short story, Writing

Mary, Chaos Incarnate

(March 2022 short story) SUPER DUPER LATE

You know when even the things you dislike about a person make you love her even more? Well, that was Mary. On the one hand, she could talk endlessly about obscure texts. You couldn’t help but be drawn in. Her passion for obscurity was like a magnet bringing those in her vicinity nearer.

But, at the same time, she would go to great lengths to prove her point. Sometimes it was too far.

At this moment, she is about to get herself fired again. I am watching it happen, and there is nothing I can do to stop her. There wouldn’t be a point. If I try to intervene, it will only redirect her anger towards me. I don’t want to be in those crosshairs.

I only hope that when she is done telling the owner why his family is wrong to practice the school of magic that they’ve practiced for generations that he will not hold Mary’s outburst against me. I don’t want to lose my job.

Of course, there is also the chance that once he fires her, and believe me, it’s coming, she’ll ask me to quit in solidarity. It’s happened before. I hate job hunting. I’m not as charming as Mary, which is hard to believe at this moment as I’m watching her argue with someone about their family’s way of life.

Mary isn’t the only witch like this. She’s just too young to understand how incredibly rude she’s being. I tell her all the time that if she wants to educate people and change their minds, there is a polite way that they might actually listen to, and there is the Mary way, which immediately puts everyone on edge and shuts down their ability to listen to anyone.

But there is no arguing with Mary…

She was raised by a single father, a witch who collected spells as a hobby and who used those spells to try and force others to his view of the world. He was the magical world equivalent of an eco-terrorist. His daughter is a chip off the old block.

It is strange to me that I simultaneously love her passion for magical theory and hate the way she chooses to wield it.

I keep wiping the counters but stop when I hear the boss say, “that’s it. You’ve gone too far.”

“I’m just saying,” replied Mary.

He cut her off. “Get out. Right now. You don’t get to speak to me that way.”

“If you would only listen to what I’m saying,” Mary sighed. She rolled her eyes and pulled off her apron. She held her head high and her shoulders back as she walked around the counter. When she reached the other side, she glanced over towards me.

I shook my head. I silently pleaded with her to not drag me into this.  She shrugged and kept walking. The shop was silent, even after the door shut, ringing the bell above it.

I didn’t make eye contact with the boss and wiped the counter and made myself look busy.

“I’m going to the back,” he said as he stomped off and disappeared behind the “employees only” marked door. As the door was swinging on its hinges, I heard a few words he was mumbling to himself.

“Arrogant brat,” he said just as the doors stopped swinging.

**********

“Mary?” I yelled as I closed and locked the door to our apartment. I hadn’t seen any lights on from the street, but that didn’t mean anything. I’d closed the shop tonight; she might already by asleep.

“Mary?” I said again. No answer.

I took a few steps and turned on the lights. I scanned around and didn’t see her. Our studio apartment was small enough that I could see every inch of it from the entry way.

I wasn’t concerned yet. Maybe she decided to blow off steam. I checked my phone for the umpteenth time but there weren’t any messages from her.

I texted her asking her where she was and if she wanted any company. Knowing Mary, and I have since we were in the same kindergarten class, she was probably caught up in some drama.

She had a habit of going from one catastrophe to the next. You know that saying about celebrity deaths coming in threes, or whatever, that was true about Mary and disasters.

The first was getting fired today. Maybe she was out in the midst of disasters two and three. Hopefully whatever the tragedies were, she wouldn’t bring them home with her.

I looked again at my phone and saw that she hadn’t even read my message yet. It was pretty late. Should I be worried?

This was one of those moments. Mary wasn’t even here, and I was being drawn into her chaos. This time I vowed to not let it pull me in.

I worked on distracting myself instead. I plugged my phone in and placed it on the nightstand. I walked away from it.

I figured the best way to keep away from it was to keep busy. I tidied up, did the dishes, swept the floor, and even took out the garbage. Cleaning the whole apartment took just over thirty minutes.

I plopped onto the bed and reached for the phone. I stopped with my hand still hovering over it.

I would not be drawn in. I would not check my phone. I would not call her or text her.

Whatever was going on, she was in charge of her decisions. She knew where we lived. I didn’t need to check on her.

I took a deep breath and resting my hand in my lap realized that I’d been pulled along in the wake of Mary’s drama for too long now. I wanted to be in her life, but I didn’t need to rescue her or get arrested with her, either of which was equally possible.

The door to the apartment swung open with such force it banged into the wall, adding another dent.

“You are not going to believe what happened to me tonight,” said Mary dropping her bag and belongings and using her foot to kick the door shut.

short story, Writing

Magic Misunderstanding

February 2022’s short story of the month

All right, maybe it wasn’t the best way to start off a conversation. In my own way, I was trying to take her side. It’s not easy to take her side, and very few people do. She has two, maybe three real friends in the world. There’s me, there’s Tilly, and of course, Mitchell. 

As soon as the words left my mouth, she glared at me with those solid black eyes that seemed to reflect everything they were seeing, and at the same time, suck everything in like a black hole. It was really hard to turn away from that stare, even if it made me question my sanity. 

“What did you say to me?” Finch asked through clinched teeth. 

“Um…” I couldn’t gather my thoughts. How did she do that to people? “What I said was despite what Conner said, I think your new outfit looks very traditional. Great choice for picture day.” I took a step back as I finished repeating myself. 

Finch’s beak snapped shut, and she blew air out of her nares. “I don’t care what you think. I don’t need you or anyone else to approve of my choices.” When she said approve, she made air quotes and rolled her eyes. She stomped away. 

I didn’t move for several seconds, and before I had a chance to decide whether or not to go after her, I felt something land on my shoulder. I didn’t have to turn and look. It was Tilly. 

“What’s ol’ Finchy mad about this time?” asked Tilly. 

“Don’t call her Finchy. She hates that.” I didn’t answer Tilly’s question because I was too busy trying to figure out why what I’d said made Finch so angry. Harpies were hard to get along with, but I thought after years of being friends, I was finally understanding Finch—apparently not though. I shrugged and Tilly giggled. I’d forgotten she was on my shoulder. “Why don’t you just teleport to class? Why do you like hitching a ride with me so much?” 

“Oh, I see, the crankiness is contagious. Later then.” There was a popping sound as she disappeared. 

I was still trying to replay the incident with Finch in my mind. I got the books I needed and supplies from my locker. Putting my forehead on the locker, I sighed. 

“What’s eating you?” asked a raspy voice beside me. 

“Hi, Mitchell,” I answered without looking up. “I made Finch mad again.” 

“Hmm…” he didn’t finish his thought but kept repeating the same sound over and over. 

It took me a few seconds to realize he was having phasing problems. Today was really not off to a good start. In only a few minutes at school, I’d managed to anger a harpy, spread my crankiness to the happiest creature on the planet—a leprechaun—and send a ghost into a loop that wouldn’t allow him to fully form on our plane of existence. 

What else could possibly go wrong today?

I should know better to think things like that. It’s like directly challenging the universe to make things worse for you.

The challenge was apparently accepted by my history teacher—Mr. Avenue. As I sat at my desk, waiting for class to begin, Tilly ignored me, and Mitchell and Finch were no where to be seen.

“Attention class! Attention everyone!” He stamped all four of his hooves until everyone settled down. He brushed his mane over his right shoulder before he continued.

“That’s better,” he said. “I have a big announcement. Today you will be paired up with one another and the subject of your final projects for the year will be assigned.” He clapped his hands and stomped again.

The room shook a little whenever he got excited. I often wondered if the school had recently had any structural checks done. How many centaur teachers did we have now? Three? Four? I couldn’t remember just then, but I was sure that too many horses trapsing through the building had to be bad for the support beams.

“Okay. I’m going to use my magic hat to select names,” Mr. Avenue said, and with a flourish, he pulled the baseball cap out of thin air. A few of the brown nosers timidly clapped.

The rest of us just waited. Pulling things out of thin air was Mr. Avenue’s favorite pastime. We’d only seen him work that spell every day of the school year.

He started listing pairs of names.

“Morgana and Finch.”

Good news, I was working on my final history project with my best friend. Bad news, she was mad at me—again. It’d been happening more and more lately. Everything I said to her was the wrong thing, and somehow, I managed to offend her harpy sensibilities.

Mr. Avenue was still talking. “Okay, now that everyone has a partner, I will use my magic hat to assign topics.”

The pairs were given things like the First Magical World War, the Leprechaun Rebellion of 1920, or The Great Fairy Migration. All the subjects were big moments in magical history that were easily researched.

“Morgana and Finch,” Mr. Avenue looked at me as he reached into the hat and pulled out a little slip of paper. “The Fall of King Arthur.”

I groaned and buried my head in my hands. How on Earth could I possibly be expected to write about that? My ancestors were directly linked to it, and in my house, it was a subject that was forbidden.

My ancestors were on the wrong side of history with that one, and we did NOT bring it up.

“These projects will require you to learn your subject area backward and forward. You will each present them during the showcase.” There was a collective groan from the whole class. “Settle down. You’ll live through it. As I was saying,” Mr. Avenue continued, “you will present your subjects at the end of the year showcase that your parents are invited to.”

I was wrong, things could always get worse.

Life, Writing

Winner, Winner NANOWRIMO!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a week now.

On Monday, November 22, 2021, I won NANOWRIMO 2021! For those of you who don’t NANO, what this means is that on Nov. 1, 2021, I started writing a new novel. The goal is to write 50,000 during the month. I did it on the 22nd! I ended up with 50031 words. It came out to about 132 typed pages on MS Word.

The novel is titled Mages of the Lake. I honestly don’t think I’ll work on it for a while, if ever again. It’s a story that I need to do more world building for. I had a basic idea and ran with it. I’ll need to do some serious thinking before I revisit it. It was still fun to write. And I’ll never say that I won’t finish. You never know.

In January, I’m actually going to start a new book again! I know, I’m crazy!

I learned a lot from this writing process though. I learned what works for me and what details are needed for the types of fantasy stories I like writing.

Anyhow, since I don’t think I’ll ever publish it, I thought I’d at least share it on my blog. It’s rough (be kind). I’m only going to share the first chapter. It’s also unedited (part of the nanowrimo process).

Happy reading and writing today and everyday!


Excerpt from Mages of the Lake

Chapter 1: Time Warped

Whomp!

Melania stopped in her tracks the second she heard the sound. She knew that if she kept moving, there was a good chance she would walk right into a time mage reappearing in this timeline. She also knew that most likely the time mage that would be reappearing near her was her best friend—Jasper.

Jasper often popped in and out of her life. They’d been best friends their whole lives. And even if his family disapproved of her, no one controlled a time mage.

“Hey there, Mel!” Jasper yelled less than two inches from her face.

She winced and turned her head away from him.

“Sorry! Am I yelling?” he asked.

She nodded. Whenever he rejoined the timeline, there were side effects. This time he apparently couldn’t gauge the volume of his voice. In the grand scheme of things, yelling was one of the milder effects he’d suffered from.

Mel hefted her school bag up onto her shoulder. It was slipping due to the sheer number of books she was carrying that day.

“Off to classes?” Jasper whispered.

Mel smiled at him and shook her head. “Yes,” she answered. “Tell me all about your trip later.” She stepped around him and began hurrying once again through the courtyard.

She was going to be late again. She would get in trouble again.

As she crossed the cobblestone courtyard, she couldn’t help but notice there was no one milling about. All the other students were already where they should be—in class.

Mel hated being late. It was a sure-fire way to draw even more unwanted attention to herself. She paused before she pushed open the large wooden doors. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she stepped in.

“Nice of you to join us,” said Magus Aten. She was standing right inside the doorway.

“Very sorry, Magus,” Mel answered. She kept her head down as she slipped into her seat. The seat that had been her’s since she was five and started attending classes for those mages who still hadn’t discovered their elemental connection. After all these years, she might have found comfort that it was still her’s, but it was part of the constant reminder that she was still without magic. At eleven, she was the oldest child in the class by three years.

Lessons began like they always did. The class stood and recited Lacuston’s motto.

“Mages of fire, water, air, earth, and time dwell here and remain here. Those outside of magic will never belong, and we stay here to protect magic.” The class sat after they finished the two sentences they said every morning.

Magus Aten cleared her throat as she tried to hurry the students into settling. She pushed the end of her long brown braid off her shoulder and straightened the white robes that every air mage wore. Her blue eyes scanned the room as every student sat quietly at their desks. They barely looked to be breathing.

The first day of the new school year was always nerve wracking. Each year began with the students eager to learn and study, but quickly devolved into the students trying to force their magic to choose an element.

“Welcome class. As we begin this school year, let me remind you that we will conduct our monthly tests on the day of the new moon. Do not try to perform the ritual of choosing yourself.” Aten paused and slowly made eye contact with each student. She knew there were still a couple who would try anyway. Last year, a student had badly burned himself by performing the ritual without supervision. His element was clearly fire, but he could have discovered that without permanently scaring himself.

As if on cue, all the students looked towards Mel. Over the last summer, she’d tried ten separate times to complete the ritual of choosing.

“Any student who attempts the ritual without proper permission or supervision, will need to go before the Elders. Their punishment will be decided at the time, but Elder Tempus said that banishment is a possibility. Especially if the student is a repeat offender.” This entire speech was directed at Mel.

Mel stared at her desk, but she felt every word cut her like a knife. Banishment! They wouldn’t. She couldn’t believe they would even threaten that. No one left Lacuston. They were barely allowed outside the walls.

As lessons droned on, Mel recited them almost word for word in her head. She’d heard these same lessons every year for six years now. She wanted to be a mage. She didn’t even care what element—she just wanted to be a part of the magical world she’d been born in to.

Growing up in the magical city of Lacuston, children were expected to attend lessons together until they claimed a magical element. Most children chose an element that aligned with one of their parents. In Mel’s case, her father was an earth mage and her mother was a fire mage. Most people expected her to follow in her mother’s footsteps because they were similar looking. Both were lithe beings with long orange hair. She even had her mother’s green eyes.

No matter how many times she’d tried though, no element would claim her. She’d literally tried it with all five-earth, air, fire, water, and time. Nothing worked. Magic didn’t want her. She was the only eleven-year-old who wasn’t assigned to an element. Turning eleven over the summer had been terrifying for her.

There was an old law in Lacuston, one that hadn’t need enforcing for many generations. If a mage reached the age of twelve and no element had claimed them, they were banished. They were forced to leave Lacuston. It hadn’t happened it so long that no one knew what would really happen if Mel got to that point.

Over the summer she’d been desperate and had tried every time her parents would let her out of the house. It didn’t matter though. She was doomed at this rate. She slouched in her chair trying to figure out when she could try again.

The last time she’d attempted the ritual, she’d been caught by none other than Elder Tempus. Any of the other elders discovering her would have been bad enough, but Elder Tempus openly disliked her. He discouraged the friendship between her and Jasper, his grandson, because Jasper came from a long line of time mages—the most uncommon element to choose a mage. His was an ancestry of strong, pure mages. Mel was not only from a mixed family, but she was still without her own magic.

As Magus Aten continued the lesson, Mel let her mind wander. She knew the lessons by heart. She’d read every text she could on finding the magic within. She wanted more than anything to be a mage.

Before they were allowed to break for lunch, the students stood once again in unison. This time they chanted, “Ignis, aquas, caelis, terras, tempus. Fire, water, air, earth, time. Magic connects us all.”

The class dispersed over the grass and gardens surrounding the side of the schoolhouse. Many of the children sat in groups of two or three and ate their lunches. Mel sat alone in the shadow of the school.

Whomp!

Twice in one day. That was uncommon for Jasper. He appeared before Mel with a mischievous grin on his face. He looked around for Magus Aten.

“She can’t see us,” said Mel. “Here, have some of my lunch.” She patted the ground next to her.

Jasper often disappeared during lunch time to find Mel. He was supposed to stay with the other time mages, but time mages, even from a young age, pretty much did whatever they wanted. It was hard to control anyone who could flit back and forth throughout their own lifetime. Additionally, most time mages suffered from serious side effects by the time they were even teens.

“Plopped right onto a donkey, he did,” said Jasper as he took the half sandwich Mel offered. He leaned against the cool building and chewed loudly. Jasper was always a good eater. Mel’s parents always over packed her lunch, but she never returned home with leftovers.

“A donkey, huh?” Mel asked. She had no idea what Jasper was talking about. Sometimes when he popped in, his mind took a bit to reset itself.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing. Did you even go to classes today?”

“Course. I just had something else to do too. You know, chickens are the worst.” He finished the sandwich and looked over to see if Mel had anything else to eat.

She handed him an apple without even asking what he was going on about. She waited for a few more minutes. He’d be back with it soon. Food usually helped.

“Thanks for the food,” he said.

“You’re welcome. Where have you been going lately?”

“I can’t really talk about it.” He closed his eyes and leaned back like he was going to nap.

Mel poked him. “Hey. No sleeping. Tell me something.”

“Fine. Fine. You have sharp fingers.” He batted her hand away. “I went to my future. There is something important we are doing there.”

“We?” Mel asked. He didn’t usually mention anyone that he saw in the future.

“I’ve said too much. You know better than to ask me things?” Jasper snored.

Mel shook him. “What’s with you today? You’re weirder than normal.”

“Too many trips. So tired.” He let out a loud single snore.

Mel shrugged. She wasn’t sure what he was going through, but she would let him sleep for as long as she could. He was not only her best friend, but he was also her only friend. He’d actually helped her with her last few attempts at the choosing ritual. As a time mage, he could teleport, so he always managed to disappear before they got in trouble. She didn’t hold it against him. If she could teleport, she would too.

She watched the other kids playing. She wanted magic more than anything, but if she was being honest, what she really wanted more than anything was to fit in. Everyone treated her like she didn’t belong. Even her parents were starting to be part of the “hating Mel party.”

No one was rooting for her to find her magic—no one except for Jasper. She wasn’t enjoying being back in school but seeing Jasper and hearing about the two of them in the future, even if it was vague, made her feel a little better about the day.

The rest of the class was eating their lunches in their little friend groups. In their brown school robes, they were either eating and chatting or some of them, having finished eating, were playing a game of tag. Jasper, in his grey robe, was clearly out of place.

Mel elbowed Jasper trying to wake him.

“Jasper,” she hissed. “You need to wake up. I’m going back inside.”

She’d just seen three classmates in a group headed in her direction. Most of her classmates ignored her, but the three glaring at her made it their mission to torment her. The three of them—Connie, Trevor, and Ashley—were bullies. Connie, only six, was the worst of the three. She was saccharine sweet in front of adults, but the moment only children were around, she was beyond rude.

She insulted everyone. Her favorite past time, other than bossing around her two friends, was pestering Mel.

“Jasper. Jasper!” Mel shoved him.

He hit the ground and opened his eyes. “What’s going on?” he asked. He rubbed his eyes and tried to sit up.

Mel kicked him. Then because he just wasn’t getting the message, she grabbed him and tried to pull him to his feet. Jasper wasn’t a light weight though and she barely moved him. All she succeeded in doing was pinching him a bit.

“Ouch!” he said. “Stop hurting me.” He got to his feet.

“Come on. Look!” Mel pointed over her shoulder without looking.

Jasper peeked around her. “Right. Let’s go.”

They rushed away without actually breaking into a jog. They didn’t want to draw the attention of the other students. Connie loved an audience; it would only make her worse.

Rounding the corner of the schoolhouse, they smacked into Magus Aten. Jasper was in the lead so at least Mel was spared the berating she would have gotten if she’d been the one to actually hit the magus.

“What are you doing here Jasper?” the magus asked. She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Jasper. She was the only person brave enough to scold a time mage.

“Just dropped by for lunch,” Jasper answered. “Bye Mel!” He waved as he teleported away.

The magus didn’t say anything. She just kept glaring at Mel.

“Sorry, Magus. I’m going to go to my seat and read now.” Mel didn’t look up or make eye contact She scurried past the magus and kept her eyes glued firmly on the ground.

Back in her seat, she pulled out her primer. She read the passages on how the elements could be manipulated. She spent the longest studying and re-reading the pages on fire magic. She wanted to be a mage more than anything. She would settle for any element at this point.

She slammed the book shut. She was going to retry the ritual of choosing again. And this time she was going to try for fire. She figured she had the best chance with it since her mother was a fire mage.

She would try alone this time. She didn’t need Jasper, plus she didn’t want to risk getting him in trouble.

She would wait for the next holiday. Every holiday, the town would be distracted and attending whatever festival it was the season for. It was the perfect time to sneak into the ritual courtyard. No one would even know.

And if somehow this time she managed to claim an element, she was sure everyone would be happy for her. They would understand why she had to keep trying. She only had a year left.


“How was school today?” Mel’s father asked when she came in the door.

She shrugged and threw her bag on the floor in the foyer. “Same as every year.” She slumped on the couch next to her dad. “Where’s mom?” she asked.

“Running some errands.” He didn’t look up from the newspaper.

They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Mel feeling exasperated and frustrated couldn’t take the silence anymore.

“Magus Aten said that if anyone attempts a ritual of choosing without supervision, they could be banished.” She looked at her dad hoping for a reaction, but he didn’t even stop reading.

“That’s nice.”

“Dad, you’re not even listening to me.” She pulled the paper down in the middle forcing him to look at her.

“What?” he asked.

“Did you hear what I said about being banished?”

“Who’s banished?” Her dad fluffed the paper returning it to its normal shape but folded it up so he could pay attention to Mel.

“No one got banished. Magus Aten said students could be banished for trying the ritual on their own.” She searched her dad’s face for the shock that she felt. She didn’t find any shock or surprise. “You knew?”

“The thing is Mel,” he tried to be kind, but he didn’t know what to say to her. “Completing the ritual on your own is dangerous, even if it works, you can be badly hurt in the process. It’s best to wait for the official dates.”

“But I can’t wait.” She threw her body dramatically on the floor doing her best to mime a defeated being.

Her dad rolled his eyes and nudged her with his foot. “Don’t be so melodramatic. Get off the floor.”

She felt a slight breeze as the front door opened. Her mother came into the living room carrying cloth bags of groceries. Mel looked up from the floor to make sure that her mother saw her current condition. She planned on being dramatic and trying to get attention from her mother, but she changed her mind when she saw her mother.

Her mother had a bandage on her hand. Her entire right hand from fingertips to elbow was wrapped.

“What happened to you?” asked Mel.

“The fire got away from me today,” her mother said and then went into the kitchen to put things away.

Mel got off the floor and without being told helped her mother put things away.

“How was school?” asked her mother.

“Don’t ask,” her father answered, joining them in the kitchen. “I asked and she ended up demonstrating how to be a bear rug on the living room floor.”

Mel rolled her eyes as she continued putting things away.

When everything was where it should be, Mel excused herself to go outside while her parents made dinner.

As the door slammed behind her, her mother let out a sigh and leaned against the counter.

“You okay?” asked her husband.

“What are we going to do, Arjan?” her mother asked blinking tears out of her eyes.

“Hey, don’t be so worried, Kalinda. She will discover her magic.” He wrapped his arms around his wife and held her gently. “She has to,” he whispered.

“But what will we do if she doesn’t?”

“I don’t know,” he answered still holding her in his arms.

She pushed him away. “Don’t give me that. She is eleven. This year is her last year. If she doesn’t…” Kalinda shook her head. She couldn’t even complete the thought; it was too painful.

“I’m not trying to be dismissive. It’s just that no one has been cast out of Lacuston in hundreds of years. Our daughter will find her magic. I believe it. You need to believe it too.” He studied his wife. In the last year, she hardly smiled anymore. She was worried. He knew why; he was worried too. What parent wouldn’t be at this point?

Outside, the sun was shining, and a slight breeze moved the air peacefully through town. Mel stopped and put her face in the air, letting the air fill her lungs.

Lacuston was the only city on the island surrounded by Lake Circumio. The lake was enormous. And since the mages of Lacuston never left their town, they never truly appreciated the beauty of the lake. Their city was self-sufficient for the most part, and what they couldn’t grow or raise on their own, they imported through a nearby harbor town, Navalia.

It was forbidden to go outside the city walls, and only the mages who worked in Navalia were allowed there. Mel never understood why, but it was absolutely forbidden for any of the children to go to Navalia.

Of course, Mel’s favorite place in the whole of Lacuston was atop one of the wall sections that was no longer patrolled. At one point in time, the walls must have fully surrounded the town, but over time and through neglect, there were sections that were completely gone. The sections that remained were patrolled, but there was one section that faced to the west and was perfect for viewing the sunset. It wasn’t patrolled because it wasn’t that wide, and it was disconnected from the rest of the wall.

Mel made her way through town to the wall. Before she began climbing, she searched around to make sure no one was nearby. There wasn’t usually anyone in this area because this part of the wall bordered a large unkept garden, but now more than ever, she decided to err on the side of caution.

She used the stones to gain access to a tree that grew towards the wall. She reached a branch that stretched out to the wall and shimmied her way along it till her feet could swing around and step down.

Once on the wall, she crawled under the branches and past the leaves until she was on the other side of them, completely out of the view of anyone in town. From her current position, the only people who could see her would have to be breaking the rules too.

Pop!

Jasper sat down next to her. “Got any snacks?” he asked.

“Sorry, no.”

“That’s okay. You’re not going to believe what happened to me after lunch.”

They sat with their legs dangling over the side of the wall facing the forest. On this side of the town, the trees were too thick to see the lake, but they could still smell the water on the breeze.

“Tell me everything.” Mel pulled her legs up so she could sit with her legs folded in front of her.

“I got yelled at,” said Jasper smugly.

“Why do you seem happy about it?” she asked.

“I got yelled at by Elder Aquas.” As he spoke, he wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

Mel rolled her eyes. Jasper had a crush on Elder Aquas. Most men and a fair number of women thought Elder Aquas was gorgeous. She was thin and tall, with long legs. She wore her long curly hair down and wild. She had perfect almond skin. Like all water mages, she wore blue. However, unlike the other elders, she didn’t opt for robes. As the youngest of the town’s elders, she opted for a more contemporary wardrobe. She usually wore sundresses in various shades of blue made of sheer ethereal materials.

“She was standing this close to me,” Jasper added holding his hand a few inches from his face. He let out a deep sigh.

“She’s old enough to be your mother, weirdo,” Mel said.

Jasper sighed again. “She’s so pretty.”

Mel rolled her eyes again. “Please stop. You and every other man in town need to stop flirting with her. Besides, she’s an elder. She’s so powerful she could think you into oblivion.”

“No way. I’m a time mage.” He got to his feet and put his hands on his hips doing his best superhero pose.

“Why is my only friend such a complete crazy person?” Mel asked the universe.

Jasper’s face clouded over. “Speaking of which. Did I say anything to you today that was particularly strange, even for me?”

“Nothing like you haven’t said before,” she lied. She knew he let something slip earlier. She also knew he could get in trouble for discussing the future with a non-time mage. If his grandfather, Elder Tempus, found out, he’d be furious.

“That’s good,” he said sounding relieved. “How was school today?”

“I’m seriously going to hurt the next person who asks me that.” Mel gathered little pebbles from around where she was sitting and tried stacking them. Her piles never got more than a few high, but she kept at it.

“Sorry. Your parents are worried, huh?”

“Yeah. I guess.” She kicked the pebbles as she got to her feet. “I don’t know. Sometimes they act like they don’t even care about what’s happening to me.”

“What’s happening to you?” Jasper asked.

“Nothing, and that’s the problem.” Mel took a couple of steps away from him, getting nearer to the edge. “Maybe I should just climb down this other side now and banish myself before they get around to it.”

Jasper snorted. “You’re so dramatic. You’ll find your magic.”

Mel eyed her friend suspiciously. Maybe he knew something he wasn’t saying. Maybe he’d seen something in their future. He couldn’t tell her, but if he seemed confident, then she might still have a chance.


As the sun was setting, they climbed down the wall. They never risked being up there at night. The animal sounds from the woods made them nervous enough during the day.

As they dropped off the tree, the few moments of joy they had from being on the wall were stolen from them. Waiting in the garden with a very annoyed look on their faces was Elder Tempus and Elder Aquas.


short story, Writing

Under the Full Moon

October 2021’s short story of the month

NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON

The moon broke through the clouds, and the four of them stood there, frozen, waiting for something to happen. They were in the middle of an open field, and it was as if a spotlight had been trained on them. Suddenly, without warning a shrill scream filled the air.

Daisy, Sean, and Clarissa turned to see Mr. Smith still frozen in place.

“Run,” the teens yelled in unison.

They didn’t wait to see if he followed. They hoofed it as fast as possible for the nearest tree line, but Daisy and Clarissa knew that even the trees would be little protection against such a creature.


TWO DAYS EARLIER

“You’re not going to believe what I overheard my mom and dad talking about,” Daisy said as she plopped into a seat. The practically ancient desk chair creaked as she dropped in.

“Easy on the furniture, Daisy,” said Mr. Smith walking down an adjacent row to the front of the classroom.

“Sorry,” Daisy mumbled, yanking her bag over her head and dropping it loudly on the floor.

Mr. Smith shook his head and sighed. Daisy was one of his best students, but she moved about like a wrecking ball.

Daisy waited for their teacher to be out of hearing range before she continued.

“Anyway,” she hissed barely above a whisper. “As I was saying, you guys aren’t going to believe what I heard my parents talking about.”

“What?” asked Sean. He was still new to their friend group, and he felt like he needed to be engaged in whatever Daisy and Clarissa talked about, even if he wasn’t really interested.

Clarissa turned around to join the conversation.

“Well?” Clarissa asked. “What are you so worked up about?”

Daisy crooked her finger and motioned for her two friends to lean in. “They said there is a harpy in the woods right outside of town.” She opened her eyes wider. Her face was pasted with a mischievous grin.

“So?” asked Sean. “Why are you so excited about it?” He really didn’t get girls sometimes. What was so exciting about a harpy? Daisy and Clarissa had grown up as a part of the magical world. He’d only recently learned that he too had magic. Seeing a magical creature didn’t seem like that big of a deal to him.

“A harpy,” Daisy hissed. “Can you imagine?”

Sean poked Clarissa when Daisy turned around to put her books on her desk. He didn’t say anything but when Clarissa looked at him, he raised his hands in confusion.

Clarissa shrugged. “It’s just one of those things that Daisy likes. Think of it like a collection. She is trying to see as many magical creatures as she can. She has a notebook that she writes in all down in and keeps track of dates and stuff. She’s weird like that.”

Mr. Smith only caught a part of their conversation but when he heard Clarissa say “magical creatures,” he tried to eaves drop some more. The students stopped talking though and settled down as the rest of the class showed up.

He gave the class an assignment to keep them busy. While they worked, mostly in quiet, he made notes in his own journal. He was keeping track of every time someone in town mentioned magic or anything magic related. He’d lived in this town his whole life, but it wasn’t until Daisy started attending his classes that he’d began to notice something else was going on and no one was talking about it. No one except for a handful of random teenagers.

At first, he assumed the kids were talking about a game or show, but the more he listened, the more he understood they were talking about the real world. And then as if to confirm his suspicions, he’d started finding strange tracks in the woods. He loved hiking and had been pacing the trails around town since he was a boy.

He knew there was a magical creature in the woods. He was going to find it and learn the truth that was being kept from almost everyone. If magic was real, people had a right to know. Why shouldn’t everyone know about it?

He wrote in his log: D, C, and S mention m.c.

As soon as he started paying more attention and actively tracking the secret chatter of those around him, he’d discovered that certain people talked about magic quite frequently. They didn’t even hide it really. Most people probably assumed, like he had, that the people were talking about something fictional.

Mr. Smith was determined to prove that it was real.


NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON

“We should go hiking on that trail behind the high school,” suggested Daisy.

“What? Like, now?” asked Clarissa. “It’s dark.” She went back to painting her fingernails.

“Yes, now. I’ve read about harpies. On nights with a full moon, they go hunting. Tonight there’s a full moon,” Daisy said as she sprang to her feet and yanked her curtains open.

“I’m in,” said Sean.

Clarissa’s mouth fell open.

“Don’t look so surprised. I’m curious.” He really was. Ever since class a couple of days ago, Daisy had talked about nothing but harpies. Sean wanted to see one for himself.


Mr. Smith saw some teens walking along the tree line as he was sitting on the bumper of his jeep changing out of his hiking boots. He’d stayed later than he meant to, and it was much darker than he expected. There was a full moon, but it kept getting covered by clouds.

As he watched, he counted three distinct silhouettes. He tied his boots and followed them.

They weren’t even trying to walk quietly. The three of them were making so much noise that he was able to catch up to them and trail them without any of them noticing.

“What are you going to do if you see it?” Sean asked.

Daisy tapped the pocket on her chest. Her journal was safely tucked away inside. “I write about it,” she said wistfully.

“That’s it?” asked Sean. “I don’t get it.”

“Don’t try to make sense of Daisy,” said Clarissa. “She’s been doing this since we were kids.”


Mr. Smith couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The kids were yammering on about magical creatures as if they saw them all the time. He distinctly heard them mention fae, leprechauns, and mermaids. Were they all real? How did they manage to stay hidden?


“Stop shouting,” said Clarissa.

“Tell me what’s going on,” yelled Mr. Smith.

A look passed between Clarissa and Daisy. Daisy shook her head.

“What are you talking about Mr. Smith? We’re just hiking in the dark. We’re not looking for anything,” Clarissa said.

“I don’t believe you.” He was so mad he couldn’t speak. His ears felt like there were drums inside of them. He needed to calm down.

The teens didn’t move. They weren’t sure what was going on. They saw Mr. Smith was following them as soon as they started to cross the field. Now he was yelling about crazy things.


They didn’t stop running once they hit the trees.

“Go, go, go,” said Daisy. “Harpies will eat people.”

“What?” yelled Sean. “Why did we go looking for it then?”

“What about Mr. Smith?” asked Clarissa. She was worried they were going to get in trouble. They’d lead a human to the harpy, even if it was an accident. The Magical Elders frowned on humans knowing about the magical world.

They collapsed in a heap once they found the parking lot.

Getting to his feet, Sean pointed at Daisy. “You’re going to get us all killed. From now on, no more.” He stomped off.

“No more what?” asked Daisy.

Sean didn’t get a chance to answer. Another scream filled the air. This wasn’t the harpy. There was a distinctive human quality to it.

short story, Writing

Men Are Allowed to Cry

September 2021’s Short Story of the Month

After my father’s stroke, he started crying all the time. He cried about everything; sentimental commercials, pop songs on the radio, or saccharine movie endings. It was like he couldn’t stop crying. It was such a contrast to the man he’d been before that I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to interact with him. 

Growing up he’d been stern, and my mother was the one who my brother and I went to when we needed comforting. The one and only time I’d seen him cry before the stroke was when his dog of fifteen years passed away. He didn’t even cry or get choked up when my wife and I announced we would be adopting a baby because we couldn’t conceive one. He’d just nodded. 

The first time he broke down in the car was on the way home from the hospital. After being there for several days, I knew he was relieved to be released, but I didn’t expect him to cry. Having a stroke was terrifying. I didn’t say anything. I thought he was most likely just happy to be alive and out of the hospital. 

The second time it happened later that day as we were sitting in my living room watching tv while my wife, Annie, prepared dinner in the kitchen. I was busy reading an email from my boss about the work I would need to catch up on the following week. A commercial for the Humane Society came on, and my father burst into tears. They weren’t subtle silent tears. He was balling, the crocodile tears leaving streaks on his face. His nose was snotty, and he reached for a tissue all while trying to stammer out, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” 

I just shook my head. I didn’t know what to say. 

Over the next week, it kept happening. On Saturday, my brother arrived at my house around lunch time. We’d decided it was better, for now at least, for Dad to stay with one of us. We would have to trade off until work slowed down for me. Flood season was always a busy time for a water mage. 

My brother walked up the path to my porch. He didn’t speak but arched an eyebrow when he saw me. 

“I’m guessing since you’re standing out here waiting for me, that you want to tell me something without the rest of the house hearing it.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth slowly waiting for me to speak. 

“So, about Dad…” I didn’t know what to say. I felt like I was tattling on the man who’d been such a fierce figure in my life. I know my brother felt the same. “He’s been different since he got out of the hospital.” 

“What do you mean?” my brother asked. 

“He’s just not himself.” I still couldn’t say it out loud. It was too strange. “He keeps…” 

“Come on, out with it. What could be so hard to say?” My brother was always the more impulsive of the two of us. 

“It’s just that. He keeps crying.” I finally said. 

“Crying?” He looked at me like I was losing my mind. “Dad? Our dad?”

I nodded. 

“Well, he’s been through a lot.” He stopped rocking. “Our Dad?” he asked again. 

“Yeah. I know. It’s weird. Everything sets him off. Tv, music, reading, you name it. I just wanted to let you know so when it happens you won’t be concerned.” 

“Well, it’s too late for that, I’m concerned now. Our dad doesn’t cry.” He paused and opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then stopped. 

“Yeah, I know.” I clapped him on the back. 

The next day, I was casting spell after spell working with my team to try and redirect some troubling weather formations, when I got a call from my brother. Nothing we were doing was making a difference. Sometimes mother nature had her own plans, and nothing we did could change her mind. 

“Let’s take a break,” I told my team. 

I called my brother back, and he picked up before it even rang once. 

“Chuck,” he said, “you have to let Dad stay with you. I can’t… I just can’t handle him like this.” 

“Calm down,” I replied. “It’s only been one night. It couldn’t have been that bad.” 

“It was. He’s not the man I remember. I know it’s sound dumb, but I can’t be around him when he’s like this. It’s too much for me.” He paused only for a moment before he said, barely above a whisper, “It’s like he’s a broken man.” 

“Don’t be that way. The doctor did say that what Dad went through might cause more changes over time, including his personality. Near death experiences change people.” 

“It’s too much. Our dad doesn’t cry.” 

“You can handle this. Give it a few more days at least,” I told him before hanging up. 

I went back to work and finished my day, but I kept playing that conversation over and over in my head. 

On the way home, it was like it was on surround sound in my head. All I could think was, “Our dad doesn’t cry.” Over and over. I didn’t know what to do with those words. I felt the same as my brother. What was wrong with us? Our dad had almost died; he was entitled to cry. 

I don’t know if it was the song on the radio or what, but a tear fell slowly down my cheek. I wiped it away, but it was followed by another. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind too? Why was I crying? I needed to pull myself together, if only the radio would stop playing such sappy music. I jabbed at the radio knob, and the car was filled with silence and the sound of me sobbing. 

I turned off at the next ramp and parked my car in a space away from prying eyes. I cried, and I cried. 

short story, Writing

Earth Magic

August 2021 short story of the month

When he tried to express himself with words, he could never get it right. But with his hands, he could shape things, mold things, and make things. He had discovered that gift as a young boy when he fell in love the first time.

He was only six, and despite his young age, he fell in love with Cheryl. She was his nanny, and much to his liking, she was younger than the previous ones.

She always played the games he liked, and she sang him to sleep. But the reason he fell in love with her was that she made cookies with raspberry jam on them.

He drew her pictures that she proudly displayed in the toy room. He sang her songs that she learned by heart and sang back to him.

She began working for his family in the spring, and she joined his family as they spent the summer at their beach cottage.

It was the best summer of his life. They would spend all day at the shore. Some days he swam, and others they would build elaborate sandcastles.

One afternoon in addition to himself and Cheryl, there were some young men loitering at the beach. They were loud and Cheryl seemed distracted by them. She kept smiling and looking in their direction. It never occurred to him that he was her job, and she really wanted to frolic with people her own age.

One of the beachgoers approached. He was smiling from ear to ear.

“Hi there,” the newcomer said to Cheryl.

The child watched the exchange between Cheryl and the young man with interest. How could he get Cheryl to bat her eyelashes and smile at him like that? He knew Cheryl loved him too; she had too.

Cheryl talked and flirted for several minutes with the young man. At the end of their conversation, she made plans to meet him later.

“It’s a date,” she said as her new friend walked off to rejoin his cronies.

The rest of the day the child was inconsolable. Nothing cheered him up. The lunch wasn’t the food he wanted. The sun was too hot, and the water was too cold. He wasn’t tired and didn’t want to nap. He didn’t want those stories read to him. And no, he didn’t want a song.

The next few days Cheryl was distracted and prone to daydreaming. Sometimes she didn’t even answer when he asked one of a thousand questions.

He was losing her. He knew it. He needed to do something that would impress her and win her heart back.

As the days passed, he couldn’t think of anything. What was he supposed to do? He was only six.

He sulked and fussed with Cheryl even though he wanted her to like him.

Summer started to wind down. After that first date, Cheryl sometimes took days off.

On the days she returned, the child was always at his worst. He couldn’t help it; he knew he was losing his tenuous hold on her.

He needed to do something, anything, to win her back.

One day, near the end of summer, he was made to stay near the house. The sky was an unsettling shade of grey, and the clouds were unfriendly.

He was allowed to go outside, but he had to stay in the yard. He walked in circles around the house. Cheryl sat in the back prepping vegetables for supper.

After walking around the house so many times, he was creating a path in the yard, he stopped to play in the dirt. He was not within eyesight of Cheryl. She would have stopped him. If he got dirty, he would have to be bathed before dinner.

He dug a hole about the size of a dinner plate and dug down and down until he had a nice little pile of dirt. He intended to keep digging. He was trying to get as dirty as possible. The more dirt, the more time Cheryl would have to pay attention to only him.

As he reached his hand into the hole to scoop out another handful, the texture of the earth was different. The dirt he’d already removed was a chocolate brown color with little grey pebbles throughout.

This new layer was stickier somehow and the color was lighter. He had to push harder to move it out of the hole. Once he had a handful, he held it up to examine it.

It even smelled different.

It was clay. He’d seen a pottery studio on one of their walks through the beach town. The sign in the window said the pottery was made from locally sourced clay. And he’d found some of his very own.

He scooped out more and more until he had a pile in his lap. Then he closed his eyes and pictured one of the vases he’d seen in town.

He wanted to make Cheryl a vase. She would like that. She liked flowers, and if he made a vase, she would think of him every time she put fresh flowers in it.

He moved his hands around the clay molding it the way he imagined it should look. In his mind, he was making a beautiful curvy vase.

When he opened his eyes, he was disappointed. It was still just a pile of clay.

His brow furrowed. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes again. He had to make a vase. He was desperate. The summer was almost over.

When Cheryl hadn’t seen the boy for several minutes, she walked around the yard until she saw him playing in the dirt. She didn’t want to disturb him. He looked so content.

She would have to give him a bath before dinner, but it was worth it for the few minutes he was not behaving like a brat.

She went back to prepping vegetables on the back porch. After some time had passed, and it was nearing time to take the boy in, he appeared holding the most beautiful vase she’d ever seen.

“Where did you get this?” Cheryl asked.

“I made it,” he said proudly, sticking his chest out.

Book Review

Authors I’m in Love With…

I want to take a few minutes to write about a few authors I’m currently in love with. I read a lot, and I go through periods where I read some authors or genres more than others.

There are some authors that I gravitate towards again and again. Here are a few I recommend:

  1. Christina Henry
  2. Naomi Novik
  3. Jasper Fforde

Christina Henry

The first book I read by her was Alice. It’s part of a series she’s written titled the Chronicles of Alice. It’s a retelling of the Alice in Wonderland story, but it’s unlike any other version that I’ve read. It’s dark and gritty. The magic in Henry’s Alice stories taints and warps those who use it. If you like stories set in wonderland, you’ll enjoy her stories. (They’re not for children). To my knowledge, there is one more book and a collection of short stories set in Henry’s version of wonderland.

I’ve read other books by Henry, and I’ve never been disappointed. I also highly recommend The Ghost Tree. Henry’s stories tend to retell stories we’re familiar with, but in macabre versions with dark, twisted magic.

Naomi Novik

She’s been writing for a while, and I haven’t read everything she’s written. However, if you haven’t read Uprooted or Spinning Silver, you should. Her fantasy stories are beautiful.

Spinning Silver is a book I recommend to everyone.

Jasper Fforde

I can’t say enough about how much I love Fforde. His Thursday Next series is one of my favorite series of all time. He also wrote the Nursery Crime stories. His books are funny, satirical, and unbelievably clever.

He writes a lot of other books too. If you haven’t read anything by him, I would start with the Thursday Next books. Other books by Fforde that I recommend are Early Riser, The Constant Rabbit, and Shades of Grey. (Despite the title of Shades of Grey, it is not like 50 Shades. It’s a dystopic novel.)

These few words don’t really do these authors justice. I love them all (and many others) but seriously, you will not be disappointed by these three.

Happy reading and writing today!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
short story, Writing

What’s in a Name?

July 2021’s short story of the month (better late than never).

“Clarice,” said her teacher.

“Clarissa,” she said, correcting her teacher. Names were important. For years, she’d been embarrassed about her name and wished it were something ordinary. But then something happened that changed her mind. That day was always at the forefront of her mind.

She’d almost made a fatal error. She’d almost been consumed by a dark fae. She shuddered just thinking about the fae’s claws, teeth, and foul presence.

“Clarissa,” Daisy hissed at her trying not to attract their teacher’s attention. “You’re doing that thing again.” Daisy’s brow was wrinkled, and she was a shade pinker than normal. Something was wrong with Clarissa, but she wouldn’t talk to Daisy about it.

“I’m fine,” Clarissa whispered back. She faced forward. She couldn’t afford to get detention again. Her parents would be furious.

Mr. Smith glanced in their direction. He pressed his finger to his lips but didn’t let it stop his lecture. Mr. Smith tried not to glance too frequently at the girls, but this town was getting to him.

He was starting to believe in magic, and he had a sneaking suspicion that these two girls were… well, for lack of a better word, witches. All he knew was something was going on that defied explanation, and the more he looked into the strange occurrences, the more he saw a pattern. A pattern that included the families of both Daisy and Clarissa.

As soon as he finished his lecture, he wrote the assignment on the board and reminded the class that this was independent work, no asking their neighbors for help. Some reminders he needed printed on signs he could wave around every few seconds, including “no cheating.”

The rest of the period was uneventful. Mr. Smith sat at his desk waiting for the students to turn in their assignments and leave. Clarissa lingered, waiting for everyone else to exit. Daisy hesitated at the door but decided against saying something to her friend and went to her next class.

Clarissa cleared her throat as she stood a few feet from Mr. Smith’s desk. He was gathering the assignments and trying to tidy the stack into something neat enough to stuff into a folder.

“Yes, Clarissa, what is it?” he asked.

“Please make sure to get my name right,” she blurted out and then dashed out of the room.

He just shook his head in confusion and considered it another one of those weird teen outbursts that happened from time to time.

During their lunch break, Daisy and Clarissa sat in silence eating. Daisy kept looking up at Clarissa between bites, but she didn’t know what to say. She knew something was wrong. It’d been going on since spring break. Clarissa overreacted to everything. Who cared if Mr. Smith called her the wrong name? It was no reason to draw attention to yourself. Daisy’s philosophy was to stay under the adults’ radar as much as possible.

Sean plopped down across the table from Daisy and elbowed Clarissa as he took items out of a brown bag.

“Don’t,” Clarissa said, sliding away from him a few more inches.

“Sorry,” Sean said holding his hands up in mock surrender. He raised his eyebrows and looked to Daisy.

Daisy shook her head and mouth, “No idea.” She shrugged.

“So,” Sean said trying to break the awkward tension created by Clarissa’s outburst. “Big plans this weekend?”

Daisy shook her head again. “Not really. Clarissa and I were thinking about going to the movies on Saturday. Do you want to join?” She reached across the table and stole a few of Sean’s Doritos.

Clarissa didn’t mean to snap at her friends, but ever since Mr. Smith had called her the wrong name that morning, she’d felt like a dark cloud was following her around.

She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms tightly around her body. Maybe if she counted imaginary sheep, she could calm down.

“What are you doing?” asked Daisy barely above a whisper.

Clarissa opened one eye and looked at her friends. They were both staring at her wide eyed with raised eyebrows.

“Sorry,” she said letting go of herself. “I’m…” She didn’t even know how to finish that sentence. “I’m not feeling well.” She looked down at her lap trying not to let her friends see the tears filling her eyes.

Sean slid closer to her but didn’t reach out to touch her. “Hey, we’re here for you. You can tell us. What’s wrong?”

Clarissa nodded and wiped the tears away. “Okay, but not here. Not at school. Can you guys come over today after band practice?”

Her friends nodded in unison.

Daisy and Sean arrived at Clarissa’s house together. As they were walking up the sidewalk, they couldn’t help but speculate about their friend.

“What do you think is going on with her?” asked Sean.

“I honestly have no idea,” said Daisy. “Whatever it is though, it’s nothing good. I’ve never seen her like this.”

Clarissa’s mom, who never stopped cooking or baking, handed them each a piece of pumpkin bread and a cup of tea before letting them head upstairs to find Clarissa.

Clarissa ushered them in and shut the door. She cast a spell that soundproofed the room. Daisy and Sean exchanged a look because Clarissa never used her magic unless she felt threatened.

She sat down on the floor with them and folded her legs.

“Okay. I’m going to tell you what’s been bothering me, but you can’t tell anyone. Not your parents, especially,” Clarissa said staring them down. “Swear it.”

They both nodded and said almost in unison, “We swear.”

In the back of her mind, Daisy made the promise, but she also knew that if her friend was really in danger, she would break that promise.

Clarissa swallowed and began her story. “I know you won’t believe it. I still can’t believe it sometimes. Even though I have waking nightmares and see it everywhere I look, I can’t believe I…”

She paused. “Let me start again.”