Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Of Pure Intentions
A Collection Of Short Stories And Poems
A collaboration by Rosalie Thorne
With contributions by L.M. Smith and Z. V. Ezell
Of Pure Intentions is divided into three major sections.
The beginning will be short stories by:
Z. V. Ezell
The middle will be poems by:
And the ending will be a unique section of ‘unpolished’ works by:
Z. V. Ezell
Here is a very special selection of pieces, a rare glimpse into the mind of authors. From mind to keyboard to a document file, the following pieces are raw and unpolished. Only worked on by the authors themselves, no editorial staff has touched these words. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, and other things that may seem old are a possibility. But still, the stories shine through!
The Family Business
A selection taken from her upcoming novel
I Write Sins Not Tragedies
Potentially still drunk from the night before, I wonder if I should get shutters for the entire cabin. If I did, then the fucking bright ass light from the sun wouldn’t be so blinding…. An empty thought, however, for it being too much work – too productive for my taste; I am going on five years as a human, complaining most mornings, and have made no such change.
Coming down from the latest high, I stare at my open refrigerator as if there are really so many things to choose from. But there isn’t… just scattered takeout from eating out every night of this week. Though it is viscously easy, the thought of the tiny bit of effort that it’d take to reheat the food is too much. And I really want warm food, so another delivery it was.
Earlier than anticipated, there is a knock on my door. Pleased and not giving a fuck about being in my underwear, I throw it open. But with one look outside, I click my tongue and shake my head, knowing what’s to come.
Walking back into my house I just start laughing. “Fuck no. Nope, just fuck no.”
And as soon as I get to my living room, there he is.
My fucking brother standing in my living room, the asylum white feathers shimming as his wings close. Their image and that of his sword fade away as a plain black suit with pastel blue shirt phase in. Beach blonde, windswept, shoulder length hair bounce as he glances around the room.
Cigarettes are closer than alcohol (though that would come) and I don’t miss a beat in lighting up. “Get the fuck out of here.”
All his gestures are calculated, precise, but fluent like the wind. He speaks in our parent’s language. “Lucifer… your presence is requested, it would be much appreciated-”
In modern English, I scoff at him. “Appreciated? Ah-pre-chi-ated, huh? Fuck off. Just get the fuck out of my house.”
His lids lower ever so slightly. “Father has been reasonable with your little vacation-”
I twitch, my head shaking harder; time for the Scotch. “Nope, nope… not a vacation, fucker. This is my life. I’m not going back.”
His head tilts like a curious cat. The hands he’s had clasped over his stomach now make a sweeping gesture, “This is your life? The life you have chosen so carefully for yourself?” He steps around the room like running water, fluid but strong. “This life of ego and material, of selfish and superficial habits, of vices and sin. This is your choice? After all your time of loyal and honorable and voluntary service-”
“Voluntary? Is that what He told you?”
He isn’t fazed. “After all your time,” he repeated, “all your service…. After all your time punishing the wicked, the corrupt, the evil… this is what you choose - what you have become? You have fallen farther than-”
My glass shatters in my fist, shards digging into my muscle, blood running down my arm. “On the contrary, you fucking mewling quim, I have lived up to every single expectation made by our Father!
“There was this movie I watched and one of the characters said ‘I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way’. And that’s how I was - was! Was before I came here. I sucked it up, I did my job, and I suffered through my punishment. I ignored every single thing Father lead the world to believe about me. But - and, and now that I’m here? I say: fuck it. Let me be the man he always dreamed up me to be. Let me live up to that picture he painted so clearly. I have reached every single expectation he’s ever had of me. I am exactly how he’s drawn me.”
As my brother rolls his shoulders a flicker of his armor and wings sparked across my vision. “Lucifer, brother mine, bringer of light… your presence has been requesting and would be much appreciated-”
I charged at him, stampeding. “Fuck off! Just fuck off! Get the fuck out of my house! Now! Or I swear on mother’s life-” Then we was gone.
But he appeared in my dream that night, though only for a second and it was long enough to make me furious all over again. Destroying everything my dream self could reach, I burned the Earth to nothing. Breathing in ash and dust, I reveled in it.
Eventually, I closed my eyes, letting my mind wander… actually letting myself calm down. Eventually, I came to the last memory of Mom…
She’s been so beautiful, so happy and excited, so full of love and light. She had the softest smile just before the end of our interaction, her eyes shining with hope.
When I lost her, I lost myself.
I lost any sense of hope, of wonder. All I have left is myself and myself alone. And nothing can stop me now.
A Fire More Than Soul
A selection taken from her upcoming novel
In A Land Beyond Time:
Mist a flyte with the ever so lovely Freyja, a tankard of mead had been slammed before me. Following the dark skin to the man to my side, I smoldered up at him. “Heimdall, how kind of you! What do I owe the pleasure?” of the gesture, of his company.
“We need to talk.”
I did not look at his black eyes, turning instead back to the festivities at hand. “No shop talk at the table, that’s the rule!”
“As you know like the back of your ever changing hand, Loki, rules are meant to be broken.”
With a snort, I clapped the table, “Join us! Maybe if you pay your dues, we can fudge our way into work-related conversation.”
He sat, knowing it was best to play by my instruction. If you wanted my help, or even for me to simply cooperate, my way was the easiest.
I waved the beautiful, plenty well-endowed hooker-slash-waitress over, knowing a voice would be lost over the boisterous crowd. She leaned in, her bosom cleavage directly at eye level, her hand sliding across the slick table. “What can I,” a humming, deep breath, “do for you?”
Flicking my wrist to bring my fingers across the empty space where Heimdall’s drink should have been, sparks bounced in the air. Little smoke twirls came to the waitresses nose, her lips curling with pleasure. “What’ll you be having?”
I raised my pint, “I’m fine, dearie. But my friend here, will have his usual.”
Looking confused, she took a minute to look to Heimdall, actually shocked there was anyone else but me in the room. Not unusual, but not as amusing as it used to be. “Right, the usual.”
In the time between her departure and her arrival, Heimdall slipped into his serious face. “Loki, we really do need to talk.”
It was very tempting to think I could keep pushing off this conversation, but I doubted it. “Have a drink first, all right?”
Shifting, he touched my shoulder. I jolted back, flames levitating from any bare skin from the neck down. His hand lifted, “Apologies.”
Index finger released and contracting, “That’s one rule that no one can change, not even me.”
A smile appeared, a first - as far as anyone in this room was concerned. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
His effervescent drink was slammed in front of him. I paused for him to drink and then I simply squinted. “You want to talk about the no-touching or the fire or the cause and effect of one to the other?”
“None of that.” He leaned in, his tankard touching my chest, “You are meant for more than this,” he whispered.
“What did you see Heimdall?”
He leaned back with a deep laugh. “All good things, all good things.”
But then the waitress bitch came, dropping off another drink for another guy, but somehow instead of the cup firmly landing on the table, whatever dark, sticky liquid was now all over me. My hand whipped outward in disgust, smacking the waitress across the face, a scorch mark rising across her skin. Didn’t give two shits, she deserved it.
Heimdall’s hand hovered over my shoulder. Jaw clenched, skin twitching and not in relation to the fire. “You might have had good news. Maybe you will have good news. But I can’t right now.”
“It’s important!” he insisted.
My chin turned, my neck cracking, popping. I backed myself away from the crowd, who did not notice nor care. I’d done this so often it was nothing to them, nothing to be seen here… just another Loki freak-out.
I was a snarky, cocky bastard. An asshole with no shame. No shame in my actions, no care for the consequences. A drug addict - herbal, artificial, natural… pills, drinks, smoke, whatever I could get. I looked at every situation as what can I gain from this? I preferred the term resourceful to all else, but at the same time that make me sound like such a stickler. No, I was too passionate, too free-willed, there’s a reason the Devil was compared to me.
But then I saw Heimdall’s eyes. Not the black abyss, but the flash of iridescent opals. “Loki.”
I froze. “Fucker.”
“Loki.” And then his hand rests on my shoulder.
Teeth tight, but no further reaction. “What?”
“You have some Fate to attend to.”
The instant he said the word Fate, I snorted and backed off. Fate was bull shit. Just like rules were bull shit. Nothing can contain me… nothing I ever tried, nothing anyone ever tried.
Which I had to remind Heimdall, quiet vocally the next time he brought up with Fate business. He came to my home, which was not uncommon, but it was not poker night. No, it was very specifically a night that I always kept to myself. I raised my eyebrows, sweeping my bourbon glass, gesturing him to come in. I didn’t want to say his name, I didn’t call him brother or whatever else may slip from my lips. Because, I was more likely to curse at him or degrade him at this point.
“Thank you,” his voice low but honest.
We didn’t make it far before he called out the elephant. “There are consequences, Loki. You miss this appointment, and there’s an escalation.”
Skipped the pleasantries, skipped the small talk, no buttering me up, no sugar coating. So fine, right back at him. “I don’t need a fucking Therapist, you pompous jack ass.”
He ignored the insults, knowing it was just a tantrum. “This is not something to force you to change. There are rules for a reason… but there is an exception to every rule.”
I liked that… loopholes, tricks, abnormalities, deviations, oddities… those were my specialties. “Tell me about who I’m supposed to be meeting, then.”
His eyes flickered, the opal flashing like a shooting star. “I can tell you… some things about… her.”
At the word her, my heart thudded against my ribs, with a reverb. I grimaced, what the fuck was that?
Ugh, new drugs were not to be trusted. I waved my hand, “Sure, her. Go ahead.”
“I suppose you’d like me to be curt.”
“Short and sweet, that’s our relationship.”
He nodded, “She’s cursed, like you.”
“So what, trauma buddies? Keep each other in check? Do yoga together?”
With an open-palm gesture, he sighed. “Curt… short, sweet then…. She went to hell. She-”
I cut him off with a snicker, “What the bitch do?”
Heimdall smiled, but it was the softness that unnerved me. “She sold her soul to save another.”
I snorted, raising my glass. “So she is a psychopath.”
“Perspective,” which was his way of saying ‘agree to disagree’. He started pacing, “Listen, my friend, and listen carefully. This woman has been through Hell. She had been there, done that, and is someone The Fates seem to think you need in your life.
“She has the post-Hell plague, the curse, the attached demon - whatever way you want to look at it. But it’s a fucking blip to her, it’s nothing. She is in full control of her dragon, not the other way around. You… you can’t be touched, you will literally set yourself on fire at the thought of someone touching you. You can’t control your issues, your illness, your darkness, your punishment. That’s your rule.
“But she,” he smiled thoughtfully. “She chose Hell, she chose to go through the worst possible thing she could imagine and then some. And that’s how she got through it smelling like a fucking rose. Every time the soul was sucked from her lips, her thoughts focus on one thing - she was innocent, she did it for love.”
And then he continued with, “I’ll have you know she likes water,” as if that was some sort of cosmic revelation that was going to shock me into submission.
Deadpan, I stared, “So…? So what? So she’s water, not fire. So she’s so beyond psychotic that she doesn’t even feel anymore? It’s like when your nerves are so fried under hot water that you start to feel cold? Or the end of hypothermia when you take off all your clothes because you feel like you’re about to die from heat stroke? She’s not cured, no one can be cured. She’s just as fucked up as I am… just the opposite direction.”
His chin dips down in a single nod and he gestures slowly outward with one hand. “Exactly.”
But I could not ignore that it sparked my curiosity. If anything, this woman was fascinating. I mean, solely on the choice she made - to take another’s place in Hell, what the fuck was wrong with her? It could be interesting… it could be fun. “So what’s her name?”
My heart did the reverb beat, fuck this shit I was on; tripping my thought process up and not in a good way. “Right, okay… so what, I meet with this Cleo chick and? And what? It’s like we cancel each other out? Like if we’re around each other, we’re normal?” Not that I wanted to be normal, who in the right mind would want to be normal? But.. again, could be interesting, could be fun. “I have to say, I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. I-”
“You think she has some sort of power over you, which makes you reject the even thought of her.”
I didn’t answer, but bingo!
“Loki… this isn’t to force you to change. This isn’t a reward, this isn’t a punishment. It’s just the exception to the rule. It’s just Fate.”
I nursed my drink, “She’s turned herself into some sort of mindless robot, that’s how she copes. I light up, she turns to ice. That’s not a life worth living.”
“You won’t understand until you meet her.”
“Which,” I point at him with a single shake of my head, “I never said I would.”
Heimdall’s expression is persistent. “Every thing that happened to her… every dark, demented, painful, soul-sucking thing… it built up. It built up and became it’s own entity inside her. She is… masterful with her flaw, her curse, her illness. She uses it to her advantage… unlike…” and he simply flicked his wrist at me.
The corner of his lip lifted for a nano-second. “You know what I do, how I function, what I’ve been created for. You know I see… I see, hear, understand. Her life has never flashed before her own eyes, but it has flashed before mine. As you would be described as a functional addict - functional being used loosely, I insist - her functionality is all she has. Her will to live, her will to love, that’s her strength. That’s what she keeps fighting for.”
My shoulders dropped, my chest broadening, a snicker creeping out of my lips, as I sneered, “You son of a bitch.” He did not respond. “She’s a fucking mortal, isn’t she?” Again, he said nothing. “I’ve been Fated to a fucking mortal?
“What is this? Zeus fucking bitches, making half breeds? That is ridiculous. I’m expected to learn breathing techniques from a mortal?”
I twitched. “My… what would you call it? An equalizer? My opposite? Is a -”a burst a laugh of ridiculousness, “ mortal….”
But the insincere laughter fades just as quickly as it came. My glass shattered against the wall, the table my hand fell to catching ablaze. “I am not to be disrespected in such a manner.
He didn’t even still me that time, he didn’t even paralyze me. He left me to my fire, to my passion and dismay, to my disgust and hatred, to my darkness. I could burn the whole world down… say the word, just one wrong word, and it would be gone.
In A Time-ruled World:
… my only focus was Cleo.
And that is it wasn’t it? The only fault I could ever find with us. It is an addiction. Not an escape, no… I did not go to her, love her, because I needed a reprieve, needed a high, a shift from reality. No, she is an extension of myself, my other half, she completes me in ways I can’t understand. I was made for her yet I need her to function, to be whole. I had adapted every part of myself, instantly, simultaneously, when we met. The Fates had shown my true heart and from that moment, forever, I need her. She grounds me, she inspires me, she keeps me from doing something stupid, she gives me reasons to move forward, be clean, even have a family!
I could have torn this universe apart, but then she became my universe. If I had been Merlin, I would have slipped into that eternal paradise with Nimue and never looked back. This is my prison, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Sure, I could have chosen to not follow her into this human life, and it would have only been a blink of eye without her, but I had to do it. I couldn’t leave her alone, leave her without me. Selfish, possessive, controlling... she is mine and I don’t want one moment of her existence not have me in it. It would be insulting and wrong for her to live and grow without me.
I am her soul, her heart, she needs me.
And Cleo knows this. From the beginning, she knew the risks of being with me. She saw, felt, dissected, and thoroughly understood the darkness that came with this deal, this love, this fate.
Though our love is more than love, though it is blinding white and ever eternal, there is a price, there is a shadow, there is a weight to carry. Even still, even after she took the time to understand the risks, she agreed. She agreed and we loved and we lived.
She had made this choice as much as I had, which - in the eyes of the Fates, was no choice at all.
A World Not Their Own
A selection taken from her upcoming novel
“As we come into the year 2000,” the President’s voice echoed, “a new decade, a new century, a new era – it has been majority's ruling to go into the dawn of a new age.” He paused. “The wall that has previously kept our worlds apart, will now be torn down to start life anew. Please do not be afraid,” he continued, “we – as a nation – have been prepping for this moment for many years. There are rules and regulations, safe havens, and outreach programs in place.”
Static came through the speakers as he looked to someone beyond the camera, everyone silent, waiting. Quickly regaining focus, he cleared his throat. “We all have every opportunity to be the first nation to bring peace among races. We have the ability to make bonds and see each other’s strengths. As we go into this new age, as the clock strikes midnight, we are all equal. We are all starting fresh – our pasts forgiven, our future bright.
“As the countdown begins, our feed will switch to the wall. Please be safe as we step into this new world.”
He bowed his head and the camera cut out. After a moment of the black, the television screen showed the wall that separated the city. Split screened, each side could be viewed. Subs and Basics alike were watching from a safe distance – both sides showing celebrations and protests. The beautiful of it all, though, was that it was happening. Whether people liked it or not… tomorrow was a new day bringing us into a new world.
A world where the monsters came alive.
The air holds left-over humidity from Summer, but the rain cools it to comfortable warmth. The storm, worse than the reporters had predicted, halts my travel greatly. It’s been close to an hour and still I wait under the overpass. Sitting on the concrete divide, I play yet another game of solitaire on my phone. With a slight immaturity, I had thought I could out ride the storm, which is the reason behind the motorbike in the first place. But here I sit, like an idiot, as cars slowly crawl by.
It is becoming easier as the minutes pass to tune out all the background noise and just focus on the rain and the little clicking of the game in hand. With another win, a sound of sliding tires and a motorbike unable to steady came from behind me with the stomping of a heavy boot and metal on highway.
Only shifting my eyes to look, I take in all that is my single-serving friend. Female, human - medium height, athletic build - her little hands tearing off her helmet with a stream of swears. Her long, auburn braid falls forward as she lifts her bike off the highway shoulder. Then she shifts her belongings and I see the glint of a police badge under her jacket.
My jaw clenches and I run a hard hand threw my damp hair. Either this could go terribly or it could be another insignificant confrontation with the so called ‘law-enforcement’ on the city.
Being the better being, I take the still dry towel out of my bike satchel and reach across the wall. “It’s not much, but you are welcome to use this,” I say kindly, but shortly.
She looks up, eyes wide with shimmering tears. Coughing a little, she’s hesitant. Distractedly, she slowly makes her way over. She grabs it – her warm fingers brushing my hand – and takes it straight to her face. I think she gets more smudged makeup on the towel than actual rain, but her freckles are clear of mascara.
Her mind is static and I don’t care enough to try and decode it. Something is obviously wrong, though, as she takes a few minutes just to stare at the stained towel. Abruptly, she starts to weep.
Awkwardly, helplessly, I stand on the other side of the divide. Comfort is not my strong suit. Did I even know this one? Had I already run in with this officer? Or is it a human just being weak? Life is tough, things happen, I didn’t know the story – but I couldn’t help but be a little judgmental.
She stifles her crying as she wanders my way and hands the towel back to me, her gaze low, “I’m sorry.”
The woman is closer now - closer then when I had handed the towel off in the air between us. And with a whiff of her blood I know exactly who she is.
… And, I know exactly why she is crying.
“It’s just a towel, it’s alright.”
Her dread-filled face twitches. Her gaze lifts and then a weak smile brakes in reassurance. “It’s not – it’s ah, not that. … Just been a hard day.”
I’m very much aware. Such a hard day is exactly my business. “I’m sure the weather doesn’t help.”
Her eyes, green sea glass, squint past me into the rain. “Yeah…. Sort of fits though.”
There’s a pause but I don’t want to lose the opportunity – there is only so long to make a lasting impression on someone.
“I’m Drake,” I offer my hand.
She takes it, as firmly as expected. “Mila.”
Mila sits parallel to me on the divider that was once the wall between worlds. Funny now, how the thing that once kept Subs and Basics apart, now held the two – both hiding from the rain, sharing each other’s personal space.
Mila burst out, “I’m sorry! You’re really meeting me at the worst time. I am on the way to my mother’s funeral and now I’m late. I mean, it’s been delayed because of the rain, but still. I was supposed to be there with my grandmother and I’m sure she’s freaking out… and it’s just been a lot… and I hate that I’m not there right now,” fading out she just looks beyond them and sighs.
Out of character and in bad taste, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is “Well, it’s not like she’ll be going anywhere.”
Mila turns her head slowly, stares for a minute, her face twitching. And then she laughs - a full, hearty laugh. Her shoulders loosened and she leans back on her hands. “Well…. So how did you end up here?”
I give a shrug of non-commitment. “Had some work I needed to do across town. I was on my way but realized I forgot something. Usually I’d just have assistant bring it over, but it’s a rather personal case.”
Her eyes are slightly narrowed and I can tell her cop mind is at work. “Lawyer?”
I nod, again in a non-committal way. “To an effect. I’m a businessman, of all trades.”
Her lips pursed slightly, one corner upturned. “Well, you sound like one.”
Smirking, I cross my arms over my chest. “It comes in handy.”
The small talk starts about average things – more about the weather, about our bikes. We go on a while about movies. It is actually very pleasant and as her mind becomes clearer, I realize how much of a shame this is.
Cars start moving faster pass us and we both look to our relative roads.
“I guess time does move on then,” she exhales slowly before lifting.
“Indeed.” I hand her my business card before she gets too far, even though I know she’ll never use it. “If you ever need any help, feel free.”
She examines the black card – with only my last name and office number. In her glance back at me, her brows knot. “Yeah, alright.” She becomes aware that I notice her badge this time, and says “I’m sure you know where to find me, as well.”
A soft nod. “I hope everything goes as smoothly as it can, Mila.”
A thought in her head stuck loudly enough that I could hear.
My thought in response being only this: ‘So, that is the infamous Amilea Van Helsing’.
Whenever it rains at a funeral in the movies, the shot shows everyone with large black umbrella but the earth is open to the weather. Well, in reality, there’s a covering over the casket, grave, and a few seats. Yes, some – who are standing – have umbrellas, but they are of varying sizes and colors.
Grandmother’s face is stone. Tears have not fallen since she first heard the news. Apart of me feels as if she honestly thinks my mother deserved to be killed… but could a parent be so harsh to their child? If any parent could be, it would be that of a Van Helsing.
I hadn’t dared mention my change of career, though Grandmother has used my life as a distraction since the death. Only moments after that life-changing phone call, had she turned all of her attention to me. I wasn’t the last living Van Helsing, contrary to how she treated me, but I was her only grandchild.
As the pastor says a last few words before they close her casket to be lowered, I stare at my mother’s face – almost unseeingly so. It is so… soft. She is just sleeping… free of pain, of worry, of judgment.
Free to be happy.
Grandmother starts tearing away at the service pamphlet – a habit we both share when nervous or anxious. Slowly little bits of paper fell to the wet, but lively, earth. Shred by shred, moment by moment….
The world keeps revolving.
I raise my eyes to the clouded skyline when the casket is closed. A hymn is sung as the casket is lowered, I keep my gaze away. Everything fades to the background… noise muted, people blurred, colors lost. I just don’t know what to do.
A spasm spreads in my chest, breathing difficult, vision blurred. I kept myself as contained as possible, but know I won’t last. Nausea spreads through me and I start to slightly shake my head.
How could she have been so stupid? How could she have left us?
Grandmother places her hand on my knee. “Be strong,” she whispers harshly.
But why? Why do I always have to be strong? My mother is dead. Killed. If there was any time to be weak, I figure this is it. “Just tell me when I can walk away,” and I shut my eyes.
More time edges on. Grandmother lifts me up by the elbow. “We have to…” but she doesn’t have to say for me to understand.
I follow behind her and lower myself to grab some dirt the same time she does. After her, though, is when I throw my fistful in. My mind is blank, my soul quiet, I couldn’t even bring myself to say a final goodbye.
Across the city, beyond the old wall, stands a hovel of a dwelling. Many a creature gathered here, all in celebration. This particular fellowship rejoiced over my triumph; congratulating me over the murder of my wife.
Samantha hadn’t been my wife very long, just over a year. She’d taken my fake surname. But before that she was the ever powerful and glorious Samantha Darla Van Helsing, one of the leading descendants of Gabriel.
(Though she may not have followed tradition as closely as others – their marriage living, or rather dead, proof - any kill was a prized kill.)
As the bonfire rages and the alcohol is consumed, I think about my hit-list. Samantha’s mother would be easier to kill the older the woman got and in her elder years is becoming less vigilant. But, it is Samantha’s daughter that would be a challenge…. Amelia is currently very hard to find, though I was told she is working as an officer of the law.
Barking a laugh, I shoved my tanker to the sky. Thunderous applause and “To the Van Helsings - may they be easy to find, and even easier to kill!"
Of Jaguar And Men
A muse writing.
The tower was a black mass against the starlit sky. The windows were lit up with the fires and candles within. Ri’Jode-Ka’s eyes narrowed, his night vision allowing him to see the outlines of the bandits inside the building. His left ear perked from its original flattened position and turned to his servant turned companion, Myra. She was lighter on her feet than most of the Humans he had encountered before, but the heavy armor she preferred still clanked together with every step.
“How many are we looking at?” She whispered, kneeling beside him. Only the horns of her helmet protruded over the rock they were hiding behind. He placed his hand on the top of her helmet, pushing her down to remain hidden.
His eyes stayed on the building as his ears flattened once more. “Hard to tell. Cat has only been able to see four, five different bodies. Need to be closer to see better.” He glanced up the boulders near the top, an idea forming. He crept further away, using the rocks as cover. There were several archers on the top of the tower, and he didn’t want to risk giving away their position.
“Should we sneak around the back?” Her voice drifted behind him. As he suspected, the heavy armor was slowing her down.
He circled around the largest boulder and stood to his full height. “No. You wait here. Cat will scout ahead.” He began to unfasten the buckles that held up his leather armor. “It will be faster if Cat do it alone. Shall not be long.” He kicked off the leather boots and let out an audible sigh as his bare paw touched the grass. The air was drier than his rainforest homeland, but he still missed the feeling of the vegetation beneath his feet. He quickly shed off the rest of his armor as Myra turned around the boulder.
“By the Gods!” Myra averted her gaze and turned quickly. Her body moved stiffly into position, her heart beginning to pound in her chest. A Cat, specifically one of his species, was not built like a normal human man. He easily towered over her, half the size of a giant at least, but she could see the animalistic power. She had never felt so petite, or so human in that moment.
Ri’Jode-Ka furrowed his brow in confusion. His ears focused on the thumping of Myra’s heart. It was quick, adrenaline spiking the air around her. “Why does your heart beat faster? Is there an enemy nearby already?” He willed magic through his blood and into his right hand. The flames felt cool against his hand, ready to be unleased into a fire storm at an opponent.
“No…” Myra replied meekly. “It’s just that… my Lord, you are not dressed.”
“Of course not. The armor impedes stealth.” He stated matter-of-factly. His hand closed into a loose fist, extinguishing the magic and the flame. He folded his clothes and placed them on the boulder ledge with his dagger and bow on top. “I am Cathay-raht, known as a Jaguar-Man by the Humans. I have a better ability to move on all fours if needed. Any type of armor is troublesome.” From his kneeling position, he glanced up and noticed that her neck and ears were a dark red under the helmet. He stood, worry taking over his features. He approached her back, placing his hand on the leather portion of her shoulder and squeezed gently. “Myra, are you okay? Your skin is all red. Have you contracted illness?” He knew he had been pushing her hard through their travels. Guilt swept through him for a brief moment.
“Just-fine-all-fine-here.” Myra rushed the words out, her heartbeat spiking high again. She turned her head away from where he gripped her shoulder.
“Myra.” His voice became firm. He stepped closer, his shadow towering over her small form, even in the armor. He hated to use intimidation tactics, but he hated using his title more.
“I promise that I’m not ill. I’m just… embarrassed. And I feel embarrassed that I am embarrassed to begin with.”
“Embarrassed for what?” His voice was soft, trying not to make the situation worse than he was guessing it had to be.
“Because you are naked, my Lord.” She covered her face with her hands, embarrassment washing over her more.
An awkward pause passed between them as he processed her statement. “I do not understand. I still have fur.” He looked down at himself. Yes, all fur was still intact, even after fighting the wizards that used fire.
“You are not wearing clothes. I have never seen a male, even a human male, like that before.” Her voice was muffled behind her hands.
He let his hand drop from her shoulder. “I apologize, I was not aware of the clothing custom. Cathay-raht do not worry about clothes unless it must do with the environment to protect ourselves. Is this what you Humans meant by modesty?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Very well. I will warn before I remove my armor again.” He went down on all fours, stretching out his limbs. To any other person, he appeared to be a leaner version of the native saber cats. “I will be back shortly.” He leapt up onto the boulder before slinking away into the darkness.
A muse writing.
There’s a special kind of silence that comes with being home. It’s not a deafening silence, nor even a complete quietness. Instead a bliss that fills me, washing over me, cocooning me.
The waves slip up into the sand, the word ‘crashing’ too harsh, too loud. Yes, the water meeting rock in their tumbling way makes noise, but it’s rhythmic… it’s right.
There’s a breeze that travels with the water, swirling around me, greeting me. Salty, as per nature of the sea, but almost sweet. Fresh, comforting, welcoming. As if it all missed me.
I know the place I would go that could give me the same feeling. I know exactly which city, which town, which beach, which peer. I know to go when the moon is full, when it’s high, and even what time of year….
But it wouldn’t even be a fraction of what I miss, what I need. I would have to drown the thoughts of you - missing you, needing you - pushing them deep into the pits of the earth (the once full lava shafts - the empty caverns that used to be home to such power and fire, destruction and life).
And I would fail. It would all be for not… it would be wasteful to taint such a perfect place in my greedy and lonely empty wishes for you.
… your apple is warm in my lap. Your nightmare haunting me. I know you’re there. And I cannot escape you. Even when I didn’t Know it was you… I knew you were there. I’m never alone.
How funny… these words that should, did, and will make me cry with joy and security, come from me off a bitter tongue. To love is to lose, to feel is to feel all. And so I feel, and so I lose.
I do not have a negative feeling towards you, which makes me all the more upset. It would be easier to hate you…. But, I guess, “It is hard because it is worth it.”
And I know that, I do. I love you - more than love you, miss you and wish for you with every breath.
There is no balance, only cycles. Only waves of pleasantries, waves of despair. Waves like the ocean I love so dearly, ever changing but forever constant. The moon and stars my guidance, my light. The stars and dreams in your eyes my home….
The wind is speaking, my dear… are you listening?
A rough draft for a short story.
Awake with a burst of light over the horizon, a soul-shattering experience akin to The Big Bang, the Earth is forever changed. The sky an array of pastels, signaling the sun’s arrival, routine follows suit. From the East, the little orb of white-centered yellow lifts slowly to meet the warm colors of the sky. As eyes watch in awe, the blackest off night is pushed behind their backs, the moon being suffocated out of existence.
Though I am among those basking in the glory, in the beauty, in the effervescent display of grandeur – something that tickles my consciousness because how can something that happens on such a regular basic people have developed Time, still take breath away every single morning – I also am delivered the fact that as soon as that sun in gone, my existence ceases. By the end of dusk, I will be dead.
I am as sure of this as the breath in my lungs, I am as sure of this as the beating of my heart. And contrary to the anticipated reaction of such news, I am content. No fear, no panic, no stages of grief. Everything has its end so why would I be any different? No regrets in my existence on this planet – this little orb of rock spinning through empty space, around the ever burning center. Though, unlike the sun which when dies will destroy any form of life in the solar system, I will not leave any rippling waves in my wake.
Some may argue that I have not lived because I have not strived with every moment to leave an ever-lasting mark on this world. Some may argue that because I have not spent all of my time, or at least the majority of it, working to be remembered, that it’s all a waste. Another set of people, though a comparative few, maybe argue the exact opposite. That given that I have not exploited my time in vain desires that I have made choices for there here and now, that I’ve lived my best life. Those few may argue I have lived my fullest life, my happiest life, unburdened by the past and unshackled by the future – completely and truly free.
I don’t know. I don’t actually care.
I learned early on that happiness is a study in comparisons.
Light against dark, beauty against ugliness, sweet against sour… everything has a positive to its negative. And once I learned this life became much simpler. A diagnosed optimist, not only passive but a pacifist by nature, it is easier for me to see the good. The good in people; the good in situations; the good in the world… maybe to the point of delusion, but to its entirety nonetheless.
Routine is one of the finer things in life and why I come to feel an overall content-ness to my inevitable demise. I usually wake with the sun, admire its beauty. Sometimes I paint the skies, sometimes poetry is more my speed. Breakfast is next, where the food is always quality, always what I like – a safe standard, an expected pleasure. Sometimes my friends meet me in this hour, sometimes I am the only one lucky enough to rise soundly in the morning. In the end of Spring until early Autumn I take a walk after my meal, to help digestion of course. Before the lunch hour I may find myself reading, playing piano, or doing sorts of crafts with my friends. Like everyone, I have my good days and my bad… my more social days to my more isolated. Another meal, another expected pleasure. Another walk and it’s well into the afternoon. Rain always seems to dance through the air in these hours, no matter the season. Which leads me to feel a welcome sluggishness, my brain sleepy and body cozy. A nap may or may not come, a book in hand fallen to my lap. An easy existence, one of smart choices – happy choices.
And today, the end of all my days, I find myself wanting nothing more than my routine. As I walk to my favorite table in the café for breakfast, a soft smile curls my lips and joy blooms in my chest as the scent of fresh flowers fills my nose. A moment with eyes closed, valuing it all just as the day before.
Chin raised, eyes soft, I look to the man before me.
A rounded smile, slightly crooked teeth, and a hint of a laugh in his voice. “Mind if I join you?”
Gently, I wave my hand across the table, “Not at all.”
Square chin, broad brow, chocolatey brunette hair, sparklingly blue eyes, with pale and clear skin. Wide shoulders properly back, a sturdy chest pushing against his cotton shirt, his forearms rest against the tables edge – not his elbows, hands together. “I thought today might be the day to finally introduce myself. My name is Darren.”
As I smile, my eyes swimming in his, I tuck a blonde curl behind my ear. “Well Darren, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Lola.”
His chest twitches as if hearing my name makes him overwhelmingly happy. “Lola, I must say… you are beautiful. A face worthy of the silver screen, truly. I can’t deny that we are creatures of habit and I’ve seen you quite a few times now.”
He chuckles, I giggle, and after a sip of my apple juice I nod. “I’ve seen you around myself.”
“Well, there’s something special about today then, hm?”
One final breath, it would seem. A shooting star. A green flash after the loss of the sun. A special memory for my soul to keep. I have momentary worry that this could escalate quickly and lead me to lose my content-ness with my death later this very evening. But as quickly as that worry arrived, it has dissipated. I offer a smile, “Everything happens in its time.”
He points a fork full of scrambled egg at me. “Right you are, Miss Lola.”
Breakfast hour is soon over and I find Darren holding the door open for me. “We are creatures of habit then, aren’t we?”
His smile is contagious and reminds me of a child with a new toy. “I can’t imagine that is a bad thing.”
We ease into the manicured lawn and move with the pace of turtles towards the miniature garden. The early Autumn sky above us is an intensified blue in comparison to the orange and reds of the leaves and the white puffy clouds rushing along on the wind. Seasons are another study in comparisons I suppose… leading me to love Autumn and Spring above Summer and Winter…. Life rising again and death taking its prizes versus the same green and blue and white and grey. Also, it was Spring and Autumn that bring us the best of flowers – the Summer too hot, the Winter too cold. Strawberry, pumpkin, and lemon roses bloom before us against their olive leaves and browning stems. I note that it’s a perfect bouquet for any table this harvest.
Bundling my sweater sleeves in my palms, I tuck my arms across my stomach as I lean to smell the roses. Still very much alive and well, their subtle scent is soft and welcoming. “I can’t imagine today going any better.”
Darren offers his arm for us to continue towards the small fountain in the center of the gated garden, “Really? It’s only just begun!”
“I’ve just got a feeling....” I turn to him slight, hand soft on his arm, “One of those feeling without origin, a phantom feeling, where you consciousness is connected to something greater than yourself.” I look up into his face. “Haven’t you had a feeling like that before?”
He chuckles and spreads his hand over mine on his arm. “Oh, this very morning! A feeling of talking to you and knowing my life would be better for it.”
I nod thoughtfully and thankfully. “It takes a special kind of person to listen to those feelings.”
He smiles in agreement as he sits next me on an iron bench. “Well, what shall we do the rest of the day then? It already seems to be the best of days; I don’t think there’s a wrong choice.”
“Perhaps not. Perhaps whatever we choose is exactly what’s meant to be. It feels like one of those days… one of the free days – no worries, no consequences.” At least not for me, I think quickly. “Good is all around us, we just have to be willing to see it.”
There’s a soft hum as Darren looks across the garden, across the lawns. “No school, no work, no family… freedom to live and let live.”
Freedom to live my best day.
My last best day.
Rain drops fall softly against the windows of the library. A consistent, rhythmic sound so similar to ones heartbeat and breathing it has an all-consuming calming effect to those around it. Lounging on ancient leather sofas that look to belong to scholarly gentleman of Victorian Era, Darren and I converse over the widest range of topics. We each have a complimentary but not-identical knowledge to the most roundabout of things, an intense observations of things most people don’t seem to care about.
Soft breathing, slow hearts, calm minds; we share our thoughts back and forth, knowing the other genuinely cares to hear. As if he’s had all the time in the world to learn all the unanswered questions buzzing in my head and study each topic, he is a bountiful source of information. My back against the massive armrest, bare neck against the cool leather as my long hair falls over the side; my legs are fanned over his thighs. One of his strong, calloused hands holds my panted calves; the other is soft on my socked ankle. Temple against the back of the soda, I hug a pillow to my chest while listening to him dreamily.
“Luxury of coming from a wealthy family I suppose… I can do whatever my heart desires. Mostly I study whatever catches my interest for a time then can move onto the next. I have quite a few degrees that don’t really amount to any career, exactly, but I just love to learn.”
“‘Reading to the mind is what exercise is to the body’.” I quote Joseph Addison.
“Indeed! I also take advantage of those around me, though. There is a significant amount to be learned from books, don’t get me wrong… but to actually sit down and chat with people? That’s where the truly interesting information lies.”
“I can imagine…. Life is a study of comparisons, of balances,” I confess my most sacred of mantras. “Fact versus fiction, science versus art. I’ve always thought a person who is inherently a contradiction – a person who lives in that fine line between both worlds, is a person who’s found the answer to everything.”
He squints a little, a soft smirk. “And what’s that?”
I laugh lean forward a little, “The answer to everything? Of who, what, when, where, but most importantly why? The answer to what is yours, mine, or our purpose? To live!” I burst a fully-belly laugh and lean back against the sofa’s arm. “Obviously!”
Utterly bemused his hand squeezes my ankle quickly, “It’s really that simple, hm?”
My shoulders wiggle in a miniature shrug, “And why not?”
“Honestly? That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard because it makes the most sense. I, like many, tend to overthink – tend to overcomplicate things. This is all so… refreshing.”
I smirk a little and squeeze the pillow against my curled stomach, “Simple minded doesn’t have to mean unintelligent. They say ignorance is bliss and all, but I also think bliss can be found in selective worrying. Worry about things you can actual work towards to change, forget the rest, and your life will be better for it.”
There’s a silent beat, his brows furrow. “Is that what makes you such a happy person?” he asks earnestly.
Humming a little, my eyes drift to fogged window. “Maybe so.”
Something claws at the back of my thoughts… something dark, something not very nice. Bad memories, intrusive thoughts, unstable impulses, overactive anxieties… I am not sure, but it’s something I insist not to let in. Unfortunately, I think of the nightmare I had a few nights ago – my timeline of exactly when a little fuzzy. I couldn’t remember specifics – surroundings, the people with me, what was actually wrong – but I could very much remember how I felt and how I reacted to said feelings. In the nightmare all the pain I’ve ever felt or could ever feel, all the anxiety a living being could ever have, all the depression and wanting to die… unending screaming, unending crying… just torture. It felt like it went on for days. Finally morning came, the nightmare ending, the ache in my chest easing away. Almost with a sort of emotion hangover, I spent the following day… maybe days, in a hazy realm of exhaustion. It feels so long ago, so far out of reach, like the sun as it rises or falls over the horizon. Real but not real, there but not there. Purgatory vertigo.
My mind snaps to attention, gaze fallen on Darren’s blue-grey eyes. “Sorry?”
“It’s about time for dinner, would you like to head out?”
My legs fall sluggishly off his knees as I nod. “Yes… of course.”
His contagious smile hits me again and I’m able to shake the darkness from my brain. Never mind I only have just a few hours left… I need to be right here, right now and enjoying ever last second of it.
Across the dining hall, the new guy points over to where Darren and Lola sit at her regular table. “What’s her story?”
The man he questions stands still, arms crossed tight against his chest, eyes never leaving the room in front of him. “That’s Lola Sanders. She’s… mm, about twenty eight if I remember correctly. She’s been a resident at Horizons Home for the Harmlessly Insane for about ten years. Transferred here from the juvenile ward across state, I was told.”
“… and? I mean, she seems not only the most normal one here, but, like… the happiest.”
“Honestly? I can’t explain it right if I tried. She has this delusion that she’s going to die – every single morning she thinks she’s going to die after the sun goes down. She doesn’t of course… but she does pass out right quick. Sleeps all night, too. Doesn’t matter if it’s six hours in the Summer or fourteen in the Winter, she’ll sleep all night. Even on her most lucid of days she has weirdly selective memory. She doesn’t completely forget everything, mind you, but…. She’s an odd one.” He runs a hand through his hair.
“And her non-lucid days?” the new guys asks slowly.
He shakes his head sadly. “I don’t know, man. It’s Hell-ish. Even with medication that should knock her on her ass it doesn’t stop – she doesn’t stop. I’ve never seen someone in so much pain. There’s no balance. She completely has the inability to balance an average range of emotions. Either she is the happiest person here or she’s the one that makes your heart break.”
“And the guy? Does he help? Do they know each other?”
“Darren Williams, thirty, was admitted about a month before you arrived. At first we thought multiple personalities but he is actually just absolutely delusional. You know Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter? How he was a compulsive liar… like, he would find a story of what someone did, erase their memory, and claim he did it? Darren’s like that except he doesn’t know he’s lying. Books, movies, other people… it doesn’t matter. He’ll find someone else he rather be or find something he’d wished he done and then truly believe that’s him and his life.”
“Do you think that’s going to upset anyone?”
He shrugs. “It hasn’t so far. And even if he gets caught saying he’s done something someone else has to their face, they’re usually pleased. Remember, they’re all harmless. And what’s that quote you like?”
New guys smiles and looks out to all the patients, “‘Why make a miserable man out of perfectly happy horse’?”
“Yeah… yeah. We’ve got a bunch of happy horses, that’s all….”
“That’s all,” he agrees.
A rough draft for a short story.
Slam of the door and Vicky and her date, Warren, are off to their senior prom. I love my sister Victoria, I do, but the latest phase of being Miss Popular has given her such a terrible, unappreciative attitude. Of course, I had to wait while she took a ton of pictures - posing this way, that way, try this, try that, alone, together…. Even after, which one would think would be delay enough, she had me hold the car around the corner so she could be fashionably late, make sure all her friends were already there, and make an entrance. God, I missed my little, geeky sister, Tori.
About to pull the gear shift into reverse, my eyes look across the parking lot before the rearview mirror. A sight stops me and I still. A girl and a boy lay beyond my headlights. Looking straight up like Tony Stark in a tux, he is leaning back against his truck, arms crossed over his chest, face like stone. Her hand is curled up to her neck and there are tears running her mascara down her cheeks. She says something, her little fingers flicking forward but he just shakes his head and backs to his side to open the driver door. Swiftly and efficiently, he’s in the truck, the engine roars, it backs out, and drives right past her towards the street. And the girls just stands there.
Black hair all fancy; everything from the ear up pulled into a high bun, the rest curled in thick locks. Her gown is far different from my sister’s royal purple, jeweled, ‘mermaid’ wrap of fabric, instead a proper ball gown, sleeveless with what’s called a sweetheart neckline, I think. The top is white with black print of flowers, a sort of petal effect from the waist down, then a full tulle white skirt all the way to the pavement. Her hand on her chest lets her fingers rest on some necklace, I was too far to see the details.
Her gaze is lowered, her chest heaving. I’ve seen my sister like that - hurting from a broken heart. My big-brother instinct makes me turn off my car and pull out a book. Just until she goes inside or get picked up or something….
I cannot even read the words on the page because my eyes keep flickering to her. She’s been standing there in the same spot, same stance, same gaze, for about five minutes now. Biting my lip, I wonder if I should go ask if she’s okay. As if she could read my mind, her head straightens then turns. She looks toward the prom, then to the far side of the parking lot. Her hands drop to her waist, and then she looks at me. I can barely see her with my gaze lowered but she’s definitely looking at me.
A beat and then I can see her dig in this tiny black purse, pulling out her phone. She holds it, looks towards the dance, then puts it away. Her chest heaves, she nods once, then turns towards me. Soon enough, there’s a soft knock on my window.
Book lowered to my lap, I hold the bottom to lower my window. Before it’s even half-way she says “Hey.”
I clear my throat, “Hi….”
She brings manicured nails to squeeze the bridge of her nose. “So, uh, you don’t know me. And this will probably sound super weird, but can I sit with you for a minute? My boyfriend just dumped me and I just… need a minute.”
Her blue eyes are so intense as she squints at me. “S-sure,” is all I can muster.
She walks around the car and slides into my passenger seat. It takes her a moment to gather all the tulle and she closes the door softly. “My name’s Raven, by the way. Raven Thompson.”
I take the hand she’s holding on and shake it, her grim is surprisingly firm. “Loyde McGuffin.”
Her eyes are intense again, moving around like she’s studying my face. Self-consciously I adjust my glasses. With a little sigh, her eyes lower to my shirt, a little flicker of smile appears. “Marvel is way better than DC.”
Chuckling, I nod. “I actually agree with that. My mom, though, has no concept of a difference and thinks any super hero will do.”
Raven’s eyes lower even more to my book. “Oh! That’s a good one. Most people think the first one is all there is - ‘cause of the movie I guess.” Her face lights up a little. “Have you read it before?”
“Oh, yeah, this series is one of my favorites.”
Her smile widens. “It’s really hard to explain to people who’ve never read all the books, but I have to say my favorite part is when Zaphod meets with the creator of the Universe in the cabin and the guy, like, only lives in the present and what’s presently around him. It’s fucking crazy and I love it - it’s perfect.” She quickly points up behind her ear, “I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo of a Babel fish.”
“‘The argument goes something like this: I refuse to prove that I exist, says God, for the proof denies faith and without faith I am nothing. But -’”
“‘Says man,” she replies, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist and by your own arguments you don’t.’”
“‘Oh dear, says God’,” we quote together, “‘I hadn’t thought of that, and vanishes in a puff of logic.’”
Smiles and laughter follow and it takes a bit for me to realize how fast my heart is beating and that I’m blinking a little too often. As she clears her face up while looking in the flip down mirror, I notice how striking she is. Her clear and pale skin with the hair black and shiny like an obsidian stone, blue eyes bright like the morning sky, her lips painted red for the occasion….
“So…” I comment slowly.
Her shoulders drop and she slowly flips the visor back. “Yeah…. It’s stupid, really. He broke up with me literally right before prom, how awful is that? I mean, we’ve barely been dating two months - mostly long distance because he’s a Sophomore in college. And he doesn’t….
“Well, he used to playful call me a geek and nerd but maybe the tease came from something real, something he didn’t like. He always put down when I got excited about something I like or when I chose to hang out with my girlfriends - ‘The Ladies Of Erised’ is our fan group which explains enough I’d think…. Especially if it was instead of Skyping with him or whatever, he’d just irrationally upset….
“I suppose we had enough in common to get together, but not enough to stay.” She huffs and squishes her hair against the fabric headrest. “And I didn’t actually want to go to prom… but my friends guilted me and then he agreed so I was like, why not? But I guess this is why not….” Her eyes peak at me. “What about you? Sitting, in a car, reading…?”
My shoulders sort of drop in a mild shrug. “I dropped off my little sister.”
She nods and closes her eyes. “That’s really nice of you.”
A soft warmth spreads through my chest. “Thanks.”
A weird silence falls.
Another long and heavy sigh, “Would you mind taking me home?” her voice is soft. “I live really close,” she adds quickly.
“Oh, yeah! Of course, god - I’m sorry. I should have asked.” I quickly turn the car back on.
She buckles up and points to the exit, “Take a right and at the corner another right.” I do so, then she says, “Two more blocks and a left.” We pull down a long street with a ton of mature trees making a canopy. “I’m all the way down at the end, on the right….”
I pull softly along the curb in front of a beautiful two-story farmhouse style home. My brain is racing yet isn’t functioning. She’s gorgeous, she’s obviously smart… we have common interests, but would I be a total creep to ask for her number? Or give her mine? I legitimately suck at this meet-cute shit.
Standing in the open door frame, she leans down. A perfect shot of her cleavage, I have to force my eyes to stay high. “Can you wait here?” she asks.
I adjust my classes again, “Uh, sure.”
Maybe she’ll be locked out? But no, she enters and closes the door quickly. Gas money? But we really didn’t drive that far…. Why exactly had she asked me to wait? Brows knotted, I don’t really see what’s in front of me as my fingers strum on the steering wheel. The opening door makes me jump and I whip my head that direction.
Though hair is still done and makeup still on, Raven has changed into nice fitting blue jeans tucked short leather boots, a tight black tank top and a grey sweater that reminds me of Rey’s outfit with Luke in The Last Jedi.
“Wow…” I can’t help but exhale.
Her cheeks rise with her smile and she tucks back some hair that came loose. “I thought maybe we could go… somewhere.” She laughs and turns to me fully. “I didn’t really think it through,” the pace of her voice a little quick. “I just… I don’t know. You seem really cool and I don’t think anyone ever quoted Douglas Adams with me before.”
“We could go bowling,” I reply without thinking.
Her head tilts, eyebrows raise, “Bowling?”
Yeah, that is kind of stupid, isn’t it? “Or… um, there’s an AMC or the Denny’s near here….”
Raven’s smirk rivals Natalie Dormer. “Nah, I like bowling. We should totally go bowling. I know a place, it’s a bit a ways down the main road, but they’ve got fantastic burgers and corn dog nuggets.”
Feeling quite nervous, I try to keep my breathing calm even if my heart is pounding so hard I swear it’s shaking my chest. I follow her directions without question and within twenty minutes we pull into the parking lot of a huge building that says Broadway Bowl on the side.
She’s focused on her phone enough that I’m able to open her door for her. “Everything okay?”
Nodding, she explains, “I’m just letting my friends know I’m not coming.”
I shut the door, “Oh, good?” I say, though it sounds more like a question.
She slips the phone into her back pocket and shrugs. We walk very close together as we head for the double doors. “So, Loyde.”
Holding the door open for her, I look down at her. “Mhm?”
“How little is your little sister to you?”
Now that’s a creative way to ask my age. “I just finished my Freshman year at the community college. After I’ve got my AA I’ll be switching to University,” I make sure to explain. “My twentieth birthday is in July.”
Just before the shoe counter she throws her hand my direction, “Me too! My birthday, in July, I mean. July 31st and I’ll be nineteen. And me too for community college direct to University, saves so much money.”
“Harry Potter’s birthday!” I can’t help my fanboy excitement.
Bursting out laughing she nods, “Yes, exactly!”
A full game complete and we head over to the makeshift cafe, “So, we’re actually both pretty terrible at bowling.”
Another killer smirk, “Mmm, doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun! Or funny. We could get some food and head over to the pool tables though, if you want a break,” and she elbows my side.
I burst a laugh, “Punny, I like it.”
She cocks a brow at me then leans over the counter to order. “A corn dog nugget basket with an extra side of onion rings, please. Oh! And can I please have a medium soda cup?”
So polite… this whole night… how could anyone let her go? Again and again she surprises me, so witty, so intelligent, so funny…. It sucks she was unable to do her community service hours to get the scholarship due to needing to hold a job, because she is totally worthy of going straight to University. Helping her mom with bills after her father skipped out on them, well, that should give her the fucking scholarship right there. It made me wish there was something I could do for her.
Right as she pulled out her money clip, I already had cash over the counter.
She pulls the tray with a smile. Settling into one of the three booths again the wall she looks over her drink at me, “So… I think we can officially say this first date is going well.”
My cheeks warm and I get very preoccupied with my fries. “I’d say so,” I reply quietly.
“We exchanged numbers, we’re friends on Facebook, you even took that candid shot of me bowling,” her tone playful.
“You did that first!”
She giggles and takes a long sip of her soda. “Damn right.”
Chuckling with her, I ease. Shoulders dropped, leaning back, arm gently on the tabletop. “So, Miss Raven, what else did you want to do tonight? I’m sure there must be some after-prom party you were planning on. Though might be weird if your friends were expecting Tony Stark.”
“And I show up with The Tenth Doctor?”
My heart skips a beat and my cheeks warm. I adjust my glasses habitually and clear my throat. “Thanks,” I reply rather lamely though that is a fucking brilliant compliment. “So… yeah… any after parties to head to?”
Head tilt, one shoulder bump, “Not really. Parties aren’t really my thing.”
I lean forward, elbows on the table. “Oh?”
“Yeah,” her face softens, lips purse slightly, brows come together as wiggles her plastic straw around her cup, “another reason why I am so uncool. I don’t really like loud… anything, loud people, loud music. Plus, I legitimately don’t understand the point of drinking - it’s poison and then you lose control of yourself and can get really hurt,” she shakes her head.
“I mean, my friend Ben does a board-game night on Saturday and that’s awesome!” Her face brightens again, “we play all sorts of board games and put on movies, bring all sorts of food and have snacks and stuff. Plus, he’s got a fucking nice hookah.”
Loving listening, I nod softly. “So you like, well, things like tonight…. Chill, good conversation, some good food. Is he doing another board game night tonight?”
“Nah,” she sweeps a bundle of fries through some ketchup, “his girlfriend is normal and likes parties so they’re going to party hop, I guess.”
A small silence falls and we focus on our food. It doesn’t take but a few minutes and we both finish most of our plates. “You still hungry?” I ask as she finishes the last of my fries.
She pauses and looks at me then smiles broadly, “You know what would be really good right now?”
I squint and take a chance “Ice cream?”
A giggle and her palm opens my direction, “Exactly! We should totally go over to Cythia’s. You know that little mom and pop place on third? She has this bomb ass brownie sundae with a brownie, a blondie, cake batter ice cream with a drizzle of chocolate syrup.”
My eyes give Raven a once over. She has curves but she’s far from chubby. Either she doesn’t eat like this often or she literally works her ass off. Eyes back on her face, I nod, “Sounds perfect. Want to go now?”
Her hands clap together softly, “Yes! Please? I haven’t gone in ages.”
Huge brownie sundae in front of us, we sit chair-touching-chair with two spoons. It is actually perfect she is left handed and sitting to my left because that leaves us both the ability to eat but also leaves my left arm over the back of her chair and her right hand on my thigh.
Spoon just above the ice cream covered blondie, Raven shifts her head a little over her shoulder, “You know….”
I dig into some chocolate whipped cream, “Hm?”
Her cheeks raises, her dimples deepen, her lips in a soft smile, “We should totally get a selfie together.”
“Pic or it didn’t happen?”
She elbows me in the ribs but laughs. “We can put in online, we can not - I don’t care. I’m just really, really happy and I want a picture to remember this.”
My fingers softly weave through her curls, “Me too.”
Raven grabs her phone on the other side of the bowl. Her little shoulder leans into me and I drop my hand to her bicep. Pulling her close I lean my cheek on the top of her head. A picture is taken and the first one is so perfect there’s no need for more. As she edits it and does post it on Instagram and Facebook, I rub my thumb across the base of her neck.
My phone buzzes at her tag and I slip it out of my pocket. Again, it’s perfect and without thinking I make it my profile picture. I title my screen to her, “Hey, so, Facebook really isn’t my thing, how to I change the relationship status?”
She nibbles on her lip softly and tries to hide her smile. She holds my phone and moves her finger around the screen a few times then I hear her phone chime. “I just have to accept it.”
“Oh the anticipate!” I tease.
She giggles and is quick on her phone. “Facebook official is a big deal, man. It’s like me wearing your letterman jacket and us going ‘steady’. That something you can handle?”
With a surge of new-found confidence I reply “Oh, yes, it definitely is.” Phones down, curled together, my fingers drift up and down her arm. “So… did prom night turn out to be ‘the best night of your life’?” I say with an enthusiasm mimicking Becky.
“It did, actually. Sure, life gave me a sour situation but then some sugar was added…” she pokes me softly.
I squeeze her and finish “… and you’ve got lemonade.”
A rough draft for a short story,
that inspired an upcoming novel of the same name.
“Clark! CLARK!” my little brother screams across the crowded dining room, shoving his way through people, his eyes full of alarm.
I have only seen that expression a few times before… when our dog ate chocolate, when the cat got stuck under the couch, when he accidentally backed dad’s mustang into the dumpster. Shoving my drink over to Oscar, I rush to meet Jonah. Hands tight on his shoulders I look down slightly. Though we may be three years apart - him a sophomore to my senior - and I am still older, stronger, more popular, we are close and he is and will always me important to me.
“Candice! She’s ahh… just come!” and he starts yanking my arm to the game room. A home-theater with two pool tables and a darts board, it’s more Dad’s Man Cave, (only a year ago was there a folding table added for Jonah and his D’n’D nights).
Eyes searching for Candice, my stomach starts churning. “What happened?”
Jonah’s chest heaves. “She… the guys - Erik and them, they were doing shots and now she’s fucking wasted - please! I can’t get her off the fucking table.”
In the thick of it now, I see her. Indeed, she is obnoxiously very drunk and resisting being taken off the pool table. She is tugging at her dress and words like ‘pool’ and ‘skinny dipping’ flew by my ears. Forcing my way through the circle of guys watching her, I just wrap my arms around her legs and turn - carrying her fire-fighter style.
The memory of the last time I did this comes to mind - it had been her fifteenth birthday and I sneakily came up and grabbed her, dropped her into the pool. The first time I did this though… man, I must have been thirteen… I’d just joined the middle school football team. There had been a power-outage down our whole block and our parents made us go outside to play. Jonah and she were fighting over her 3DS, he claiming it was his turn. He was being a little shit and wouldn’t give it back even though it was hers. So, I picked her up and carried her to the other side of the house. For years I’d been a big brother to her and this was my way of letting her calm down. I sat with her… at first she was crying, then she was angry - pulling out grass and ripping the blades apart. Then, finally, she sighed and flopped down on lawn.
“I’m sorry, Clark,” she muttered to me.
“What for?” I asked back.
“You always end up seeing me cry.” Even at ten she was weirdly aware of our relationship and how though I was her best friend’s older brother, we weren’t actually related.
Thrashing around over my shoulder, now, hitting me across the back and elbowing me in the head, she is much stronger now and much more upset. My arms across her legs tighten and I try to relax my frowning face. Finally down the long hall of the east wing, I police-kick open my bedroom door and gently lower her to the bed.
Red ringlets fall across my sky blue sheets, her green eyes taking a moment to focus. “Clark?”
I smirk, only she and my brother call me by my first name. “The one and only.”
Her freckled cheeks flush and she looks around. “Where are we?”
Lowering myself into a crouch, my hands on her knees, I watch as she sits up slowly. I realize that in all this time she’s probably never been in my room. No, it is clear that she only ever felt comfortable with Jonah. “My bedroom.”
After looking around for a moment, she looks into my face and squints. “You’ve got good taste, Mister Clark.”
“Well thank you, Miss Candice.”
She giggles a little, then a lot, then falls back on my bed. I lift and sit next to her. When she sees my face again, she pointed. “You!”
Trying to keep my head clear, I keep my eyes on her heart-shaped face. Though, that doesn’t help as much as it should. I knew that face all my life yet every day it makes me smile. “Me?”
She let out a soft hum then takes a deep, long breath. “Yeah, you.” Her voice is soft. The same kind of soft when she comforted me after we found out Mom had cancer, and after she passed away. The same kind of soft when I find her on her roof and she talks to me while looking at the stars. Eyes closed, she pushes back hair off her face, “You, Sir Clark, are one of my best friends.”
My blink turns into eyes closed. “Yeah…” but nothing more, right? “Yeah, I guess so.”
She peeks at me from over her nose. “That’s not a bad thing, is it?”
“No, Lady Candice… it’s great.”
She doesn’t seem convinced and turns on her side. She pats the sheets, “Com’on. You’ve got that face.”
I think of all the times we talked without Jonah… of all the times I could have made things different. I think of all the girls I’d gone through because nothing compared to her. But who can compare to your best friend? The girl you’ve know almost all your life? She is always thoughtful, bringing me my favorite food. She is always worried, asking if I was okay. She is always aware of my habits, sometimes getting ahead of my routine.
Dad always told me, ‘Marry your best friend’ and that’s what he and Mom had been.
I let myself lay down next to her, keeping my head up in my hand. “What face?”
It is easy to tell she was trying to be serious, but the effects of alcohol make it hard for her. “The face you get when you need to talk about something.”
“There’s a face for that?” I smirk.
Her eyes roll and she shoves my arm out from under my head.
“Hey!” I chuckle.
She is on her back again, looking at the fan. “Hey Clark?”
“This dress is uncomfortable.”
Heart pounding, I sit up, “Ah… okay?”
Her face is peaceful, eyes closed, hands cupped over her stomach. Her voice is soft again, though this time the type of sleepy soft she gets after a movie marathon. “Can I borrow your pajamas?”
I lift of the bed quickly and go for the closet. I tug out some sweatpants from the dresser and snatch my softest shirt off the hanger. Stepping back into the room, I look between my clothes, “They’re going to be kind of big on… you.” My eyes come to her, standing in the moonlight from my bay window, standing straight up from where she dropped her dress at her ankles.
Her silky underwear and matching green bra is covering more than her bathing suit I keep telling myself. But that doesn’t change anything. The blue-ish white light somehow makes her red hair shin with gold, her tanned skin warm and freckled, her tiny frame so natural and beautiful. Forcing my gaze away, I shove out my clothes, “Here.”
Shirt over her head, her soft fingers brushing my skin as she takes the pants. Out of the corner of my eye I see her waiver; I step forward and catch her before she falls. “Hey now….”
She groans and clings to my shirt. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
Already aware of that, I had started walking her quickly to my en-suite. Lowering her in front of the bowl, I hold her hair with one hand and rub her back with the other. Memories flashed by me again, from the night she had been sleeping-over with Jonah and we had to rush her to the ER for appendicitis. I’d heard her in the hall bath, getting sick. She was twelve, I fifteen, and it was about three in the morning. When she threw up a second time, that’s when I started screaming for my dad. I remember seeing her in the hospital room the next night, she started laughing and when I asked why she said “You just always see me cry… you always see me at my worst.”
She’d started looking at me differently that winter break and as I lay her back in my bed, she gave me the same expression. “You’ve got a face for things too, you know,” I tease softly.
In all this time, she doesn’t know I know she has feelings for me and in all this time she doesn’t know I have feelings for her. She blinks a few times and her chest drops and rises frantically. “What?”
After I settled against my pillows, I brush some hair off her face as she got comfortable. “Nothing, Candice. Don’t worry about it.”
There is a lull, a silence, and when I think she is safely asleep, I close my own eyes. Brain focusing on the far off music, I sigh thickly.
But then there’s a “Clark?” her voice thoughtful.
“Why do you call me that?”
I smirk, “That’s your name isn’t it?”
“Yeah… but… every calls me Candi.”
“That’s why it’s special.”
Then I feel her hand on my arm, lifting it away from me, her head then pressing against my chest. My eyes open to a bushel of red hair, able to just see the tip of her nose. Rising and falling with my breathing, her little hand is curled close to my shoulder, to my neck. As she is fast asleep, I eye her for a few minutes. Finally, my knotted stomach starts to ease and I wrap my arms around her. As comfortable as I’d always imagined, I let myself drift away.
Golden light across my eyes makes me stir too early. Groggy, I blink until I see what is so heavy against my arm. Candice is still fast asleep, her my little spoon. She’d curled us far enough across the bed, that the sun was hitting me, not her. It is all very startling, to say the least. Not just the spooning, or that we had slept in the same bed together, but also seeing her in so comfortable with me, seeing her feel safe in her most vulnerable time.
Heart beat fast, breathing unsteady, I wonder if I should just try and fall back sleep. Let her wake up to us and see how it went. But with a racing mind, a numb arm, and the need to pee, I just couldn’t lay here. Slowly and gently I maneuver myself without waking her, getting myself all the way into the bathroom and shutting the door.
A quick shower then maybe I could bring some breakfast up…. Water and painkillers, for sure. However, when I open the door I come to see a very sleepy, groggy, and hung-over Candice sitting with very confused expression.
I clear my throat, “Good morning.”
When she looks at me her expression of confusion vanishes and her face went red from nose to ear. “Clark?”
“The one and only,” I smile.
She smiles a little and looks around. “I didn’t… ah, realize how much I drank.”
“Erik’s an idiot, he can get a lot of people drunk fast.”
Her brows come together and she slowly hangs her head. Groaning, she falls back against the pillows. “I’m so sorry.”
I carefully stand at the end of the bed, “For?”
Her grimace turns in a smile then she laughs. “You just always see me at my worst, don’t you?” Her peridot eyes shining up at me. “I’m sorry that I ruined your night.”
I came up around the bed, reaching for my watch. “You didn’t.”
Her eyes roll and she huffs. “Oh yes, I’m sure the highlight of your night was taking care of me.”
Smirking, I just reach over to ruffle her mane, “Com’on now, Candice.”
Laughing, she reaches up to push me, her usual response. But given her weird positioning on the bed, she somehow ends up unbalanced and falling to the floor. I tried to catch her but somehow we both end up against my grey carpet.
Her very much under me, me very much on top of her, our faces are inches apart. I can feel her warm, shallow breath against my cheek, see her brilliant eyes looking straight into mine. My hands shaking under my weight, my heart vibrating in my chest, I am frozen in this moment.
“Clark?” she let out a breath.
“Candice…” I murmured back.
Her plump pink lips part once but then she closes her mouth quickly. The way she is looking at me is killing me. And then when her eyes lowered to look at my lips, I can’t stop myself. Slowly, gently, I lower myself just enough to brush my lips against her. When her hands came up to grip my waist, her head tilting softly in agreement, I kiss her a little more.
“Took you long enough,” Jonah comments across the breakfast bar.
I didn’t look up from the scrambled eggs. “What do you mean?”
“You and Candice.”
Spatula over the food, I just turn my head to him. Squinting, I just stare at his cocky expression.
Jonah chuckles softly and swigs back some orange juice. “Com’on man, I’ve known you both my whole life.” When I didn’t say anything he leans back into his chair, arms over his chest. “You’re not as good as hiding your crush around me as she is. I honestly don’t know why she never picked up on it. She’s liked you for so long,” he groans and rolls his eyes. “And man, you probably liked her just as long, haven’t you?”
My little brother shrugs. “What’s Dad always say? Marry your ‘best friend’? Well contrary to literally everyone’s belief, you’re her best friend, not me. You actually spend way more quality time with her than I do, you two just have me in common.”
He isn’t wrong. “This is kind of a big deal, isn’t it?”
“Like when you showed up to Freshman Homecoming because her date never came? Or when you started sending her flowers on Valentine’s Day and her birthday?” When he noticed my expression he lets out a burst of a laugh, “It wasn’t that hard to figure out! Only you, literally only you, call her Candice. Even her own family calls her Candi. And! Let’s not forget her last birthday! The gag gift you got her was cute and all, but I know what you gave her on the rooftop.”
I rub my face and lean against the counter. “Jesus Christ.”
“Bro, I’m her closest friend other than you. Same hospital, ten hours apart, Mom was her mom’s best friend since high school… Candice and I are basically twins. And, well, being gay and all makes it so much easier to be more like a sister to her and never ever having to worry about your problem.” He ducked when I threw the spatula at him. “My point! I’m on her phone, like, more than I’m on mine. I see the texts, the call logs… you two have basically been dating for years without actually having ever gone on a date.”
My eyes widen. “Crap. That’s a thing now, isn’t it?”
He chuckles again and ducked away from the wad of hand-towel as he lifts from his seat. “Yup! You’re going to have to go on a first date now. Of course, I’ll be over there helping her get ready, so! You’re all on your own, Superman,” and he waves as he left the kitchen.
In a dress the same color as my sheets, Candice opens the door with a huge smile. Cheeks raise, little wrinkles by her eyes, she tucks a few locks behind her ear. “Hi.”
Stunning, as always, my voice gets caught in my throat. The heart-locket I had given her for her birthday is on a shorter chain, perfectly displayed above her cleavage. I just hand over the bouquet of daisies - her favorite flower. Finally, I swallow hard, “Hey.”
She nods me into the house, “Jonah already left, my dad’s still out. I told him you were picking me up and he said to either be home by midnight or let them know I was at your house.” She giggles nervously and guides us into the kitchen. “I don’t think he realizes this is a date.”
I nod, not sure what to say. Jonah knew, my dad said congratulations, and here I was. We weren’t Facebook official, yet, though, I suppose, and wasn’t it a thing where I talk to her dad or something? I’d never had a girlfriend before; I’d always wanted her, so I waited.
“So, I made reservations at Jardin’s,” I explain nervously.
She looks up from the flowers she was carefully trimming and putting in a glass vase I recognize from one of my orders, “Oh?”
I frown, “We can go somewhere else?”
Her hand flies up and I notice she is wearing her favorite nail polish - the color she only reserved for the ‘happiest of times’. “No! I just… well, I remember having to save up all month of babysitting money to be able to go there before Homecoming last year.”
I shrug. Money has never been a problem for me. Dad is happy to pay for things when it is a pretty sure thing I’m getting a full ride scholarship for football and keeping straight A’s. “I worked over at Peter’s this summer though, remember?” I try to make her feel better.
This does ease her and she smiles and finishes the flowers. “That is true. I remember having to lug you off to that diner when your car was in the shop,” she smirks up at me.
“I’ll have you know I left that car there longer than I had to so I could see you more.”
She bit her lip for a second but the smile bust through. “You!”
I came around the corner to stand next to her. I took her hand into mine and turned her, “Me?”
“I like you,” she whispers softly.
My other hand came to her neck, my thumb brushing down her chin. “And I like you.”
After I kiss her softly, she starts laughing, again.
She gives me an indescribable look. “I always say you see me at my worst moments, and maybe that’s true. But you know what else is true?”
I brush back curls from her shoulders, “What’s that?”
“You give me my best moments, too.”