Kiss and Tales 1: A Romantic Collection of short stories –
Another collection of original tales brought to you by The Indie Collaboration. This time we present a chocolate box selection of love stories. Some are romantic, some funny, some sad and some mysterious. Whatever the style, there will be a story or poem in here that will melt even the most hardened of hearts.
|Publication Date||Feb. 11, 2014|
|Publisher||The Indie Collaboration|
|Series||The Indie Collaboration Presents|
|BCRS ratings?Learn more|
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EVAN AND JOAN
It was late fall, almost winter, when Evan and Joan walked along the shore;
It was the very place Evan always loved to explore;
He was too thoughtless on that cold winter day;
It was much too cold for straying that way;
Joan just wanted to go home;
She wasn’t dressed too warmly and didn’t want to roam;
She felt chilled right to the bone;
“Don’t wander too far down the beach,” they were told; For her, the day was much too cold;
Then Evan saw those two greyish rocks, with big black dots;
The beach looked back at him, with two staring stone eyes;
He knew they’d be perfect for his winter surprise;
He put the rocks in his pocket and they returned to a fire;
It wasn’t too soon for Joan; she felt so tired;
Winter snows began, the beach was white;
A snow storm covered everything in sight;
It started in November and seemed to last forever;
Everyday seemed colder to Joan;
When the blowing stopped, the snow outside had really grown;
It covered the house, right up to the roof;
Most everyone stayed at home, staying inside and cold weatherproof;
Evan built a large snowman that looked alive, with those two rocks for the eyes;
It made Joan smile, under those dark winter skies;
That snowman with those two eyes of stone;
What might a snowman have thought, looking back at Joan?
They spent weeks trapped by the cold winter weather;
Joan sat quietly, in the big armchair;
Every day she looked out, and smiled to see the snowman there;
Winter was so long that year, and death came much too near; For Joan’s well-being, they all had fears;
Evan felt the blame, when the reaper finally came;
The snow melted, but the rocks remained;
Evan placed the pair, inside with her there;
Buried all together, on a hilltop of Scottish heather;
On Valentine’s Day, Evan succumbed from the loss; He’s buried beside her, near the stone cross.
P.W Collier ©2014
ALL THE WAY TO GENEVA
BY ALAN HARDY
Sebastian glanced at the snow-clad mountains and, in the foreground, the fields with their distinctive-looking cows munching grass. People travelled far to see such classic Swiss scenery, but he was indifferent to its splendours.
He’d often been moody of late. The weekend over, he was back on the train to Lausanne and that soul-destroying Business School. The weekend at home in the quaint streets of Vevey had gone so quickly, as always. That was what he loved: the old picturesque town with its grey houses and cobbled streets which, from his parents’ balcony, he had so often painted. He loved everything about Vevey, apart from his arsehole of a father, that is. It was his father who had made him enrol on this wretched business course. Then of course there was his girlfriend, Alice. He wasn’t too sure if she was one of the things he loved about Vevey, or if she was someone to be bracketed with his father, someone who was oppressing him and taking away any chance he had of doing what he really wanted.
“All good experience for when you come to work in the family business,” his father had said. “And don’t forget, you’ll be taking it over one day. A secure future, that’s what you have. Imagine what others would give for that.”
He twirled his ridiculous-looking moustache as he spoke, with a great, self-satisfied grin on his nauseatingly red-cheeked face. He had gone even redder, even seemed close to an apoplectic fit when Sebastian had told him he wanted to attend art school. Alice too had advised him not to be silly, and to concentrate on a viable future of steady work and money.
No, Sebastian was completely disinterested in the scenery outside the train window, but it wasn’t just that he wasn’t in the mood to stare at undulating hills and vales, with their huge, stupid cows. He was interested in something else at the moment, and had been ever since he entered the carriage.
He stole a glance at her again. He just knew she was foreign, something about the shape of the face, and the aquiline nose. He was pretty sure she was English. An English rose. She looked as if she were in her late teens, maybe twenty. A couple of years younger than him. She seemed quite shy. And so slim and petite, as she sat there in her beige raincoat, selfconsciously glancing around, swallowing occasionally, and twiddling with the straps of her handbag on her lap. She had long, blonde hair, and the most amazingly intense blue eyes he had ever seen. He wanted to stand up, go over to her and speak to her. He longed to lick that beautiful nose and gaze deep into those eyes, but he just didn’t have the courage needed for such spontaneous affairs of the heart. Any more than he had had the bottle to tell his father where he could stuff his Business School, or give money-grabbing Alice the big heave-ho.
He didn’t have the determination to pursue his dreams. And what guarantee was there that he would succeed as an artist? Did he have real talent? He’d often seen those arty-farty types about Lausanne, artists and writers who wandered around in grubby shoes, torn jeans and frayed shirts, who had chosen an alternative and, no doubt, unwashed lifestyle, whether it brought money or not. That was the problem: he couldn’t see himself spending an impoverished lifetime following his own personal rainbow. He was ashamed to admit it, but he had grown used to his comfortable, bourgeois existence.
She had a great French accent for a foreigner, let alone an English girl. Sebastian had devoured every word of her short conversation with the ticket-collector. He felt himself falling in love. She was his fantasy-girl. A girl from the land of tea, muffins, and egg and bacon. The land of rain, and driving on the left. He reddened as she unbuttoned her raincoat; she stirred in her seat, coughing nervously. Sebastian coughed too as his eyes lit upon her firm, ample bosom, and the tiny waist he so wanted to place his hands around. She turned her intense gaze upon him. He looked quickly away. They both blushed. Say something to her, you stupid bastard. But the words wouldn’t come. She licked her dry lips. She looked down, mindlessly scuffing away with her hand an imaginary crumb or two. She was so shy, so vulnerable that he wanted to grab her in his arms, hold her close to his body, and give her all the reassurance she needed. He wanted to be the rock on which she could build her life. There was a fear in those eyes, he felt, a need to find the person who could save her, and bring her happiness. If she didn’t find him, she could be lost for ever.
In his mind he went over and over things he could say. He dismissed them all. He was as big a baby as she was. Friends of his at the Business School, in his situation, would have already found out where she lived and what she was doing next Friday evening.
The train would soon be arriving in Lausanne. He reached into his bag, taking out a pen and a note-pad. He wrote on it, and then tore off the top sheet. He read and re-read it. He folded the paper around the pen. The train began to brake in stops and starts, and Sebastian glanced out at the familiar houses that marked the approach of the station. He stood up, stumbling against the seat as the train lurched to the side. He moved up to her and stood in front of her, his heart about to burst. She looked up, her eyes uncertain and oddly furtive, yet managing to look him in the face.
“This is for you,” he said in English, handing her the pen with the paper folded around it.
She instinctively reached out and took it. He stared a moment longer into those deep, yet troubled eyes, feeling as if he could be lost forever within their bright beauty. He lingered a moment, looking at her face framed by her blonde hair, and the pale skin he wanted to lavish with kisses, even stole a glance at her supple body and slim legs before returning to be sucked back into the dreamy delirium of those blue orbs of exquisite, heartbreaking, agonising heavenliness. In no time at all, their little tête-à-tête was over. He moved away as the train jolted to a halt.
As he walked along the platform, and through the station, he didn’t look back. He knew it was stupid, but he was sure he had met the love of his life. And had he lost her for ever? In those last seconds when he had stood before her, he had appraised her with an artist’s eyes, measuring her, judging her tints, hues, shapes and twists of flesh. He had mentally prepared the palette, the brushes and the tubes of paint he would use time and again to picture and frame her forever, against the passing of time and its forgetfulness.
Miriam felt sad, as she often did. She was returning from Sierre, the pretty town in Valais where her uncle and aunt lived. She’d spent the weekend there. She had promised her mother she would visit them when she could. Her uncle was fine, polite and friendly enough, in that distant Swiss way of his, but she liked his wife more. She was bubbly and chatty, immediately taking to Miriam. Maybe she sensed Miriam’s loneliness, and her difficulties in a world of men and women who were polite and friendly enough, and yet remained so far away, so far away from the fears in her head and the dreams that plagued her at night.
Miriam was returning to Lyon in France. The Brig-Geneva train was taking her to Geneva in a couple of hours, and then the French train would take her to Lyon in another three. It was her year abroad, the third year in her four-year French course at Manchester University. She was twenty. She was the English language assistant at a Lyon school. It was either that, or attend a course at one of the local universities. She’d had enough of universities for a while, with their silly young men and women pretending they were cool and mature, while all the time unsure who they were and what they might become. She’d already been in Lyon quite a few months. There were one or two other students there from England whom she knew, but they weren’t close friends. Miriam hadn’t really had any close friends for a number of years, not since her mid-teens to be exact. It had been nice to have this break in Switzerland, the land of her mother, the land her mother had left to follow the English boy she had fallen in love with so passionately, and then, equally passionately, fallen out of love with, and divorced. Her mother had stayed in England, bringing Miriam up to become an English rose, with just a hint of edelweiss. A strange little mixture, introverted, uncommunicative, gloomy, almost clinically depressed at times.
Miriam was surprised at the interest the young Swiss man had aroused in her when he entered the carriage at Vevey. To be totally honest, boys were a closed book to her, a book she had had no real inclination to open. She had watched him as he moved over to a corner seat by the window, and as he automatically, and shyly, looked out. She had then averted her gaze, in case he would spot her nosiness and give her an annoyed stare.
She closed her eyes and pictured him in her mind. Curly, brown hair. Green-blue eyes, not so large, but so intense. So intense in their awkwardness. So defiant in their shyness. How she wished she could reach with her hand into his mind and take out all his secrets and open them up in her palm. She wanted to know his dreams, what he loved and what he wanted. She ached to enter into those dreams and walk around them, play her part in his fantasies and wishes. She looked at him again. Her body gave a little jump as her eyes wandered over his torso, his limbs, his lap. A hunger took hold of her as he crossed his legs. What was the matter with her? Her eyes kept straying to his lap where he was scribbling something on a note-pad.
Inexperienced as she was, she knew he was fascinated by her. He couldn’t stop giving her intense glances. Mind you, she’d got used to that in France. Southern France. Mediterranean France. Men would stop her in the street, ask her where she came from, if she wanted to go out with them and if she could teach them English. That’s the way it was in France. Men were men, and beautiful women were chased. She found it all quite ridiculous. She would laugh at them, and walk away. She sensed it was different here in Switzerland, a bit like in England, where men were less confident, less brash and less pushy. A bit like this shy, young man seated just a few metres from her, who had caught hold of her heart in a way no other man ever had or, she imagined, ever would. She wanted to take hold of his sweet face, and cradle his head in her lap, and run her fingers through his fine, soft hair. She wanted him to look up at her and whisper nonsense to her, the sort of nonsense that until now she had run from. She wanted him to tell her everything about himself. She wanted to own him.
To Miriam’s intense disappointment, just as the train was arriving at Lausanne Station, he stood up to leave. Then, to her equally intense surprise, he walked straight over to her, and stood in front of her. Miriam felt both excited and nervous. Exposed. She imagined everyone was looking at her. She could sense his awkwardness. She managed to stare him in the face. The presence of his body close to her, its itchiness, its smell even, overwhelmed her.
“This is for you,” he said.
She unthinkingly took the pen he was offering her. She didn’t say a word. She couldn’t speak. Life seemed to have stopped still, with her sitting there looking up at him as he gave her his little souvenir. She would have loved life to remain frozen into that moment for all eternity. Then he was gone.
“I couldn’t stop looking at you. You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Here is my phone number. It is your decision.”
She let the paper, and the pen his hands had folded it round, fall on her lap. Tears formed in her eyes. She looked at his phone number. She knew she would never ring him.
She would never see him again. She would never know what might have been.
Sebastian stared listlessly out of the train window. So, that was it. Although he felt depressed, he was, in a strange way, quite relieved. He was his own man again. A bit like he’d felt when his other divorce had come through. Divorce number two was just as depressing, and just as liberating as divorce number one. Two failed marriages. Unexpected return homes to find Alice, and then, life repeating itself a few years later, Olga, all sweaty, naked and bothered straddling some half-witted hunk of masculine beefcake. Grounds for divorce, and for humiliation, and relief.
He was on the train from Lausanne to Vevey, to indulge in a bit of a relaxing amble through its woods, where as a young man he had so often wandered and, when the urge took him, would sit down to paint a perspective of trees and fallen leaves. He had the family home to himself now. His father had died suddenly a few years back, the most helpful thing he had ever done for his nearest and dearest. Sebastian’s mother was now living with a mild-mannered, unambitious clerk in the German part of Switzerland. Sebastian was fully in charge of the accursed family business in Lausanne, for which he had sold his soul and given up all his dreams. He hated every moment of it.
He glanced around the carriage again. He always glanced around the carriages whenever he was on the Brig-Geneva train. Just in case. Thirteen years ago, following that episode of the pen and scribbled message, he had looked out feverishly for that blonde-haired English girl for a few months whenever he was travelling to or from Vevey. He would wander up and down the train, out of himself, a crazed look on his face. Always fruitlessly. He never saw her again, and she never rang him.
He’d chickened out. He knew that now. How could he have expected her to make the first move? She wasn’t that sort of girl. She wasn’t an Alice or an Olga, greedily out for what she could get. He should have spoken to her when he had had the chance.
Probably there hadn’t been a day in his life since that episode that he hadn’t thought of his strange and beautiful English girl, if only for a fleeting moment, or in reaction to a glimpse of blonde hair and a svelte figure in a crowded street that would click his sexual computer.
Initially he had tried on numerous occasions to paint her, but had given up. Her image was so strong in his mind that he didn’t require a visual representation. She was too much part of him for him to need it.
He couldn’t really blame Alice or Olga. They weren’t so bad. It was his fault. He was only ever half-married to them. Only ever half in bed with them. His dreams had always been elsewhere. He understood why they had needed to find satisfaction in other arms.
He glanced round the carriage again, and sighed.
Two failed marriages and, with Alice, a child that probably wasn’t his, and who, thank God, lived with his ex-wife. In charge of a business that was destroying him. On the plus side? An obsession with a young woman he had seen on a train years ago. But, oddly, those moments when he would picture that English girl to himself were the most vibrant and the most exciting of his life.
Miriam sat happily in the carriage, staring out at the rolling hills, the lush green vegetation and the breath-taking waterfalls. She was on the way back to Lyon. She often spent her weekends with her aunt and uncle in Sierre, that is, ever since she had returned to live in Lyon. She was working at the school where she had been the English language assistant all those years ago. Her uncle wasn’t such a bad sort, and she still got on well with her aunt.
Applying for the teaching job had been her salvation. She felt she was putting her life together again. Her aunt was particularly helpful, phoning her during the week and sending her text messages. She provided her with a link to the outside world, and Miriam was also constantly in contact with her mother of course. They had all been extremely worried about her. She owed them a lot. She needed to pay them back for all their help when things had been difficult. Two breakdowns in ten years, and on anti-depressants for a good part of them.
She hadn’t been able to cope after university. Life, work, relationships. She’d bungled them all. The only thing she had managed was to create weird, scary images in her head, and come as close as can be to becoming totally mad. She hadn’t been able to map out a route for herself, how to mix, how to make friends, how to put up with the knock-backs and cruelties of life, and the callousness and superficiality of people. Life had seemed a nightmare journey through an impenetrable forest, but now, maybe slowly, she was trying to start again, and mould an identity for herself out of her job, her little flat, her one or two slight acquaintances, and her trips back to her relatives in Switzerland, the country of her mother. She had even begun writing self-indulgent poetry again.
She glanced at the Swiss passengers in her carriage. She was growing fond of their character. Easy-going, rather shy, but uncomplicated. Maybe the terrain of mountains and lakes had made them like that.
This was the train on which that shy young man had handed her the note wrapped round his pen. She had lost the note somehow, but she still had the pen. It was in her handbag on her lap now. In the midst of some of her most terrible moments of despair, when she had come close to contemplating the most shameful of actions against herself in order to end the torment, she had held that pen between her fingers, even held it against her cheek, and felt its simple warmth on her skin. She had found a release and calmness that, for a while, took away the nervous dark thoughts which had run through her mind.
She regretted not having rung him, but what could she have done? She had been an innocent young woman at the time, scared of life and men. Men were just silly predators out for one thing, whom she nervously laughed at and walked away from when they ran after her and told her how beautiful she was.
Still, it would be enough if she could put her life back together into a semblance of normality. That wouldn’t be so bad to aim for: an old spinster with her memory of her young Swiss man and what might have been. Instinctively, she opened her handbag, and reached for the memento he had left her here on this train, in his land, amidst the valleys and the soaring mountains. For that, she would be forever thankful. She held the pen to her lips, slightly pursing them against its gentle pressure. She let it play against her lips and her tongue, giving it the slightest of licks, the gentlest of wet kisses.
“Thank you, my darling,” she said.
Sebastian had settled into the routine of life again. A life without a wife, thankfully. A life where he could be alone with his dreams, and what might have been. What might have been both with his painting, and with his English girl. A life where he only really came alive on the Brig-Geneva train. He closed his eyes and settled back into the softness of the train seat, and into his dream-world.
Miriam spotted him immediately he got on the train at Vevey. She hadn’t felt gobsmacked, astounded, or even mildly surprised. That came later. She was so used to his presence in her mind that for that first moment or two she felt as she would upon waking from a sweet dream, when the dream was still alive and reality hadn’t yet taken over.
Then she blinked. She rubbed her eyes. Was she losing it again? That man at the far end of the carriage, pale and tired-looking, now reclining back in his seat, was not a mirrorimage of her young Swiss man but, with his troubled, worn features, was definitely how he could have looked thirteen years later.
The intensity of that episode on the train came back to her. How she had felt when he stood in front of her. His itch of body as he held himself against the lurching of the train. His warmth. His smell. His closeness to her. So close to her she could have reached out to touch and squeeze every part of him. She looked at him there amidst other travellers on the Brig-Geneva train. The picture unsettled her, and clashed with the strong images in her memory. It was him, she was absolutely sure, but she feared he wouldn’t remember her. Why should he? Why should he remember a silly, romantic gesture of his youth amidst, no doubt, many other such gestures at the time and since? Those intense, passionate memories of hers could not be squared with a train-carriage in the here and now, where the object of her fantasy sat amidst other travellers engaged in the minutiae of their humdrum lives.
She opened her handbag and took out his pen, and her pocket-diary. She tore off a piece of paper. She nestled the pen against her cheek. A sigh, a soft release of breath, a groan even, escaped from her lips, enough to make the man next to her stir in his seat and cast a troubled glance at her.
She began to write a message, the message which had remained bottled up inside her for thirteen years.
She stood up awkwardly, as if she were observing from afar a character in a film, and experienced once more that disembodied strangeness she had so often experienced in her darker moments. She strode nervously up to him at the end of the carriage, steadying herself with her hands on the head-rests of the seats as the train buffeted her from side to side. She stopped in front of him. A woman to the left glanced curiously at her. Miriam coughed.
He stirred. He opened his eyes. He looked up. His eyes widened. His mouth opened.
“This is for you,” she said, holding out his pen with the piece of paper wrapped around it. She immediately turned round and walked back to her seat.
Sebastian stared open-mouthed at her swaying, slim figure as it retreated down the other end of the carriage.
His throat feeling dry, and wondering whether he had gone completely mad, he unfolded the paper, his hands shaking.
“Do you remember this pen? Do you remember when you gave it to me? If you do, let’s speak. If you don’t, then please stay where you are. It’s your decision.”
Sebastian stood up and walked towards her in a delirious daze, his heart bursting, his eyes fixed upon that pale face and those blue, beautiful eyes that, however anxious, did not flinch from intensely scrutinizing him.
“I…I do remember you,” he stammered as he sat opposite her, drawing in her odour as if it were the perfume of the gods, and staring at her features and body as if they were the gateway to heaven.
They introduced themselves, and explained where they were going. Miriam told him of her return to Lyon, and her visits to her aunt and uncle. Sebastian spoke of Vevey, and his business in Lausanne. Then they fell silent, tense and embarrassed, both discomfited by the conflict between their private dreams centred on that day thirteen years ago, and their inability to speak freely of them, scared that the other one didn’t share them.
“You must have thought me a very silly young man, Miriam…I was too shy to speak to you, I wanted you to ring me…”
“But how could I?”
“I know…it was my mistake, but…”
“But…you know, they say it’s never too late,” he murmured nervously. “Do you have, you know, someone serious in your life?” She shook her head.
“And you?” she asked.
“No…Two marriages and two divorces.”
“One child from my first wife…probably not mine…I’m not much of a catch, am I?”
“I’ve had my problems too, Sebastian. Two breakdowns, and more anti-depressants than hot dinners.”
She bit her lip. She couldn’t understand why she had told him that. Sebastian stared at her, and then suddenly moved forward. He took her hand, and her body gave a little jump. His flesh had touched hers. Life seemed to her as beautiful as it could ever be.
“Who knows? Maybe that only happened because I didn’t speak to you that day, or you didn’t ring me…Who knows what might have happened? Our lives could have been totally different.” He caressed her hand, hesitating, looking for the right words, breathing harshly. “Miriam, I must tell you something. Perhaps it’s a silly thing, something that shows I have never grown up, and live in a fantasy-world, but…I don’t think a day has gone by, since that day thirteen years ago, that I haven’t thought of you and what might have been…”
“But I’m damaged goods, Sebastian, I…”
“And I? Two divorces and a job I hate?”
And they spoke of his ambition to be an artist, which he had abandoned, and she spoke of her poems, and blushed when he asked what she wrote about.
“And you, Miriam?” he asked, looking intently, but anxiously at her.
“That day, Miriam…What did it mean to you? What does it mean now?”
There was silence. She could feel her body trembling and Sebastian, still holding her hand, also felt its soft vibration. He waited for her to speak, and thereby determine whether he still had the chance to believe in dreams, or would be forced to pace out the remainder of a robotic life devoid of feeling and love.
“I also have thought about you every day, Sebastian…every day…” Her words petered out, and she bowed her head.
The train slowed, jolting them out of their world. It was stopping at Lausanne Station.
“What shall we do, Miriam?” he asked.
“On Friday I’ll be on the 5 o’clock train from Brig,” she said, shyly raising her face to look at him.
“And so will I.”
On Friday, after he had sat next to her in the near-deserted carriage, and they had finished with the pleasantries, they fell silent.
Sebastian reached into his inside jacket pocket.
“This is for you,” he said.
It was the pen, again with a piece of paper wrapped around it. Miriam smiled, and unfolded the paper.
“But there’s nothing written on it, Sebastian!”
“Yes, you see, my darling, it’s for you to write our future on it.”
“And what are the options, Sebastian?”
“I want to give up my business, Miriam. I want a future with you, whatever that future might hold. I want to start painting again. You will be my model. And you will write your poetry. We will live the lives we should have lived. We’re still young enough to deserve a second chance.”
“And the other option, Sebastian, is to stay apart, live our separate lives, and meet every week on this train. Keep our lives and our dreams separate…because, if we try to be together and it fails, I don’t know if…”
Sebastian clasped the hand that reached out to him. They didn’t speak for a while. Then he looked her straight in the eyes.
“Well, what do you say then, Miriam? Are we really just going to meet every few days on this train….and carry on with our unsatisfactory lives..? Or are we, as you say in England, going to go all the way..?”
“You mean, not get off at Lausanne but carry on to Geneva?” Miriam asked with a sly, yet radiant smile tugging at her lips.
Sebastian smiled back. He looked round the carriage. The one or two other passengers had left. They were alone.
“There are one or two tunnels between here and Geneva, my darling,” he said.
He moved towards her. She looked up, her big blue eyes dilated and vulnerable, her muscles tensed and stirring in anticipation. The pen and paper she had been holding fell from her grasp.
Alan Hardy ©2014
Sitting close together
Warm, holding tight
Shooting stars glow
Blinding white lights
Showering the Earth
From such a great height
Feelings of love
On one special night
Given to lovers true
Magic in the air
Let it be you
Both wish forever
Hope you are mine
And with a sweet kiss
It’s sealed in time
William O’Brien © 2014
LOVE ISN’T FAIR
BY MADHU KALYAN MATTAPARTHI
I was sitting on a park bench, gazing at the blue sky, listening to the birds whistling and watching people as they passed by. A little bird pecking at the grains thrown in front of it by an old woman, sitting on a bench a few meters away from me. A little girl playing tag with her father and jumping with delight whenever he lost. A couple jogging away together on the tracks.
Just sitting and observing is so easy and in many ways delightful.
I was still enjoying my little peace when I saw a guy coming my way. He had a huge pair of headphones covering his ears, which I could see even when his head was covered by the hood of his jacket as he sat beside me. I could tell he was not here to work out because he was wearing a pair of blue jeans along with a casual T-shirt. I didn’t like the fact that he was listening to music instead of the sound of birds on such a beautiful day so I patted him on the shoulder. He didn’t seem to notice it (thanks to my overall smallness). I patted him on his shoulder again, still to no notice. This was getting on my nerves now! So, I gathered all my strength in my right fist and gave his shoulder a nice punch.
This time, he did notice.
“What the hell? Why did you punch me?” he yelled, taking off his headphones.
“Uhm……I just wanted to tell you something but you weren’t paying attention so I punched you,” I explained nervously.
“What?” he gave me a confused look.
“I wanted to tell you something but you wouldn’t listen. So, I punched you,” I explained again, this time in a firmer voice.
He took off his hood and smiled in response. His face was a beautiful sight, making everything around seem so dim in comparison, and I couldn’t do anything but be awed.
He murmured an ‘it’s okay’ and got up to walk away but I pulled him by his hand.
“Can’t you stay with me awhile?” I asked with a smile, hoping he won’t think me a creep.
He looked around a bit before smirking.
“Two conditions.” Even his voice was beautiful, like an angel’s, firm, masculine and yet having soft undertones to it.
“What conditions?” I stammered out.
“First, you have to apologize to me. Second, you have to listen to this song with me,” he said taking out another pair of headsets, a smaller one, from his pocket.
“Uhm… It’s just.”
“What’s with the uhm again? Do you want me to stay or not?” He asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
I looked at him, wide-eyed and confused. What was the matter with him? Did he really think I wanted to sit and listen to a song with him in the middle of the park? I went on with my explanation which he had so impolitely interrupted.
“It’s just that, the whole reason I wanted to get your attention was to have you enjoy the environment around us; what would be the point of sitting in the middle of the park if you can’t even take off your headphones and observe what’s around us?”
He looked at me for a while like I was an alien. I fidgeted under his gaze, being stared at isn’t something I’m very comfortable with. He probably saw my nervousness because soon he started to laugh.
“I guess you’re right but I’ll listen to your opinion once you listen to this song with me.”
I smiled and took the spare pair of headsets from his hand as he removed the pin of the one around his neck from the jack of his music player.
We sat there listening to a song I can never forget, it had no lyrics but the music was so beautiful, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and let it take over my soul.
I let my head rest on his shoulder as the beautiful music soothed me. I didn’t realise when I fell asleep but when I woke up, I felt something knocking my head repeatedly. I opened my eyes and saw his grinning face.
I also noticed that my head was now on his lap.
I quickly got up, embarrassed about our this intimate position, and stammered out.
“Wha- What happened? And why are you grinning like that?”
“Well, while we were listening to some music two hours ago, you fell asleep on my shoulder, then, I wanted you to sleep in a better position so I put you on my lap,” he explained.
“Two hours? Why didn’t you wake me up? Why did you knock on my head repeatedly?” I yelled as I held my head, which was throbbing slightly from the constant knocking.
“First, you looked so cute when you were sleeping. Second, it’s just revenge for you punching me so hard. Lastly, please stop with the interrogation,” he said and I pouted.
“You, pervert! After putting my head on your lap and staring at me for two hours, you’re all smug and holy?” I shouted.
“Calm down, I was just joking,” he smirked.
I calmed down and fixed myself. I was mad at him but, at the same time, I felt a weird pull on the strings of my heart. Something was stirring inside me, making my pulse race and limbs go numb. Something so indescribable and pleasantly strange.
“Don’t you think this is so strange?” he said, interrupting my thoughts.
I turned to him and found him looking up at the sky.
“If you’re calling me strange, then you may have to create your own funeral,” I said.
“No, no. I mean, we are just strangers to each other yet we act like we’ve known each other for years,” he explained.
“I don’t know what you mean. I just wanted you to see what’s around you but you were busy listening to your stupid music player,” I said, fixing my hair. We were silent for a while but he broke it with a question.
“How can you say I won’t hurt you? What makes you trust me?” he asked.
I smiled at him, he didn’t know that from years of staying alone I had developed an impeccable sense of judgement. I could tell a person’s character by just a few minutes of observation.
“You seemed like a calm person to me. I thought you were like me, going out for a walk just to get away from the monotonous routine, until I knew you were a total pervert!”
“How can you even say that? I served as your pillow and you didn’t even thank me,” he said with mock sadness.
“Thank you. Happy now?”
“You sound like you don’t mean it.”
“You’re really trying to get on my nerves, aren’t you?”
I chuckled lightly thinking how we were arguing like childhood friends but we hadn’t even introduced ourselves.
“I just remembered, we haven’t introduced ourselves to each other.” “I’ll be first. I’m Anima, “I said, sticking out my hand towards him.
“Nice to meet you, I am Gaurav,” he said, before taking my hand in his and shaking it lightly. We exchanged warm smiles.
“So, should we call each other by our names now?” I said, trying to start a conversation.
“Of course not,” he disagreed.
“Why not?” I asked. What was wrong with this guy?
“I like not knowing you,” he said, with a stern expression.
“Are you trying to have me beat you up?”
“I’m just messing with you,” he chuckled and gave me a smug grin.
I punched him again on the head because I was so annoyed.
“I think you already did,” I giggled looking at his hurt face.
“Fine, I’ll stop already,” he said, as he rubbed the sore spot.
Everything was silent again but not awkward, I felt very comfortable in his presence and I believe he did too.
All of a sudden, he asked a really weird question.
“Do you believe in love at first sight?” I smiled because I knew a perfect answer to it.
“Of course I do, it makes me feel like I have found somebody I really love,” I answered.
He looked at me seriously and then he stood and pulled me up from the bench.
“Why are you making me stand up?” I grumbled.
“Stop whining and follow me,” he said.
I followed him to a bridge over the river. Why did he ask me if I believed in love at first sight? And why did he ask me to follow him to a bridge near the park? What was going on?
He stopped and looked at his reflection in the water.
I too looked at his reflection, how cute he looked when he was serious.
I was surprised when I felt like I saw him for the first time. Feels like……love at first sight. I froze. He looked at me so sadly.
“Aren’t you afraid to love someone you just saw?” He suddenly asked and I was unable to answer.
“You know what? The funny thing about love at first sight is, you won’t know if the person you see loves you back,” he said with a sad look.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. What happened to this proud, grinning guy all of a sudden?
“I’ll answer your question with another question, why can’t you stop asking so many questions?” He said in an irritated voice.
“B…B…Because, I want to know what you’re thinking,” I answered, what was with this sudden change in personality?
He ignored me and continued to look at his reflection.
I felt bad for not being able to do anything, he looked forlorn and in need of love so I did what came to my mind first; I hugged him.
“Don’t be so lonely, just tell me what’s wrong,” I whispered.
He turned around and looked at me. Slowly, he bent down and his face was so close to mine, I could feel his hot breaths on my skin.
Everything was happening in slow motion. Every movement he made was clearer than the daylight.
“W…Why did you do that?” I stuttered rubbing the moist imprint of his lips.
“You didn’t like it?” he said.
“O…Of course not!” I denied and gave him a dangerous look but he only laughed.
“Well, you wanted me to cheer up, didn’t you? So I kissed you,” he explained in the same matter-of-fact manner.
“How can kissing me cheer you up?” I yelled, angrily. On the inside however, I wanted to kiss him back.
“My mom kissed me on the cheek when I was still a boy to cheer me up but, in your case, I knew you wouldn’t kiss me so I kissed you,” he explained.
“You could’ve told me!” I huffed angrily and turned away from him.
“Why should I, would you do it?” he asked.
“Of course I would!”
“You…What?” he asked in a surprised voice and I blushed so hard I could feel my cheeks heating up.
“I…I would not!” I corrected myself.
“Then, I rest my case,” he said.
I looked around nervously and fumbled with the hem of my top for a few minutes.
“Why were you so sad anyway?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“It’s because I know you wouldn’t love a guy like me,” he said, looking at the sky. I froze again; I didn’t know what to say.
“Weren’t you wondering why a guy stayed with you, even though you had punched him hard enough to make him terribly angry? And why I asked you about believing in love at first sight?” He continued.
“The moment I saw you, the very second I took my hood off, I saw you and I fell for you.”
And to think that I actually thought that I was being crazy in liking a guy I just met, while he was the one having a hard time.
“Can’t you give me a chance to tell you that I…” I said, before I was rudely interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone.
“Excuse me,” he said, taking a distance away from me. He answered the phone and I overheard him saying that he was on his way back home. He approached me.
“I’m sorry for bothering you with my stupid feelings of love, he said. “I got to go home, my mom needs me.” He gave me a hug and then he ran the other way.
I can’t believe I wasn’t able to say that I loved him back. I couldn’t even ask for his contact number or address when he started to run away from me; I just stood where I was.
After that I went to the park every day, hoping I would see him again and try to know the reason behind his sadness. Why did he think I couldn’t love him? Why did he consider himself not worthy of being loved? What did his mother need him for that he couldn’t wait for even a few minutes?
I could never get to know the answers because for all these years I haven’t seen him once and from this experience I realized that love isn’t fair to anyone.
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthi ©2014
A VALENTINE FROM MARCELLA
She was from Evanston and grew up Lutheran.
I lived on the South Side of Chicago and had been an acolyte.
She dug big burgers and french fries, and I liked to watch her indulge.
The colors of our skin were in contrast but meshed perfectly on summer, spring,winter, and fall days and nights.
Her family liked that I wrote poetry and loved to dance.
My family knew there was someone but wasn’t sure whom.
Ironic that duality was.
She questioned me about this with dark eyes softly ripping truth from me, and unfortunately, I had no lies to give.
I never want to see you again were the last words that voice my ears tuned to more than my favorite radio station said.
Drove my 1977 Ford Granada to Rainbow Beach and sobbed.
No one could see or hear me, save for me, so I stopped.
I did this to me.
Only time I have been a coward.
Loved that woman with all my heart and whatever else I had.
I knew better but didn’t do so, but I’m black, and she wasn’t; this was late 80’s Chicago you must understand.
Telling you this because I received her Valentine’s Day card from her like I have for the last decade with her lipstick planted as signature and Hanae Mori perfume coating it.
Happy Valentine’s Day Marcella…
Greatest Poet Alive © 2014
BY PETER JOHN
Sunnyside Rest Home was considered to be outdated compared with the new modern institution that had recently sprung up a few miles away. It was nothing more than two semi-detached houses knocked through into one large building. Originally housing eight residents, it had seen several extensions over the years that had doubled its capacity but even the most modern section was almost 20 years old. Ernie didn’t care. Sunnyside had been his home for the past ten years and he had grown rather fond of its eccentricities. He liked the way that most of the home hadn’t been decorated since the late 1970’s. He adored the old Formica furnishings and the way decades of polishing had caused the plastic to peel at the edges. He enjoyed walking around the eclectic garden and looking at the different plots cultivated by past and present residents. It was the clashing sea of colour that never failed to brighten his mood. Ernie loved living at Sunnyside, mostly for the way the home could make him feel thirty years younger now and again. There was nowhere else he would rather live out his final years than in that old, tumbledown rest-home but no matter how often Ernie expressed his wishes, his son seemed unable to grasp them.
“Just look at the picture Dad,” Ernie’s son said, as he waved a glossy pamphlet in front of his face. “It’s brand-new, clean and easily accessible; it’s a big improvement from this dump.”
Ernie looked at his son as he sat opposite him in the day room. Dressed in a smart suit and shiny shoes, he looked every bit the successful business man that he was and Ernie couldn’t help feeling proud of him. He had worked hard to achieve what he wanted from life but he wouldn’t accept that Ernie didn’t desire the same things.
“It looks okay, son, but I’m happy here,” Ernie said, as he squinted at the pamphlet; it showed the image of a bright new building with plain square concrete walls.
“You are only saying that because you’re set in your ways, Dad. Once you have settled into this place, life will be so much easier for you. Everything is set out for your convenience. You won’t have to struggle anymore, they even have nurses on call 24 hours a day so that you don’t have to do anything for yourself if you don’t want to. It’s all laid out for you, Dad, and I won’t have to keep worrying about you being stuck in this dump all day long.”
“It all sound too clinical to me, it doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all.”
“At least think about it Dad, I really think it would be a good move for you.”
After his son had left, Ernie flicked through the glossy pamphlet. It was filled with phrases like ‘compact and cosy, open plan apartments’ and ‘easily accessible for people with restricted mobility’. It sounded like more like a hospital than a home to Ernie and the whole building reminded him of a television series about a prison, which he used to watch regularly a couple of decades ago. Ernie didn’t want pastel-coloured walls and double glazing staring at him twenty-four seven, making him feel weighed down by every year of his age. He liked his old room on the first floor next to Mrs Butterham and her tendency to hum all the old tunes in her sleep. He liked living at Sunnyside and, besides, he couldn’t face moving further away from Mary.
With his thick sheepskin coat wrapped around him and his stout, wooden walking stick in his hand, Ernie stepped out into the rain. He lifted up the collar of his coat to protect his neck against the chilly breeze that swept across him. He could still feel the cold regardless of his thick clothing but nothing so simple as the weather would prevent him from performing his daily routine. Ernie had walked the one hundred yards to see Mary every day for the past ten years. Each day the walk seemed to take longer and felt more arduous; it didn’t seem so long ago when he could almost skip up the hill. Nowadays he needed to lean onto his stick with every step and take regular breaks but nothing would deter him from visiting Mary. As he leaned back against the wall by the big iron gates to catch his breath, Ernie thought about how his life had changed in the past ten years and how Sunnyside had put the life back into him. The small close-knit community that the resthome signified had pulled him out of the pit of despair. They had given him back his life and the thought of leaving them made him anxious. Standing up straight, Ernie walked through the iron gates and carefully stepped across the grass until he reached Mary. Just like any other day, he stood over her and spoke to her about everything that was happening in his life.
The rain eased off and the sun began to peek between the clouds as he told Mary about their son. After a while his mind began to drift off into the past and he spoke of their time together. He remembered and retold the story of their first meeting as if it had happened only yesterday. Ernie could really cut a rug back then and he spent every Saturday night down at the Playhouse Ballroom dancing away until his legs felt like jelly. He would dance with just about anyone who was willing, that was until Mary had caught his eye. Sandwiched between her two friends, she glided into the room as if walking on air. Ernie stopped in his tracks mid-turn and the woman he was dancing with had stumbled to the point of almost falling onto the parquet floor. Ernie had hardly noticed, mesmerised by the woman walking towards him. Her hair was the colour of freshly-cut straw which glinted as if caught in moonlight. Her eyes were of the deepest blue and seemed to look directly into Ernie’s soul. At that very moment he knew that his life was about to change.
Dragging himself back into the present, he stared down at Mary’s grave. A tear threatened to form but he took a deep breath and blinked his eyes dry.
“I love you and I miss you girl.” His voice crackled and then fell silent. He had said all he needed to.
Ernie would usually spend the noon hour by her side and the time was fast approaching one o’clock.
He stepped away from Mary’s grave and began the slow walk back to Sunnyside Rest Home, only glancing back once. He felt weighed down by an empty heart and saddened mind. Every day since Mary had passed away Ernie would feel guilty for being able to live on without her. At first he had expected to follow her to the grave but his stubborn old body still lingered on, even though sometimes the walk home would seem to take forever. His feet felt heavy and his muscles weak, even the downhill gradient seemed to do little to aid his progress. It was only when Sunnyside came into view that his mood brightened. The sight of the old weathered roof with its several missing tiles always filled him with warmth. The pitted and cracked eggshell that covered the outside walls and the slightly wonky guttering made him aware of his heart pumping in his chest as if it had previously been static. The damaged, concrete garden path with grass sprouting from every crack beckoned him closer. His home wasn’t perfect but it was still his home. He could see Mrs Butterham waiting for him by the front door. It was as if she could sense him as he dragged his feet and scraped his walking stick along the gravel road. He pushed open the loud creaky garden gate and walked down the long, welcoming path to the house. Mrs Butterham welcomed him home with that bright smile of hers; she never failed to gladden his heart with a few kind words and warm embrace.
Sunnyside Rest Home was where Ernie felt he belonged. He didn’t need a new modern building with highly-trained nursing staff and its own bowling green. He didn’t need to be waited on hand and foot by complete strangers. He didn’t want to spend the twilight years of his life cooped up in the characterless atmosphere of clean white walls and bath chairs. Ernie was happy where he was. Sunnyside was his home and, even though the wallpaper was peeling and the carpets had been worn down to the hessian in places, it was the perfect place for him to live. Sunnyside Rest Home was only a short walk from Mary and Ernie Butterham knew that he would always have the love and understanding of his second wife waiting for him to return.
Peter John © 2014
When you smile…
And look at me…
It’s one of the best feelings…
That is the moment…
When I don’t remember…
But is the same moment I’ll have forever…
I just stay there in…
My mind for a while…
Laughing as well… like a child.
I feel like the world…
Is perfect again… Almost heaven.
I don’t have to think
About making mistakes…
Or worry about…
What will happen next?
There is nothing now to fix…
Everything is accomplished… In that single moment.
I will help you…
And try to… make you smile.
I don’t want you to feel what I feel…
I don’t want you to be sad one bit…
No one should suffer the pain I am suffering Not even for a little while. All you gotta do is smile…
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthi ©2014
ONE DAY IN THE
RAIN BY PRIYA BHARDWAJ
It was a Saturday afternoon and the sky was a mass of very thick and dark clouds that usually bring rain and sometimes thunder- a little too romantic for her to be working when all she could think about was enjoying the day with someone special, that was yet to be found she thought, sighing heavily. Lost in her thoughts, Ria, unaware of everything around her, kept staring outside the window. Suddenly when the corner of her eye caught someone walking towards her office desk, she turned around to find her boss.
“I think you are too busy enjoying the weather, rather than concentrating on these files,” said her boss, looking extremely annoyed. Before she could respond, he asked her to stay late, and complete all the work, before walking back to his cabin, leaving her to sigh with exasperation.
Ria knew there was trouble when her boss asked her to stay a little late. A little late always meant that she would be there longer than others, including her boss. It’d taken her over four and a half hours to finish the “light editing” of the report that he needed by tomorrow. Why he had waited to tell her about this at 4 o’clock when she knew that the meeting was scheduled over 2 weeks ago was beyond her. Sometimes she wondered if her boss assumed that she could always work late because she was 28 and single but that certainly didn’t mean she couldn’t have plans. It didn’t matter if her plans consisted of watching her box set DVD of last season’s Sex and The City® as she munched on some potato chips. It was still a plan.
She’d stopped off to pick up some Indian take-away. It was too late to go home and prepare dinner; with the overtime she’d finished for just staring outside the window, she thought it would be a good idea to splurge on some Butter Chicken and Naan Breads. She realised that this would anyway be too much for just one person but she thought she could have the left overs for lunch the day after.
The weather was cool and lovely, her tiring stay at work was soon forgotten in a pleasant walk to her destination to buy the night’s platter. The restaurant was crowded and she had to wait longer than she would have liked for her dinner. Apparently, Thursday was the new Friday, as far as single dating was concerned, or at least that’s what she had read in a magazine. It seemed true from the happy couples inside. She tried not to be bitter or feel sorry for herself but she was a bit lonely. She had taken a break from dating after going on a slew of mediocre dates with men she’d met online. She sighed and diverted her mind to buying food.
Unfortunately, the delay and the rush at the restaurant had put her in danger of missing her bus. With bags of food in her hands, she double timed it in the direction of her stop. As she turned the corner, she saw her bus pull away and this made her more bitter and angry. It seemed like the only time her bus ever ran on schedule was when she was running late. It would be another half hour before the next bus came, if it was on time.
It was so annoying and frustrating that her stop was one of the few that didn’t have a bench or any other place to sit down. She was exhausted, hungry and angry; as if her day wasn’t crappy enough, it started to rain.
“Ah! C’mon seriously, out of the whole day this is the time you choose to pour?” Ria said frustrated and looking up at the night sky. She looked around for cover or a shed she could use to avoid getting wet.
She spotted a small awning in front of a shoe repair shop a few doors down. It was one of those stores that always seemed to be closed and yet mysteriously stayed in business. She rushed over to seek shelter and she rushed so fast that she didn’t even notice the tall man running behind her.
“Be careful!” he shouted as Ria’s right boot hit a puddle, causing her to lose balance. All she felt was the panic, the beginning of her fall, and strong arms catching her.
“Damn,” she cursed under her breath so softly that only she could hear it. She closed her eyes as she thought she was about to fall. “Oh my God,” she said. She wasn’t sure if she was referring to losing her balance or his amazingly thick biceps wrapped around her. Both were surprising.“I’ve got you,” he said. His voice was reassuring, warm and sexy. He gripped her tight and for a second held his arms around her. He then slowly got her back on her feet. He took off his coat, put it over her head and guided her toward the shop with the awning. She didn’t really get a good look of the man who held her and helped her from tripping and falling as they were rushing towards the shelter. As soon as they reached their makeshift shelter from the rain, Ria turned and got her first glimpse of the mysterious stranger. He was tall, tanned and even more handsome than she had imagined. He was easily 6 foot tall, and had wavy, dark hair. His shirt was soaked through, making it partially transparent, as it clung to his manly chest and his ripped body. He wore grey pants that hung sexily on his hips in the sexiest way possible that she had ever seen on a man. She tried to collect her thoughts and made an attempt to speak but, for the first few seconds, was at a loss for words, seeing the man standing beside her and looking at her with those warm and dark eyes.
“Thanks,” she said. Her voice came out slightly breathless.
“It’s always a pleasure to help a beautiful lady in distress,” he said and smiled.
Ria fought the urge to make a self-deprecating joke but couldn’t think of anything else to say as she was blown away by how handsome he was and how amazing his body looked under his wet T-shirt. Her thoughts kept drifting away towards his wet body and she was again at a loss for words.
“I think we’re going to be here for a while,” he said, giving a slight smile.
“My next bus will be here in a half-hour, hopefully,” she said and hoped it wasn’t on time.
“The 19 Fairfield?” He asked.
“That’s my bus, too. I get off at Clarkin Road.”
“Oh! Really, I get off at Heapy Terrace,” she said. “Near the Momento Café.” “They have the best Hot Chocolate,” he said, smiling.
He’s hot and he likes hot chocolate.
Ria was all eager to know more about the hot and handsome hunk that just lived in a neighbouring street. She thought her day was getting so much better after all the drama. She instantly started plotting to camp out at Momento Café at every available chance, hoping to run into him.
“I think that’s about to break,” he said, interrupting Ria’s plotting and scheming. She gazed at him, clueless. He motioned to the paper-bag holding her take-out and she quickly grabbed it at the bottom to keep it from spilling.
“Not only did you save me from falling in the street, you saved my dinner too,” she said, shyly.
“What did you get?”
“Indian. Want some?” After the words left her mouth, she instantly felt ridiculous for offering him dinner. He probably thought she was weird and, anyway, why would anyone accept food from a stranger here in New Zealand unless he was homeless or extremely underpaid?
“Well, I do love Indian food,” he answered, as he put his coat on the ground for her to sit on.
“I don’t want to ruin your jacket,” she said.
“What’s a jacket compared to a romantic impromptu picnic in the rain?” he said, as he sat down on the pavement and waved for her to sit down on his jacket. She shrugged and sat beside him. “Besides, I’m starving,” he said with a smile.
“Me too. I’ve had an extremely long and weird day,” she said and laughed.
Ria took in the moment and was jumping with extreme joy and happiness as the handsome guy sat next to her. She caught herself being excited by how close he was sitting, although a part of her suspected that was because there was limited space under the awning as and the wind had started to blow the rain closer. She opened the takeaway bag and was happy to find place settings for 2 people. Normally, she was insulted that the Indian place had always assumed her order was for two people instead of just her. It implied that she ate too much food though, honestly, she never ate it all in one sitting.
Anyway, it was a good lunch idea for her.
“My name is Dan by the way,” he said, extending his hand for a handshake.
“Nice to meet you, Dan, by the way,” Ria joked, as she returned his handshake. Even in the rain his hands were warm and soft. For a handsome and a strong guy like him, such soft hands was just another bonus.
Dan laughed. Ria admired his straight white teeth and kept admiring his warm and incredibly strong hands.
They both dug into the Indian food. It wasn’t until she realized the food was almost gone that she started to feel self-conscious about eating so much. They had barely even talked as they ate but she enjoyed the silence. She wasn’t as nervous around Dan as she normally was around new people, especially men.
“I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I started eating,” Dan said. He pointed to the last chicken piece in the curry. “That last one’s for you.”
“No, you take it,” she said, feeling bad that he was being nice by not pointing out she had eaten it all.
Dan reached for the last tasty, chicken piece and broke it in half. The gooey cheese inside started to make a mess.
“We’re splitting it, and there’s no time to argue. Open up,” he said as he carefully manoeuvred the Chicken piece to her lips.
Ria opened her mouth, and he slipped the food into her mouth. Two of his fingers grazed her lower lip, and their eyes locked. Ria felt her face flooding with the heat of embarrassment and excitement. The contact between the two was different; it was an amazing feeling, like everything around had stopped for a while. Dan kept looking into her eyes as if he was finding something.
She felt relieved when Dan let out a nervous chuckle and ate his half quickly. Was he as affected as she was? That’s all she could think now. Is it just me? Or he is thinking about it too? She couldn’t read his expressions.
“Do you think…,” he started but then stopped and looked out into the rain.
“Do I think what?” Ria asked.
“I know that I’m a stranger but I do live around here. I know a lot of the neighbours. You can ask around and know that I’m not a weird psycho or something,” he rambled. His confidence and sense of ease seemed to fade into a shyness that Ria found adorable. She had no idea where he was going with all this.
Why is he saying all this?
She wondered if he was nervous because he was thinking about asking her out. Her heart sped up with hope that maybe that was happening, maybe he liked her enough and it wasn’t just a one sided attraction that only she felt.
He was rambling some more. He looked nervous but she was having a hard time focusing on what he was saying. Before she knew it, he was showing her his driver’s license.
What? What is he doing? Driver’s license? Why is he showing me that? Maybe he is too nervous…
Taking a look at his license. He looked handsome even in this photo, which Ria thought was kind of unfair. Why was he showing her his license?
“Just so you know that I really do live around here,” he said, as he pointed at the address.
“How do you know that I’m not a weirdo?” Ria joked.
Dan smiled and ran his thick fingers through his hair.
“Oh I know you’re a weirdo already. You’re just so damn cute, I’ve developed an instant affinity for weirdos.” They both chuckled for a minute.
They did not realise that time had passed so quickly and the bus was here. They both stood up and got on the bus. Ria spotted two empty seats at the back and pointed towards them. They both walked towards the seats and sat beside each other.
“Can I walk you home from your stop?” Dan asked with a puzzled look on his face, and Ria got lost in her excited reverie of thoughts.
What? He wants to walk me home? He definitely likes me too.
Putting her thoughts to rest, she quickly replied.
The proximity between the two was building a tension between them and she didn’t understand if it was because they both were all wet or if it was the heat of their instant chemistry. She tried to think of different things to talk about but failed to figure out something to jump-start their conversation.
Both sat in silence until Ria’s stop arrived. She pushed the stop button. “This is me here,” she said.
Dan smiled and stood up with her.
They both got off the bus and it was still pouring with rain. Ria shivered as the cold droplets touched her skin again, and wondered if Dan was cold as well.
Suddenly, Dan reached out and held her hand, stunning Ria for a second, but she still keeps walking. His touch sent shivers through her body and the butterflies in her stomach were fluttering. She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this way.
She tried to keep herself composed, even though her heart was thumping wildly inside her chest, until Dan stopped walking suddenly. She looked at him through the falling rain, waiting. What was he going to do? Why had he stopped?
He turned around to look at her. His gaze was intense and piercing, Ria felt her heart beat so loud that it was beating right through her ribs.
“I don’t know why but all of a sudden, I want to hold you in my arms.”
Before Ria could process what he had said, he let go of her hand and put his right hand around her waist. He pulled her close into his warm, wet embrace and Ria was temporarily paralysed. She couldn’t think and she couldn’t breathe, just feel.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” He asked, as he rubbed her back and pulled her even closer. She could feel his perfectly toned abs beneath that thin wet t-shirt, and let out slow deep breaths.
“No,” she whispered, as all her energy was wiped out from her.
The next thing she knew was that his lips were on hers. He slowly tugged her lower lip and she moaned, struggling to move, but he held her very tight and continued to kiss her. Her legs felt like jelly and her mind was incapable of registering anything.
They stood under the rain, lips locked and eyes closed, on the side street in the dark. It was almost like a fairy tale come true. She was helpless and lost in his hot kiss and the warmth of his body touching hers.
After a long minute or two a bus passed by, honking at them and he pulled back from the kiss but didn’t let her go away from his arms.
“This is wrong!” She said, her voice husky and raw from their long and passionate kiss. She tried to register what was going on but failed.
He gave her a half smile and said, “No, Ria. It’s not wrong at all,” he said. “ We both are single and I think we should give the chemistry we shared today a chance. In this little time we spent together, I felt nervous, anxious, excited and still perfectly comfortable. I don’t even understand what it is and I have never shared anything close to it with anyone. Would you give me a chance? Would you go on a date with me?”
Ria was surprised at how his emotions and thoughts were exactly the same as hers. She couldn’t believe this was happening and in the midst of this tsunami of thoughts, emotions and hormones, all she could do was nod.
And his lips were back on hers, as if he had finally found the treasure he had been looking for so long. The emotion was not too different from what Ria was feeling, as they kissed each other deeply, passionately.
She could have never guessed that the crappiest day of her life could turn into the beginning of the most wonderful journey of her existence.
Priya Bhardwaj © 2014
TO THE MOON…
A disk, a globe, a crescent shape;
To dance, to fly on high;
Waxing and waning, waning and waxing;
Endless revolving cycles;
Eternal lunar moods;
Wandering, passing time languidly and aimlessly;
Too distant, alone, far away from our perfect home;
Yearning, pining, amongst ancient stars;
A reliable friend to brighten the night;
Hot Cider, a companion moon, and shelter from the cold;
Together we both lament her loss;
Together ‘til the very last;
Gazing upon the midnight heavens, that autumn weight, tormenting loss;
Queen of the Night;
Protector from the darkness;
Stirrer of passions; Pass the cider;
A toast to the Moon
P.W Collier © 2014
WHEN LOVE CAME KNOCKING
BY SONYA C. DODD
The nightmare was becoming a regular occurrence now or was it a dream? It always began scarily but I was assured of a happy ending, wasn’t I? I tried to comfort myself that something would eventually have to give and I hoped it wouldn’t be my sanity.
I was trapped in an enclosed space, unable to move and although I kept telling myself it wasn’t real, it was still terrifying.
Abandoned and alone, I waited for the end, never quite sure whether it would be the ‘happy ever after’ which came or whether by some sick twist of fate the ending would change and I’d be left to slowly die in here. Meanwhile time stood still.
The cold crept over me like invading fingers of ice, clawing at my skin. The darkness was silent and kept me oblivious to my surroundings. The fear fed on itself, building the tension without let up until my mind would suddenly thrust me back into the land of the living, reality: the life I knew.
This time something was different though. My bedsit in East London remained out of reach. The darkness was particularly enveloping and dense, almost suffocating in its intensity.
I shivered. The fear was ever present but tonight something had altered. Tonight I knew I was waiting.
I had no idea what I was waiting for but it was evident there was going to be an awakening, a purpose or end to the perpetual anticipation. Tonight time was at a premium.
Why I bothered keeping my eyes open in the darkness, I had no idea. However it now showed me that the blackness was perhaps becoming less dense and I was positive I could almost feel some warmth on my bare arms.
My ears had stopped ringing in the silence too. The distant sound of birdsong carried to my ears. I wanted to smile but my fear was increasing because I was moving into unknown territory.
After a while I knew I was definitely looking into grey nothingness rather than black and a blackbird seemed to be singing right overhead, although I couldn’t see it.
Something bumped against my prison. It was near my feet but I couldn’t move my head to see. Then I saw a shadow moving upwards. It was coming towards me and I prepared myself to scream.
With the sound stuck in my throat, I relaxed as a deer came into view. It was hazy, as though it was surrounded by a thick fog. The animal appeared to be unaware of my presence and fed on grass or roots outside my tomb.
The grey was still getting lighter and there was a hint of blue mixed in with the darker shades. I surmised I must be outside and the blue was the sky. With the deer in close proximity and the birds singing all around me now, I guessed I must be in some wilderness where the creatures were unused to human contact.
A squirrel hopped up onto the screen in front of my face. It sat munching on a nut which it held between its front paws. I wanted to knock on the glass and see its reaction when it looked down and saw me but my arms were pinned tightly at my sides.
I realised the warmth was increasing along with the growing light. The sun was warming me. It was as though I had been trapped in a never-ending night which had finally been broken with a new dawn.
The squirrel and deer suddenly looked up, facing the same direction I could see their hesitation and fear. In a flash they both took off leaving me alone.
Whatever had scared them was heading in my direction. I could hear fast-moving footsteps. It sounded like a horse. Would there be a rider? I wondered.
I was now looking up into a blue sky. The footsteps stopped and there was a rustling sound then a thump on the ground. Someone had definitely dismounted.
I held my breath and clenched my eyes tightly shut. If I was about to die I didn’t want to see my assailant.
A sudden rush of air told me the lid had been removed from above me. A clean, fresh smell of woodland air filled my nostrils. The silence was unbearable. Put me out of my misery quickly, I prayed to no one in particular.
I could sense someone looking at me. I wondered what they were thinking as they looked at my tensed face. Did they find it amusing to hold such power over me?
Then there was a soft brushing of lips against my cheek, followed by my lips. In spite of my terror I felt my eyes opening. I had to see who had planted the lightest of kisses upon me.
He was smiling. A handsome, chiselled face framed with brown waves of hair. His eyes were almost green in colour and drew me into their warmth.
I didn’t know this stranger but I found myself smiling back at him. He offered me his hand which I accepted. Shakily I rose from my resting place.
His grip felt firm as I rested my weight against him, unsteady on my feet from lying down for so long. I glanced around us and saw we were on a high spot of ground with trees below us spreading out as far as the eye could see.
I looked down to where I had been lying and drew in a sharp intake of breath as I realised I had been entombed in what appeared to be a glass coffin.
His arm held my waist as I stumbled back slightly. His grip was strong and despite not knowing this handsome man, I knew I was in no danger.
I looked back up at his face and realised he had been watching me constantly. “Who are you?” I asked.
“I am your Prince Charming; I came to wake you from your sleep with a kiss. Will you marry me?”
I looked around us, expecting one of my friends to leap out from amongst the trees shouting: “Fooled you!” However it was clear we were alone.
“Marry you?” I asked incredulously.
His face was full of hope and I realised he was being sincere. This was a dream and the most handsome man I had ever seen had just rescued me from a nightmare and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. What a shame this kind of thing didn’t happen in real life, I thought to myself.
“Will you?” he repeated.
I glanced around us again, making sure I wasn’t being filmed.
“Okay,” I began. “You want me to marry you?”
He nodded and smiled. I thought my feet would melt into the ground as a swarm of butterflies seemed to fly up into my stomach from my legs.
“If this is my dream, then I suppose there’s no harm in agreeing to marry a total stranger.” I had decided to air my thoughts aloud so this Prince Charming could add any comments he wished. I didn’t mind listening to him telling me how much I meant to him. After all, I’d always been a romantic, although I had no reason to pin so much hope onto that concept. It had never brought me any ‘happy ever afters’.
“So you will marry me?”
The excitement was making his eyes sparkle and he was clutching my hands together, holding them to his chest. I knew my face was contorting into a huge grin.
“Yes, okay yes, I’ll marry you.” I laughed in spite of my reservation.
He wrapped his arms around me and planted his lips firmly against mine. I was glad he was holding me. I felt as though I was beginning to float into the air.
Suddenly he vanished. I closed my eyes, thinking if I blinked slowly he would reappear. But when I opened my eyes I realised I was back in my bed and the LED on my alarm clock was telling me it was 7.31am.
I let go of the pillow I was clutching and turned onto my back. I let my dream play itself over again in my mind. I wanted to cry when it ended.
I was angry that I had allowed myself to imagine things could be that simple. It was about time I gave up on romance and tried being sensible and realistic for a change. No Prince Charming was going to come looking for me whilst I lived in a perpetual state of dreaming.
Throwing back the duvet I slipped into the bathroom. A quick shower then a trip to the gym would soon sort me out, I decided. At this time of the morning on a Saturday the place would be deserted and I wouldn’t have to face the embarrassment of getting tired and sweaty in front of an audience.
It was only a short walk to the gym and I slung my holdall over my shoulder as I stepped onto the pavement.
With my mp3 plugged into my ears, playing good old eighties music, I strolled along the familiar route.
Although it was early the air was filled with an array of cooked food smells, some spicy, others telling of a good old British fry up. I forced my mind away from the images of fried bacon and an egg with a runny yolk.
Turning a corner, I knew I was supposed to check the road before I stepped off the pavement and don’t understand why I didn’t. The bicycle smashed into my legs and I remember hearing a loud groan and a scream, not knowing whether either of them were mine, before the world went black.
It was almost like being back in my nightmare. My body ached when I tried to move and I was scared of opening my eyes in case I found myself surrounded in darkness again.
However, the sound of whispering voices told me this was different and I slowly let my eyelids open.
A pair of grinning friendly faces welcomed me back into the land of the living. My two best friends in the world: Sue and Denise were smiling and began chattering quickly at the same time.
I put my hands over my ears, overwhelmed by their enthusiasm.
“Please, stop, slow down and just one of you at a time,” I cried.
They looked at each other and started laughing.
“Sorry,” Denise said. “We’re just glad you’re okay. You had us worried for a while.” “What happened?” I asked them.
“Don’t you remember anything?” Sue asked.
I tried pulling myself into a sitting position and felt a pair of arms reach out to help me.
Once I was settled I looked at them and saw they were waiting eagerly for me to speak. “I recall a bicycle. I think I stepped into the road. It’s a bit hazy.” “You chose the right bike to jump out at,” Sue said with a sigh.
I frowned and Denise nodded towards an enormous vase of flowers standing on a cabinet.
“Are they from you two?”
“No,” Denise cried. “Your cyclist brought them in.” I looked at her in confusion.
“The rider I stepped in front of decided to bring me flowers?” There must have been thirty pounds worth of flowers in the vase which was large enough to have been called a bowl. The scent filled the air and the colours were vibrant enough to bring life to the otherwise drab hospital room.
“I know it sounds crazy but he was really worried about you,” Denise added.
“I can’t believe you missed seeing him though,” Sue added. “He was gorgeous.”
I laughed. It sounded typical. The chance to meet a handsome man and I decide to take him out by trying to kill him. Only then, it’s him who comes to apologise to me and I have to be in the land of nod when he visits. It sounded like the story of my life, never lucky in love. I bet I was dribbling when he saw me too, I decided.
“Did he say anything?”
My friends exchanged a knowing look which worried me; I hated it when they ganged up against me, they always won.
“He wanted to know your name and asked whether you’d ever learnt to cross the road properly,” Denise replied.
“He didn’t.” I was shocked and embarrassed. “Whatever must he have thought of me?” “Don’t worry, we told him you were a bit of a dozy mare,” Sue said with a smirk.
I covered my face with my hands. Perhaps it was just as well I hadn’t been aware of his visit.
“You missed a treat though,” Sue added. “He was lovely; tall, dark and the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen.”
“What was so special about his eyes then?” I asked realising they were desperate to tell me everything they could about this man.
“They were so green and just beautiful,” Sue sighed.
“Not exactly green,” Denise added. I smiled.
“And I suppose he had brown, wavy hair framing an exquisite face.”
“How do you know what his hair was like?” Denise demanded. “Has he been back?”
“He couldn’t have come back,” Sue interrupted her. “We’ve been here all the time.”
I frowned. Recalling the man in my dream it seemed odd that my mysterious visitor fitted the same description.
“Anyway, he’s been and gone so that’s that.” I must admit, I felt a little low. Not just from my bruises but I would have liked to see what the cyclist looked like properly. I’d not had chance for more than a brief glance before his cycle had knocked me off my feet. Now I’d never know how similar he was to the man of my dreams.
After another day in hospital, just to check there was no concussion, I was allowed to go home. Glad to escape from the clinical, antiseptic-smelling surrounds of the hospital, Denise drove me home before having to disappear to pick up her children from school. Both she and Sue had asked me to go and stay with them but I was looking forward to my own company after being surrounded by people constantly whilst in hospital.
I closed the front door behind me and leant back heavily. It was reassuring to be home. I busied myself putting the flowers I’d brought back with me in vases, unpacked the things the girls had brought to the hospital for me and then settled onto the sofa with a mug of coffee.
The peace and quiet was soothing and I looked forward to a few days of recuperation before I had to go back to work.
I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes it was almost dusk outside and I felt chilly. I went into my bedroom to get a cardigan.
Surprised to hear loud knocking on the door downstairs, I went to the intercom and pressed the button.
“It’s Max,” I heard after a short delay.
Frowning, I tried to think who I knew called Max. No one came to mind.
“Are you sure you have the right number?”
“It’s Sophie, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I replied hesitantly.
“I’m Max, the cyclist. I came to see how you are.”
I stepped back slightly. How could it be him? I wondered. I pressed the button again.
“How did you know where I lived?”
“Your friends gave me your address.”
I rolled my eyes. Thanks guys, I thought. Give a stranger my home address. I had to think quickly; he was obviously waiting for a response.
“I’ll come down,” I said.
The least I could do was to apologise for the accident to him face to face but I wasn’t about to invite him into my home.
Stepping quickly out of my old slippers and sliding my feet into a pair of shoes, I checked my reflection in the mirror. There wasn’t time for me to make any great effort so I ran a brush through my hair and checked I wasn’t showing too much cleavage.
I paused by the door which opened onto the street. Taking a deep breath I pulled it slowly open and peered out.
He was leaning on the lamppost. Our eyes met and I tried not to look too much like a goldfish as I opened my mouth, then quickly closed it again.
“It’s you,” I muttered eventually. He smiled and stepped forward.
“I’m sorry to come so soon after you got out of the hospital but I wanted to say sorry.”
“It’s you,” I repeated. I knew he probably thought I had a severe case of concussion by now and had been released too early from hospital.
He was looking confused but I didn’t know how to explain myself. It was the same man from my dreams; he even had the same voice.
“Do you need to sit down?” he asked.
“No, I’m sorry,” I laughed feebly. “It’s just we’ve met before but you clearly don’t remember that.” He laughed and shook his head.
“I apologise. I can’t imagine I would have forgotten you. Why don’t we go for a coffee and you can tell me about our previous encounter. I hope it was a little less dramatic than the one the other day.”
He was pointing towards the café over the road and I could see no danger in accepting his invitation. I didn’t fancy telling him that I’d been dreaming about him and would have to think of something quickly. This could be quite entertaining, I thought as I pulled the door closed behind me and followed Max across the road.
“Okay, touché, you win that one.” My hand met his in a high-five.
We slid down off our cloud and fluttered through the darkening sky to find our next victims. It was a relentless life being a cupid, especially around this time of year. People expected to find love around Valentine’s Day. It did spice things up a bit for us though, I suppose, arranging all these liaisons between perfect strangers. It became a bit of a challenge to see which of us could come up with the most convoluted way of bringing a couple together and I think George had definitely won with those two.
Sonya C. Dodd © 2014
Candlelight whispers promise a dream Walls distressed, doors unhinged
Abstract shadow on the side of your face
Radiate spells already in place
Cold snow dusts broken glass panes
Settling flakes together once again
Under the ice, water starts to trickle
Running haphazardly down the window
Feeling your breath warm inside
I traced with touch the ache of your smile
Perfectly sculpted your lips now awake Sliding my fingers along the nape
Your neck, your scent and pulse divine
Petite silhouette completely sublime
Moving closer no longer to wait
On the card table the tarot told fate
Falling to the floor as the candle looks down Stone uneven a kiss now bound
The wind began blowing, whirling through
Two-hundred years ago an abode once new
Ringlets of blonde, soft as pale skin
Embracing lovers protected within
Hours had past the candle still burns
Drips and whispers, lives returned
William O’Brien © 2014
TALES OF ERANA: THE LEGEND OF OELIANA
BY A. L. BUTCHER FROM THE WORLD OF THE LIGHT BEYOND THE STORM CHRONICLES.
Ozena settled by the fireplace, her mahogany hair catching the tints and shades of the dancing flames. That hair now had a touch of grey and the hand which absently played with the ring on her finger was scarred and lined. Of the many rooms within the manor house in Tremellic this one was her favourite. So many happy memories of this place and so many tears shed for the ones whose ghosts walked these lands, fallen in the war. The glowglobes brightened to soft amber and their light added to the orange tones of the fire, it felt warm and comforting. She felt safe here. Absently her fingers found the ring which had graced her finger for many years, a ring of silver woven around a large pearl of dark iridescent green. The Heart of the Maiden was rare beyond price and always made the dark-haired elf smile, despite her losses. It was not the value which brought her joy, although she lived in comfort, she cared little about the trappings of wealth. There were far more important riches which were fought and died for, such as freedom and of course love. Ozena stared over to the small, silk-bound book on the desk and, knowing its author might never complete penning the story, she wiped a tear away. She fetched ink and quill, resolute to complete the story so that nothing was lost.
When the world was young and the wild magic flowed like the Great River there lived a nymph, a spirit of the forest. Such beings once walked beneath the sun and moon; they were creatures of magic, incarnation of tree, of water, and the very essence of life itself. Oeliana was the nymph’s name, for this was the also name of the deep, still and silver pool from which she had been born when first the sun caressed the land. Fish swam among bright green fronds, scales of silver and azure. Frogs and toads rested on dark grey rocks; their long tongues feeding on the hovering flies and dragon-flies which darted above, seeking even smaller creatures for their dinner. Deer, wild goats and boar fed upon fallen apples and the widespread fungi; the Shimmering Forest was bountiful to its inhabitants, animal and person alike. Herbs grew here, thick and tall, even in winter. The herbs of the forest provided medicine for those who knew their power. Wild-goats, now tamed, provided both milk and a substitute for the companionship she lacked.
Hers was a life of duty, she was custodian of the trees, the forest creatures and pools, and so her time passed, timeless as she was. Even the common elves visited Oeliana seeking guidance and the wisdom of the forest, and occasionally healing when their own skills had failed. They would bring gifts of food and polished stones or shells; the pool slowly filled with the gifts, for what use were trinkets to a nymph? Yet she was lonely for those who came did not stay; they came for their own ends and left with no further thought of the nymph. The spirit of the forest craved the touch of another, for she saw the lovers who sometimes came to her glade and heard their words of love. Never had she been loved nor experienced the passion which fascinated her as the lovers moved together on beds of moss and leaves. Magic demanded a high price and Oeliana was a creature of magic, loneliness was the price she paid. So she watched, longing for a companion, and she prayed to the gods for even immortals need the favour of higher beings on occasion.
Rii’Athellan, the Morning Star, was a hunter; magic showed itself in many ways and the elven lordling was graced with a goodly portion. This day he had given his entourage the slip. The forest contained many dangers, even for one of his bloodline, but he preferred to hunt alone; the larger and fiercer the beast the more it pleased the elven prince. As silent as the grey fox and confident as an eagle, Rii’Athellan crept towards the clearing on the trail of a huge dire-boar. His father thought him reckless but the lordling craved danger, bored as he was from the politics of court and wishing he was allowed a little more excitement. He knew the Grove of the Maiden; oft before had he brought the girls whom he also liked to hunt and capture, although they were more willing prey and his favoured weapon was not a bow. If not in secret then with discretion these passions were conducted, for the lord of the elves had been promised long past to Almethea, the daughter of the house of Il’thricken, a house both powerful and magical. This bride he cared not for but duty-bound he would suffer the marriage. Such a one had little choice, alliances were all when the elves made war.
This particular beast was Indis the Fierce, large, ill-tempered and canny. Even the Great Cats walked in fear of Indis and the beast feared nothing, for he had never yet met his match. As tall as the elf at the shoulder, the hooked tusks of the boar were as long as his forearm. The elf murmured a prayer to his gods and nocked his bow as the boar snuffled among the trees, gobbling orange fungus and fallen apples. Occupied with filling his mighty jaws, the boar did not hear the elf nor perceive the threat.
Oeliana watched unseen among the low light of the trees, sunlight flickering on her ivy-coloured hair and skin like polished oak. A gown of bright leaves covered her slender frame, flowing around her as if caught in an autumn breeze. Indis did not hold any fear for her, an avatar of the forest as she was. The nymph had fed him apples and occasionally sweet-bread as he loomed, bristling and ferocious, taking the fruit gently from her. She had seen him born from the sow Elricana and survive his siblings to be Lord of the Forest. The young elf was either foolhardy or uncommonly brave but she did not rate his chances either way.
The squeal of anger and pain rent the forest as the elven arrow found its mark. Indis turned eyeing the trees for his tormentor and spying a shadow plunged into the forest. Seven hundred pounds of enraged pig-hood felt the pain of the arrow in its flank and was going to make someone suffer for the indignity. Shrubs and undergrowth were no match for Indis and, tearing them aside, his gaze locked on the elf.
Too late, Rii’Athellan saw the error he had made. He was a good bowman but even an elven lord may miscalculate; although wounded, the boar was still formidable. Swiftly the elf loaded his bow, stepped back and fired, before instinctively grabbing a second arrow from the quiver. The arrow skittered along hide tough as cured leather before burying into the flank, although not deep. He had hoped to fell the beast but had simply succeeded in driving the beast mad with rage. Rii’Athellan dived among the trees and ran; he was not a coward but even a brave man knows a foe he cannot beat. Hearing the boar gaining ground, the elf tried to quicken his pace. He ran faster than he had ever run, feeling the pain of tearing muscles, expecting to feel the tusks in his back or be trampled into fertiliser. He had not banked on such a large beast being so fleet footed. The light flickered beneath the canopy of the trees and, in his fear, he failed to see the root and rough, moss-covered ground. Tumbling down, pain ripping though him as his ankle snapped, he thought it likely to be his grave.
A wind rose and with it a song, soft like the lapping of the waters yet powerful as the ancient trees. Leaves swirled and danced, becoming faster and thicker until Rii’Athellan was blanketed; he lay mesmerised by the sound and the sight of the creature which stood between him and the boar. Ivy green hair swayed around her feet as she strode, unafraid, towards the boar which had slithered and slipped to an unsteady halt in mud, blood and undergrowth. A small soft hand, the colour of hazelnuts, caressed a bloody, saliva-flecked snout until the panting, snuffling breath eased. Oeliana gave the pile of leaves a long look and saw the elf. There was pain and fear in his eyes, yet they were eyes which followed her every movement. The arrows were gently teased from flesh and Rii’Athellan was amazed as the fierce beast simply stood and let the nymph tend him, unaware that her song would have calmed a dragon. Soft light, green as springtime, rippled across the wounded boar, flowed down to the ground and into the half-hidden elf; as the flesh and bone began to knit, saplings sprouted through leaves and coal black soil. The song rose to a crescendo, a primal sound filled with ancient magic. It poured through the elf, he had never felt such intensity, such desire and longing or such terrible sadness.
As the nymph poured her magic into the boar it snuffled her hair but once, then turning an eye and fixing it on the half-hidden elf it moved off. Magic demanded a price even for those of magic; Oeliana fell to her knees exhausted. Struggling to his feet, ankle still painful although the magic pouring into the land had healed it well enough for him to walk, Rii’Athellan limped to the fallen figure. He had visited this glade before but paid little heed to the cottage, for the superstitions of peasants were not for princes. It was simply a good place to court and hunt, he had been unaware such a wild and wonderful creature inhabited it. Blue eyes meeting hers of leaf green, he held the gaze and saw a depth and curiosity he had never before encountered. It was like looking into a deep pool to find what was within and seeing the pool look back, asking the same question.
The full moon rose, white-blue light spilled over the glade and no clouds marred its beauty. Together stood an elven lordling and a wild forest nymph; one stained with mud and clothing torn, the other clothed in leaves and the moonlight shining from her eyes. Oeliana had thought to chastise the man who hunted so foolishly in her gardens, who had brought unthinking lovers to her glade uninvited, yet now she found the words would not come. The song she had sung echoed on a soft and gentle breeze, weaving around them and, despite the darkness, they were not cold.
Ozena, of course, had not known any more than the myth told around a hearth, lore passed from generation to generation and embellished in the telling. Years later she had learned the details, promised on dark and fearful night to recount the truth for her people, for truth above all else must triumph in a world of lies. Oeliana had been a myth, a creature of half-truth and a desperate idea when all else had been exhausted. The journey in which they had found her seemed a life-time past and in many ways it was a remnant of a lost glory, a forgotten history, and yet at the same time it had been a new beginning. So much had changed, so much lost and so much found. Reading to the end of the text already written in a careful hand, her finger stroked gently over the beautiful illuminated script and, wondering if she was up to the task of finishing the tale, Ozena continued.
Perhaps this would ease the pain, the loss.
The magic of love is a powerful spell indeed and so they spent the days among the trees tending the forest as the sun kissed the land, and their nights making love in the moonlight. Time meant little to the nymph, for the seasons come and go without intervention from mortals, and continue to do so when they are nought but a memory. Rii’Athellan was entranced by the nymph and to her his company was a gift from the gods. A full cycle of the moon passed before they were disturbed, perhaps that too was a gift.
Duties were neglected and thus those sent to seek word of the prince found the cottage; the spell of their happiness wavered. Much expense and inconvenience had been spent in seeking Rii’Athellan, men and coin which could have been better spent elsewhere in times of war and hardship. Arguments rent the air and words were raised in anger where there had been song and words of love. Duty eventually prevailed. With a promise he would return when he could, the prince slipped from his finger a ring of pearl. Deepest iridescent green, a Stone of Power, it held magic born of the early waters as Oeliana herself had been.
Thirty sunsets passed before the prince returned. Each felt like an age to the lovers and, as a large blue moon rose, they kissed at the edge of the silver pool. Yet the prince was not alone; the Lady Almethea, his intended bride, had seen the far-away look. Jealous in nature she could not abide his roving eyes but a tumble with a wench was not the same as loving a wild and mysterious creature such as Oeliana, a creature of magic. Almethea had magic of her own, for the families of noble blood had ensured it flowed well among them, and she had crept through the forest. Distracted as the prince was thinking of his reunion, he saw nothing save the soft body in his embrace and heard nothing but the nymph’s song on the wind.
Almethea watched, her anger building, as her betrothed and his mistress made love at the edge of the pool; she listened to their sighs of pleasure and, when Oeliana cried his name, Almethea snapped. Pulling a dagger from her belt she thought to stab him, yet as she stepped forward a small green brown toad called its song from the rocks. The spurned woman grinned, drawing the knife along her arm and, as the blood dripped down, she cried, “Husband I curse thee! A toad you are, so a toad shall you be. You, nymph, I curse thee to love only he, a toad for thy husband, alone shall you be.”
A powerful sorceress was she and the curse began its work as the words left her lips and her blood dripped upon the leaves and into the pool. Rii’Athellan screamed in pain, his skin bubbling and boiling, and the scream became a croak. Eyes bulged, yellow and bulbous from a face contorted, muscles twisting, bones cracking. The forest fell silent but for the terrible sounds, the tortured flesh transformed and transfigured as it rippled, tore and bled.
Terrified, Oeliana tried to call her own magic, the wild magic of the forest; rolling from beneath her writhing lover she murmured the words, trying to heal, trying to mend. Yet the curse had been sealed with blood, powerful and binding. This was no arrow wound and hers was a forest magic, not one of battle. Her tears fell but she faced her rival and the roots of the trees weaved about the elven lady. Tighter and tighter, higher and higher. Transfixed, Almethea tried to fight it, to call her magic to burn the wood and leaves. A wind swept up, fuelled by the sad song of the nymph. Swirling faster it wrenched branches which whipped at the captured elf, distracting her, enclosing her. As Rii’Athellan became a toad, his betrothed screeched and wailed. Bark slowly covering skin, ivy growing faster and faster, tighter and tighter; squeezing until she was encased from neck to feet in wood and in ivy which even tugged at her tongue, filling her mouth with its poison.
Oeliana walked close, stained as she was with her lover’s blood and, in a voice like the cracking of stone or the creak of an ancient tree, she whispered.
“That which I love you take from me, so that which I hate shall remain a tree.”
The tears of the nymph fell on the water, bathing the giant toad which was once her lover, and in her grief she tore the ring from her finger. The tears of a nymph have a power of their own and were heard by the Lady Luna, Goddess of the Moon and daughter of Ethnii’a, Goddess of the Sky. Luna’s gentle light bathed the glade until the water gleamed with an ethereal light. With a croak the huge toad fixed the nymph with a large golden eye and a tongue long and sticky licked the trembling hand which held the ring. With a song on the edge of sound, Luna bade her toss in the green pearl, the Heart of the Maiden, wrapped in a long, ivy green hair. As it sank, she felt the waters ripple, comforting, embracing. This was a place they had shared and would share again. The curse was not broken but perhaps it could be survived.
Ozena stopped, the tears flowed freely. Such memories and such tales told by an old woman in a cottage; so alone, and yet resigned in that loneliness. Centuries passed and such sacrifices had been made for the elves had fallen so very far, cursed by their own greed, their own anger and their own folly. The magic had diminished and her glade had weakened; even Oeliana felt the magic failing as the sickness and the darkness of war and hatred covered the land. So many lives which had come and gone and so much magic and lore lost to the world had left a shadow with very long fingers.
She looked down at the page and, with her own less certain hand, she placed the Heart of the Maiden on the paper.
“I must finish, it is my duty. This must be kept.”
Into the darkness which covered the land came a light, a light which had not flowed for many a year, and with it a Skychild, the last of his kind and blessed by the Goddess herself. They came in fear but also in hope and so it was the magic returned to the Glade of the Maiden. The Skychild was a creature of magic and the Lady of Light, uncertain but brave. They held the Stones of Power, the Heart of the Mountain and the Heart of the Forest. The last of the Primal Stones of Power was found in a silver pool by an elf, one worthy of the forest, a child of the trees and a child of the old ways. The magic returned and with it the war, yet the light shone ever brighter and the Skychild walked with it; he held a primal power of his own, for he was the Oncoming Storm.
Debts must be paid and allegiances honoured; so it was when the land ran again with blood that they returned, when the moon was full and the water shone silver. For over three hundred years the nymph and her toad had this one night a month as man and woman, the blessing of the Goddess upon them through her daughter, the moon. Once more the blood which ran with magic spilled into the pool and the power of the storm and the magic of the light banished that little bit of darkness. The nymph and her elven lord walked again with the sun on their face and the curse had been lifted. Ancient powers united and once more the magic was wild and free. So the debt was paid and love, which had endured, filled a glade with flowers and light. After so long a tree, all twisted and withered, fell, bleeding and crumbling to ash, although no fire seemed to touch it. The love between the light and the storm fought alongside an older and wiser prince from a longdead line and the wild creature he loved. Did they triumph? Was the darkness banished? ****
Ozena stared at the page before her, tears dripped from her eyes. She simply wrote a few more words before plucking petals of red and gold from the roses in the jar on the sill, she let them fall.
**** That is a story as yet unfinished.
A. L. Butcher ©2014
When I’m not talking to you, I’m thinking of you.
When you’re away, I’m hurting inside for you.
Mind numbing, and I hurt for you.
I miss you.
When I’m talking to you, I’m thinking of us.
When you’re with me, I come alive.
Mind racing, Alive for you.
I love you.
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthi ©2014
BY GUNJAN VYAS
A princess has to kiss many frogs before she finds her prince in shining armour, ready to sweep her off her feet.
I’ve had my share of frogs too, I’ve waited these twenty-four years for at least one of them to transform into my prince but only disappointment had greeted me so far. I didn’t understand why love is so hard to find in this world where finding sex is so easy! If people could spread love as easily as their legs, this world would have been a better place.
I had given up all hopes of finding true love when this guy, Arvind, who I loved with all my heart (or thought I did) decided to get married to the girl his parents had selected for him. Just because I was from a different caste didn’t mean my love for him was an alien and incomplete thing. I understood that his family wouldn’t understand but he chose to surrender to their wishes instead of standing by me. I would have given up the world for him and he couldn’t even raise his voice against his family’s irrational decision.
However, this morning an incident reignited my hopes with such intensity that I can still feel goose bumps on my skin when I think about it.
It was my interview at a newly opened company for the position of software developer. I had prepared well, practised the answers to all the frequently asked questions and rehearsed my walking and speaking style many times. I was damn sure that today I was going to get selected.
The reason that I desperately wanted to change my job was that after Arvind’s marriage, I wouldn’t be able to face him and my life would become a mess.
On my way to the venue for interview, I had to take a bus. As a habit, I was before time; after all the early bird gets the worm. The bus came and I took my seat as soon as I stepped in. You have to be fast in claiming a seat in a bus as your own before someone else does. I didn’t notice the man sitting next to me as I was occupied with my thoughts but after a few minutes or so, when my eyes started to observe the surroundings, my eyes fell on his hands and slowly they rose to his face and then back to his hands. He was holding a gun!
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I was scared to death. I tried to act like everything was all right and decided that the best course of action would be to deboard on the next stop and warn the driver before leaving. In accordance to my plan, I got up but before I could walk away, I felt his gun pointed towards my back.
“I know that you saw. Sit down.”
I gulped nervously and obeyed. After sitting down, I tried to voice my words in what I thought was a convincing tone.
“You can take everything I am having in my purse but please don’t kill me.” The man chuckled.
“Do you think I am doing it for money?” I looked at him with wide eyes.
“Well, let’s just say…I like to kill people.”
Sweat broke at my brow and I shuddered. Was taking someone’s life fun to him? “But what would you get from killing me?” I asked him nervously.
“I told you…I like it.”
“You’ll get caught. The gun will make a noise and they’ll have you arrested.”
“Doesn’t matter – that’ll be my problem to deal with. Besides, what fun would it be if you get killed and no one bats an eye?”
I heard the sound of the gun’s hammer being cocked and I clutched my skirt desperately. I wanted to scream but that would reduce all my chances of talking it over with him.
“Won’t I get a last wish?” I asked him.
“If you want to make a wish then do so but please don’t say ‘Let me walk away alive and well’ because that ain’t happening.”
“Kill me but please don’t kill anyone else on the bus. I don’t have any family and my friends aren’t as close to me as they are to others. No one loses anything if I die so kill me if you want to but do respect my last wish.” “Yes ma’am.” He chuckled darkly.
And the trigger was pulled.
I was flabbergasted. No bullet pierced through me, no shot was fired and this man was laughing like he was on drugs. “It was a joke, lady.”
He doubled over in laughter and my primary urge was to hit him on his head but I resisted. Something about him made me smile as well.
“That prank, mister, could have given me a heart attack. What if I was suffering from a heart disease?” I tried to sound more stern and serious than I felt.
“You aren’t suffering from any disease, Miss Madhu. I did my research well.” My mouth gaped open when I heard that, what did he mean by research?
“You are a stalker!” I accused.
“I would call myself a secret admirer. We work at the same place but you never notice me and I didn’t have enough guts to tell you that I like you.”
“So this is your way of telling me you have a crush on me?”
“This is my way of making you notice me. Here’s my card. Call me if you wish to have dinner with me tonight.”
He stood up and walked towards the exit door. Before exiting, he winked at me playfully and I resisted the urge to poke my tongue at him. I skipped the interview and went back home.
It’s six in the evening and I am inviting another frog for a kiss, although this time, I am more than just a little hopeful about romance.
Gunjan Vyas © 2014
JUST HEAR ME OUT
I love you.
Before you say anything, I need you to understand.
I say that statement with all the intensity and sincerity that should come with it.
But I say it knowing that you do not feel the same about me, and I am good with that.
Just hear me out.
I had a dream that the Apocalypse came, the world ended, and we were the only two people left alive, and a Beagle.
God descended, allowed us a glimpse of HIS magnificence, stripped us of our clothes and fear of being naked, and commanded us to begin civilization anew.
That was and is one of the dreams I have about you.
And if stays there, me being with you, I’m good with that.
Just hear me out.
I love you.
And I say that knowing that I’m on the opposite side of being your type.
Too little hair, too little muscle, not enough money, too much ego, too much meat around the middle, too much of everything that isn’t the least bit attractive to you.
But when I look at you, I see beautiful defined.
And I realize that my eyesight becomes better looking at you.
But you will never look at me with the favor that I look at you, and I’m good with that. Just hear me out.
I love you.
And if you liked me, not love back, but liked me an inkling, in the most minuscule microcosm, it would be too much for me to bear.
See, I live in this constant anticipation that you might feel something for me, and that keeps me going, makes me feel alive.
But you reciprocating any feeling for me would ruin that.
So I feel this way is enough, and I’m good with that.
Just wanted you to hear me out.
I love you.
Greatest Poet Alive © 2014
Loving Hearts and Black Arts
BY D. C. ROGERS
Frank Norman had a new job, Frank Norman was in love. He’d actually bumped into the woman of his dreams only a little while back. He had just started working in an office job. A job he had obtained through an old friend of his. Through the office grape vine he’d learnt that her name was Mandy Sue. She was his perfect woman standing a good at five feet maybe six inches or so tall. She had one of those ‘hourglass’ figures, like a movie star, the type real men liked and not those thin waifs that adorned a lot of media these days. He was totally infatuated by her.
From the long reddish brown hair to her full red lips and an enchanting smile that lit up her face. Though no one confessed to knowing her age, many estimated that she was early to mid-thirties at the most; not that Frank cared about her age. It was quite a surreal feeling, he hadn’t felt this way about someone for quite a long time.
It had all started a month back, with his mid-thirties closing in fast he felt he needed a change in his monotonous life. He hadn’t dated for a long time so had pretty much given up on finding ‘the one’ so on that front he had pretty much settled with just getting old alone.
Kyle, an old friend he had met up with on a social networking site, had told him of a job at a firm that he himself had not long started at. This job, unlike his current bank clerk job, had a ladder to climb and bonuses, Kyle had spieled to him over the site’s chat page. Deciding that any change was a good change he agreed to give it go. Kyle seemed happy at his decision, then within a few days he had an interview all set up.
The first thing that hit him was the heady scent of her perfume. Then he saw Mandy for the first time, she walked past almost as if in slow motion. She smiled what he instantly thought was a perfect smile at him for the first time. Now he’d seen her, Frank realised he needed to ace this interview.
“See told you I’d choose a good one,” Kyle boasted while he, Frank and a few others stood around the water cooler. Frank just smiled, nodding in agreement at his new work colleagues. His mind was elsewhere anyway, mostly figuring out how to approach the beautiful woman he’d just seen.
That was over a month ago. Since then he had only learnt her name and that she worked in I.T, which was only when she came to restock his printer. In that space of time he had received three more of her brilliant smiles.
Frank totted these up as bonus points in his pursuit of Mandy Sue every time she threw him one. That night Frank was looking through his portfolio and realised it was February the tenth, this meant that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. So Frank busied himself devising a plan of action to woo Mandy then ask her out on a date. Chocolates, flowers and a card from a semi anonymous person that included his initials and asking for her to meet him at a restaurant. This was the best idea he could think of for wooing Mandy Sue.
Unfortunately the next day in work something happened that destroyed all his carefully laid plans. Frank entered the staff room intent on making a warm beverage; it was still quite chilly for the middle of February. He loved to be here alone as the inane chatter of his work colleagues annoyed him lately, especially when his mind wanted only to think of Mandy. So he quietly made himself a cup of coffee then turned to take a seat.
Frank didn’t know what registered first as he walked right into someone. Shock was very high on the list followed closely by the pain of his hot coffee dousing his chest. Then sheer embarrassment, as he realised he had turned right into Mandy. He almost stopped breathing.
“Jesus H. Christ,” he blurted right into her shocked face. Unable to control his outburst as painfully hot coffee soaked through his shirt.
“Oh shit, Mandy, I’m so sorry,” he said. Though a quick glance over her registered not a drop of the hot liquid had actually touched her.
“Oh my, Frank, no it was my fault. I wasn’t looking where I was going,” his pain was almost forgotten as her voice, like singing angels, floated into his ears.
Then he quickly snapped out of it as he realised she knew his name.
“Wow, so how do you know who I am?” He asked. Then felt stupid at such a dumb question, she had obviously asked who the new guy was at some point.
“You’re new, you work in an office so pretty much everyone knows who you are.” She threw him that smile and he subconsciously marked another up on his board.
Mandy carefully reached down for the crushed polystyrene cup, as her fingers brushed his Frank flinched ever so slightly. It was like electricity coursing through his arm. Even though she didn’t react to his obvious flinch he was sure he saw a flicker of a smile in the corner of her mouth.
“Please let me make you a new one,” she said, going to the counter.
“No I’m fine, seriously, I have to go.” Something twigged in his mind so he ran off.
Mandy laughed as she watched him squat run from the staffroom. She had noticed what Frank hadn’t realised until the adrenaline of the moment had worn off, he had been heavily aroused. Hoping Mandy hadn’t seen and running of in such a fashion she would probably think he was mentally unstable. He managed to reach his desk without any further mishaps.
Cursing he now also realised his work shirt was stained brown and stank of coffee, letting out a long sigh of relief he slowly slid down in his chair. Readjusting his trousers he swore that Mandy Sue was now off the cards and his old plan was back in action.
“Here you go tiger,” The angelic voice sounded from his cubic entrance. Frank span around wide eyed to see Mandy there holding two fresh cups of coffee. He quickly crossed his legs as she entered his cubicle, putting one of the cups down on his desk she turned then walked away with a big grin.
He had never felt so embarrassed in all his life. Reluctantly, like as if it was tainted with the shame and bad luck of today, he grabbed the coffee. Taking a careful sip he went wide eyed with surprise, it tasted superbly divine. Not only was she the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, Mandy had also made a divine cup of coffee. She had somehow blended the right amount of sugar, milk and creamer together with the shitty office coffee to make some kind of super coffee. Though he still felt two foot tall from the embarrassment it had caused he was happy to have tasted the magic brew. Spinning around to his desk feeling totally energized from the brew, he worked the rest of the day away at his monitor for fear of mocking stares, pointing or laughter.
That night, feeling very depressed, he rung around cancelling the items he had ordered for Valentines. Then he just decided to call it an early night. That night Frank dreamt, he dreamt of a red headed smiling goddess who he reached for but was just out of his grasp.
On his way to work he prepared himself for the torrent of stifled giggles and staring that he was sure would come. He even contemplated calling sick or even quitting there and then, yet something compelled him to go and he knew it was still a yearning to see Mandy at least one last time. He didn’t have to wait long, as soon as he was seated her now lulling voice spoke from behind.
He Turned to see the beautiful flame haired woman stood there holding two things. First was the papers for today’s work, second was a small Tupperware box containing what seemed like small cakes inside.
“Hi Frank, here’s today’s work,” a sheepish look came over her face. Frank’s heart melted.“I, um also made you these for making you feel uncomfortable yesterday,” she said, putting the box on the table.
“Thanks, though I’m sure it was my fault,” he said but looking back up she had vanished. Frank opened the box and his nose was immediately assailed with honey and ginger. Two of his most favourite flavours in these cakes, the woman must have been a mind reader. Trying one he couldn’t help but stuff the remaining two thirds into his mouth. Three cakes later and not realising he had been that hungry, Frank realised he should be working.
For the next few hours until lunchtime came Frank kept staring at the cakes and licking his lips. As soon as the clock struck twelve Frank grabbed his little prizes and ran off to the staffroom, while there he got a cup coffee to accompany his sweet treats. As if by coincidence, Mandy was already there at the coffee station.
She turned her head in the door’s direction as he entered the room. Frank was taken aback by the amount he was bumping into Mandy lately.
“Hey Frank, how’s things darling?” She asked, leaning back on the counter.
“Yeah, um not too bad thanks Mandy,” he half whispered with embarrassment.
“Hey, do you fancy one of my super tasty coffees?” She smirked at him.
“Why, I would love one thank you Mandy,” he said. Then Frank frowned, how she knew that he had thought it was a super coffee puzzled him. Then he scolded his stupidity, she probably made coffee for lots of people who referred to it by that name. He took a seat at a table, surprised no other colleagues were sat about munching some home-made or bought items.
“Here you go, sweetie,” Mandy said, depositing a large mug of coffee on the table, she took a seat.
“Thank you Mandy, you’ve been really nice to me past few days,” he said, a little sheepishly.
“It’s nothing silly, just being friendly.” Of course she was. Why should Frank think otherwise?
“I really love these cakes. Two of my favourite flavours combined,” he told her, opening the box.
“My grandmother would be proud then, it’s a very old family recipe passed down.” “Do you have any kids?” He didn’t know if this was the best of questions.
“It’s okay Frank, I’m not offended,” she laughed. “No I haven’t met the right man to bless me with any yet.” Frank relaxed a little. Thankfully, Mandy seemed to be a very easy going person.
“Sorry to hear that,” Frank said, tucking into the cakes anew.
“Not for want of trying though Frank,” she said, flashing that amazing smile. Frank felt so emboldened by banter that he decided then and there he was going to ask Mandy out for Valentine’s Day. Cake now gone, he was just about to open his mouth to ask.
“Frank I’m off tomorrow, family stuff, but free in the evening. Would you like to be my Valentine’s date? I know this lovely little Italian place near here.” Frank went wide eyed. “I was about to ask you! That would be great, I’ll meet you there.”
She wrote down her mobile number then rose from her chair. Just before she turned to leave she placed a small light kiss on his forehead. He was so glad his groin was under the table at that moment. The rest of the day passed somewhat slow but without any other encounters. Mandy was pretty much the only thing on Frank’s mind that night as he went about his apartment in a daze.
You know how you feel when something like this happens? A million worries and scenarios flash through your mind. Frank was waiting all day for the text or phone call saying she’d cancelled or changed plans. It even ran through his mind it was some kind of prank. By the end of the day, it was almost too much to handle.
Frank’s friend John, stopped by his cubicle.
“Hey Frankie, you got a date with Mandy don’t you?”
“Yeah can you believe she asked me?” Frank said. He wasn’t surprised John knew. They worked in an office, gossip spread fast.
“Good luck with that. She’s a nice woman that one,” he said, before walking off.
“Thanks for the courage boost John,” Frank said, smiling.
“No problems, you’re a good guy!” He shouted over the partition.
Frank’s eyes flicked to the clock. It was almost time to leave. He prepared his station and did all the appropriate actions for the end of shift. He took a deep, nerve steadying, breath, before standing up and leaving the office. On his commute home, Mandy messaged his phone and for a heartbeat his world paused, had she cancelled?
Frank jigged down the hallway of his apartment in one of the best moods he had been in for a while. The message had been a positive one, giving him a time. He flicked through some of his older going out clothes and chose a smart shirt along with some trousers. He then went and chose one of the less crude comedy ties he had been bought by people for Christmas. Sitting down for five minutes he filled out what he hopped was a romantic enough card.
He dressed then slapped on some of his favourite aftershave. Putting the card in his jacket he made sure he had his keys, wallet and mobile phone then left the flat to go and have what he thought would be a great night. Reaching the typically named ‘Mario’s’ ten minutes fashionably early, Frank stood waiting for Mandy to show up. Then typically five minutes late she showed up stepping from a taxi with her fantastic smile upon her face.
“Frank, so glad you’re here. I had butterflies thinking you might not turn up for some stupid reason or other.” She looked a little sheepish, “I’ve not had great luck with men.”
“Then those people have been crazy to let a woman like you slip away,” he said, returning her smile.
“You’re a good man Frank, shall we go get us a table?” She asked.
“Just a walk in place is it?” Frank asked back.
“Yeah but they do the best meatballs in special sauce here.” She grabbed Frank’s hand. Dragging him through the doors, Frank saw the place was quite full. No surprise considering it was Valentine’s night, in fact Frank was surprised any tables were free.
An elderly man looked up from his work stand.
“Mandy, my dear I haven’t seen you in a while,” he said, kissing her hand.
“Oh Mario, you know I can’t resist this place forever. Do you have somewhere private for me and my Valentine’s date?” She asked. Frank was pleased she knew the owner.
“Of course, for you anything. There’s one window booth left,” he said, leading them to a small two seat booth in the back that looked out over the street.
“Here are your menus, can I get you any drinks?” He asked.
“A bottle of your best house red wine please, Mario.” Frank piped in.
“An excellent choice, I will take your order when I return.” The old man whizzed off.
“I do you hope you’re not trying to get me drunk Frank,” she said, smiling wide.
“I wouldn’t dream of it Mandy.” He looked at the menu to hide his reddening face.
“I’m going to have the meatballs, what about you darling?” Mandy said, putting the menu down.
“I’m going to trust your judgement and go with the same.” Frank hoped he was being flattering. Suddenly Mario appeared with the wine, then with a silent smile he poured them two glasses. Once done he placed the still half full bottle in the centre of the table and drew out his small note pad.
“So what can I get the lovely couple to eat?”
“Oh Mario, can I get two lots of your meatballs in special sauce with a basket of garlic bread, please come back afterwards to see if we can fit in a pudding too.” Frank was impressed, she didn’t seem afraid to order big. Twenty minutes later both finished with their meals and had just finished drinking a third bottle of wine. Frank was beginning to feel a little more than a bit tipsy. Mandy also had a slightly drunken grin on her face despite the fact Frank hadn’t actually seen her drink much. Then the questions started coming.
“So Frank, how come you’re not married with kids yet?” She asked.
“Oh I don’t know, haven’t met the right person or if I had it just never seemed to be on the table in that relationship,” he answered honestly.
“Yeah sounds a little like my story, most guys just want to have a good time then leave the morning after, though I have at time thought about just using them for a child.” Frank went a little wide eyed. “Don’t worry Frank I was just joking on that last bit.” She broke that lovely smile at him.
“I guessed as much but surely a beautiful woman like you can have the pick of who she wants at any time?” He asked. She frowned a little.
“Being good looking can also attract a lot of the bad types, Frankie,” she countered.
“Guess so, well sorry you haven’t met the right guy,” he said, a little embarrassed.
“I don’t know, are you the right guy Frank?”
Frank went to answer but it came out as a squeak as he suddenly felt a shoeless foot stroke gently from the ankle of his leg to mid-thigh. He looked at her for quite a while before his mouth started working again.
“I would like to think I’m a stand-up guy,” he managed to squeeze out. Her foot moved right to his groin area. He didn’t know what to do or think and mini Frank was starting to like the attention.
“Something has certainly stood up Frank, so would you like dessert or would you like to come back to mine for afters instead?” Mini Frank won the war there.
“I think we should pay the bill and get the next taxi,” he replied, grabbing his coat. Frank paid the bill while Mandy went outside. Mandy blurted her address to the driver as soon as they got into the vehicle. The ride to her place was quite eventful with her rubbing and kissing him all over in the back of the car. Frank even once or twice caught the taxi driver eyeing them both in the rear view mirror.
Mandy unlocked her house door, quickly dragging the inebriated Frank inside. She kissed him long and deeply as they stumbled down the hallway. They then slowly made their way upstairs discarding a few items of clothing along the way. Frank was topless by the time they got into the bedroom. Mandy was in her skirt and bra as they both collapsed onto the bed kissing more enthusiastically. When Mandy stopped and pushed him back a little.
“Don’t worry Frank nothing’s wrong,” she said, seeing his worried expression. “I just need to go make sure everything’s in order before we go any further.”
“Sure you do what you need to,” he told her. Little Frank was screaming out at him at this.
“Well, please make yourself more comfortable while I’m away.” She turned and left to her en-suite bathroom.
As soon as the door shut behind her Frank leapt up from the bed. He whipped his trousers and underwear off in one swift motion. He then danced around in a wide circle as he tried to remove his socks. The first came off easy then as he span around the second sent his alcohol fuddled mind spinning as he tried to remove it.
Suddenly Frank lost his footing. He careened towards Mandy’s closet door, slamming into it with his full body weight, back first. With a crack of splintering wood Frank fell backwards, with the door now at his back straight to the floor. Hurt and dazed he lay there a moment. Then shaking his head to clear the dizziness his mind dismayed at the situation. Magically he hadn’t seemed to hurt himself in the tumble at all, other than a few bruises that would show in the morning.
Little Frank deflated instantly as the realisation that all this was probably over, not just for tonight probably forever.
“Frank, what the hell was that?” Mandy’s voice shouted.
“Shit, nothing Mandy I just tripped,” he shouted back worried by the situation. He reached up to the table by his one side and used it to lift himself up. Suddenly as his eye level came equal to the table’s top they went wide as he took in a deep shocked breath.
There on the table top was what he suspected were strange arcane symbols from some religion he didn’t recognise. However this wasn’t what disturbed him the most: there was what looked like a bowlful of viscous, red liquid that he heavily suspected was blood. Candles also lined the table along with heady smelling grasses and mosses with strange coloured crystals scattered around.
Then taking pride of place in the centre of the table with symbols painted on it possibly with the same red liquid in the bowl was a picture of him. It looked like it had been taken at some point he in the office when he wasn’t looking.
“Oh dear, Frank I wish you hadn’t seen that, this does complicate things…” Came Mandy’s now rather stern voice.
“What the hell is all this Mandy?” He cried out.
“Well Frank, you see I’m not everything you think I am,” she said, no humour in her voice anymore.
“You’re telling me! Are you crazy?” Frank asked, standing fully. He was taken aback when viewing Mandy as she was now stood there totally naked.
“This isn’t madness Frank its survival and I am sorry, I was going to make love to you before you found this out as a sort of compensation for your trouble,” Frank was heavily puzzled now.
“I thought you liked me Mandy, please what is going on?” Frank just stood dumbstruck as she stepped towards him still in all her beautiful nakedness.
“You really don’t think a woman like me could fall in love with man like you do you Frank?” She sneered evilly. Frank gulped back an involuntary lump of fear.
“What the hell is going on? Is this some kind of office prank?” Frank asked in a last ditch attempt.
“I’m afraid not Frankie, you see I know I’m beautiful but I had to make sure you fell in love with me. This is witchcraft, I used a number of spells to make you follow me like a lap dog, you see it’s a special time of year and we need you darling,” though there was no love in the darling at all.
“Why? What do you need me for?” He balled his fists in anger. This just made Mandy’s grin wider.
“Well you see everyone who works at the office is in our cult Frank, yes even your old friend he’s our newest inductee,” she reached across to the table grabbing something.
“Screw this, I’m getting out of here.” Frank leapt up. Even in his nakedness he wasn’t staying for one more minute of this madness. In a swift motion Mandy took a deep breath and blew a musty powder in his face. He was angry and his eyesight went blurry, lashing out at the vague form of the woman he had recently been infatuated with, he felt the strength sap from his body.
Mandy, adding injury to insult, kneed the poor man in the groin and then smacked him hard in the face with quite a hard punch that sent him flat on his back. Frank couldn’t resist the musk or the pain anymore and passed out into a blissful rest.
Pain was the first thing Frank felt as he came around from whatever Mandy had done to him. His balls ached and his face throbbed from the blows they had both received. His arms were tied wide apart and his feet together. Opening his eyes, Frank surveyed his surroundings in abject terror. There stood in the masses were all the faces he recognised from the office and even some he didn’t. Then a familiar face stepped from the throng, it was his old friend Kyle.
“Hi Frank, sorry about this but it’s either you or me,” he said, with a little sorrow evident.
“Please Kyle, this has to be some kind of joke, why are you all doing this?” He still hoped beyond all belief that this was still some kind of prank or office initiation. Then Mandy stepped from his blind spot dressed in a blood red robe.
“I’m afraid it isn’t Frank and now you’re going to die, for our good. Your death gives our company and all of us a prosperous year to look forward too, in work as well our love lives,” she said. She cracked that smile he had liked except now it looked so evil and contorted on her face. Frank started to struggle against his bonds and scream. Kyle looked terrified as Mandy put a large sharp blade in his hand.
“Come now initiate Kyle, cut his heart out and bring us all prosperity and love for the next year!”
She turned to Frank.
“As for you Frank, you can scream all you like as no one will come and help you now. Your fate is sealed so just accept it!” She stepped up and kissed him on the cheek, as Kyle with a new vigour came towards Frank brandishing the blade.
Along the moors, only faintly heard if you were close enough, screams came from deep within a secret coven cave beneath a large very old oak tree.
D. C. Rogers © 2014
My love now comes
As time touches night
Heart so pure
Dressed in white
Places kisses so soft
Visits most plentiful
Awaiting the dark
Always here for me
Soulful looks deep
Holding and wanting
Together we weep
Time passes quickly
Sun brings the morn’
Until tonight, my ghost
Again, you have gone
William O’Brien © 2014
A LATTE TO GO
BY CHRIS RAVEN
Trevor was on his way home from work when he found himself looking through the coffee shop window again. He was trying to catch a glimpse of that gorgeous red-headed barista while he nonchalantly walked past, which was no easy task as he had to weave in and out of the tables and chairs that were set up on the pavement outside. It had been during a lunch break with a work colleague a few days earlier that Jan had caught Trevor’s eye and he had not been able to think about anything else ever since.
Despite his manoeuvrings, Trevor was unable to get close enough to the window to peer inside past the large roughly drawn picture of a coffee cup with ‘Clio’s’ written in red upon its side, with its three wiggly lines rising above it like steam.
Clio’s Coffee was situated on the ground floor of the residential block in which Trevor worked as concierge. Its deep brown wood framed shop front, orange and cream striped awing and the broad shop sign with ‘Clio’s Coffee’ blazoned in bold orange lettering gave the whole establishment a warm and friendly atmosphere. A marked difference, so Trevor had been told, to the ‘greasy spoon’ that had occupied that spot just a few years earlier.
As Trevor weaved in and out of the chairs he knocked into one of the tables giving himself a sharp pain in his thigh and causing a white coffee cup to rattle briefly in its saucer, a smaller twin to the one painted on the window. Taking this as a sign, Trevor gave up on the ‘fly-by’ strategy and he decided to throw caution to the wind. Using the giant coffee cup as cover, he pressed his face against the window, cupping both his hands around his face to block out his own reflection.
From outside the coffee shop’s interior looked dark and warm with its brown wooden decor and soft lighting. Behind each of the two large plate windows on either side of the entrance were large low coffee tables and behind each of these were a deep brown comfy leather sofa, each one looking out into the street. Trevor chose to ignore the startled looks from Mr and Mrs Oswald, a couple that lived upstairs, who were sitting on the sofa opposite him. Mr Oswald was sipping from a large steaming coffee mug, which he almost dropped into his lap in surprise. His wife Celia just placed her cup of herbal tea back in its saucer and gave Frank a quizzical look.
The coffee shop was very busy for a Friday and Trevor had trouble making out who was serving. He scanned the half dozen or so tables set against the wall opposite, which was covered in pictures of famous Hollywood movie stars from the 1950’s, most of whom Trevor did not recognise apart from Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and the one with the eyes. As he glanced back towards the counter again, Trevor’s eyes met with Marcello’s, the flamboyant Italian sounding Barista who also lived in the block above. He was heading towards the shop door when he noticed Trevor staring at him through the window.
Faced with Marcello’s puzzled look, Trevor decided to bluff it out and attempted to enter the coffee shop as if it was what he had intended to do all along. As he turned towards the door he fell over the red mobility scooter that was trying to enter the shop at the same time, causing the large dishevelled middle aged woman who was clumsily steering it to scream out in fright.
Marcello had gone to open the door for Mrs Maclusky, a disabled regular at the coffee shop, only to find Trevor, draped over her mobility scooter’s wire basket. The angry Mrs Maclusky was complaining bitterly while she prodded Trevor with her podgy fingers.
“Dios mío! Trev mate,” he said, laughing in his workplace Italian accent. “Is this a raid or something?” Trevor untangled himself from the basket and ran round the scooter to retrieve his security guard’s cap, which had flown off in the collision and landed underneath one of the tables. Mrs Maclusky continued to shout at him and tried to kick him with a faded pink fluffy slipper-clad foot as he passed her.
“No man, just trying to get a coffee that’s all,” he explained, as he straightened the cap on his closely shaved head, standing just out of reach of the woman’s potential furry kicks. She on the other hand had taken a packet of cigarettes from the basket and was lighting one up as she angrily reversed away from the doorway.
“Well I never!” She complained and sped away, just missing Trevor’s feet. She accelerated down Calliope Street, cigarette smoke billowing out behind her as she went.
Trevor hadn’t managed to enter the coffee shop that day. By the time the woman in the scooter had shot off, Jan had already arrived at the door. She was laughing with Marcello and asking him what had happened. Trevor quickly waved and headed off in embarrassment before Marcello had a chance to tell her.
The following day, over an early dinner with his family, Trevor’s mother asked him what was wrong.
“Nothing Muman,” he told her, using the term for mother she and her father had brought with them from Granada some thirty-five years earlier. “I’m just tired that’s all, it’s this run of night-shifts.” His mother just looked at him the way she always did when she wasn’t buying anything he was telling her.
“Eh-eh,” she scolded. “There’s something going on with you sweet-pea, you’ve not been right for days.” Trevor’s father continued to read the paper at the table and tried to ignore the whole conversation.
“It tem bad-eye Booboomen where he work,” Trevor’s grandfather chipped in from his faded comfy armchair in the next room. He had always claimed to be a spiritual leader ‘back home’ and as a result he was always attributing any misfortune to ghosts, spirits and of course ‘booboomen’.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts!” Trevor called back, “I don’t know why you have to keep going on about it.”
“Should never have taken that job is all,” was his grandfather’s short reply. “There bad béké obeah there boy.”
“Babu!” Trevor’s mother’s impatiently scolded her father’s interruption, before turning back to Trevor with a mixture of excitement and concern. “What is it then?” She asked.
“There’s a dawta he got his eye on,” his grandfather chipped in again and Trevor’s reaction told his mother everything she needed to know.
“Oh gosh!” She exclaimed happily as she reached over to pinch Trevor’s cheek. “Who is she and what is she like?”
“There’s no one Muman,” Trevor protested, deftly dodging his mother’s fingers with the skill that came from years of practice, “and anyway, I’ve got to leave for work.”
Trevor left the table and got ready for work. Taking the hint, his mother just sighed while his grandfather continued to laugh in the next room.
“You just stay true to yourself child,” she managed to say as Trevor disappeared out of the front door.
Trevor was a little early for work that evening, so he decided to pop into the coffee shop on his way in, hoping to see Jan. His plan was to grab a table which would set him up to start a more substantial conversation than his usual ‘large latte please Jan’. When Trevor arrived he found Mrs Maclusky trying to manoeuvre her way out through the shop doorway, unnoticed by Marcello and co-workers. Red faced, flustered, and muttering under her breath, she was finding it impossible to reach the door handle from where she sat in her scooter. Trevor held the door open for her on his way in, allowing her to squeeze past. She still gave him a filthy look but at least on this occasion she kept her fluffy pink slippers to herself.
It being a Saturday afternoon, the coffee shop was very busy and all the tables were taken. Trevor joined the queue at the counter and watched the other customers sitting at the twelve round, silver-topped tables. The posh couple from the seventh floor and two middle-aged women, one fat and one thin, were in what looked like an intense conversation with Henry, the old boy from the third floor. Trevor had no idea what they were talking about; he was just irritated that they were using three whole tables between the five of them. This had left Trevor with nowhere to sit and to make matters worse, Jan was on the shop floor wiping down tables and so he wouldn’t be able to get close enough to even just say hello.
“Hello Trevor, you want the usual?” Trevor turned to the server behind the counter, a tall woman in her mid-forties.
“Yes please Felicia,” Trevor said, “a latte.” He looked around again at the busy coffee shop and briefly caught Jan’s eye. She offered him a warm smile, which he bashfully returned. Standing there, waist deep in a sea of silver tables and chairs, Trevor knew he had lost his opportunity to speak with her today. He turned back to face Felicia.
“Better make it to go,” he said.
Trevor was at his post in the security station later that evening. He was leaning back in his swivel chair with his feet on the counter and his cap pulled over face, resting his eyes from the harsh florescent light that shone down from the ceiling. He was snoring quietly when he was suddenly startled awake by a tap on the perplex window that normally allowed him to see who enters the building. He sat up quickly, sliding his cap back onto his head. He expected to see Mike Astley, the tower’s caretaker, standing there with his usual disproving look but Instead Trevor was surprised to see a ‘take out’ coffee cup perched on the thin ledge just the other side of the window. It had the Clio’s logo printed on the side. Trevor could hear rapid, receding footsteps heading towards the main doors, which slammed loudly and caused the Perspex window to vibrate as usual.
“Oh crap!” Trevor said aloud, as the coffee cup fell off the ledge and out of view, followed by a loud wet splat.
A little later, as Trevor was mopping up the spilt coffee that had cascaded across the whole width of the corridor, he head the main door open behind him. When he turned, he saw Jan sheepishly walking towards him.
“Oh my, did I do that?” She asked with embarrassment. “I thought the ledge looked a bit narrow.”
“Not to worry,” Trevor said, nervously. “It won’t take long to clean up.”
Jan offered to help and took the mop from Trevor’s trembling grasp, her fingertips softly brushed against the back of his hand as she did so. Trevor didn’t know what to do. Here she was at last and all he could do was mumble incoherently, his mind had gone completely blank.
“Oh thanks,” he sputtered and pointed to a damp spot near his security station. “Maybe you can start there while I change the water.”
“Oh Okay,” Jan replied, while Trevor dashed off down the corridor to the Caretaker’s office, which had a utility room and a large sink. He unlocked the door and stumbled in, cursing himself for loosing his nerve.
Pull yourself together, he thought. What’s the matter with you? He splashed his face with cold water from the hand sink and refilled the bucket with hot soapy water before returning to Jan, who was making short work of the wet floor.
“Let me replace that coffee for you,” she said, while she finished up.
“Oh, you don’t have…” Trevor started politely but managed to stop himself before he completely sabotaged the opportunity. “Okay,” he said quickly, “that would be nice. Shall we go to Clio’s?”
“No we can’t I’m afraid,” Jan said regretfully, “we’ve just closed up. I think it’s going to have to be the chicken shop.”
Trevor and Jan shivered as they stepped out into the cold October air. Winter was beginning to draw in so they quickly trotted round the block to the ‘Bucket O’ Chicken’, a ‘takeaway’ that also took up one of the tower’s ground floor commercial units. Jan led Trevor past the two tables that were always chained up outside and into the shop, just as the wind kicked up the ash from a large over flowing ashtray that sat on one of the tables, causing it to swirl around like a grey, grimy mist.
“Let me get this,” Jan said quickly, as they passed some greasy tables and approached a thin prissy looking man behind the counter.
“Two coffees please Stan,” Jan said warmly. “The man nodded back his greeting.” “No chicken this time Jan?” He said, his voice revealing no interest what so ever.
“Not today thanks,” Jan replied cheerfully, but I’ll take a cloth for one of the tables if you don’t mind.”
“Suit yourself,” Stan muttered, as he tossed over a filthy damp cloth.
Jan had to wipe down one of the interior tables, which wobbled violently as she did so, before Trevor and Jan could sit down opposite each other with their polystyrene cups of coffee.
“Not as nice as Clio’s I’m afraid,” Jan apologised, “but at least it’s warm in here.”
“I heard that Jan!” The mane called out from behind the counter, but his tone of voice seemed more bored then annoyed.
“That’s alright Jan,” Trevor replied, ignoring Stan’s comment. “I’ve wanted to talk to you for a while actually.”
“Really,” Jan said, “what about?” The question threw Trevor, who had assumed Jan’s recent behaviour had suggested that she liked him too.
“Oh, err,” he spluttered again. “I just, well you know. I wanted to say hi?”
“Why’s that then?” Jan replied, straight faced. Trevor looked horrified and sat silently for a few seconds.
“Trevor?” Jan asked. “Are you okay, you’ve gone all quiet.”
“No no, I’m okay, it’s just that …” Trevor fell silent again, causing Jan to suddenly laugh. Trevor felt relaxed by her warm affectionate laughter and joined her.
“Oh Trevor relax,” she said. “You look dead funny, like you’re constipated or something.”
“Sorry Jan,” Trevor apologised, taking his breath. “It’s just that I’ve been trying to talk to you for days but something always seems to get in the way. Now that I have your full attention, I don’t know what to say anymore.” Jan stopped laughing and stared deeply into Trevor’s eyes.
“Now listen,” she said suddenly. “I know you’re shy and I don’t mind that, in fact I kind of like it, but I’m an old fashioned kind of girl and it’s got to be you who says it.” “Says What?” Trevor said, stunned again.
“Oh that. Okay! Would you like to go out with me for a cup of coffee or something some day?” Jan suddenly relaxed, smiling.
“I would love to Trevor,” she replied. “When did you have in mind?”
“Well I’m working tonight and again to…” He caught Jan’s look from across the table. “Or maybe, what about right now?” Jan squealed in delight and leant across the table, grabbing Trevor by the lapels of his jacket and dragging him towards her until he was close enough for her to squarely kiss him on the lips.
“Wow!” Trevor said, as they both slumped back down on their seats, opposite each other and across the table. Jan stood up and walked around to his chair.
“Right,” she said, straightening down his lapels. “You’d best get back to work. I’ll pop in to see you after work tonight, then we can meet here this Sunday and you can take me to the pictures.”
“Okay,” Trevor said, stunned but happy, and then watched as she walked briskly out of the shop doors.
Chris Raven © 2014
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
The smallest look in your direction, And I knew you were the one.
The way my heart stopped when my eyes met yours,
How I speechlessly gazed at you,
When I couldn’t even blink an eye,
In fear of you disappearing,
In that one second,
Becoming a figment of my imagination.
The sparks between us flew instantly, And I knew it all pointed to love.
I was a victim of Cupid and his toxic arrows.
You were the one,
My angel sent from above,
My prince coming to save me on his steed,
My soul mate who would stand by me every day,
My other half who would love everything that I am,
The keeper of my chipped heart,
Who would make it whole once again.
Filled with every shade of green,
Like a beautiful, peaceful forest,
And flecks of gold,
Oh- so- gorgeous, They mesmerized me.
The color of the darkest night sky,
Mysteriously covering your face,
As if attempting to hide in the shadows,
Tempting me to uncover what secrets were hidden deep inside.
It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
So perfect, so right,
I could stare at it for hours.
It was like a million rays of light,
Sparkling, dazzling me, Making me feel faint with joy.
It was the way your eyes sparkled in the light,
How your smile sent me floating on the clouds,
The mysterious, yet kind mien you held,
That made me fall head over heels for you.
From that one look,
I could just tell you were the one I’d been looking for.
And how you looked back at me, With those soft, beautiful eyes, I knew you felt the same.
Who said there was no such thing as love at first sight?
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthi ©2014
YOU CONTRADICT YOURSELF
BY GUNJAN VYAS
Summertime. Sun shining high in the sky, birds chirping their happiness, lovers sitting in parks as they chatted about their future and kids staying out all day enjoying their summer holidays. It seemed like a season of love and happiness for everyone except Maya, who just wanted everyone to shut the hell up.
Her summers were never happy because she had to spend them with her father, who had divorced her mother when she was just four. Every year during her summer holidays, Maya had to stay in the countryside with her, obnoxiously, cheerful father. She could see obvious reasons as to why her mother must have divorced this man: he was just too cheerful.
He used to sing happy country songs while cooking, ‘affectionately’ call her Mally Tally (did that even make sense?), had nicknames for almost everyone he knew (including his ex-wife who he ‘affectionately’ called Llama), and the list could go on and on and on. Maya’s grievances did not end here, she also had to sleep on a bright pink, fluffy, bouncy bed which was fit for a seven year old, had to meet her weird aunts every Friday and sing stupid country songs with them, go on a morning job with her father every day (which as time passed, didn’t seem too bad), had to clean the house with her father every Sunday and… her train of thought stopped as her eyes landed on the one person she had not expected to see here at this point of time. (Long sentence)Her eyes widened in recognition and her mouth gaped in shock, what the hell was she doing here?
“Mom?!” She called out exasperatedly, as she ran towards her.
“Maya! Thank god you are here, I was so confused! This place has changed a lot since I last came here,” she said, as if lost in an old memory.
“What are you doing here?” Maya asked impatiently. She wasn’t supposed to be seen in this colourful hell. She should have been doing something sensible at her job and not be a part of this circus.
“I have some holidays to spare so I came here to see how my daughter is doing,” she stated matter-of-factly. “Maya, how are you doing this summer?”
Maya looked to her side and spoke with the same monotonous tone that had now become a part of her personality.
Her mother sighed audibly, clearly disappointed with her response.
“And to think he will grow up after all these years.” Maya’s mother shook her head in mock despair before smiling and looking at her.
“Now, where is your father’s house?”
Maya could already feel that her days from now were not going to be anything but unusual.
The road was long and brimming with life, many were on an evening walk just like her but no one was alone (she could only spot people in pairs and groups) but today, unlike every day, she was not alone either. Even though she was the guide, it was her mother who walked ahead, taking proud steps and keeping an eye on her just so she didn’t take any wrong turn. (Confused. Who is taking proud steps and who is keeping an eye?)
She was so different from her goofy father, so proud, confident, sensible, and beautiful.
Maya admired her.
“I see the church still looks the same.”
Maya gazed at her mother’s back, waiting for her to turn and explain why she had said it and what it meant but she just kept walking. Maya wondered if she was talking to herself and then inwardly shook her head.
That would be so unlike her. Her mother, unlike most of the others of her gender, wasn’t dreamy, stupid and superficial. She was a practical, no-nonsense woman who knew the way things worked. She didn’t want a man to support her, she didn’t need to rant about her problems to her relatives and acquaintances (she didn’t have any stupid friends). She didn’t bitch about her co-workers with other co-workers, nor was she ever involved in any kind of scandals. She was perfection.
Maya could see why her goofy father wasn’t the right life partner for such an amazing individual.
As they approached their destination, her mother’s steps were more definite as if her memory was guiding her. Even though she was wearing a five inch heel, Maya had to almost run to keep up with her and, yet again, she was awed by her grace.
The destination was here, inviting them in to join what Maya thought was going to be hell. She didn’t want to go in; she was so scared! How would her father react when he saw the least likely person he had ever expected at his doorstep?
She remembered seeing him in a bad mood just once. When she was really young, some man had tried to sexually abuse her in a mall’s parking lot where she was waiting for her father. Her father was angry, really angry, and then there was blood, the body of an unconscious man, sounds of sirens and her silent father coldly wiping the scum’s blood from his knuckles.
She had forgotten what the stranger was doing or going to do to her but the sight of her silent father punching the man right in the face was something that had been burned into her brain. It cancelled out the entire incident of near-sexual abuse, with that strangely shocking image of her father protecting his daughter like a fierce wild animal but with the control of a grown, intelligent man.
A part of her wondered if this was how he would react when he saw his Llama after eleven years: a cold, controlled anger taking place in his person and the cheerful man falling into oblivion.
The thought disturbed her more than it should have.
She looked at her mother, trying to find a single line of worry or apprehension on her face but she was calmer than ever as she raised her hand to ring the doorbell of the house. Maya held her breath in excitement and fear, the uncertainty of what was about to happen was driving her crazy.
“What’s wrong, Maya? You seem too quiet.”
“You know I like to stay quiet, mom.”
The door opened and there he was: Her father, her mother’s ex-husband.
Maya’s breath was caught in her throat and her eyes were wide with curiosity. She couldn’t imagine what would happen in the next few seconds. Her father was standing right in front of her mother and they would start interacting in a moment or two. Her heart sped up when she saw her mother part her lips a little. Her eyes quickly darted towards her father’s face which was expressionless and relaxed.
“How are you?” Came her mother’s voice. It was calm and neutral but held a sinister vibe about it, like the sea before a storm. (Nothing wrong with this line, I just really liked it )
She didn’t turn to look at her face though. She had heard that voice enough times to know what expression went with it. Her eyes were fixed on her father who still did not show any change in his expression. In fact, it did look a bit grim, with his lips drawn in a line and eyes without their usual sparkle.
A minute passed and no one uttered a word. The tension between them could be cut by a knife and Maya wanted it to disappear. She opened her mouth to say something when her mother again spoke.
“How are you, Jeffrey?”
Her voice was still calm and ominous, without a trace of anger or irritation if she was feeling any. Maya wondered how her mother was so awesome.
Her eyes moved to her father’s face and it still didn’t betray any emotion. What was wrong with him? Couldn’t he just behave normally and let things be?
This time she didn’t wait for anyone and spoke.
“Dad! Mom is asking how you are.”
He didn’t respond to her. He was there, all stern-faced and lost, and she wanted to scream.
“Dad!” she said loudly and, this time, his eyes moved towards her, then towards his exwife and stayed there as if analysing her.
“Llama…” He whispered but it was loud enough for the two ladies to hear. His ex-wife’s face contorted in an irritated expression.
“I am Liama. After all these years, you still have to pronounce it wrong.”
“Llama. Llama. Llama!” He shouted cheerily, as his face beamed a large smile. “You’re here, my love!”
Maya’s thoughts were a confused array of words and phrases.
Love? His love? What? Why? He still loves her?
She noticed how he never mentioned her mother during holidays and had always concluded that it was his dislike towards their failed relationship that never allowed him to be obnoxiously cheerful about it, like he was about everything else (which was a good thing in itself). Did he actually love her?
“You are still the same. Why don’t you understand this is the exact reason why I left you?” Liama asked, annoyed at her husband’s never improving mental condition. (POV Change?)
“Come on, Maya. Let’s go in. He will lock the door when he comes in.”
She brushed past him with a natural arrogance and went inside. Maya followed her and called out in a hesitated voice.
“Yeah?” Liama replied absently, as she looked around the place.
“Nothing,” she said and stood next to her.
“This place has changed a bit. We didn’t have those blue curtains before.” Liama pointed towards the kitchen window and Maya shrugged.
“Aunt Jean gifted them the day before yesterday because it is so hot. She thinks blue will keep the kitchen cool and anyone working in there would feel cool and happy.”
“She has always had a weird train of thought.”
Maya heard the sound of the door being shut and saw her dad standing inside the living room with them. He was unnaturally quiet for a moment before he started sniffling.
“Llama and Mally… My most favourite ladies are here with me in my house together after eleven years. I can’t believe it. I think I will cry.”
Maya turned to look at him, back in his usual melodramatic demeanour. She couldn’t believe this was the man who had signed those papers which declared him to be single again eleven years ago. Why did he divorce her in the first place?
Oh yeah, she divorced him. What could have he done if mom didn’t want to live with him anymore?
She imagined her smart, intelligent and elegant mother divorcing this cheerful and happy-go-lucky male for always clinging to her for love and cuddles. She could see the irritated look on her face when he would come to her and ask for a random hug while she would be working on some important file for her company.
The reason why she must have married him in the first place, however, eluded her still.
“You didn’t change this place much,” Liama stated plainly. “Except those blue curtains. I liked the one with the flower pattern better though.”
She looked at her ex-husband and gave him a half-smirk, half-smile.
She knows about the flower curtains? What the hell, are they that old?( I am guessing Maya is thinking this as it’s her POV, so it needs to be Italic. If it is not Maya, then we should not know what anyone else is thinking unless Maya is a mind reader 🙂 ) Jeffrey stopped his semi-comedic act and returned her a small smile.
“I know but they get dirty too and need to be washed.”
Liama giggled. Fucking giggled. Maya couldn’t believe it. It had to be her imagination. Her mother never giggled. It was the monopoly of those air-headed neighbourhood ladies with faces caked in five layers of make-up.
“Can I see the other rooms?”
Jeffrey chuckled and took a step in her direction.
“Did you ever have to ask before?”
Maya was losing her mind. She always told her mother that spending the summer with him was a bad idea from the very start but, no, she didn’t listen or rather the court didn’t listen. Now she was seeing her mother giggling like a school girl and her weirdo father flirting with her like a pro.
“To think after eleven years, you still have the same effect on me. How can you still…”
“Still love you? Come on, I don’t leave my Llama even when my Llama leaves me.” He winked at her teasingly.
Maya was dumbstruck by what was happening in front of her. Her parents were acting like a couple in love, like how they used to be before the divorce. All her life was spent thinking they didn’t love each other anymore and now this. She cleared her throat to draw attention towards herself and was successful. She saw her mother hesitate a little as she called out her daughter’s name.
“What’s happening? I don’t understand! You two never talked to each other in eleven years and now all of a sudden you’re acting like a couple. All my life I believed my parents could never be together but you’re acting like a divorce never happened. What is happening?”
Her usual nonchalance had left her completely and she wanted answers. What was all this about?
“Liama, we need to explain everything.”
A cold wind blew in through the open windows but Maya didn’t feel its cooling effect. Her head was hot with confusion and anger, she needed answers. Answer to the question:
why did they divorce each other?
Liama sat next to her daughter on the sofa and held her hand in hers.
“Sweetheart, what I’m about to tell you is hard to explain and I have dreaded this day as much as I waited for it all my life. I’ve been a selfish woman. I started as a lawyer in the company your father had started a few years ago. I was not just a good lawyer, I was a very good lawyer.”
“And still are,” Jeffrey piped in and Liama smiled.
Maya was way beyond shock to hear that her dad could own a company.
“There was a project that required both of us and that was when we fell in love. We got married and were going on happily with our lives. Things became even brighter when you were born; there was nothing that could separate us.”
She sighed and waited for a moment as silence set the stage for her next words.
“When you turned four, I began working again. I was back to the position which I had to leave due to my pregnancy and your upbringing but the company had grown immensely, even in my absence. I tried my best to govern the subordinates, to get legalities clear with clients and what not but I was not skilled enough. I had lost my touch.”
She looked down at her hands placed on her lap, her fingers intermingling with each other.
Maya waited expectantly for her next words.
“There was a deal in the foreign affairs department. It was a big one and needed to be finalised at all costs. I had lost all my confidence so I didn’t volunteer for it but time and luck have never really been on my side and the man who was going to do it got into an accident on his way to work and it was decided that I should do it.”
“And I was inside the same room as the client from a Japanese giant and we talked about it and were going to finalise the deal when he suddenly got a call and left with just two words – ‘I’m sorry.’ I didn’t know what had happened. We were so close to finalising it and he just left.”
Maya looked at Jeffrey who turned his face away, as if trying to hide something.
“Your father and I had a huge fight because he thought I had slipped up and it was something he had worked for four years to bring about. It could have changed the company’s state to something unbelievable and he thought I ruined it.” “And you divorced him?” Maya asked, incredulously.
“No, not straight after that. I resigned from his company as the co-workers had also started to bitch about me and indirectly taunt me. At home, he stayed too stressed and things were not working out. You were suffering as a result, Maya, and I was hating myself for everything. I decided to divorce him and move to another city. The court decided you would stay with me and spend holidays with him, as he was always free in the summer.”
“I worked hard and was soon back on track. You were coping well with the situation and slowly got used to his absence from your daily routine but summer was always your favourite time of the year. And it still is, despite what you say.” She smiled at her daughter before continuing.
“I missed your father but I was hurt by what had happened so many years ago so I never contacted him. I told him to not contact me and apparently he was okay with it because he didn’t. You were the only connection between us. You told me about him and how it was going with him and that made me happy.”
“And Mally also told me about you which was wonderful. You are a wonderful mother, just a little boring.”
“Better than being a crazy goof,” Liama responded dryly.
“Today, I decided to sort things out. It was a golden opportunity to make up for lost time, for hurt feelings and for asking your father why he never missed me.” She glared at her ex-husband who laughed nervously.
“She told me that you hated me. I couldn’t bring myself to contact you when I realised what I had lost in the name of that stupid deal. You were a part of my life that I could never replace and I had lost you. You were doing great as you were…I didn’t want to interfere.”
He sighed and looked out the window. Liama left her seat on the sofa and sat on the arm of his chair, wrapping her arm around him.
“It may seem really superficial and unintelligent of us, Maya, to do all this but I loved my work as much as I loved my family and your father knows how I must have felt at that time. He can relate, his company was like his baby.” “No, Maya is my only baby,” he said, in a faux-sad tone.
Maya chuckled. It was crazy.
“When I saw your mother after so many years, so many feelings came back to me. So many memories. I love you both so much and I’m so sorry for hurting you.” He looked deep in Liama’s eyes.
Liama got up from her new seat and knelt in front of Jeffrey with her hand held out in front of him.
“Will you marry me?” She asked, even though there was no ring to offer him.
Maya was too stunned to think. It was all beyond her.
“Yes,” said Jeffrey and ten days later, Maya saw her parents getting married in the same church her mother had pointed to on her arrival after eleven years.
Gunjan Vyas © 2014
And in my heart I have loved you for a thousand lifetimes
Knowing your touch, your soul
I remember you from Georgian England
With powdered wigs and beauty spots
You laughed, tilted your head and looked into my eyes As a black cat purred and brushed past my leg
Do you remember the Roses?
A terrible war whence we once met
Spilling blood of the friends we knew in houses
Torn apart by hate, I loved you then
Sailed to France to the court of Louis, mirrored opulence
Where I served you
Flowers placed in tin-glazed pots – Holland, we shared the scent
Rich and adored we were with tulips blue
Most men would die for a bloom so rare, some did
But nothing compared to Venice where we lived on the streets
Penniless, aching for some stale bread or soup
A crust, I found, I gave to you
Of all the lifetimes we met and loved, the stars stood still
The world spun around and revolved at speed
Each time we died and never wanted to leave
Floating in the ether our souls still touch
To be incarnate again will allow our arms to meet
So, until the next time, think and pray my love
William O’Brien © 2014
THE HEART WISH
BY KRISTINA BLASEN
“I couldn’t work, couldn’t think all day, all I knew is that today you’d be here. I can’t believe that you and Aurora are both finally here but I’m sorry your son Orion didn’t come.”
“He wants to live with his dad for now.”
“I know but he’s still part of our family and I know you’re sad.”
“Well, we just have to be ready for when and if he decides he wants to be here with us…
“No, you’re not but I’m here. You aren’t alone anymore. I love you. I love Aurora. I love Orion too and we will be a family.”
I can’t believe it but somehow the holidays roared by in a way that felt most unlike my “real” life. Aurora’s first horseback riding lesson, making lefse, getting a handmade ornament for our first Christmas that only a mother could love (or a very understanding girlfriend) and still finding myself with growing hopes that it will have a new friend each Christmas for many years to come. Nights spent building little snow globes in a jar and chilly days making snowmen in the yard and of course, kissing for hours on end whenever Aurora finally went off to sleep.
New Year’s (Us)
The fire was crackling merrily as we sat on old stumps under the stars surrounded by friends. The scent of smoke heavy in the air and the temptation of sneaking kisses underneath the giant oak strewn with fairy lights ruled the night. Sometimes you get special days, special hours that stick on your mind and your memories that are all the more treasured for they contain such unexpected joy. A babysitter procured, a whole night of leaning into him, holding her close. Both of us, finally realizing you’ve found exactly what and who you were actually looking for all along.
A night of falling into you…You into me…Soft mittens on your furry face, whispered secrets.
“I chose you.”
What do you see in me? I’m a mess. I’m failing and falling short in so many areas of my life.
How can you love me? I’m so happy but it is like I’ve never been happy so I don’t know how to just be happy. How did I get so lucky?
You know I self-sabotage things, right? Shoot myself in the foot. I get scared I can’t do this, that I won’t be enough. I’ll mess it up. I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not confident because I’ve never loved like this before. I’ve never cared this much. It’s a lot of responsibility and I take responsibilities seriously. Not only do I need to step into being a partner but into being a dad to two kids.
I’ve never mattered too much, you know, in my own life. I’ve stood on the sidelines. I see it now. I didn’t stand up enough for what I wanted, always worked to make everyone else happy but didn’t let myself think too much about whether I was happy or could be happy someday.
Now, to do this, to become your partner, to become a family, I have to stand in the middle of my own life and know how important I am to all of you. Things inside me have to be different.
I’m not the easiest person to live with. Sometimes I’m happy, sad, talkative and broody by turns, occasionally all in one day. I’ll snap at you one minute and be sorry the next. I flirt shamelessly with you when I’m not too busy dealing out dry humor and being a pain in the ass but when I love, I love. I don’t care who knows it or what they think. I do nothing by halves. I’m wholly committed to things and people I care about deeply but I want it on my terms. Try to control me and I’m unhappy but take the love and let me be free to be the real me and you’ll never doubt my love or commitment. I’ll push, poke and prod you to follow your dreams, to take action versus offering empty promises but I also know I’ve lived a lot and I have a lot of past coming with me to your arms. I need to know, can you love me as I am?
Valentine’s Day (Us)
It was only fitting to be standing at the edge of a ravine today near a waterfall today, the sound of water crashing down behind me drowning out my nerves, arms full of cala lilies and roses, looking the complete an utter fool and all for her, only for her. Fitting because she’d loved it so when I stood just like this waiting for her, arms full of red and hot pink roses at the airport, feeling a matching hot pink blush on my cheeks as all the women smiled at me and all the men looked ashamed they hadn’t brought flowers but her smile and her kisses were worth it.
The lilies stand for partnership, fidelity and love; I planned to offer them all wholeheartedly today. More than that, her grandmother’s engagement and wedding rings sat nestled safely in my black leather jacket inside a very special wooden box I’d made for her with the swirled Celtic designs she always loved so much. The ring shaped just like a cala lily, a reminder of their promise to one another. A true partnership.
To ask her on Valentine’s day was just too expected, too obvious, too cheesy romantic and not quite right…So that’s how I came to be here, asking today, February 13th. Everyone knows I never can keep a good secret for long!
The Heart Wish (Hers)
When I fell in love it was hard, fast and completely crazy. It was highly inconvenient in every way. Especially since I’d just declared to myself that I wasn’t going to date or look for love in anyway until my kids were at least in high school but probably never. Not two weeks later Matt and I were talking and it was clear that despite all odds my feelings were not cooperating with my head! I was wary at first and front-loaded every possible negative from my past or potential relationship deal-breaker all into the first few days of talking about even attempting dating. My attitude was very much like it wasn’t worth the hassle to try for love unless you know and accept all of me. I didn’t just want to fall in love but to have a true partnership. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less.
The Heart Wish (His)
“I can’t believe in less than six months I’ll be a married man.”
“Is that a good thing?”
“Are you scared?” He paused.
“Only a little. 90% happy. 10%, scared. 10% FINALLY!”
“Yes, that’s the extra good part.”
“Yes, finally. You have all of my love Kristina. All of my heart. I’m very happy. Happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I remember back in high school thinking about love and what I wanted in a wife, watching all my friends partner off, get married…Even though I was genuinely happy for them, I still wondered when it was going to happen for me but it never did. I dated but it never went anywhere. Then, when we fell in love… Well, you know, sometimes you just feel it, it feels right and you just know. I love you Kristina.” “I love you too, Matt.”
Sometimes Love comes unexpectedly whether it knocks politely or barges right in,
it will not be ignored Sometimes
Fate surely intervenes when we don’t listen
and screw it up again,
so a second chance should be cherished
all the more Sometimes
Life gets tangled and things don’t always happen according to our plan,
but the day you appeared on my doorstep was a lucky day indeed
Because you were the answer to my heart wish.
Kristina Blasen ©2014
The nervous touch.
The quivering heart.
You’ve wanted so much.
Now here’s the hard part.
You look in her eye. You look away.
You take your time.
You have got all day.
Decided to do it.
You pull her near.
Just make it quick.
There’s nothing to fear.
Heart beats thug.
What if’s sound.
You settle on a hug.
Why is it so hard?
What reason can there be?
We hang out a lot.
She must feel like me.
You walk along.
She takes your hand. Your hearts a song.
Now take your stand.
Spin her around.
Draw her near.
Confidence profound. Intentions are clear.
Heart racing, Pulse pacing.
In each others eyes, your now facing.
Closer you get.
Then soon you meet.
You will never forget.
Now you feel complete.
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthi ©2014
THE FLEETING KISS
As her lips touched his,
Lightning struck in his mind. His ears sounded a boom.
His body shivered and shook. As her sweet, soft lips rubbed against his own, And her tongue searched blindly for his.
Passions blended and bonded together, As did the hearts and true essence, Of these two once lonely souls.
Peter John © 2014
As we lay here together, In loving bliss,
Only Once Interrupted, By a small kiss.
The excitement is over,
Now we both rest,
Of the methods of loving, This is the best.
Chris Raven © 2014
WAIT FOR ME (BEFORE YOU GO)
Wait for me. Hold on as I get myself together. I have taken extra hours at my current job and picked up a second job. Plus, I get paid to perform places and sell my merchandise. Besides all of that, I work with my buddies in real estate you know, rehabbing, flipping, and selling houses. Drive an older car but building towards the upgrade. Just wanted to give you details of all the ways I’m getting paid. Know it is important for a woman to feel secure and please understand that my intentions are pure so please, wait for me. Came from a neither place, neither love or loyalty existed in realm, felt like a miscreant servant while tyrant captained at the helm. Cannot recall a sweet voice with complimentary intentions speaking into my ear that’s why I’m quite convinced that God has sent you here. Forgive me if I’m hesitant to speak words in response to your words of affection but guarded is the barrier bracing my heart for being hurt again, so call it, self-preservation or emotional protection. Want to hold your hand, kiss your lips, and spend days till they turn to nights then days again. Knew vultures before you arrived here, dove, and they brought trust to its near end so as I become accustomed to your kind hear.
Wait for me, agree that this man asks a lot of you only do so because you are quintessential, unequivocal, and exactly the woman you should be and as I see you in front of my eyes, in my thoughts, while daydream or sleep, you’re the one for me. Pray patience a strong virtue in you so that this concept of love we can bring about fruitful, tell you of my aspirations because believe fully that only the best behavior, affection, and wealth would suit you. Don’t want you to look back decades from now thinking that you might have settled looking at me sideways. Not like your man isn’t a blessing but in your life I meddled confession good for the soul, and honesty always a good way to begin so with all that said, please forgive the intensity that speaks forth from within, I ask you to wait for me.
Greatest Poet Alive © 2014
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Living in a small village in Lancashire, England, William O’Brienhas written his second book, Peter, Enchantment and Stardust. In the 1990s, the author had twenty-one articles published, both nationally and internationally. After gaining an honours degree in Geosciences, doing post-graduate study in Occupational Health and Fitness, and earning a masters degree in Science Communication, he developed an interest for simple communication. A passion for writing again emerged, and combining various interests in fine art, museum exhibition display, biology, geology, poetry, and the mystical led to the story of Peter: A Darkened Fairytale. The author still retains a childlike vision of the world, which is conveyed throughout his books.
Madhu Kalyan Mattaparthiis an IT professional from Hyderabad, India, born on 16th January 1989. He is a philanthropist, traveller and pursues writing as a hobby. Sensitive and observant, everything that happens around him is an inspiration to do something new. His knowledge in the world of technology has earned him appreciation and success and he now considers writing his new passion. He has worked in Google, India as a CEA and also the owner of a start-up company, Green Turtle Software Solutions.
Married, with one daughter. Poet and novelist. Poetry pamphlets: Wasted Leaves, 1996; I Went With Her, 2007. Comic, bawdy novel GABRIELLA available on Amazon as Kindle ebook. Other novels, similarly disrespectful, surreal and shocking, on their way. Get ready for them.
Sonya C. Doddlives in Norfolk, England with her husband and two sons. Although Sonya began writing in 1996, it wasn’t until 2013 that she started to publish her work. A teacher, as well as a mother and writer, Sonya has a selection of novels and short story collections available.
Chris Ravenis a forty-odd year old south Londoner who has contributed a number of other short stories to the Indie collaboration’s series of free anthologies. He has also contributed illustrations to other author’s works and has been coordinating a shared writing project with other new writers called ‘Tall Stories’. A relative newcomer to fiction, he is currently experimenting with a number of different formats and genres, including short storytelling and play-writing.
Author D C Rogersis a 31 year old man with ideas people say are great so he’s decided to write them down. Hailing from the deep dark valleys of Wales, where his first zombie based novel stems, he lives happily with his fiancée. Pretty new to the game of writing his style is fast and fresh, focusing on thrillers horrors and fantasy works. I just want to show you lot the chaos in my mind!
Peter Johnwas born in Bromley Kent, England in 1973. He gained an interest in creative writing at the age of 14 and was published during the 1990s in several poetry anthologies. Happily Married to Jo since 1996 and currently living in Sidcup Kent, not so far from the tree.
Poetry(The Confessional Heart of a Man, The Book of 24 Orgasms, The Mind of a Poetic Unsub, and the Poetry Book of the Year, Revenge of the Orgasm). G.P.A. has won the Poetry Pentathlon, Moth Storytelling Slam, and the Urban Image Magazine Talent Search.
Kristina Blasen is a dabbler. She writes a dab of this and a bit of that. She enjoys writing children’s fantasy, short stories and poetry. Her dark fantasy short story collection, Tales of the Wyrd, is her favorite collection. She’s also the author of three poetry chapbooks: The Wildwood Guardian, Grey Weir and Slipshod Mornings & Meandering Midnights and is currently finishing her first full length novel, a science fiction fantasy called Gateways through the Penumbra.
Priyais a Management student at University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Born on 7th July 1992 from Faridabad (Haryana), India. She has previously been a Choreographer and a Dancer. She has also had former training in TAEKWONDO. Loves Listening to Music, Watching Movies, Reading and is a tech geek. Despite of having keen interest in Choreography she likes writing Stories. She has previously written for University Magazines and university newspaper, now wishes to take up writing as her second Profession.
A Canadian author with stories and style deserving attention, Peter W. Collierbegan with writing rhyming prose stories for his own children. His stories are both a delight to read and to hear. His contribution to this anthology demonstrates another dimension of how his creative prose style can evoke poignancy and articulacy.
It wasn’t until more recently that the e-book format provided a conduit for sharing his quirky rhyming story style to a broader international readership. Peter’s Canadian homegrown originality has been well-received, with new myths like the ‘Snow Alligators’, ‘The Garden Party’, ‘Lou and Stu’, ‘The Fishing Derby’, ‘The Immovable Rock’, or ‘The Very Last Apple’ which are poised to become creative milestones and young reader favourites. Currently, readers will find 21 stories available in EBook format collections, some including illustrations, as bedtime reading for children at different age levels.
Gunjan Vyas is a college student born on 20th August 1994, residing in New Delhi, India. She has interest in music, technology and works of fiction. She likes to write poems and short stories as a hobby. She also co owns a start-up company, Green Turtle Software Solutions which her friend started and suggests and supports new ideas.
A. L. Butcher (Alexandra) is a British author of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles series and several short stories in the fantasy and fantasy romance genre. She is an avid reader and creator of worlds, a poet and a dreamer. When she is grounded in the real world she likes science, natural history, history and monkeys.
OTHER PUBLICATIONS BY THE INDIE COLLABORATION
A selection of chilling stories from some of the best Indie authors on the market. We dare you to venture into these pages of spine chilling tales and stories of ghosts and goblins. Freely donated by the authors themselves, these dark passages are a great example of their various, unique styles and imaginations. This is the first of a series of free topical collections brought to you by The Indie Collaboration.
A diverse collection of stories showcasing some of the best indie authors on the market. Filled with heart-warming romance, mysterious humor, sinister, supernatural thrills and tearful sorrow, this anthology has something for everyone. So snuggle up with a warm glass of mulled wine and join us for the festivities, while we lift your spirit, tickle your fancy and rattle your bones.