Charming Mr Stewart 

What does a writer do in the course of a typical day you think. Well, I’d tell you, but I’m not quiet sure myself! Today, this unusually warm winter Sydney day, I went dress shopping with a friend to a town we both had never been to (Hail GPS for that!). Then meandered through a mall never before been to either, wearing heels mind you (ouch right there). Then killed a couple of hours for a film screening to begin by sitting in a darkish corner of a chocolate house (Max Brenner for those who know). I love those Crunchy waffle ball things they have, so had one of those and wiled away the minutes by reading things on Facebook and then Pinterest, then back to FB. Bored a little.

Before long I actually remembered I had bought a notebook to keep me entertained so finally, after my drink went cold and I had nothing else to do, I pulled the book out and mulled over a book blurb (in anticipation for my next release come Christmas!!!!!!). So I wanted to share this with you and maybe get your opinions. 
I’ve been mulling over a new title I wanted to try, and a new direction for the blurb. So here goes. Oh it’s a romantic genre for those interested. 

Charming Mr Stewart
When Ellenor Grace first meets the unrelenting Mr Stewart it was warning bells at first sight. Her palms sweat, her heart skips a beat, or maybe it was the heat of the day. Either way, the danger is present. Love. 



For someone who never wants to love again, it’s not an easy decision to make, to cover or not to cover the wedding of the year. Taking on the job is half her problem; her real problem is Mr Stewart who insists on being called Dean, his snobbish mother, and a woman hell bent on letting Elle know Dean is hers. If Elle wants to make it to the other end of it in one piece, she must keep her heart. Hard to do when Dean attempts to steal it every chance he gets. 


(Eeeee. How did it go? Come on, give me honest opinions. I’d like to make this as good as it can be. I hate writing blurbs!! Lol)

The Man who waited: 2

It was the first day of a new week in the house. The house that had once been Keith’s. Georgia had moved in couple of weeks ago, carefully going through the place and keeping anything of value in boxes and stashed neatly in a corner of the attic she’d managed to clear a bit of. That monster she’d have to sort out on a much later date. First up on her list was to make the place inhabitable. Not that old Keith had been a terrible housekeeper, but let’s face it, he was a lonely man in a family home he tried to preserve. It had gone through a lot in the years, but the main thing was, it had gone through being stuck back in time. If Georgia had to live in the house, then she supposed she’d need to fix it up, and fix it up she was going to. The first thing she wanted gone was the dog-eared carpet that was balding.
‘All the carpets out, yeah?’ She followed a man out the front door in a rush. ‘How long before the floor is replaced with new ones?’
‘You sure you want to go with carpet?’ He asked. ‘I mean, it’s got nice hard wood floor underneath that we can buff and varnish. Be a beauty soon enough.’
Georgia felt perplexed. Ask her about how she wanted her cafe to be and it would be a piece of cake to decide. Ask her how she wanted her new home and it was as if she were being asked which of her parents she’d loved more. Neither. And both. God, stop with the questions. 
‘Well?’
‘Well what?’ She rummaged through her bag in search of her keys. 
‘Wood or carpet?’ 
‘I don’t know, Piko. I really can’t decide.’ In fact, Georgia hadn’t been able to decide since she brought in Piko to consult almost two weeks ago.
‘How about you pop back in at lunch. We should have all the carpets stripped by that time and you can see what wood looks like.’
Georgia nodded vigorously. ‘Sounds great.’ She rushed off down the porch steps. ‘And anything else you need…’
‘I’ll send Spanky down by the cafe to get you.’
‘Right,’ she nodded and rounded the corner onto the side step. ‘See ya later then!’

‘Well?’ Piko stood with hands on hip and stared at the dusty wooden floor in the living room. ‘We will sand it back and varnish it. Look brand new then.’
‘I’ve never had wooden floors.’
‘Easy to clean and maintain in my opinion. Sweep, mop, doesn’t stain when you spill things on it. And if you want you can have rugs in the rooms. And save you a ton of cash.’
Georgia’s phone buzzed in her pocket and she busied herself with the message. ‘Yeah, let’s go with that then.’
‘What? The wooden floors?’ And she nodded. ‘And what do you want us to do with the letters?’
‘What letters?’
Piko held up a hand to signal a moment, then rushed out to the kitchen. He walked back with what could be called a stack of sealed envelopes, old and stained in his hand. ‘We found these under the carpet by the front door. Thought you might like them.’
‘Yeah, leave them on the counter. I’ll check them when I get back home this evening.’ 

Georgia meandered through the stripped rooms with wine in hand, trying to imagine what they would look like once all done up. She’d thrown away all of Keith’s furniture or given them to St Vinnies where appropriate. Now, most rooms stood empty bar one or two items. She’d kept the old wooden rocking chair for herself though. It looked hand made and from the rumors, might have been something Keith had made for his wife who had been pregnant once. She wondered, as she passaged through each room what life was like for the Richards. Who were they? And most importantly, where were they now? Why had Keith been awaiting their return. That’s when she remembered the pile of letters Piko had told her about earlier. 
She found herself soon in the kitchen, going through the pile. They seemed peculiar to her. Aged, grimmed, somewhat damp, and oddest yet, no postage stamp. On the front was scrolled in a beautiful writing: Keith. Some even said ‘Dearest Keith’. And a couple simply said nothing at all. As if the person responsible for these had given up addressing him after a while. She picked one at random with Dearest Keith on the front and ripped the envelope. 
Dear Keith,



I write this with utmost fear that you will not read it. I wish I could have explained to you. To make you see why I did what I did. I know you must be angry. I would too if I were in your shoes. You have every right to shun me. To pretend I do not stand by on the other side of the street waiting for you to open the door. Or some days, you don’t notice me asleep by our door. Please. Please give me one chance. I need to talk to you. Please, hear me out. 



Yours, 

Nina




Who was Nina? Wondered Georgia. And what had she done? She topped up her wine, gathered all the letters, and made her way to her room where there was nothing more than a queen mattress on the floor and a lampshade beside it. Temporary of course. 
Long into the night, Georgia read the letters one by one. The more she read, the more puzzling Keith became. What kind of a man was he in life to do what he did?!

The Man who waited: 1

Georgia had picked the prettiest bouquet she could find. She didn’t even know if Keith had had a favorite flowers but she didn’t want to go empty handed. 
‘How do I look?’ She turned to Ahmed in the small office out the back of the kitchen. 
‘Like you’re going to a funeral.’
He had a point. ‘What will his family say when they find out what he did?’
‘You just smile at them, give your condolences and leave the party before anyone can ask questions.’ Georgia nodded. ‘So when do you actually get the key to the place?’
‘I don’t know. The lawyer said he’d talk to me after the funeral. I don’t know if he meant today or another day.’

A little more than crestfallen, Georgia lay the flowers at the foot of the grave and stood wondering. Wondering where Keith’s family and friends were. Wondering what kind of a life he lived if he left barely any footprints. There has been barely a handful of people to say their goodbyes. None though that she could say we’re related to him. After a moment she began to walk away.
‘Excuse me, are you Miss O’Keefe?’
An elderly gentleman stepped up beside her as she walked past him. ‘Yes.’
‘Then these are for you.’ He held out a sealed envelope and as Georgia reached for it she could hear faint jingle of keys. ‘The keys to Keith Richards property. Which is now yours.’ He reached for inside his jacket pocket and pulled out another envelope. ‘And this. It’s a letter with some of his wishes, in case anyone ever comes looking for him.’
‘Thank you,’ she studied the envelope. So many questions floated in her mind. So many she doubted would ever be answered. ‘Can I ask you why me? Why did he choose me?’ She looked around and could no longer see anyone. ‘Where is his family?’
The lawyer shrugged his shoulders. ‘Keith was a very private man. Hardly told me anything. He had a family once but I don’t know what happened to him. He never talked about them. Just said someday they may come back.’ The man started walking back to his car and Georgia kept pace. ‘You see, that was the reason he never sold his place. He was hopeful they’d come back and he needed to be there.’
The lawyer stopped at his car. ‘He was going to give the house to charity but he came to me few months ago and told me he wanted to change his will.’
‘Why?’
‘He met you I guess. He didn’t say much then, just said if he had a granddaughter, she’d be like you. Old man’s wishes, I suppose.’ He scoffed. ‘Anyway, I’m sorry for your loss. Everything should be in order and I’ll send you the new title in a week or so. You can move in whenever you’d like I guess.’ He got in the car and with a reserved smile, drove away. 
Georgia stared at the two envelopes and felt a new wave of sadness. He was waiting for his family to come back all these years. As she got into her own car she couldn’t help but wonder where they were. Or if there were any left. 

The Man who waited

Georgia A O’Keefe had been a waitress at a tiny Corner Cafe for a full year now, and she loved her morning shifts. She always had. She was a morning kind of person. Since she was a kid really. She used to get up before her parents and sit around reading a book or watching TV, and sometimes, daydreaming about Milo, a boy in her class she fancied. Nowadays, Georgia still loved waking up early, but it was mostly so she could enjoy the quiet, calm city before the bustle had a chance to ruin it. 
It was a winter morning. Snow foot deep in places, but the plough had ensured the roads were cleared this morning and Georgia grabbed her usual hot mug, filled with her own cocoa concoction, donned her wooly jacket that drowned her nearly, tied a knitted scarf around her neck her mum had made for her 13th birthday and stepped out into the morning just like she did every other day. 
‘Morning Mrs Willard!’ She yelled across the yard as she found her neighbor grabbing the morning paper. 
‘Morning, Georgie! How are you this morning, love?’ Mrs Willard’s smile revealed she’d forgotten to put her dentures this morning. 
‘I’m fine, thank the Lord.’ Georgia closed the tiny garden gate behind her and started her 15 minutes walk to work. ‘Want me to bring you any bread rolls or milk this afternoon?’ It was one of Georgia’s routine, to replenish her elderly neighbors fridge with stock items in winter. In her philosophy, there was no need for elderly folks to be out and about in dangerous conditions if it could be avoided. Besides, Georgia worked in a cafe. Heck, she was now a quarter owner of The Corner Cafe, and by all means she could offer to bring bread rolls for her neighbors than to let them go to waste. She hated wasting perfectly good food; something passed down from her mum no doubt. Wasting food is one of the biggest sins, Georgie! Her mother used to say. 
‘I have yet to finish the last ones you got me!’ Mrs Willard waved and Georgia waved back, sipped her perfect hot cocoa and trampled the snow triumphantly towards work. 

‘Good morning, Mr Richards!’ Georgia piped as soon as she saw that like most days, the old man was already there before her. Mr Richards was a true regular according to her. He came by the cafe every single day, rain, hail or shine. He only lived a block away, in one of the only original homes left on any street so close to the city. He had refused to sell for a bucket load of money the rumor was, and no one knew his reasons. God knew he could use the money. Georgia was curious like most anybody, but she never tried to snoop. The man seemed lonely, and in his loneliness Georgia sympathized. After all, she too had no one left in the world. ‘Don’t you ever get tired of waiting for me in the cold?’ She laughed, giving him a hug. 
‘Not if it means I get the first kiss of the day from a beauty, and a soul awakening coffee before all the noise.’ He leaned down, helping her with the grill as the ice had it frozen somewhat. 
‘You’re gonna pull your back one of these days, and I’m gonna have to start bringing soups to your home.’ They rushed in, and as she ran to turn the alarm off, Keith closed the door behind them as usual. ‘Speaking of which, have you had any breakfast this morning, Keith?’
Keith slipped into his favorite berth closest to the coffee bar. It was the warmest spot he said. ‘You know I’m not good with cooking these days,’ he rambled eying his hands.
As Georgia set about turning the whole place for business, she turned the heater on, and brought it close to him so he could warm up while she got the brew on. ‘It’s no trouble you know, I can have Sidharth bring you warm food every evening before we close.’ 
Keith remained quiet this morning, which was rather unusual to his usual ‘Oh no dear, it will only make me lazier’. 
‘Are you okay?’ Georgia placed the tray of food down on the table and slipped opposite him. For the past couple of months, since she befriended Keith, they’d made a routine of having breakfast together so each one had ‘company’. Or at least that’s what she told him; but the truth was, she knew that between his meds and his regular dialysis, Keith didn’t have much money left at all. This way, she knew if nothing else, he got a good bellyful of hearty food and warm drinks in him at least once a day.
‘Did you make this soup, darling?’ He smiled from the bowl of lentil and pumpkin soup. That one smile told her he hadn’t had dinner at all the night before. Georgia nodded and watched him eat, forcing him to have seconds and thirds till he was truly full. 
‘I’ll get you another coffee?’ She rose, warm happiness in her belly. 
‘Oh no,’ he waved, munching on a bread roll lathered with butter. ‘You do your work, I’ll grab it myself if I need it, go on.’ And thus of she went, setting about her work till Ahmed walked in the door at his usual 7am and left the door open for customers. 

It was a busy morning so Georgia had barely a chance to keep track of how Keith was going. It wasn’t till 11 am when it was time for her to go on her break that her business partner Ahmed walked to her. ‘Something’s wrong with good old Keith.’
She peered around his wide shoulder and indeed saw Keith looking rather worried. He was hunched over and in his hand was a white envelope he kept twirling. ‘He was fine this morning,’ she slipped passed Ahmed towards the pastry section, pulled out a carrot cake, warmed it up, and took over a pot of coffee with it to Keith’s table.
‘Oh boy, are we busy this morning or what?’ She semi laughed, putting the items down on the table and slipping in opposite him. ‘I thought we could do with some sweets!’ Keith barely looked up. ‘Everything okay?’
He sniffled and tapped the table twice with the envelope before sliding it across to her. He didn’t say a word till he pulled the cake to himself and pushed his coffee mug towards her for a refill.
She poured him a coffee and waited till one of the waitress brought over her large panini. She placed one half of it onto Keith’s plate and then finally pulled the envelope to herself. She turned it over and read a neat writing in ink, handwritten. It simply read ‘To Georgia A O’Keefe’.
‘What’s this?’ She asked.
Keith sniffled again. ‘Its for you.’
‘I see that, but what is it Keith?’
‘It’s my gratitude, for your friendship and kindness all these months. They truly have meant a lot to me. You mean a lot to me.’ He finally looked up and Georgia could see his eyes were tear streaked.
‘What is it? What’s the matter?’ Panic welled in her. ‘You okay? You are doing okay, right?’
Keith reached over and squeezed her hand. A smile on his face. ‘I am as fine as I can be, and no worse.’
‘Then what’s this?’
Keith leaned back on this seat and enjoyed a forkful of cake. The moment felt long for Georgia but it couldn’t have been more than few seconds. ‘One day, dear, you and I both know I will stop coming here in the mornings. One day, you will eat your breakfast alone.’
‘Keith, please.’
He looked at her with a puzzling look, one she couldn’t read. ‘When that day comes, please open that letter only then. Promise me, Georgie girl.’
Tears came just as easily. Something about the way Keith was speaking rendered her tearful. ‘You’re not saying goodbye.’
He shook his head. ‘No, but, I’m old. It’s just a matter of time.’ She clutched at the envelope. Her apatite gone. 
‘You’re still going for your dialysis? Aren’t you?’
He nodded. ‘Now stop worrying and eat your cake!’

‘Morning Mrs Willard!’ Georgia yelled across the muddy yard. Winter was weening away, and snow was starting to melt. She was struggling to keep her boot gripping tight on the icy footpath. 
‘Morning Georgie!’ Mrs Willard waved from her porch. ‘Could you please bring me a liter of milk tonight, dear?’
‘Will do! See you tonight.’ She waved goodbye. Her days were almost predictable these days. Wake up, get dressed, make cocoa, leave home, wave to Mrs Willard, the walk to work, and open the store with Keith’s help. She smiled at the thought and wondered what she should make for today’s special. 
As she rounded the last corner, she thought she’d ask Keith for advice. Perhaps it could be his favorite dish she could put on the menu, after all, he did eat there often enough.
‘I was thinking Keith, that we could work on a new menu…’ She stood ready to hug him, but there was no Keith to hug. ‘Keith?’ She looked around the other corner. Keith was no where in sight. 
‘No, but, I’m old. It’s just a matter of time.’ The words streamed through her mind. Before she could think what to do, she started running down the street, towards Keith’s house. She’d lonely been once to drop him off home after a particularly challenging day and it had been under a lot of snow. She only hoped she could recognize it now that the snow was gone. 
She skidded dangerous and fell on her bottom right about where Keith’s house was. Of course she didn’t have to worry about not being able to recognize it, it was the only house left amongst large flats. She pulled herself up, pain shooting through her sprained ankle. ‘Keith!’ She called out as she practically hobbled to his door, holding onto the handrails all the way. She knocked thrice on the door. No response. 
‘Keith, it’s me, Georgia! Open the door!’ She pounded on the door, feeling it shudder under the force. ‘Keith! Open the door!’
She wobbled to the window and tried to look in. It was dark and she could barely make anything out. She rapped on the window again, yelling. ‘Keith!’ It was then she thought she saw a leg behind the sofa. ‘Keith!’ She screamed, stepped back and threw her coffee cup at the window to break it. ‘I’m coming, okay.’ She struggled through the broken glass, slashing the back of her hand as she protected her head from sharp edges. 

She sat in the corner of her dark room, still dressed from the morning. She had ended up needing six stitches on her hand. She closed her eyes. Keith had been on the floor face down. There was nothing they could do. He’d been dead for hours they told her at the hospital. He must have had a heart attack in the night and since he lived alone. But none of that made her feel any better. Keith was dead. Gone. And now, all she had to remember him by was an inch long scar and an envelope she’d been clutching since she’d gotten home.
She sniffled, finally got up and went to her bed, turned the reading lamp on and tore at the envelope. She’d promised after all. She pulled out the sheets carefully and sat down to read. Her hands still shaking. 

Dear Georgie Girl,
You’re reading this. I’m sorry for the hard day you’ve had. I am. I wish I could have given that burden to anyone else but I have no one else in my life but you. These past months have been a blessing. You have been a blessing to this old man who had lost all hope. You have not just given me food and friendship, but you have given me something so precious, something I had missed out on stupidly in life. A daughter. You are sunshine in my cold world. You gave me a reason to fight on. 
I enjoyed every morning I got to share a hug with you, to enjoy your company for breakfast, to laugh with you. Your joys and your concerns moved me. My dear child, I love you as much as an old man can love his daughter. I wish life will not let you get by alone like it did with me. That will be my last prayer on this earth; that you will find someone to keep you as you’d kept me. I thank you and bless you with all my heart.
As I say goodbye, I leave you something that’s precious to me, my house. A house I once had my family in. I know you will do what’s best, for you and this house. I held onto it as long as I could hoping my scattered life would come back to me, but now that it is yours, I hope you find some meaning in it to, whatever you will end up doing with it. My only wish would be that you keep it, as a gift, but that’s an old man’s assumption that you will want to keep it. Either way love, I hope it will help you. It’s close to work at least!
With this letter, consider this my last will. I bequeath all my property to young Miss Georgia Anita O’Keffe, the quarter owner of The Corner Cafe down the block.
Thank you and God bless.

Love,
Keith Owens Richards

Of 101 Percival Street.

Georgia stared at the letter unable to grasp what she’d just read. Keith was dead and left her with everything he had. Why? She read the letter again, and couldn’t keep her vision of Keith on the floor from her mind. He knew he wasn’t going to live long. He knew, didn’t he? 
Georgia cried that night. She cried all night in fact. She couldn’t imagine going to work the next morning. She couldn’t open the store alone. No. 

The Keeper: Part 13

Mona found herself back on the cold slab of the room she’d first woke to in Lucifer’s home. Could it be that she was already back there from her father’s house? What a lousy promise he kept then. Not even one night, and Mona was already back in his curious castle. She slipped off the slab and walked towards the wall where she knew a door had been from her memory.
‘You call this fair?’ She yelled and her words reverberated. ‘Not even one lousy night? I don’t even get one lousy night? Did you not see that my father is not well?!’ She pounded with her fists on the cold wet walls. ‘He needs me, now more than ever, and you do this beastly thing?! You take me from him just when he thought I’d be there in his end days?!’
She expected him to pop up behind her but no such thing happened. Instead, Mona was alone and scared in a room she’d rather not see again. ‘Lucifer isn’t an apt name for you!’ She yelled, her voice rebounding off the wall. ‘At least we know he was an angle. You. You on the other hand are just a beast! A beast, you hear me?! A beast!’ 
Mona kept pounding at the wall and screaming till her voice went hoarse and her fist were bruised and bloodied. ‘You said I was free to go!’ She whispered, last remnants of her strength dwindling till there was no more. Just her, her broken heart, her bleeding fists and the ever present darkness. Mona didn’t know when it was that the darkness melded into sleep, and when that sleep let her rest. When she woke, it was still dark. Pitch black in fact and her heart sank. Guess he hadn’t heard her rant. 
Then again, the room no longer felt damp, and the surface beneath her felt like the softness and warmth of a bed. Her bed intact. Mona reached instinctively for the lampshade and when the room came into view, she was intact back in her room as if she’d never left. Perhaps she hadn’t and the whole Lucifer episode had be a terrible nightmare conjured by her migraine-induced hallucinations. Perhaps. Except the rather large antique chest that sat towards the bottom end of her bed. A chest that had never been there before. It’s austerity only letting her know that the Beast had been real. It was after all a trunk from the room that had been hers. 
Mona slipped out of bed in her nightgown despite the chill and opened the trunk. She had to make sure it was in fact real. Inside lay all the dresses she’d ever worn in the castle, including all the new ones she’d made. An enveloped with the same brilliant writing from all the notes she’d read while a guest at Beast’s house lay tucked in one corner of the box. Mona reached for it and brought it back the to the lamp with her. 
Dear Mona Belle,
Here you will find all your belongings from my home. Should you desire anything else, anything, you need only write it on the back of this parchment and it will be sent to you. As promised, your freedom is yours. You were no more than a guest in my home and I do home our hospitality lacked none. Should you ever wish to come back and join us, we would only be delighted to have you. However, despite my name, even the new one you have bestowed upon me last night, I feel it is my duty to let you know however I desire company, I am not that beastly to keep you from that which you desire. After all, I did make a promise to your father that I shall give you all you want. If nothing else, I keep my promises. 
I wish you all the best in your life. 
Yours truly,
Your Beast 

The letter ended thus and for a moment nothing but sadness gripped young Mona’s heart. The beast was not very beastly after all.

Grim: 4

What does one do while net it down, again? One writes on their phone’s note section for later use! Alas, that was me yet again so here is quite a lengthy offering for Grim. 

Xoxo


Grim: 4

I stood at the end of the Great Hall, as they used to call it. It wasn’t just any hall. It was the Great hall, tucked beneath the massive palace grounds, in the belly of the cavernous caves that lined the coast. They say that in the Golden Era of King Maylord VI, some thousand year ago, the hall used to dazzle with the likes of nobility of all realms. They still say some portals may yet be open to those lost realms. Now, the only realm we knew of were the faeries, the elves, the dwarfs, and of course, the useless selfish hoards of humans. We didn’t much like mixing with the humans. Too many questions, too many breathes wasted and none grew wiser. I wasn’t exactly any of these creatures either. I’ve always been in the mixed realm they called the Limbo. As far as I knew, Limbo had started out as a realm for the outlaws, the criminals, and sometimes the creme of the crops who were banished for fear of how they could influence the public. As of 1200 years ago, the band of outlaws formed their own community, and it was a mix. No beings were discriminated against. That was until Maylord’s descendants were overthrown during a coup by their maternal side of the family during an upheaval. 


I looked up at the large domed ceiling and could only see the flickering white flames floating as if in gentle breeze, not that there was a breeze inside. I’d been practicing my flames for the last two months and all I could manage was a spark that lasted few seconds. Pretty embarrassing seeing how I was from the line of Phoenix Guards known for their aptness with the fire element above all else. It was safe to say I would not be getting into the Legion of Guards anytime soon, if at all. Every single member of my family were in the Legion, vowed to protect the Royal Family at all cost, every last one of them. Even my younger brother, Cian was already mastering through all his training and was now on the list for the qualifying trail.


“You are not dancing, Belladonna,” Lord Bradan Lowrie approached me. He wasn’t a man I was very familiar with, but almost all of Limbo was familiar with his reputation. He was not a man I wanted to notice me. “Such a beautiful young lady should not be standing by alone I dare say!”


“I have a twisted ankle, My Lord.”


He eyed the hem of my dress where my ankles should be. “It’s simple magic my dear, to heal sprained ankles.”


I nodded. “But not for someone who is still struggling with her lessons, Sir.”


He turned then, cutting me off from the rest of the hall. His towering self inches from me. He smiled, a smile that churned my stomach. I could only imagine what he was thinking and even that made me feel ill. “Shall I heal it for you, Bell- adonna?” He leaned in. His warm breath falling on the nape of my neck and I did wish then that I hadn’t agreed to put up my hair. I could faintly feel his lips brush against my skin. “Oh how I love a damsel in distress.”


I stepped back, feeling the wall hit my back squarely, and faintly smiled. “I’m fine, Lord Lowrie. But thank you for your offer.” I tried to slip past him as calmly as I could, but soon felt his hand on my arm.


“Not running away from me, are you young miss?”


I could feel the spell ripple my skin where he touched. I tried to say no, but the room whooshed in and out of focus suddenly, and I felt myself swagger. “Please, let me be.”


“And let a lovely thing like you go?” The sinister smile on his face made me panic. Worst yet when I knew I was under his mercy. Blasted spell! If only I knew how to deflect them. Alas, I knew no such thing. The panic welled in me as he looped my arm through his and started leading me across the floor, towards the south exit, to the portal that led to Faerie land. A land not many ventured to. A land I knew next to nothing about.


“Excuse me, Miss Blight?”


A young man stood in our way in strangely colored clothing.


“What do you want, jester?”


The man nodded to Lord Lowrie and then to me. If only I could ask him for help. Instead, I stood emotionless clasped to Lord Lowrie’s arm and feeling sick. “Miss Blight’s mother is looking for her past half hour. They are heading back home and have asked all attendants to help find Miss Blight and bring her to their carriage.”


He nodded to Lord Lowrie and offered his arm to me. “Allow me to escort Miss Blight to her carriage, milord. While you are free to go about enjoying the evening.”


I felt Bradan’s reluctance to let me go. His hand gripped my arm in vice grip before he passed my arm over to the young man, huffed and turned around, disappearing into the dancing crowd. 


He led me out the side door, and we happened upon a small ledge overlooking the great sea where I could finally breathe. 


“Please,” he pointed at my arm. “May I have a look?”


I nodded, still feeling remnants of the enslaving spell on me. I couldn’t yet move on my own but my mind was my own now. “Thank you, for saving me inside.”


He nodded and reached for my arm gently. He pushed aside the material and there, on my forearm, almost the entire length of my forearm was a black bruise in the shape of manacles. Very large manacles. “Nasty spell this one. Lucky I noticed him casting it when I did otherwise no one would have detected it after it was already cast.”


“What is it?”


“A sort of an enslavement spell. Ancient dark arts. Arts that have been banned for anyone other than royals and the Legion since Maylord Era.” 


I nodded, watching him examine the bruise intensely. He seemed to be muttering a spell I vaguely recognized, though the language was foreign. The manacles clamped tighter around my arm and made me wince. “What is your name?”


He held my arm gently, allowing me to clasp his as hard as I could. “You may call me Val, though my name is Valor.” He pulled what looked like a small black obsidian from his pocket the size of a pebble. “Please close your eyes. This is going to hurt.”


I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Val.”




When I opened my eyes again, I found myself back in front of my pub. I had walked hours simply to get back to where I started. I was tired, I was sad, and worst of all, I hadn’t slept in over two days. I let myself in, walked through the deserted floor and up to my apartment. I fell on the bed, pretty much exactly how I had fallen on my bed all those years ago after Val had rescued me. How was I supposed to kill the only man I’d ever loved? 


“You promised.” His voice gently echoed in my ear.


“I know,” I whispered back, feeling our realms merge even while sleep swept over me. “Just give me a little more time to dream while I still can.”




Grim: 3

As daylight faded, Shade became more and more visible. I hadn’t moved the last three hours. I couldn’t. Not really. Not after what I had to do. “How long have you known?”
Shade shifted his hefty weight against the opposite wall that groaned in protest. “A few years.”
“Is that why you’ve been avoiding me?”
He sighed. “You know I only come to this realm if I have to.”
“You had to now, didn’t you?” I couldn’t help but scoff. Had I really seen Val just hours ago asking me to kill him?
“He kept away from you as long as he could, Bell. Give you that normal you wanted.”
A tortured laughter escaped me before I could contain it. My stomach churned. “I’ve lived these years alone on top of a bar for the last 140 years, serving booze to drunkards, Shade. Before that, we all know those years weren’t my finest moments.”
“He hurt you.”
“He didn’t hurt me.” I shook my head and pushed myself up off the dusty floor. “He ran away. That’s what he did.”
“He couldn’t watch her die.”
“Neither could I.” I squared my shoulders. I wanted to leave that place. Wander the streets with my thoughts, but I couldn’t see a damn thing in the darkness. “Mind showing me light?”
In moments, a slender white flame flickered in front of my eyes. Beneath them, the titan’s giant stone hands glowed a faint green, like lichen on trees. He took my hand in his and passed the flame over, where it floated just over my palm where it whooshed into a geyser before falling back down. No heat, no sting. Just a bright column of light. 
“Don’t let the darkness claim you, Bell.” Shade whispered. “Don’t fulfill a vow you once promised to break.”
I clasped my hand into a fist and watched the darkness fall. I could not bear for him to see tears rolling down my face. I was not that young scared Bell anymore. No tears for me, not this time. I wiped them away and patted Shade gently on the arm before slipping past him. “I can’t let the darkness go yet.”
I walked out of the old house into the night, making my way over and around any obstacle. I had a lot of thinking to do and a long night ahead, so I began walking. Aimless some would say. But what would they know about a troubled heart that still dreams. It was a long time ago, long time ago since it beat. 
Maybe there was a way out of this. The promise. The curse. The stinking bloody memories. 

Grim: 2

‘I thought you said 10am sharp!’ I teased as I felt the huge bulk of Shade coming my way. The floorboards moaning and moving under his unseen weight. ‘It’s now 2pm.’
Shade laughed. I could almost see him bring his wrist up and gander at the watch. ‘You know I can’t travel as easy during the day.’
I nodded. I knew. Shade wasn’t exactly visible, but it would still be hard to fool the mortals of his footfalls. I was rather surprised the old floorboard hadn’t given under him. After all, they were as old as this town. ‘So where is he?’
‘Bell, Bell, Bell!’ The callous laughter of the one I’d been seeking for centuries bubbled around me, vibrating off the walls of the derelict house. It was deemed haunted by the locals so they barely hung out here. ‘You’re still just as beautiful.’
‘Show yourself!’ I spat in spite of knowing I should hold back. He’d never dared come face to face with me since the day I almost tore his throat out. But then again, lovers are known to have a spat every now and then. We were no different. ‘How long are you going to hide from me, Val?’ 
‘How much longer are you planning on staying angry with me?’ 
Shade shifted his weight and a board dangerously creaked beneath him. ‘Give us a moment, will you, Shadey?’
Once the floor stopped shaking, my hand automatically went to my hips. I was beyond pissed. ‘If you’re here wasting my time, I am in no mood for your wooing. You always were terrible to begin with!’
A figure glimmered in front of me, as if made of all the floating dust moats from the air. His face was the last to form, and even though I hadn’t seen him for good 200 years, it still knocked the wind out of me. ‘You were always a beautiful man,’ I gasped despite myself.
He smiled, though it was barely like the smile I remembered. ‘I need your help, Bell.’
‘What can I do?’
‘You’re the only one who can help me die.’
I was not used to dizzy spells. I didn’t even know I was faltering. The house started warping around me. I could even see Val scoot by my side in order to hold me up, but in the end it was Shade’s strong grasp I felt on my shoulders as he steadied me and sat me down on a ratty old lazy boy I’d be caught dead sitting on otherwise. 
‘Easy, Bell. Easy.’
‘Belladonna!’ Val’s voice floated once more around me, and all that remained was his floating dusty head. ‘You know what I’m saying, don’t you? The time has come.’
I blinked at his face, reaching out with my hand to caress a cheek of the man I’d loved all my life, but felt nothing but air and saw nothing but swirling dust. ‘No.’ The word escaped me as if someone else had uttered. ‘No.’
‘I’m so sorry, Bell.’ Shade was saying somewhere above me. 
‘No.’ A whisper escaped me again. Shocked. I wasn’t ready yet. I wasn’t ready yet.

Feint

I wake, not knowing where I am. I can feel the cool earth beneath me, the dead foliage slippery as I struggle to sit up. The cool mist that drapes the forest floor kisses me as I rise. I’m assuming it’s a forest, for I cannot tell where I am from the quiet that renders any hints of space useless. I don’t remember how I got here, only that I was in middle of a conversation with Mr Rouge about tandem worlds. I think it was a discussion in the lecture theatre full of 100 other students. Now, I see no one around. Not even Mr Rouge. 

I stand on my two feet and begin navigating through the floor. Big dark branches loom over me as sulking shadows. I climb over giant roots that have breeched the earth. Where am I headed? I do not know. There is just a pull to keep going ahead. I walk till I can no longer tell minutes from an hour. I still cannot make anything out. I stop, leaning against yet another giant root and think, have I had a seizure mid-sentence? Was I at this very moment sprawled on the aisle, my hair a giant halo around me as my limbs stick out like a silly spineless human? Oh God, I better not have lost controls of my bowels. I seem to recall I was in need of peeing. As soon as I remember that, I am reminded I still need to go. Here goes, as I reach for my belt buckle, I hear a faint noise. Neigh, music. Music! I peer over the root eager to find the source. Where could music be coming from in the middle of what looked to be the Amazon or it’s likeness, not that I’d ever been there. Perhaps I had my headsets still on, and my falling body must have pressed play. 

Between needing to go toilet and needing to find the amenities, I scramble over the said root and hasten, if that were possible towards the source of the music. It grows louder, and louder, and I keenly stir myself through the floor to reach it, ending up facing a mammoth tree, whose branches I cannot even make out. The music, no longer faint but pulsing, seems to be from the tree. What absurdity is this? I peer at the ancient bark. I lean against it with my ear pressed and the music booms, taking me aback. ‘What the?!’

‘Password please.’ A voice, eerie and echoey ripples around me. The hairs on my body raise, causing me to shiver. A password? Geez I must have really hit my head hard on the stairs I think. 

‘What password?’ I blurt, not expecting to really have a conversation with the bark of a huge tree. 

‘The one that will allow you to seek shelter within.’ The voice trills. I can almost here the laughter laced in it. 
I laugh. And I pinch myself, willing me to wake up, but I do not. ‘I don’t know any passwords to an old tree!’

A long moment of silence stretches, and I can almost feel the air around me stretch too, as if I’m being pulled out. ‘Think Phoenix. Think.’

Now that is just creepy! How does a talking tree with music coming out of its trunk know my name? Then I stop myself. It’s my dream of course. Why wouldn’t I know my own name? So I think. Or try and think for this password. Perhaps it will allow me to wake up. Maybe I’ve already been taken on an ambulance and the music I think is music is nothing but siren blaring, parting traffic like the sea.
I jump to my feet. Shocked with myself. ‘Open seasame!’ I blurt, squinting at the barely visible bark and expecting a rolling laughter for my poor effort. I wait and nothing happens. ‘Great!’ I grumble and turn, but I freeze mid turning. 
Behind me, I hear the heavy enamored squeak of a door whose hinges have all but rusted from years and years of being out-of-service. No sooner had I turned back to face the tree, a bright yellow light, that blinds me momentarily floods out, illuminating the forest floor around me. It’s a heavy jungle, one that has not seen man destroy it.

‘You may enter!’ The voice is booming now, snapping me into action and I hurry along, stepping into the trunk, half expecting it to be a hallow tree, but what I find inside leaves my jaws on the beautiful parquet floor that glistens up at me. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I have entered that which I cannot even begin to describe, so I’ll leave you only with this. The largest, the most ornate, and the most decadents halls have nothing in comparison to this. All around me, light glows as if giant candles hold flames as big as a a hut yet, I see nothing that sustain them. People, at least I think they are people mill around me, drinks in hand, chatting, dancing, eating. I look up and I can no longer see the forest in which I stood not a minute ago. Now, I find myself in a giant hall, that’s not really a hall but a giant courtyard, or a square to some mythical city. 

‘Where am I?’ I whisper to myself. 

A tall man stops before me, eyeing me curiously from head to toe. Perhaps my attire was other-Worldly. Here, it seemed cloaks were the thing. ‘That depends on who is asking the question.’

Mouth agape I looked up and tried to figure out how tall he could be. 7 feet perhaps. I extended my arm out to him out of habit and said, ‘I’m Phoenix Gail. I’m a student of philosophy.’ 

He eyed me once more, a smile creeping up. He reached his hand to mine, not to shake it, but to turn my palm up toward him. ‘Hmm,’ he traced a very cold finger over my wrist and held it just above my pulsing vein. He mumbled words I could not make out, and I was in half a mind to yank my hand out when I stop. My jaw once again claiming the floor. There, on my wrist, by the trick of light or whatever it was, a bird of flame with its incredible plume flapped its wings and took off, up my palm as if it were the sky and vanished into thin air. 
Wide eyed, I looked up at the man, shaking my head. For once, I couldn’t find my words.

‘Well, Phoenix Gail, student of philosophy, it seems we have been expecting you.’ He smiled and stepped aside, flourishing my arms out in a gesture that told me the floor was all mine. And indeed, when I looked beyond him, all eyes were watching the Phoenix that had flown from my hand blaze bright in the sky. When I looked back down, those very eyes were now trained on me. 

‘Come, you must be tired and hungry.’

And like an obedient child I followed, weary of the eyes that stared, and the hands that reached out to touch me.

‘It’s her.’

‘Now our time has come.’

‘She is so small.’

I swallowed. Time to wake up Phee! But wake I did not.