stomach flutters, a nervous excitement I’ve managed to hold onto all morning. “I’m ready.”

Drew takes my glass and gulps down the champagne. If I’m high-strung, his swirling energy is set to combust. He takes his responsibilities as Man of Honour seriously, but I had no doubt he would. The title fits him for more reasons that the duties he will perform today.

Without another word, he places my hand in the crook of his arm and guides me out of the suite. We walk down the stairs and along the corridor that leads to the terrace. Drew and I have taken many journeys together, walked hand in hand as we faced our demons, and we’re both a little worried about what the future holds.

Those worries fall from my mind as we enter the gardens and I spot Jack waiting beneath an arched trellis. Besides Drew, he is the only other person who truly sees me, and more, he sees the battles I’ve fought and won, alone or with my best friend by my side.

I can’t tear my eyes from his as I begin to walk down the aisle towards him. The dark blue reflects a heart as big as an ocean and a love that is never ending.

My breath catches when he smiles. It always has. There’s something about the way he looks at me that wipes out the ugly and fills me with beauty. This big, intimidating man with hair the colour of desert sands will always be my oasis.

When we reach him, his eyes dart briefly to Drew. He takes in the yellow accessory at Drew’s neck and grins. A moment later his gaze ensnares me once again, and I’m lost. I can barely keep it together when Drew kisses my cheek and steps back.

“You look exquisite,” Jack murmurs, though he’s barely looked at the dress. His grin gets bigger as he leans down to brush his lips against mine.

I want to reciprocate, tell him how handsome he looks in his dark suit, but he’s rendered me speechless. I could make this my new hobby, staring into his beautiful eyes, and it hits me hard that I can. For the rest of my life.

I’m still thinking about that when the vicar begins to speak, still captured in his intent gaze, and I’m okay with that. His eyes are the best kind of mirror, they reflect everything I’m feeling and give the lost girl I was the chance to finally be free.


Keep fighting

Mel

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Alphabet Spaghetti – A Word Game

The exercise is based on a version of the 7x7x7 writing game. This time, I’ve incorporated seven words beginning with C, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I tried to keep to the 700 word count, but went over by 86.

The story is a continuation from last week. It includes characters from my fantasy series, The Collective. If it turns into a longer piece of work (and it looks like it’s going that way), in terms of timeline, it comes after book 2. The story takes place during the early stages of a Demonic War and centres around a safe zone known as Grangefield. The characters today are; Cody (a human, who we discovered last week was injured during a mission and broke his leg in three places, Tamaya (a witch), Logan (a changeling wolf), Clayton (a hympe – which is a form of shapeshifter), and twins, Amber and April. The instalment ended with Cody reacting to a scream as he entered the med centre – he dropped his crutches and set off running (injury be damned!)

The incorporated words are; crusade, chapter, certain, costume, ceiling, capital and concert.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 2)

The instant Cody entered the medical room he stopped dead, right before he fell on his ass. He didn’t have the option of dropping to his knees, what with the giant pot on his leg, and it wasn’t the pain that levelled him. It was the shock of what he saw.

On the bed directly in front of him, right where one of the Dillon twins should be, was what looked to be a cross between a giant chrysalis and a set of mummified remains.

Please don’t let that costume of horror be what I think it is.

Behind him, Tamaya stopped just short of ploughing into him. “Holy shit! What is that?”

He looked to the other occupants of the room, all frozen in place around the bed like they were trapped in some form of suspended animation.

“I’m not certain, but I have a feeling it’s Amber Dillon,” Cody said, fighting a wave of nausea.

The Dillon twins had been rescued just outside the perimeter of Grangefield. After being held captive by a group of rogues, April had somehow escaped with her sister. Barely able to walk, she had dragged Amber on a makeshift slay eight miles through the capital to the closest safe zone. It wasn’t until they were both safe that April had succumbed to the exhaustion. The twins had been in a coma ever since. Until now.

Now, April’s mouth was hanging open in a silent scream, her blue eyes wide with a horror they all felt.

Cody watched as Tamaya walked over to Logan and waved a hand in front of his face, or as close as she could get being that he towered above her. Logan didn’t react, not with his body. His pale blue eyes were a different matter, they followed her hand, slower than normal, but the movement was there. He was fighting whatever compulsion was holding him, and it had to be powerful considering the strength of his mind. It was difficult to control a changeling wolf.

Whatever was going on, Logan had managed to execute a shift before it happened. By some miracle, he wasn’t naked either, which was what usually happened until someone threw clothes in his direction. The closest thread shack, as they were known on the base, was outside the med centre, so it explained the ill-fitting scrub pants. His shock of white hair contrasted against the dark skin of his naked chest. He’d definitely been caught unaware, because Logan rarely changed out of wolf form when he visited. His animal soothed the twins, even as they slept.

“What’s wrong with them?” he asked, glancing at Clayton. The hympe was their resident medic. He was obsessed with healing the twins, a personal crusade since he was the one who found them.

“This has Orion’s signature stamped all over it,” Tamaya said, turning in a slow circle. “But since he’s not here, and I don’t feel his energy in the room, I have no frigging clue.”

She would know, she had the whole chapter and verse going on when it came to the man with the plan. “That’s a shame. We could use a god’s help right now, either that or a Hail Mary.” He tried to get up, his mind racing right along with his heart. Which was when the pain from his flight down the hallway decided to make itself known. It was like a wave of nasty spreading throughout his body. He swore he could hear his pain receptors buzzing like a concert of angry bees in his head.

This time he found himself flat on his back staring at the ceiling as he held in the scream of agony working up his throat.

“What can I do?” Tamaya asked, dropping down beside him.

He took in a slow breath. “Grab my crutches and then help me up. We need to find out what the hell is going on.”

“It’s going to take more than crutches to hold you up.” She pulled the bandanna from her head, setting her curls free. “Here, you might want to bite on this.” It was the only warning she gave him before she shoved the material between his lips and he felt the touch of her magic grab hold of him.

It was one way to get him on his feet, though even with the powerful buffer to coax him upright, he still saw stars.

When the agony finally released him from its painful jaws, he was sitting in a chair, his injured leg stretched in front of him.

“Hang tight, you stubborn mule,” Tamaya said from the doorway, and then she was gone, leaving Cody with his misery and a roomful of crazy.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Alphabetti Spaghetti – Word Game

This time, the story (based on a version of the 7x7x7 exercise) incorporates seven words beginning with B. They each have seven letters, but I broke the rules a little this week. I went over my 700 word limit by 27. It’s also based on a character from the Collective series, and I will be continuing the story, so my apologies for how it ends. You can find out what happens next week.

The incorporated words are; bargain, brother, battery, banquet, breathe, barrier and bathtub.

Warrior’s Embrace

Cody looked down at the pot on his leg, then the bannister, and shrugged. What the hell?  Planting his butt on the wooden rail, he handed his crutches to the first person he saw, leaned back and began his ride.

“Holy shit!” he shouted, less than halfway down the stairs. He was beginning to pick up some serious speed.

“What the-?”

The rest of the comment faded away as he shot past the gaping resident, towards the floor below. Okay, so he hadn’t really thought things through but, damn it, he was bored. There was nothing fun to do when you were grounded in a safe zone, except annoy his buddies, and that shit got old fast.

Breathe. You’ve got this.

As he approached the lower level, which held the cafeteria and communal zone, he spotted Tamaya stuffing her face. Perhaps it was his blurry vision, but she appeared to be sitting down to a banquet.

She was on her feet at the sound of his whistle, which would have made him smile if he hadn’t been shitting a brick at the thought of face planting at her feet. Luckily, their resident witch intervened a lot. It helped they were friends.

Cody hit a cushion of air and came to an abrupt stop. It tweaked his leg a little, but he couldn’t complain since Tamaya’s magical barrier was like colliding with a cloud.

“Please tell me you tripped and fell onto the bannister,” she said, her green eyes narrowing. “I swear, if I didn’t think of you as a brother, I’d drop you on your ass. On second thoughts, maybe I will.”

He looked down and realised he was hovering above the floor, caught it a witch’s grip. “Oh, come on, short-stuff. I’m going out of my mind here.”

Tamaya lowered her hands and his body followed suit, not as slowly as he would have liked, but he landed on his good leg gently enough. “You can’t pull that crap, Cody. For gods sake, you broke your leg in three places.”

“Yeah, and you say that like I had a skiing accident.” He’d been thrown against a wall. Again.

When you were in the middle of a war, and your enemies were of the supernatural variety, that kind of thing happened a lot. Though it could have been worse, the demon could have petrified his insides.

“Are you telling me you never broke a bone skiing?”

He grinned at that, because she had a point. He was accident prone. Earlier, he’d almost drowned himself in a makeshift bathtub trying to keep his leg dry. “Well, there was this one time-”

“Ahem.”

Cody barely had time to turn before his crutches were being thrust at him. The young man he’d caught unawares at the top of the stairs walked away without a word.

“Let me make you a deal before you upset anybody else,” Tamaya said, drawing his attention. “If you stay out of trouble for the next few days, I’ll find a workable solution to get you healed up and ready to roll.”

By workable she meant by non-magical means. He was being stubborn, he knew that. The elves had offered to do him a solid and speed up his recovery. But he couldn’t bring himself to go down that route. Not yet.

“Maybe I’ll make a bargain with the great and mighty Oz,” he joked, because seriously, what was a supernatural war without a god or two? He liked to joke Orion Reece was the god behind the curtain.

His wrist communicator bleeped, reminding him to take his medication. The thing ran on body heat or some shit, like he was a giant battery. If that were the case, he needed a little extra juice. “Listen, I need to hit the med centre, so I’ll let you get back to feeding your face.”

“That’s okay. I was just about done.” She bumped her shoulder against his arm. “Come on. I’ll walk with you.”

Cody didn’t argue. Things were never dull with Tamaya around, and he could use the distraction.

They had just reached the medical unit when a piercing scream echoed through the halls. Every cell in Cody’s body resonated with dread, and he shot towards the sound like a rocket. He didn’t even feel the pain when he dropped his crutches and began to run.


Don’t forget to let me know how you get on if you decide to take part, or if you would like me to incorporate words in the next installment.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Taste of home

I hadn’t intended to post anything today, but after reading a beautiful poem written by the Lonely Author, inspiration struck and I couldn’t get the emerging story out of my head. It followed me around until I had to pull out my trusty pad and get it down on paper. It’s a short one for me, only 400 words (I know, shocker, right?).

Taste of home

Joseph stared into the horizon, his eyes burning, not from the sun, but the tears that continued to fill his soul. He was drowning without his Sunita. Every second, every minute, every hour, he ached with the need to see her.

Though his gaze never wavered, he was aware of his luxurious surroundings, the kingdom he had built for her. The soft padded seat beneath his body, the fine thread of the blanket that did nothing to warm him. She was his centre, his heart, his life. It meant nothing without her.

A soft breeze brought with it the scent of apple blossoms, mixed with the fruit he was unable to eat. As it lifted his hair in a soft caress, he imagined it was her fingers, her voice whispering past his ears. What he wouldn’t give for the sweet taste of her lips.

Then, as the sun began to descend, he saw her. The dying embers cast a glow across her pretty face, her body shimmering with his tears so that the blooms in their garden shrouded her in the soft colours of their love.

All at once, time slipped away and Joseph remembered everything; their first kiss, their last. The moment he had made her his and all that came after.

With a sign of relief, he dropped to his knees before her, grateful for all his life had given him, and ready to join his Sunita again. She was his forever kiss.

***

Rebecca rushed across the garden, calling out her grandfather’s name. In her heart she knew what she would find. She’d known the moment she’d seen him fall forward from the chair. He had been waiting for days, his body growing frailer with each passing hour as he’d stared beyond the garden he’d built for her grandmother.

By the time she reached him, her mother was by her side, and together they eased him back into the chair. A chair her grandmother had made and upholstered as she’d joked about a king needing his throne.

She’d grown up with stories of her grandparents’ adventures, and as she looked in her grandfather’s peaceful, smiling face, she knew his wait was over. He was with his Sunita again, about to embark on an entirely different journey.

Bowing her head when her mother confirmed what she already knew, she let the tears fall and allowed her mother’s gentle hands to comfort her.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Time machines, comfort food, and the Salem Witch Trials

Okay, let’s tackle the time machine first, which is actually a reference to a new programme I’ve been binge watching – Timeless. This isn’t specifically a review post, but it is a pretty cool show. Once I got over the ‘oh my god, that’s Luka from ER’ and concentrated on the action, I discovered a number of entertaining reasons to continue watching; it has a time machine (actually there are two), the characters battle it out within a time line that includes some pretty significant historical events, all while trying not to mess with the space-time continuum (granted this is American history…but still), and the issues dealt with in each show allow for further discussion. Unless you don’t like to analyse things to death like I do, and even so, there’s plenty for everyone – pretty costumes, explosions, rebellion, comedy, mishap and mayhem!

To be honest, I’ve needed the distraction because things are a little tense in the Barker household, mainly because it’s exam season. My youngest is preparing for her GCSEs, so she has notes, revision guides and flashcards coming out of her ears (not that she actually uses them, but that’s another rant for another day!) As a parent, I have to be sneaky about how I add to her learning when the educational plate is already overflowing. Some of it is imagination, some desperation, but strangely, the show opened up an opportunity for me to force feed her some revision. Fine, so revision might be stretching it, but it certainly led to an interesting discussion that allowed her to recall key facts. Part of Grace’s history exam covers Crime and Punishment, a broad topic that touched on the Salem Witch Trials. Since Timeless tackled this very subject, I was able to instigate a conversation under the guise of entertainment.

Though, when I say I have to be sneaky, Grace sees right through me. She usually rolls her eyes, and I get comments like ‘God, mum, you’re so weird’ or she pulls a face when looking at her sister and mutters something like ‘here comes the lecture.’ Still, I was pleased by the fact that a discussion about hangings led to other historical facts included in her crime and punishment module. Even if she reluctantly shared some of her knowledge, that knowledge should continue to percolate, given that we laughed about it in the end.

Grace wasn’t the only one studying this week. I had a job that included translating a poem into BSL. When the writer admitted to me how important the poem is to him, I began to sweat about the accuracy of my translation. Okay, freak out more than I usually do, because I’m a perfectionist and I like to get things right. But that’s the thing about poetry, everyone interprets meaning differently, and when translating from one language to another (especially a visual language), things can often get lost. Luckily, I got to go through the poem with him, and in the end I was happy I reflected what he wanted to express. The relief of which I celebrated with comfort food and good company!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Alphabetti Spaghetti – A pasta free word game!

 

After reflecting on my A to Z challenge (I know, I know, I was supposed to provide evidence of those reflections…say in a post for example!). Ahem…anyway…

It occurred to me that I need to work on my writing muscles, since my exercise regime is somewhat lax at the moment (okay, fine…I’m not great at the whole exercise thing). So, with that in mind, I decided to get a little creative. It’s a writing game I can take part in each week, and invite others to play along, working through the alphabet and utilising a version of the 7x7x7 exercise. I will take a letter, choose seven random words (or readers can suggest them), each with seven letters, and a maximum word count of seven hundred words.

Since I’m starting with A, I used a random word generator to get the ball rolling. The results were interesting, since one of the words is obsolete, and another is questionable. Still, I went with it! If you decide to play, let me know how you get on.

The words used are; abandon, abdomen, abalone, abashed, abaser, abactor, and arrghh.

 

Abandoning Reality

“Abandon your post, Jefferson. That’s an order.”

Craig met the CO’s steely blues head on, communicating without words that he wasn’t going anywhere.

Amidst the sound of heavy artillery, the smell of gunpower and smoke, a pocket of silence closed in around them. The stubborn and the heroic. Craig held strong. He ignored the pain in his abdomen, the tension in his legs, and pretended he wasn’t swaying like a leaf in the breeze.

“You leave me no choice, son. I have-“

A loud explosion cut through whatever threat he intended to serve. It was followed by a visual Craig could live without – if he got to live – that being his CO’s body exploding into a cloud of matter so fine, the only blowback was akin to dust. The molecules brushed across his face, making him want to scrub at his flesh, abandon his post, and scream at the injustice simultaneously. He didn’t do any of those things.

No, he remained in position, staring now into a new set of eyes. These not human.

His enemy did not speak. Perhaps it couldn’t. The creature’s face was partially covered by a shell-like protrusion that started beneath its eyes and extended to a hooked chin. It was flat, with a slight spiral in the centre and holes along the outer edge. Bizarrely, it reminded Craig of an abalone. If only that was his strangest thought of the night. It wasn’t by a long shot. He’d been in a state of shock since the base came under attack by beasts who were impervious to their weapons.

“CJ. Heads up!”

Craig knew that voice, and his body acted on instinct. He dropped into a crouch, fighting off a wave of nausea when his brain caught up. It didn’t stop him from watching the show, this one worth seeing, as his buddy swung his kukri in a wide arc and cut their enemy down.

The bastard’s head made a satisfying thump, thump at his feet. One down, only about a dozen to go. They hadn’t been able to get close enough, until now. But they were learning.

“We need to fall back,” Jax said, twirling his blade as though the thing were hungry for more blood.

“No can do, buddy. Those things will have to go through me if they want to get into the bunker.” He realised how ridiculous he sounded. Their enemy didn’t need explosives to blow people up, and they didn’t leave a mess either.  Christ, but he missed home, where the only problem his family faced were castle rustlers, the avaricious abactors, as his grandfather liked to say.

“The bunker was evacuated twenty minutes ago. You need to stand down, soldier and fall the fuck back.”

Craig’s gut cramped at the words. He’d put his CO in harm’s way for nothing. Abashed, he hung his head. “Sorry, man. I thought-”

“Who gives a shit what you thought? You’re not paid to think, grunt.”

His head snapped back up. That wasn’t fair, nor was it right. Jax could be a prick, but he wasn’t an abaser. Besides, he fell beneath Craig on the food chain so, even in the height of battle, he’d show respect.

Don’t forget. They play to win, and they never play fair.

One of their allies had warned him about the tricks the enemy pulled, and the manpower they brought to a fight. That had to be it. He was being played.

“Aarrghh!” Anger exploded in his belly, obliterating the pain. He threw himself at whoever, or whatever was pretending to be Jax, and took him to the ground.

The instant they hit the dirt, the illusion dropped, and as he stared at the decapitated head of his CO, he feared nothing was as it seemed. He had no clue who to trust, or what to believe. The only thing he knew for sure was that he had a job to do. So, he would guard his post, and continue to do so until he was no longer standing.

 

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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