short story

Reality Check – A short story

I ignored the persistent sound of my doorbell and buried further into my pit of despair, complete with a dozen pillows, my favourite throw and a large enough duvet to drown my sorrows. A comfortable pit that allowed me to feed my misery and keep it alive; an incubator for the sad and lonely.
The buzzing progressed to a pounding, which was much harder to ignore. To begin with my neighbour was an ogre (not a real one but he made a pretty good impersonation when his sleep was interrupted) and more importantly, I felt the resonating sound like a hammer to my skull.

Dragging myself from bed, I shuffled to the door. Since I’d spent the past two days wallowing I didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace, so the boom, boom, boom echoed through my feet and provided a percussion to the beat in my head.

I paused momentarily when I caught sight of the creature in the hallway mirror. It kind of resembled me, if you looked past the matted hair, wrinkled t-shirt and the bags that could have carried the shopping I had yet to do.

“If you don’t open this door right now, I’m going to break it down!” The booming voice was followed by an irate punctuation of knuckles against wood.

Luckily, I’d reached the door so flipped the lock and yanked it open before it was pulverized by my bear of a brother and his trusty sidekick. They were like two peas in a pod, if the peas had been left in the fertiliser too long.

Both were glaring at me with identical expressions, which had its usual effect. I was torn between slamming the door and telling them to butt out and embracing the comfort they so readily offered.

Adam took the choice away when he pushed past my brother and stepped into the flat. He stopped when we were toe to toe, his big body way to deep into my personal space. “We’ve been trying to reach you for days. Would it kill you to pick up your phone?”

Stepping back, I turned to look over my shoulder and spied the debris where I’d left it on the floor. “Be my guest, but I don’t think it works anymore.”

It would take a miracle. My phone was in pieces against the skirting board. With some distance I could be impressed by my show of strength. Clearly, I’d had more energy at the time.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy, look at the mess.”

I frowned, about to tell my brother it wasn’t that bad, until I realised he was talking about the room. I’d done a number of that, too.

“Whatever. I’m alive, you have proof, now kindly leave me in peace.” I met Ky’s worried brown eyes and my irritation vanished. “I’m okay.”

“When was the last time you ate?” He shot back, ignoring me. Something he excelled at.

“I eat plenty,” I said, thinking of the empty bag of Doritos and the remnants of fiery hot flavouring which was probably staining my sheets.

“Crisps don’t count.” He shook his head and turned to head to the kitchen. “Buddy. It’s over to you.”

“Wha-?”

Adam clamped a big hand around my wrist and began to pull me in the direction of the bathroom.

“Get your hands off me, you big oaf,” I shouted, twisting to try and catch my brother’s attention. “Call off your guard dog, Ky or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

The sound that came from Adam was somewhere between a curse and a growl. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak again until he was dumping me on my feet in the bathroom and moving to turn on the shower.

“You did not just do that.” Not very original, but I still hadn’t recovered from Adam’s caveman routine.

“I did, and I’d do it again.” He slid the shower door shut and turned back to me. “You can’t spend any more time wallowing over that piece of shit, Sam. I gave you time after news of the engagement, but I’m through doing that. I’m through with a lot of things. He was never good enough.”

My mind blanked at his words. I couldn’t find my anger, couldn’t drum up any fiery indignation at being treated like a child, because it hit me just how much he’d been hiding. That and the fact he hadn’t included Ky, like it was personal.

When my brain kicked back into gear I felt my body sag and the rest of my energy wane. “It hurts,” I whispered, not even trying to stop the tears.

The next thing I knew I was pressed against Adam’s chest and one of his arms hooked me in tight. The other began to make soothing motions down my back. A dozen thoughts vied for supremacy; the fact I was in nothing more than a long shirt and my underwear, that I hadn’t bathed in days and Adam smelled so good, and that, for the first time in weeks, I felt something other than empty.

But the thoughts that won out were actually a kaleidoscope of memories from the past couple of months. The times Adam had called to ask about my day, or dropped by to check in, and each time he’d been alone. I’d gotten so used to thinking of him and my brother as a double act, I didn’t stop to consider what it meant that he was offering me a piece of himself.

“I’d take away the hurt if I could,” he whispered, bringing me back to the present.

You do. “I know.” I didn’t share that he’d been doing that all along and I was too blind to see it. Instead, I leaned back so I could look at him. “You’d better rescue Ky before he burns down my kitchen. I’ll shower and be out in a few minutes.”

He leaned in to press a kiss against my temple and then let me go. “That was a ruse to give us a moment. We both know there’s nothing in your cupboards to cook.”

I thought I’d understood what I’d missed by being foolish, but I had no idea. Since I also had no clue what to do with all that, I shut down the flurry of emotion and rolled my eyes to cover the onslaught. “Well then, you’d better let me get to it.”

He grinned and walked to the door but stopped just in the entryway to look back. “Do you understand what I meant about being through?”

Nodding, I cleared my throat. “Yes.”

“Good. Because there’s no going back. I’m not your brother’s best friend, not to you.”

Oh yes, he’d been hiding a lot. “I’m beginning to see that.”

At my words something flashed across his face, something good. “Finally.”

He left before I could respond, and it took me quite a while to remember that the shower was still running, and I had a job to do.

Fifteen minutes later when I entered the living room showered and dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, my long hair combed through and hanging free, I was greeted by a dose of all the goodness yet to come.

It wasn’t the fact that Adam and Ky had tidied up my living space and the room looked good as new. No. It was the look on Adam’s face. He was no longer holding anything back. What he felt was right there for me to see and I discovered I liked it very much.

“Now tell me how glad you are that we dragged your sorry ass out of that pity pit there’s no way I’m touching,” Ky said, and I heard the smile in his voice.

I didn’t take my attention away from Adam. “Totally worth confronting an ogre and the price of a new door.”

Adam grinned. “What does it mean that I completely understood that?”

“It means I’ve been an idiot.”

“I could have told you that!”

This time I did turn to my brother, and then, giant or not, I set about making him eat his words.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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Raising the Stakes – A short story

As I perused the fresh meat section of my local supermarket, my phone trilled in my pocket, dragging my attention from an excellent cut of ribeye beef. Instead of building an entire meal around the tasty morsel in my head, I tore my eyes away to check the message.

Jon-boy: Hey Kaz. Don’t forget I’m out tonight, so won’t be home for dinner. Don’t wait up! Xx

I rolled my eyes at the message. My son lived to get on my nerves. I was rarely mom any more. At the moment I was Karen, or Kaz, which would have been mildly acceptable had that been my name, but no, I had been christened Kaz because of the designer name on my glasses. I would never understand my kid’s humour (or I pretended not to, he was actually kind of funny).

Tapping out a reply, I grinned at my phone.

Jonathan David Henderson you are pushing your luck, mister. I want proof of life photos before midnight. Stay safe. Love Kaz xxx

Okay, so I went there. What can I say, I love my boy, even if he is seventeen and makes a sport out of pushing me past the point of sanity.

I was just putting the phone away when it chirped in my hand. Glancing at the screen, I saw the notification from my daughter.

Jen: Just letting you know I’m staying at Stu’s again tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow because I’m running out of clean clothes!! Love ya x

This message shouldn’t have surprised me. My eldest was rarely home anymore. Both my babies had all but flown the nest, and I was trying to ignore the emptiness left behind. It wasn’t their fault I put my personal life on hold. Truth be told I barely survived losing their father, and for years all my focus had been on raising the two of them (as well as my other babies, those being my first-year students). I ignored the loneliness because the part of me that craved intimacy had been dormant for so long I wasn’t sure she would ever thaw out.

You know, there is this amazing invention called a washing machine. You open a door, throw your clothes in and they come out clean on the other side. Magic! We’ll take the adventure together. See you tomorrow. Love, the cleaning lady xxx

Yes, my son wasn’t the only snarky member of the household. His father, god rest his soul, had given him his exotic looks. I’d given him the gift of sarcasm.

My eyes returned to the steak, my mind already pairing it with a superior glass of wine. It appeared that I would be again cooking for one, so I should at least indulge a little.

I could practically hear the sizzle of meaty goodness as I reached for it, which was of course when my damn phone interrupted again, this time with a call.

Since the tune was blaring out ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ I didn’t have to guess at the caller. It was my best friend’s anthem.

“You certainly pick your times, I have my eye on a delicious hunk of meat.” Yes, that was how I answered.

The snort down the phone line was so Andrea I grinned. “If it was anyone but you, I’d cringe at that derogatory comment. But alas, I suspect your libido has not decided to join the land of the living, so what we’re really talking about is your version of a happy meal.”

“You’re no fun anymore.”

“Hey, stop stealing my lines!” Andrea’s musical laughter warmed me, which, considering where I was standing, between a cold barricade of fridges, this was no easy task. “Now, step away from the prime beef and get your butt over to my place. We’re going out tonight.”

“I told you. No can do. I have to prepare for the end of term musical, so I’ll have to take a rain check.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. I did have costumes to sew. But the main reason I used my work as a shield was the prospect of squashing my behind into an overpacked club and feeling like a frumpy old housewife trying to recapture her youth.

“Come on Dee. You need to dust the cobwebs from your-”

“Don’t even finish that sentence, Miss Halliday. We’ve been over this. Save your lecture for girl’s night tomorrow.”

Andrea sighed. “Fine, I give up. And, just saying, I might as well get started on securing your cat collection so expect a furry gift.”

“Hilarious. Stop annoying me and give me a break. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up, mainly to get one over on her. It was my fifth call from her today, and each had ended with a dead tone.

Shaking my head, I again zoned in on my prize and made a grab for it. Unfortunately, instead of wrapping my fingers around packaging, they settled on someone’s wrist.

Dragging my hand back, albeit reluctantly, I mumbled a ‘Sorry,’ and glanced at the meagre offerings left on the shelf.

“Not a problem.”

The voice was a deep rumble, and momentarily distracted me from my disappointment.

“It’s a novel experience to fight for my dinner.”

That was kind of funny, so I looked up and to the side, my curiosity getting the better of me.

My gaze was snagged by a deep, intense blue, and I swallowed against a sudden dry throat. “It’s a piece worth fighting for.”

His sudden burst of laughter had me stepping back so I could enjoy the show. Of course, the moment I took in the beauty of twinkling eyes and even white teeth, it hit me how attractive he was, and my rational brain shut down.

I’d been painting with my students earlier, so my hair was a nest around my face and I hadn’t looked, but I probably had rainbow splotches that were not a fashion statement, but a testament to the fun I’d had.

My clothes were wrinkled, and all I could hear was my grandmother’s voice in my head. She had lectured me many times about not leaving the house without looking my best. I’d always joked about the chances of bumping into royalty, but not once did I consider looking like a scarecrow in front of an attractive stranger. At this rate I would get hit by a car on my way home so the paramedics would discover I was wearing my ugliest underwear. Why did I never listen to my grandmother?

“It’s Mrs Henderson, right?”

I blinked, then scanned his face more closely. A second later recognition hit. “Mr Carter?” He was a much older version of one of my favourite students.

“Michael.”

I smiled, forgetting my earlier discomfort. Right then I was remembering how the entire staff team had been in a flap about Daniel’s uncle and his generosity during the school fete. I’d missed the event, but the kids hadn’t stopped talking about the animals Michael had brought from his vet’s practice. Maybe it was worth getting a cat after all.

“You were the talk of the school last month.”

He dipped his head to the side. “I was hoping to see you there.” When I said nothing, because what could I say to that? He continued. “And I have a confession to make.”

“Oh?”

“I didn’t really need the beef.” His grin was slightly crooked, just like his nephew’s. “I just used the opportunity to strike up a conversation.”

“Does that mean I get the ribeye?”

He laughed again, and god but it was a beautiful sight. Then his face softened, and he gave me a look I didn’t understand before reaching over to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. “I tell you what. I’ve been waiting so long for you to notice me, I’m prepared to buy the steak and cook it for you.”

Dear god. What did I say to that? What did it even mean?

“Or you could take it home while you think about throwing me a bone.” His grin came again. “And accept an invitation to dinner.”

A thousand excuses flitted through my mind as I stood frozen in his intense stare. But not one of them came out of my mouth. No, apparently, I’d taken leave of my senses because what I said was, “I’m free tomorrow night.” I mean, screw girl’s night, right? Andrea would probably be over the moon.

The next thing I knew, Michael was thrusting the tray into my hand and I no longer cared about steak or wine or the empty house I was trying to avoid. Suddenly I wanted to do more to earn one of his crooked smiles, and find out if my libido really had left the building.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Cinderella Castle – Photo inspired short story

Cinderella Castle

I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks, but I finally managed to carve some time to write and visit my online friends. The following story is inspired by the above photograph. It was taken by a friend, Jarno Willemarck, in the French part of Belgium (he’s not allowed to give exact location). He titled it Cinderella Castle, so I’ve used that (you know how I struggle with them anyway!) I hope you enjoy.

Cinderella Castle

Garrett timed his movements to the haunting whistle and wail of the breeze through a barren landscape. The old house was a ghost of her former self, the old girl about ready to collapse and spill her secrets.

Let’s raise a toast to our freedom.

The voice, floating to him on the wings of times past was followed by the remembered echo of breaking glass. Pausing from the pursuit to gain freedom from his bindings, Garrett’s gaze fell on the table he had carried into the room at Fiona’s request almost fifteen years ago.

He took in the solitary glass, its twin littering the ground by the exit after Fee’s explosive declaration.

Here’s to a taste of freedom and the chance to blow this godawful joint.

The words echoed around the room, ghosts pulling at his memories until she appeared beside the table, her unruly gold curls bouncing as she moved, her graceful body bowing as she raised her glass and hurled it at the closest wall.

The wine they had been drinking had splashed back at her laughing frame, droplets of crimson soaking into the simple cream tunic she wore.

Garrett’s muscles bunched in response to the memory and he saw glimpses of his former self rushing to lift her from harm’s way. His Fee rarely wore anything on her feet, and he had been possessed by a need to protect her from further pain, a need made sharper by the sight of the growing patterns on her dress. Patterns that reminded him of the times the dark rich colour had been evidence of the beatings she had taken.

Let’s do what we should have done years ago and cremate the bitch.

His eyes closed as the soft, vulnerable note to her voice. It wasn’t real, but here, where memories were being drudged up with the filth in the room, past and present merged.

To centre himself, Garrett pulled on the wrist attached to the radiator, and the scrape of metal on metal screeched in a pitch that rivalled the wind.

Fiona had been talking about the house, though neither of them had truly blamed the ancient walls for the atrocities that took place here.

Still, they had tried to burn Gillingworth Manor to the ground. The scent of petrol and red-hot flame rose up to scorch his nose, trapping him with the sounds of burning timber. This room had been among the few that had survived their wrath, and it hadn’t gone unscathed.

When he glanced around, he saw the scorch marks on the ceiling and the debris scattered across the floor like pieces of his past. The rough bite of fabric scratched across his bare chest as the heavy curtains shivered in the breeze. They were darker than they had been. Garrett remembered them blooming as green as the walls, before water had soaked into the fabric and sealed in the house’s weary screams.

It had once been an opulent space, the furnishings a mask for what true horror took place behind the scenes.

Garrett raised his free hand to wipe the sweat from his face. He flinched in pain as the grime from his fingers caught in the open cut on his left cheek. The opposite eye was swollen shut, perhaps the reason his vision was so hazy and his mind flickering between the then and now montage to showcase his predicament.

The bruises across his torso added insult to injury because he swore if he took a snapshot the they would be an exact replica of his first foray into the room.

As though pressing a button to play a soundtrack to his misery, the punch of flesh against flesh echoed around him. He might have dismissed the thud of a body hitting the floor as a painful memory if it hadn’t been for the vibration that shook his bones.

“Fee.” His voice came out on a rasping breath, like the fire had been real again and he’d inhaled too much smoke.

Fiona stepped into the room carrying twin batons and a frown that could make a hardened criminal search out his weapons. She wasn’t bare foot now. The ghost of the girl she had been evaporated in the presence of the fierce woman she had become.

Dressed in black, from her boots to the cap she wore to tame the curs, Fiona looked like a fallen angel. He was afraid he was hallucinating until she spoke.

“What did I tell you about taking side gigs. You never go anywhere without backup.”

Despite feeling repentant for his stubborn actions, Garrett grinned at her. The cut on his lip seared fire across the skin and he knew the fresh flow of blood must have made for a macabre smile, but he didn’t care. They had been searching for Gillingowrth Junior for five years and he was certain his Fee had just made mincemeat out of the sick fuck.

She would never have been taken unaware, as he had been, but then she had always been smarter than him. He’d always followed her. Into the army, the security firm, he would follow her into hell itself.

It took her less than a minute to free him and then she was pulling him to his feet. He swayed until she caught him, and again when she pressed her lips to his.

“Ouch,” he whispered, making no move to step back.

“Stop being a baby. It’s just a scratch.”

He laughed at the words, ones she had spoken many times as a nod to their past. There was little that compared to the wounds inflicted by Rory Gillingworth.

“Can you walk?” she asked in a more serious tone, her pale brown eyes showing the first hint of concern.

“I’ll aim for a hobble and go from there.”

Her musical laughter bathed the room in a soft playful light, banishing every dark corner.

Using Fee for support as he’d been doing most of his life, he let her guide him from the room, confident he provided the same – the security of home.

The house would never be that, not for them, but someday perhaps it would be restored and filled with the kind of joy they had found in each other.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Alphabet Spaghetti – A Word Game

The exercise is based on a version of the 7x7x7 writing game. This time, I tried to incorporate seven words beginning with E, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I failed to include one of the words this week, but I did keep to the 700 word count.

It is an ongoing fantasy based short story, and connected to one of my series – The Collective.

The incorporated words are; embrace, eyebrow, emotion, explode, escaped, extreme, and example.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 4)

A crushing weight settled around Amber’s body, pulling her from a deep sleep with a panic born of prolonged captivity. She tried to take stock, tried to remember what the monsters in the dark had done to render her immobile.

If she wasn’t so scared, she would have likened the feeling to being swaddled in a deep comforting embrace. But she couldn’t convince herself of safety when she was scared out of her mind. Why couldn’t she move? And, god, but it was warm in the hellish place they were being held. They. Oh shit. Where was April?

She tried to cry out and came to the sinking realisation she was bound too tightly to make a sound. The pressure was everywhere, it covered her face, her mouth, her entire body, yet she could still breathe.

As her mind thrashed where her body could not, Amber tried to shift inside the hot, smothering restraints. She started with her toes, remembering what April had taught her about meditation, except it had the opposite effect. The journey across her body didn’t relax her, it made her heart thunder harder. She was swamped in emotion. Not only was she unable to move, her limbs felt separate – like they belonged to somebody else.

A spark of hope lit within her chest when she managed to raise her left eyebrow. That spark snuffed out when she couldn’t duplicate the movement. What the hell had they done to her? What kind of extreme torment was this?

April.

Her sister’s name ricocheted through her head as she tried to grasp their connection. Memories began to swamp her…April dragging her through darkened tunnels, a rough, bumpy ride as the bitter cold nipped at her skin. They had escaped. They weren’t alone anymore. April had made it to the safe zone.

More images flickered behind her eyes; a wolf with white fur, and a large bear of a man who liked to torment the doctor…Clayton, she remembered. The doctor’s name was Clayton, and he like to read to her, to them. April was in the bed beside her.

Oh god, why couldn’t she feel her sister? The thread that joined them together was so weak she struggled to hold onto it.

Keep it together. Keep it together.

She willed her mind to calm, releasing the memories so she could concentrate on her strange new environment.

The muffled sound of voices drifted towards her, so she concentrated on that. The wolf’s voice was the strongest, a deep rumbling sound that called to her. He rarely shifted to his human form, at least not during his visits.

“Why isn’t he waking up?”

April?

That was her sister’s voice. She was here, and she was – wait, he? Who was he?

“I may have miscalculated when I shot him up with the good stuff,” an unfamiliar voice drawled, clearly amused.

Amber had no clue what he was talking about, and it sent her pulse tripping.

“Of course, because all you did was give him an injection of angel juice. No big deal. Cody isn’t going to-”

The words blurred, buried beneath Amber’s sudden rage. She had never felt anger like it, a white-hot trail that seemed to explode beneath her skin. Had the monsters somehow found them? Had they hurt Cody?

The young soldier visited almost as often as Clayton. He was happiness and light, and soft teasing conversation. It didn’t matter that she never responded, Cody spoke to her as though she heard every word, which she did. He entertained her with stories of the safe zone, of his team, the big guy he called Bear, but was actually called Griffin.

Every memory of his voice, his scent, his appealing energy fed the flames of her rage until her body was vibrating with it. No, not her body, whatever was holding her down.

No more.

She would not be helpless anymore. She felt every ounce of fiery red anguish. The pain and fear gathered and exploded, the power running through her so overwhelming, it took a moment to realise she was finally free.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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 D, each with seven letters, and selected using a random word generator. I tried to keep to the 700 word count, but went over by 14.

This is the third instalment of an ongoing fantasy story. To recap, Cody (a soldier who is part of a joint task force) has been injured during a battle (it sucks to be human). On his way to the medical unit, he hears a cry for help and rushes to the aid of twins, Amber and April. He discovers something cocooning Amber’s body, and the others in the room frozen in place around her bed.

The incorporated words are; deprive, dribble, default, deserve, decline, despair, and diagram.

Warrior’s Embrace (Part 3)

Cody stayed vigilant, watching over the group as he waited for help to arrive. That’s what he told himself, at least. If the crazy mollusc thing covering Amber went full Alien on him and something burst forth from the shell, he had no idea how he would defend himself, let alone the others. He had no weapon, apart from a crutch, and his leg was throbbing so hard he felt it in his eyeballs. That had to be why the horror show on the bed was pulsating like a heartbeat.

He shivered because, damn but that thing was ugly, and he didn’t even want to think about what was happening to Amber, whether being inside would deprive her of oxygen or if, like a second skin, she could breathe through it.

A blur of colour flashed in his peripheral vision, too fast to track and trippy enough it meant only one thing. The cavalry had arrived in the form of a big assed cat with too much curiosity and a playful streak that rivalled Cody’s. Yep, Blade was in the house.

The changeling cheetah was one half of a deadly duo. Logan made the set and, as with anything involving his brother, Blade was front and centre when the wolf needed an assist.

Following on his heels, at a much slower pace, was Tamaya and her wing-man – as she referred to him – Joshua. Being that the warrior angel was rocking a kick ass pair of wings, he had to navigate the room with care.

“This is not good,” Joshua said, king of the understatement. But then, that was his default setting, the guy could be a tad morose.

“I take it from that encouraging statement, you know what we’re dealing with?” Tamaya shot back. She had Del in her hand, also known as Delphor, her weapon of choice.

Cody trusted her, he really did, but if she was going to hack away at the husk with an axe, magical or not, he would have to step in. Not literally, he wouldn’t be stepping anywhere for a while, but Amber didn’t deserve to be on Del’s radar.

“The human has been infected by erodion, a substance used by Sentinels to infect other species. She’s going through metamorphosis.”

No. No. No. That couldn’t be right.

Cody felt his pulse skyrocket. At this rate he would need a room of his own with nothing but soft surfaces. He could practically feel the dribble. “Back up a second. Why are we just learning about this? We should have been informed if they pose that much of the threat.”

Joshua shrugged, his silver eyes like heated metal orbs. “It never came up. The infection only works if the immune system is compromised, or if a person is exposed for a prolonged period of time.”

“Has the thing somehow infected my brother?” Blade demanded from Logan’s side. The wolf was still fighting the compulsion he was under, but he wasn’t free yet.

“It’s a by-product of the transformation process, a defence mechanism. Logan and the others will need to be decontaminated, and the sooner the better.” Joshua turned to study Cody. “Are you ready to take care of your little problem?”

Ha! His leg had broken in three places. Next, he’d be getting a lecture about how the angel flew home with only one wing, barely conscious. Arrogant prick. “I think I’ll respectfully decline,” he said, even though a quick fix was sounding better every second.

“Come on, Cody,” Blade piped up. “Let us help you.”

“Do I need to draw you a diagram? I said-”

The scream that started the whole mess switched back on again, drowning out his words. April and the others came unstuck at the same time, along with the tail end of a sister’s horror. “Amber!” she croaked, pitching towards the bed.

In a flash, Blade moved to catch her. It was a surprise to them all that Clayton got there before him, scooping her up and cradling her to his chest. The despair on his face was actually painful to witness. Cody couldn’t tear his eyes away, which was why the sneaky angel caught him unaware. The instant his hand made contact with the top of Cody’s head he was out like a light.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

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

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

Worth the wait

I apologise for posting twice in one day (sort of – it’s after midnight here), and a largely unedited piece at that. I would have waited, but it seemed a good example to complement my A to Z posts. Sam has been in my head for the last two days, and has been driving me mad! 

Worth the wait

“Talk me through the risks again.”

Sam barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes as she turned to look at her best friend. “Talk you through it, huh?” Oh, what the hell. She let her eyes roll and watched Michael’s lips twitch. “Tell me…who’s having this operation?” she demanded, even as she swallowed down her own amusement. She couldn’t help it. His green eyes were dancing with devilment, despite the underlying concern.

“You.”

“And who has considered every single angle when it comes to the procedure?”

“You,” Michael said, though he jabbed a thumb to indicate himself and pulled a laugh from her.

“Uh-huh. So, one more time, who should be freaking out about being put under the knife?”

“Nobody should be freaking out.”

They both turned at the reprimand, eyes to the door where Sam’s father stood with his arms crossed over his chest. “And don’t talk about Dr Conners like he’s a butcher. He wields a scalpel not a cleaver.”

“You two are as bad as each other,” Michael grumbled.

That earned one of her father’s grins; wide and unapologetic – just like the man. He walked over to the bed and placed a hand on her shoulder. “You’re going to be fine.” His voice held the kind of authority others feared, like his word was law.

So, when he placed his other hand on Michael’s shoulder, and said, “You too, Mikey,” her friend visibly relaxed. Or he did until a porter entered the room with a thick folder tucked beneath his arm and a harried look on his face.

“I’m here to escort you down to theatre,” he said, as though the operating rooms were situated in the bowels of hell. Hmm, she was more nervous than she thought.

Time to pull up your big girl panties. The thought made her snort out a laugh when it dawned on her she would need them soon enough.

“Okay, let’s do this,” she said, slipping out of bed, even as her father was slipping her robe around her shoulders.

“You’ve got this, kiddo,” he whispered.

Calm washed over her at the familiar words because, after everything she had endured, every treatment, the endless therapies, his reassurance had been the glue that kept her together. It was the reason she walked out of the room with her head held high.

***

Michael squirmed in the hard-backed chair, staring into his cold coffee so he didn’t have to meet David’s knowing gaze. Christ, but he wanted to pace. If he didn’t do something with the excess energy his emotions would strangle him.

The waiting was killing him, or perhaps it was the knowledge he would soon have everything he wanted – Sam.

It had been so easy in the beginning. She had asked for his patience, and he had given it to her. He loved her, so how could he not? But the longer they waited, the more their need grew until friendship wasn’t enough for either of them. Of course, Sam was strong one. She wouldn’t even kiss him. Not until after the surgery.

“You know,” David said, conversationally. “You have every right to be angry that she held out on you for so long.”

The laugh tore loose from his aching chest. He was shocked that he had it in him to laugh, though Sam’s father had a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. That, at least, wasn’t a surprise.

“I understand why she wants to wait,” he said, because it was the truth. This was about her, it had always been about her, and she gave him everything he needed. It wasn’t Sam’s fault that he was an impatient fool desperate to begin their life together.

“Thank you.” David’s large hand covered his own, and he looked up into watery brown eyes the colour of his daughter’s. The man never hid his emotions, yet in all the years Michael had known him, David had only cried once – at his wife’s funeral. “Thank you for always seeing her.”

He was too overwhelmed to reply. Thankfully, David took pity on him. He pulled his hand back and rose to his feet. “Why don’t we take a walk through the grounds. If nothing else, it will settle that nervous tick you seem to have developed.”

Michael looked down to where his leg was bouncing, and then back up. Like Sam, her father understood what he needed, and right now, he needed to move.

They had just left the cafeteria when David’s phone buzzed, thwarting their plans. Not that it mattered. The alert was from the nursing staff. Sam was in recovery.

“You’ve got this, kiddo,” David said, making him laugh again. It didn’t shock him this time. Not now the wait was over.

***

The moment Sam awoke, she was hit by a wave of pain so strong it took her breath. She knew she should hit the morphine button, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Not yet.

Instead, she concentrated on what was beneath the pain, a dual sensation she struggled to process. She certainly wouldn’t have been able to put it into words. She felt at once complete and empty, though the latter was more an absence of the weight between her legs. That heavy, awful appendage that seemed to pull on her soul. And really, wasn’t that the thing she couldn’t truly explain, the loathing she’d felt for something that formed part of her body. It hadn’t belonged. She might have been born with male genitalia, but she didn’t have to like it.

Now it was gone, and the knowledge made her breath hitch. It was finally over, and regardless of whether it made sense to anyone else, she could finally be who she was meant to be, without a physical reminder that there had been a mix up in the organ department.

“I can’t decide if that’s a smile or a grimace,” her father said, rising from the chair beside the bed. “Press the button, stubborn girl.”

Her finger moved to trigger the morphine into her system as she turned to look at him. When their eyes locked, her father smiled so wide it had to hurt. Her cheeks certainly did. “I’m okay, Pop.” Everything they felt passed silently between them – there was no need for further words.

Her father nodded, glancing briefly across the room before he turned to leave.

A second later, Michael was filling her field of vision. “Hi,” she whispered.

“Hi.” His smile lit the green of his irises. “How do you feel?”

Sam didn’t even need to think about it. “Whole. I feel whole.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” he said, running a hand down her cheek. And then he kissed her. It was everything she had hoped it would be.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel

 

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