Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Flash - Staring Out To Sea - A Story About A Guy, A Girl and Possibly a Timewarp, But Maybe It Was Really a Ghost After All

I wrote this six years ago for a ghost story weekend with my friends.  I wrote two that year, and this is the one I didn't read aloud .

A Story about A Guy, A Girl and Possibly a Time Warp, but Maybe it Was Really a Ghost After All
I've never been a particularly lucky person - unless you count bad luck which I don't because it makes me feel shitty about myself and who needs that, right?
Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is because for the first time in my life I've had some good luck. I didn't know it at the time, but I know now.
Here’s the story. I was sitting on the beach staring out to sea attempting to look manly and commanding. You know like a ship's captain gauging the tide before setting sail for the Great Unknown or maybe a pirate surveying the white capped waves looking for my shipmates to show up with the treasure we would bury.
I don't think I looked particularly manly or commanding. Mainly because it was a cold, grey day and my butt felt like a block of ice sitting on the grainy, uncomfortable sand and my nose was running a little. It's hard to look manly with a runny nose.
I was wondering whether or not it would be too gross to wipe my nose on my sleeve, because of course I didn't have a tissue, when I saw a girl's head bobbing in the waves close to shore.
Well, I say a girl's head, but I do want to assure you that there was a body attached to the head and that the head (and the body) were very animate. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. She probably had been for quite some time only I thought it was the seagulls that always swooped around and sometimes  looked ready to attack me because I never have any bread to feed them.
 Heck, I hardly have any bread to feed me. Stupid birds.
A real manly and commanding sort of guy would have rushed straight into the ocean to save the damsel in distress, but I have to admit I hesitated because, well, it was cold out and also? I can 't swim.
So she sort of just washed ashore in a soggy heap.
Casting me a baleful look not unlike the glares I got from the sea gulls, she fumbled to her feet. This was hard for her to do because she was tricked out in some sort of old fashioned long gown, complete with a really deep neckline.
Her hair was waist long and it looked like it might be red, but it was plastered to her skull and face and it dripped sea water .
"My hero," she sputtered
I sincerely wanted to help her, but I was just the tiniest bit afraid she might disembowel me with her fingernails. I thought damsels in distress were shy and swooning creatures; this girl was more like a Mack truck in overdrive. Well, a four foot seven, 90 pound Mack truck. Okay, I know, I'm not good at metaphors. Or is it analogies? Whatever, you know what I mean - the girl was pretty pissed off.
"Uh, do you want to wear my jacket?" I sort of hoped she would decline. It was, as I told you before, cold.
"That is an excellent idea. Give it here!" She held out a peremptory hand. Her long sleeve dripped a steady stream of water to the damp sand.
I divested myself of my jacket. Okay, I took off my jacket and handed it to her. I know, I can't use words like "divested" and get away with it. Flashback to my college writing class and the professor actually spitting coffee all over his desk laughing at me. I didn't think teachers were allowed to be so cruel. Students, sure, but not the teachers.
"Are you going to stand there shivering like a dolt or are you going to take me someplace warm?" She struggled to put on my jacket. I guess her fingers were too cold to manipulate the zipper because she gave up after a few tries.
"Uh," I said. I'm so witty and clever it kills me. "My house is just down the beach a little way. You could go there with me."
"Wonderful. Is it warm?"
"Well, sort of There's no heat actually because I kind of lost my job and didn't pay my gas bill, but ... "
"What? What are you babbling on about? How about a fire, man! A nice roaring fire! Could you perhaps accomplish at least that much for me?" She sounded really mad.
Almost as mad as my mother sounded when I told her my gas was shut off.
"Zachary," she had shouted through the phone in a towering rage. She was always shouting at me in a towering rage. She'd been in a towering rage since I was like seven years old and the time I tried to cook mud pies in the oven and the smell didn't go away until she had professional carpet and drape cleaners in.
"I cannot believe how irresponsible you are. Just like your father! Don't expect me to send you money to pay the bill. You need to learn how to take care of yourself. I won't always be here to do that you know!"
I very nearly said, "Thank God" out loud but managed to disguise it with a coughing fit.
'”And you can stop pretending you are sick to play upon my heartstrings. No money!" She hung up in my ear.
"What are you doing?" I jumped in shock. The girl’s face flushed dark red. "I am soaked to the bone and you stand there with your eyes glazed and mouth hanging open.  Are you mad? Are you simple?"
''No, I was thinking about my mother. Sorry," I muttered. I led the way to my little house. Okay, my little shack.
Back in the summer when I'd rented it from some old guy who said he was sick of nature and the seagulls and wanted some action with the ladies and the dice and moved to Las Vegas, I thought the shack was perfect. It had an ocean view - well, sort of if you craned your neck just the right way while peering out the tiny bathroom window, you could catch a glimpse of the ocean. Otherwise it was sand dune and giant rocks on one side and two lane highway on the other.
In the summer it was cool. Literally because the air conditioning was on full blast. In the winter, because I couldn't pay my gas bill,  it was not so great really.
I fumbled with the key in the lock and I could feel the girl's gaze penetrating my back like icy little daggers. The more she glared, the more I fumbled until finally she shoved me out of the way and did it herself.
She stopped dead just inside the door and stood there staring around like she'd never seen a living room before.
Well, okay, my living room was pretty awful. A ratty old couch I picked up on the side of the road, and ripped old recliner that one of my college roommates gave me when I flunked out . It was sort of a memento of the keg parties we used to have. The makeout sessions we'd had on that recliner were always a highlight of those parties.
When I say makeout sessions, I don't mean with each other. I mean with girls that came to our parties. Or, okay, this one girl that came to our parties. She was sort of weird and she smelled kinda funky, but she really knew how make out in a recliner and once you drank six or seven beers, she was pretty cute.
Anyway, so I had this horrible furniture and I suppose the girl was used to nicer stuff because she looked absolutely shocked.
"What, what, what is that?" She pointed a cold finger directly at my battered old television set. Some really dumb car commercial was playing.
"Yeah, I know. I hate that guy too. Galveston Stan let me sell you a sedan – how stupid. And they play it like a million times a day."
"How does he move within the frame? Is it witchcraft?" The girl’s lips were icy blue.
"Huh?" I said,
"And what sort of iron monster is he petting?"
"You mean the Honda?" I was totally lost. "It's not really an iron monster. My uncle drives one. It's kinda mainstream if you ask me. Not that I have one. I should talk, huh?"
"Where on earth am I?" The girl asked. “'This is not the same as it was."
"As what was?" Again with the witty remarks, I kill myself.
Her gaze strayed to the calendar I had tacked to the wall. Harry Potter was riding his broom with a big dragon in pursuit.
"Is is witchcraft!" she howled. "But why doesn't he move within the frame?"
''That's only in the movies. I don't know how they do that. Special effects are awesome. But he's not a witch, he's a wizard."
''This does not bode well for my soul." She moved closer to the calendar but slowly, as if she wasn't sure whether or not it might bite her.
"February 2006?" Her voice was a whisper. "The year 2006?"
"Ever since midnight on New Year's Eve," I said, trying to sound cool, but really coming off sounding stupid.
"But when I went overboard, it was February 1846. I don't understand."
I goggled at her. Your eyes feel funny when you goggle, you know that?
"You can't be serious. 1846. That's like a hundred years ago. Okay, that's like almost two hundred years ago. Okay, that was like a hundred fifty .. anyway. that's a long time ago. You can't be here. You'd be dead by now."
"Maybe I am. Maybe I drowned. Maybe I'm a ghost!" The girl sounded ready to scream again, only this time not at me in a rage, but in a panic. I'm not good around panicky girls.
"If you're a ghost, you shouldn't be freezing cold or solid." I said.
"You know the truth of ghosts? You're an expert?" Now she sounded like her normal self
"Well, I never heard of a ghost like you. You seem pretty substantial to me. Maybe you hit a time warp or something."
"A what?" Her lower lip started to tremble and I have to say even soaking wet and her hair all stringy, she looked really cute. Certainly way better than the girl from the recliner. Even after six or seven beers.
"Like you went through a thin space in the fabric of time and ended up ahead in the future."
"We're back to witchcraft again. I knew there was something strange about Captain da Silva beside the fact that first he proposed marriage to me and then he threw me overboard the minute I said yes. He's a witch. He threw me into the future. I don't understand because I agreed to be his wife. Would a man do that to his betrothed? Even a man who practiced the Black Arts?" She paced as she spoke, dripping water over the dirty hardwood floor.
''This Captain da Silva proposed to you on the deck of a ship? Wow. That's seriously romantic. Guys in the olden days really knew how to do things right.
"Of course he proposed to me on the deck of a ship. It was his ship and when my father died of influenza, I had no chaperone aboard. It was the only thing a chivalrous man of honor could do."
"Well, maybe he was a chivalrous man, but sounds to me like he didn't want to get married. So when you said yes, he freaked out and threw you overboard." I said.
"The impertinence!" screamed the girl, stomping her foot.
"He threw you overboard awfully close to shore. Was it really necessary to propose? You would have been unchaparoned for about five minutes before docking. That 's not so bad, is it?"
"I would have been ruined," spat the girl. "Five minutes, five hours, five days, it is all the same in the eyes of society."
"Say, you're unchaparoned right now. I mean I like you and all that, but do I have to propose to save your honor? That might be cool. None of my friends had to get married to save a girl's honor. None of my friends are actually married. Or have girlfriends even."
"I would rather die than marry an oaf like you." Her eyes flashed and I thought she might hit me. "Don't you dare insult me."
"Fine. The thing is, you're here in 2006 and everyone you know is in 1846 and you don't want to marry me because I'm oaf but I'm also the only person you know in 2006. So you're screwed basically."
"What is this 'screwed’?" She asked. "Is it some sort of dark magic?"She dripped more water on the floor.
"I want to go back." Her voice was decisive.
"Well, I guess you need to find the time warp,” I said"
"I know nothing of this time warp. You are a babbling idiot, but it appears you know more than me about this subject. Take me to the time warp."
"We haven't even established that there was a time warp. How do you know that you' re not a ghost, cursed to haunt Galveston after drowning in the ocean a hundred years ago?"
"I refuse to be a ghost. I have my whole life ahead of me. Even married to that odious lout Captain da Silva, I would still be able to go to dances and suppers and wear beautiful clothes and have my maid pile my hair upon my head and slip expensive jewels on my fingers and around my throat. Especially married to him. He's extremely well off. One of the richest man in Texas. I swear Papa died on purpose in order to see me well matched in matrimony."
"Do people get to refuse to be ghosts?" I asked. "I mean that's fucking with fate and destiny. Can we do that sort of thing?"
"I can do anything I set my mind to do. You, on the other hand, seem imminently suited to be a puppet dancing on the strings of fate." She smiled as if this actually amused her.
"No sir!" I yelped, stung to the core. "I can do things too. I didn't want to work so I sort of just slacked off until they fired me. I got what I wanted - free time to sit on the beach and stare out to sea."
"I refuse to be trapped here in this pestilential time with this ridiculous little boy." She stomped her foot again. "Perhaps if I return to the ocean I could swim out to sea and be returned to my own time. It's worth a try!" She took off running for the beach.
"You'll kill yourself!" I ran after her. She could really run fast for a girl in a long, wet dress.
"I thought I was already dead!"
She had too big a head start and I was too heavy of a smoker. I didn’t catch her before she threw herself into the cold ocean and swam, her long red hair floating out like strange seaweed behind her.
''This is what you get for skipping swimming lessons to go read comic books in the park," I told myself as she got smaller and smaller.
One minute her head was there, bobbing on the waves. The next it just wasn't.
I waited a long time for her body to wash ashore, but it never did.
I never told anybody about her. Well, nobody until you today.
I know I was slacking off and not cleaning the men's room like you told me to, but you see, on the way to the men's room I had to walk past the new display here at the museum. The Girls of Galveston , that's the one. All those old fashioned photographs and old jewelry and tiny tiny shoes. Why were people so little  in the olden days? Nobody's ever been able to explain that to me.
Anyway, there's this one photo of this girl wearing a long gown with her hair piled up on her head and lots of jewels on her fingers and everything. It's black and white so you can't tell the color of her hair, but I bet you it's red. It’s her, the girl from the beach.
The weird thing is, the picture's dated 1852. And the caption under her name is "Mrs.Juan da Silva at her beach estate". Da Silva is the name of that captain who threw her overboard. She did it. She made it back. She married that guy. which I can't understand because I don't think I would marry anybody who tried to kill me, but the thing is - she did it. She said you could do anything you wanted if you wanted to bad enough and she was right.
I wasn't even going to tell you this story, but you looked upset when you were yelling at me and I think you must be a nice guy deep down. So, don't feel bad about firing me. I’m a slacker, I know.
But the thing is, I'm not going to be a slacker anymore. That girl said she would get back to her time and she did it. So why can't I do what I want? I don't want to live in a shack with no heat and work cleaning out restrooms at a museum. I don't want my mom bossing me around for the rest of my life. I don't want to be a loser staring out to sea.
What do I want to be? Well, that's the hard part. But at least I know what I don’t want. It’s a start anyway.
I'm gonna leave now. When I walk out that museum door, my life starts over and is going the way I want it. What? Yeah, I’ll take the back entrance to the employee parking lot, that's cool.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Flash - A Lonely Woman on a Friday Night

The man in the long tan trench coat seemed oblivious he was about to step in front of the 5:40 commuter bus to East Hartford.  Everyone at the bus stop was doing their own thing – reading books, texting, staring into space. If I hadn’t looked up from my Kindle just as he was about to step off the curb, he would have been roadkill.

I grabbed his arm and jerked him back. His head swiveled around in shock. Idiot. Lost in his own little world. I guess I couldn’t blame him. It was Friday night and everyone was tired from the work week grind and looking forward to the weekend.  But still, was he really that introspective he hadn’t noticed the bus?

“You should wait until it stops before you try to get on,” I said.  He was absolutely gorgeous.  Eyes so dark they were nearly black and a sensuous mouth that on a woman would be called pouty but on a guy it was just pure lust. 

“I’ll remember that,” he said gravely. I smiled and let go of his arm.  Beneath the trench coat, he had muscles. Did he work out in a gym nearby?  I’d been meaning to get a membership, he could be just the incentive I’d been waiting for.

The bus chuffed to a stop and the doors squeaked open.  I waited for him to get in line behind the rest of the tired commuters, but he simply stood there and stared at me.  As if he waited for something.

“Well, here’s the bus.”  Real smooth, Miranda, next you can point out it’s grey with blue stripes.

“Can you tell me something?” The man asked as I turned. I cast a look at the shuffling line.  Six people to go, I had time for a quick question.  Maybe he was going to ask me to Happy Hour.  It was Friday night and I had saved his life.


“Where am I?”

For a moment I could only stand there.  Then I thought, Great. The most gorgeous guy I’ve seen in ten years and he’s fucked in the head.  So typical.

“You all right?” Maybe he’d hit his head or something and that’s why he’d nearly blundered into traffic. Maybe he wasn’t crazy, but concussed. 

“What language are we speaking? If I knew that, I would know what planet this is.” He spoke so rationally as if he made perfect sense.  Probably he did. To himself.

“Listen, is there someone I can call to help you?” Two people left to get on the bus, but I’d pretty much resigned myself to waiting for the 6:03.  People like him shouldn’t be out wandering alone. Maybe he’d escaped from a halfway house or something.  Or a psychiatric ward.  The hospital was just two blocks over, that probably was it.

“You’re the only one who can help me,” he said and if this had been a romance book, the look he gave me would have been termed “smoldering” or maybe “intense”.   If I’d been the heroine in a book I would have understood, possibly been flattered, but all I felt was resentment. I would miss my bus so I could get some crazy guy back to his bed on the psych ward.  By the time I got home, Friday night would half over. 

But what the hell was I doing with it anyway?  It’s not like I had a husband or even a boyfriend. Hell, not even a date.  At my age pickings were slim to none even if I was still pretty with a decent figure and had no kids.  That just made the married men who wanted something on the side more disgustingly determined. All the great guys were taken.

“Okay,” I said as the last commuter hauled himself onto the bus.  “You were in the hospital, weren’t you?  I know where it is.  I’ll show you.” I took his arm to guide him and he looked at my hand on his sleeve, his brow furrowed.

“I wasn’t in this hospital. I am not ill. I am here because I displeased my superiors. If I wish to go home, you are the only one who can assist me.  Will you?” Another one of those stares.  God, why did the crazy guys have to be so compelling?

“How am I supposed to do that?” I asked.  Humor him until I got him to the hospital.  It seemed the best route.  I walked away from him, and, sure enough, he followed.  He fell into step beside me.

“I don’t know,” he said and gave the sidewalk, or maybe his shoes, one of his heart flipping stares. He looked back up at me. “I thought you might.”

Well, you’re shit out of luck, buddy. I don’t even know what the hell you are talking about.

“Where are you from? And no bullshit, okay?  I mean here on Earth.  Where are you from?  Manchester? Glastonbury? Vernon?”

“Earth.” He sounded shocked and his already pale cheeks went two shades whiter. “This is worse than I thought. Humans are among the most close minded, ignorant and shallow beings in the universe.”

“Way to get me to help you, dude,” I said.  My damn bus drove by and splashed up a wave of dirty rain water from a curbside puddle.  I danced out of the way, but the jerk beside me didn’t falter.  His trench coat must have been really waterproofed because the water slid off like magic.

“You’re my only resource,” he said.

“Help me Obi wan Kenobi,” I teased, but I was a little pissed too. Where did he get off calling me close minded, ignorant and shallow?  He didn’t know me.

“What?” He looked so pathetically confused I rolled my eyes.  He was my age or maybe a couple years younger, there’s no way he wouldn’t get the reference.  Unless he really was a frigging alien which was about as likely as Obi wan himself materializing and saving the day through the Force. 

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“It’s unpronounceable in English,” he said.

“What are you? French? Polish?” I guessed.

“I am not of this planet. I thought I had established that but perhaps you need further explanation. Humans are not known for their intelligence either.”

“Okay, buddy. These are the rules. You shut up and follow me.  Conversation over. I’m not about to spend my Friday night being insulted by a psycho.” I snapped.  Immediate remorse swept over me. Miranda, he’s sick. Have some compassion.

“I’m not a psycho I’m an Andoruvian,” he said.

Oh, Jesus. “How come you can pronounce your planet’s name in English but not your damn name?” I bit my tongue again. Miranda.

A thoughtful expression crossed his gorgeous face. “I never thought about that before. It does seem contradictory, doesn’t it?”

“It’s all right.  Not a hell of a lot makes sense here anyway,” I said.  Half a block and we’d reach the hospital. “At least you can take meds and make it better. I’ve got half a bottle of red wine and four episodes of Supernatural on Netflix.”

“You speak English words, but I don’t understand half of them,” he said.  He was adorable when confused.  Hell, he’d be adorable no matter what.  Why did everyone I meet have to be damaged in some crucial way?  It wasn’t fair.

“The meds will help that too,” I assured him.  I slowed my steps as we approached the brick walkway that led to the hospital’s door.

He looked at the hospital and then at me.  An errant lock of black hair fell across one of his eyes and I wanted to brush it back in the worst way. “I told you I didn’t come from the hospital. Why are we here?” 

“Look, you need help and I’m not the one who can give it to you. I’m an admin not a psychiatrist, okay? Let’s go.” I took three steps up the pathway, but he didn’t follow.

“You’ll leave me here?” His eyes were nearly black as he stared at me. His trench coat billowed around his ankles and the wind brushed the hair back from his face. For a moment he looked otherworldly and not quite real, but of course that was bullshit.  I was tired, my boss had been a pig all week long and all I wanted was to go home.  I didn’t need this crap.

“Yes,” I said.

“I wish you wouldn’t. I really want to go home.”

“Don’t we all,” I muttered. “Come on, Andy.”

“Andy?” He quirked an eyebrow.

“You’re Andoruvian, right? And I can’t pronounce your real name, so Andy it is.”  It was a mistake to name him. Now he meant something.  He wasn’t just that crazy guy who needed his meds.  I’m so stupid sometimes.

“Andy,” he repeated. He followed me up the pathway into the antiseptic desolation of the emergency room waiting area.  The nurse behind the desk looked mean and tired.

“This is a mistake,” he told me, his breath a gentle warning in my ear as I approached the desk.

“What’s the problem?” The nurse barked.  God, why did people have to be so frigging awful?  Always with the goddamn attitudes.  Couldn’t anyone be nice just for the hell of it?

“I think this guy got out of the psych ward somehow.  Anyway, he needs help,” I said.  The nurse screwed up her face and gave me a death glare.  What the hell had I done?

“Lady, either you’re drunk or you need the psych ward.  You got ten seconds to disappear or I’ll call the orderlies. Your choice.”

“Wait a minute?  What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I tried not to shout, but goddamn, people were so rude.

“She can’t see me,” Andy said.

“What?” I swung around to confront him and his expression was so sad and patient it tore at my heart.  “What are you talking about?”

“I told you. You’re the only one who can help me because you’re the only one who can see me.”

“Oh, God.”  I staggered to one of the puke green waiting room chairs and sank into it.  The bitch nurse’s phone rang and she answered it, thankfully sidetracked for the moment. I had to get out of the hospital before I was strapped down in the rubber room, but I couldn’t make my stupid legs support me. 

Was I crazy?  Was I the one? 

Andy took the snot yellow chair beside me. “Will you help me?”

“How?” His face blurred because of the tears in my eyes.  I was losing it. I was losing my shit.  Maybe I’d already lost it. Goddamn.

“I don’t know. I’ve told you that before. You really need to sharpen your listening skills. I don’t think I should have to repeat myself more than once.”

“Fuck you. You’re not even real and you tell me you don’t want to repeat yourself?  You shut the hell up.” 

The nurse banged the phone down and lumbered to her feet, gesturing to two tall, brutish looking orderlies and I bolted for the exit.  I’d figure this shit out myself.  If I ended up in a psych ward, my boss would kill me.  Fire my ass.  I needed my job.  It was all I had between me and the street.  I didn’t want to be a homeless person digging food out of the garbage and washing myself in public restroom sinks for the rest of my life.  I was only 40, I had years left before I died.

Andy dogged my footsteps.  Three blocks later when I was sure no one from the hospital was after me, I clenched my fists and snarled, “Stop following me. I’m not insane. If no one else can see you, you aren’t really there.”

“Well, that’s actually not true because I am. Simply because you are the only one who can see me, doesn’t invalidate the fact I’m here.”

“On what planet?”  I squeezed my eyes shut. “Oh, yeah, right. On Andoruvia.”

“Andoruvi,” he corrected.

“Shut up!” I yelled.  “I don’t care if it’s Andoruvia or Andoruvi.  The point is, it doesn’t exist and neither do you. I want to go home. I want to go home and watch Supernatural. I’m gonna pour the wine down the sink and take four Advil and pretend this shit never happened.”

I glanced at my watch. The 6:03 was due in ten minutes.  I could wait ten minutes. Sure.

“I can see this is going to take a while,” Andy remarked grimly. He sat next to me on the bus stop bench.

When the 6:03 arrived, I made Andy go to the inside seat.  Just before the bus door pulled closed, I made a mad dash and jumped out onto the sidewalk.  The door shut in Andy’s face and I saw him press his hands to the clear panes in the door panel.  Shock and fear made his eyes wide.

I turned and ran as fast as my heels would allow me.  The bus driver couldn't see Andy, so he wouldn't open the doors. He'd have to wait until the next stop to get off.  I’d have at least a block’s head start. I knew the city. Andy didn’t.  If I could ditch the bastard, I would be okay.  I wouldn’t be insane, I’d just be a lonely woman on a Friday night again.

I ran until the stitch in my side forced me to stop.  Sweat trickled down my face as I leaned against a building and caught my breath.  No sign of Andy. 

As I walked in search of another bus stop, I was surprised to feel a pang of regret. When a person outran her fears and outfoxed her problems, shouldn’t she feel victorious?

But what if his story was true?  I’d ditched a man who had no clue and who was more alone than me.  At least I had friends and belonged here. He had no one. 

“Oh, hell.” I took a deep breath and began to retrace my steps.  He couldn’t be far behind me.  He’d be searching. 

But I looked for three hours until well after dark and I never found him. 

I went home and drank the wine and watched Supernatural.  I tried to push away the thought I’d been given a chance and blown it.  No.  This was just another Friday night.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Some Excerpt Fun From My Current WIP - The Circle

 I was tagged for a lucky seven blog post.  The rules are:

1.) Go to page 77 of your latest transcript
2.) Go to line 7
3.) Copy down the next 7 lines
4.) Tag 7 other authors (done through Facebook) - Here's the part where I don't know 7 other authors with manuscripts in progress, but I know 2 and I will tag them!

“What did I do?” He whispered.  He knelt on the grass, his face paper pale with confusion and hurt.

“I can’t.  I’ve got to go. I’ll see you Thursday,” I promised recklessly and when I ran, he didn’t follow. He knew me better than to do that.

I stayed far away from the Goats and Compasses on Thursday.  The following Monday I stayed in bed with wine and my Kindle until Parker got home and we spent the rest of the night thrashing out our frustrations between very bloody sheets. 

That Thursday I had to hunt, I was starving. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scratch the Surface - Excerpt for Friday

On Monday, my second novel, Scratch the Surface, is being released by Lyrical Press.  Instead of a Friday Flash, I thought I would post an excerpt.   When I first saw the cover art, I wasn't sure about Stanzie, the main character, being in her underwear in the middle of a snowy New England field, but then I remembered this scene...

Run, run, run and run more. Friend chases me. I run faster! I want words but I want to
run too! Friend chases me. Friend tries to catch me! Me run, fast, fast, fast! White stuff flies up in the air. Paws cold! Cold paws, but me warm. Me...I...I happy! I run! I run fast!
* * * *
Jesus, it was cold. I came back to myself in human form, naked and colder than midnight
in February.

Murphy was close by and swearing in Irish. Luckily, our clothes were in neatly folded
piles right where we’d left them. The first thing Murphy’s wolf had taught mine was to
remember where we left our clothes and to return there before shifting back. 
It was a simple, obvious thing, but it was something my wolf was notoriously awful at remembering.

But she had remembered this time. Here was the clearing where we’d shifted near the lot
where we’d left the car. It was so cold no Others were around. The parking lot was empty save for the Prelude. One good thing about shifting in the daytime in winter, when it was this cold--the Others stayed away.

Grey, Elena and I had loved this small state park in Manchester and used it far more often
than we’d gone to the Devil’s Hopyard. That was more for the whole pack, not our triad.
Today seemed a day to go back to old haunts, and I was handling it relatively well. I
knew it was because Murphy was with me but I was still proud of myself.

“Jaysus, goddamn, sonofabitch!” Murphy switched to English and half-ran, half-hopped
to his clothes and began with his jeans. 

I swore too and stood on my coat so I could put on my socks. My nipples were so hard they hurt and my teeth chattered so loudly I could barely hear Murphy’s steady stream of inventive cursing.

I did hear the crow. It sat in the top of a maple tree about ten yards away from us and it
gave a sudden squawk that was just ahead of the shot.

It was enough of a heads up for Murphy. I was slower than he was, trying to fasten my
bra. I was struggling with the damn straps when the crow cried out its warning.

The next thing I knew I was flat on the ground, snow crushing up into my mouth and
nose as Murphy crawled on top of me and held me down, trying to cover every inch of me with his body.

There were more shots then, enough so I realized what was happening and started to

Snow choked me and I bucked and struggled beneath Murphy, trying to get free so I could run but he held me down until he yelled, “Now!” He half dragged me to my feet and we ran like hell for the cover of the maple tree and the trees beyond that one. It was only thirty yards, maybe less, but it seemed a million miles to safety.

A bullet zinged by my head, so close I felt the heat. It buzzed in my ear like a wasp and I
screamed and ducked, losing my balance. Murphy had my hand and if not for him I would have gone down, but he held me up and dragged me into the woods.

“Run, just run, keep running,” he urged. In human form he could outrun me, but he didn’t
leave me. He kept behind me, trying to shield me from the bullets in case the person with the gun chased us.

But there were no more bullets once we reached the sanctuary of the woods.

We ran until we couldn’t breathe and eventually had to stop, bending double to catch our
breath, wheezing, coughing and choking. I was coated with a cold sweat and so scared my brain felt like it was bouncing around inside my skull as if it had been shot out of a pinball machine.

 Murphy fell to his knees, gasping, and that’s when I smelled blood. His.       

“Oh, fuck.” I turned to him in horror. Bright scarlet drops of blood stained the forest floor
and the clumps of snow that had dropped through the canopy of bare black branches.

“I’m all right,” he told me, holding himself as he bent double, trying to breathe.

“Where did you get shot? How bad is it?” I crawled across the ground to get to him.        

“Stanzie, it just a graze. My arm.” He held his right arm out to show me.

A thin, bloody slash zigzagged down his forearm. He was right. It was just a flesh wound.
It was bleeding like a bitch though and I grabbed his hands with mine. Our fingers clutched as we stared at each other.

His brown eyes were glazed with both pain and fear, and I could barely see past the tears
in mine. This was my fault. I had planted a seed and it had borne poison fruit.

“We have to get out of here,” Murphy told me in a quiet, calm tone even though his chest
heaved and his eyes were wild. “Okay, Stanzie? We need to get to the car and get the hell out of here.”

“The car?” I moaned. “What if whoever has the gun is waiting in the parking lot?”

“I don’t have my coat and neither do you. It’s nearly sunset and it’s going to go below
freezing.” His gaze took in my shivering form. I only had on underwear and a pair of wet socks.

“We can’t stay out here.”       

“Jesus Christ, let me think. Let me think. I know this place, Murphy. If you let me think I
can maybe figure a way out that doesn’t mean the parking lot. There are houses nearby. We can go to one and call Allerton. We can’t go to the parking lot, can’t you understand that?”

“Calm down, Stanz,” he said gently, squeezing my hands with his. We were both
kneeling in a combination of pine needles, mud and snow. My kneecaps were frozen and he was still bleeding.

We were so absorbed with each other and with fear that we didn’t hear the person
approaching us from behind until he was nearly upon us and then it was too late to run.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Flash - The Lights Are So Bright Tonight

God, the city’s bright tonight. It’s lit up like an alien space port. All golden and gleaming.  The stars are blotted out and from where I stand I can see the city’s gridlines. Everything makes perfect sense from this perspective.

I wish my life made half as much. But it’s like everything else, the closer and deeper you are, the less you actually see.

Take today for example. It started out an ordinary day. I got up and got dressed in my black pinstripe power suit – the one my ex-girlfriend, Renee, picked out for me back when she thought I was something special.  I ate breakfast – some godawful organic cereal that my current girlfriend, Stacy, makes me eat because she does the grocery shopping and that’s her passive aggressive method of getting me healthy.

I’m not fat and I’m not sick. I work out on the treadmill 40 minutes a day at the gym, but she shrieks in horror at the idea of eating cereal that tastes like something.

She says she loves me, but this I doubt. I don’t really believe in love. I believe in proximity and convenience.  It also probably helps that I make two hundred thousand dollars a year.  When she’s not buying me crappy cereal, she’s buying herself designer shoes and purses.  How many pairs of shoes does one woman need?  And is it really necessary to coordinate every outfit with a different purse? 

I’m not a woman so I wouldn’t know the answers to these questions.  At least that’s what Stacy always tells me with one of her patented exasperated looks.

It’s probably time for me to break things off with her, but it’s just so damn convenient to have someone at home who makes dinner occasionally and talks to me when she’s not watching America’s Top Model or America’s Idol or America’s Whateverthefuck.  The sex isn’t bad either. At least it’s semi-regular. 

But I often wonder if there’s more to life than spending two grand on a suit, working sixty hours a week and vacationing in Aruba.  More than semi-regular sex and eating organic cereal because I’m too damn lazy to shop for myself.

I haven’t been up here in years. I’d forgotten how the city looks from this angle.  When I was in high school and college, I’d come up here almost every weekend. It made me feel magical, limitless.  I was the city in all its lit-up grand glory. Anything was possible.

But every year brought new decisions that narrowed my horizons.  Instead of fantasizing about college, I had to choose which one.  Then I had to pick a major.  Next I had to keep my GPA up so I could retain my scholarship, even if it meant dropping some of my hobbies. It was just art. So what if drawing made my life semi-bearable? I just had to get through the four years and I was golden. Then I could draw again.

Only after graduation came law school and then I had to intern my summers. I had no time for drawing. I haven’t picked up a drawing pencil in years.
After law school, came passing the bar. I did it on the first try, but then I had to compete with hundreds of other lawyers for the best job. 

Along the way I found girlfriends and lost them. I nearly got married to Elaine but she backed out of the engagement two days before the wedding and ran off with an artist.  Some asshole who painted for a living.  

All my friends told me she was an idiot because she’d be supporting him, and working two jobs to do it, while he surfed internet porn and pretended to paint. But I’ve seen her twice since she left me and each time she’s looked happier than ever.  The second time I saw her, she’d been pregnant and glowing.  Jesus, the baby would be two or maybe even three years old by now. Time fucking flies.

Everyone says I should settle down and marry Stacy, start a family, but all I can think is that someday I might have a son who comes up here to look at the city and thinks he’s the master of the universe only to discover, like his old man, he’s just a cog in the machine. Insignificant. Pointless.

Just like when you get into the streets of the city you can see all the dirt and grime and poverty and graffiti that you just can’t see when you look at it from above.  Everything that looks so beautiful and majestic is, in reality, ugly and filthy.  Meaningless.

I don’t know what it was today that made me decide to come up here tonight. The back-to-back meetings with the clients from hell was nothing out of the ordinary.  Neither was skipping lunch in favor of shoveling a sandwich down my throat with one hand while I recorded billable hours with my other.

Even coming home to find Stacy in bed with her tennis instructor wasn’t really that shocking.  Hell, he’s ten years younger than me and handsome.  I’m almost forty, for Christ’s sake. I have the kind of looks that peak around senior year in high school and just go downhill after that.  I’m nothing special.

Stacy’s called me twelve times in the past hour. I keep letting her calls go to voice mail.  She either wants to tell she’s leaving me for Mr. Tight Racket or she wants to beg for forgiveness.  Either way it doesn’t much matter to me.  I actually hope she does leave me for him.  At least she’ll have somebody.  

The new paralegal, Kendra, has been hinting she’d like to go out with me. She’s pretty cute. Younger than Stacy by about five years, not that that means anything, but she’d be easier to deal with without all the baggage of prior relationships.  She can’t have had that many, so maybe she’s not that fucked up yet.  I could be the guy who screws her up for other men.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that.  Just ask Renee.

I guess if I could have anything in the world right now, it would be to go back twenty years, to the night I first discovered this place and not discover it.

It’s not fair to look out at limitless potential and end up with crap.  Dreams should not turn to shit the way mine have. 

But time won’t turn back for me.  It only goes forward.  Just like I would if I took one step.  I’d go over the edge, of course, and fall two hundred feet, but that option’s looking mighty good to me right now.

I’d ruin the suit, but it’s used anyway.

I don’t know what the hell I thought I’d see if I came up here tonight. The view is the same, but I’m different. I’m broken. I’m not the city anymore, if I ever was.

Why shouldn’t I take the step? What do I have if I don’t?  Taking the new paralegal to dinner, having her look at me like I’m something special right up until the time she moves in and starts telling me what to eat, what to wear, where to go on vacation? 

It’s all going to be the same thing and I don’t want to repeat the cycle.  How do I break out if I don’t step forward?

Maybe I could cut back my hours at work. Why do I need to make partner before forty anyway? Who really cares? Maybe I could take a couple art classes, start drawing again. Have something I do for me that doesn’t break my soul in half.  Something just because I like it.

So what’s it going to be?  One step forward into oblivion or reaching out for a drawing pencil?

God, the city’s bright tonight.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

About Face - #5 in The Wolf Within Series has a contract!

I just signed the contract for Lyrical Press to publish the fifth novel  in The Wolf Within series. It's called About Face and is set (mostly) in Dublin, Ireland and focuses on the conspiracy introduced in the first novel, Beneath the Skin.

Stanzie has to decide who is lying and who is telling the truth in this novel.  Everything she thought she knew about the conspiracy is turned upside down, 

I can't wait for you guys to read it - but you've got three books to read first:

Scratch the Surface - Release date March, 19th, 2012
Hidden in Plain Sight - Release date July 9, 2012
Inside Out - Release Date Autumn 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Book of the Month

It's time to vote for Long and Short Reviews Book of the Month!   And Beneath the Skin is the first title listed on the poll so it will be incredibly easy to vote for me!

Here's the link;

I'm in distant second place!  This is so exciting!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Flash - Some Things Are Better Left Buried

Congratulations to Joe and Dee, winners of copies of my e-book, Beneath the Skin. Guys, email me at with the addy you'd like me to send the zip file!  Thank you so much for entering the contest!  :)

Here's my Friday Flash for this week!

Some Things Are Better Left Buried

The sexy French scientist had the idea in the first place. Paleobotonists are not normally evil characters, but if Martine hadn’t wanted to try to grow the damn seeds in the lab, I wouldn’t have ended up hunched in this closet wishing to hell I’d never joined this project.  

Our expedition had been to discover buried secrets in the Russian permafrost, not try to grow them in the goddamn lab, but when we’d found the seeds, Martine had been confident she could get them to sprout.

“Clonal micropropagation has advanced significantly in the past decade, Tabitha. I am certain it can be done.”
I don’t know why she’d picked me to argue with. Perhaps my skeptical expression, but I had been just a little sick and tired of Dr. Martine Robichaux with her blond hair and perky – personality.  She wasn’t even very pretty, but the men all but fell over themselves to stand next to her or bring her extra food. 

Normally, this wouldn’t have bothered me since geeky scientists aren’t my type – especially since I’m a geeky girl scientist. My taste ranged to guys who worked with their hands, not their brains, and never wore lab coats to dinner.

It had bothered me a lot on this project because, for once,  two out of the three guy scientists were more hunky than geeky. Especially Dr. Drew Smithton.  He looked like he could model shirtless for one of those paranormal romances that featured werewolves or dragons. Yeah, Drew could be my hunky dragon for sure.

Martine had only to bat those French eyelashes for him to be instantly at her side.  The same for the slightly less handsome German scientist, Max Dortmeier. It even worked on the geeky scientist, Tim Patterson, who, until this project, had probably never even noticed women.

To all three of them, I’d been invisible or so it had seemed. I’m not exactly hamburger even if I’m on the short side. So, I’m a bit more plump than curvy and my hair tended to frizz in humidity, but we were in Siberia for God’s sake. My hair actually had done amazing things. Not that anybody’d noticed with Martine around.
So when she’d singled me out to argue with, I’d been pissed. 

“Oh, go ahead and grow the stupid seeds, Martine.  Clonal micropropagation only goes so far. This lab isn’t really equipped, but it might work.”  Famous last words.

That had been three months ago. 

The truly ironic part of this story was that we only had two weeks left on the project and then we all would have gone home. Me to my apartment in New Britain, Connecticut. Martine would have jetted off to Paris, of course. Drew would have headed back to Philadelphia, Max to Munich and Tim to – wherever he’d lurked and brooded when he wasn’t on a project.  His mother’s basement probably.

Thanks to some 30,000 year old squirrel’s cache of seeds, and Martine’s inner clonal warrior,  none of us would ever go home again.  Except maybe in pieces.

Max was lying in approximately twelve bloody chunks strewn around the lab floor.  His surprised expression had been almost comical when Martine had bitten off his nose and spat it on the lab floor. 

When she’d ripped out his eyeballs with her fingernails, that was about the time my terrified paralysis had broken and I’d run for the exit. 

Only stupid Tim had blocked it. He’d been screaming almost as loudly as poor Max. 

“Will you shut up!” Drew had snarled. I’d thought that was particularly unfeeling considering the fact that Tim’s most horrific experience up until that moment had been the untimely cancellation of Firefly.

Drew’s eyes had had the most peculiar red sheen to them. For a split second I’d fantasized he would sprout wings and a massive tail and become a dragon so he could fly me out of danger in his powerful, yet gentle, claws, but no dice.

Instead he’d stalked over to poor Tim and gutted him with a piece of broken beaker – the one Martine had winged at his face twenty seconds before she’d bitten off Max’s nose.

The splat of Tim’s intestines as they’d smacked onto the lab floor had been disgusting.  And the stench had been phenomenally revolting. I’d clapped a hand over my mouth in shock as Tim slid to the ground, his mouth gaping like a fish’s.

“Tah—hab—hitha.” He’d choked out my name and reached a bloody hand in my direction as if I could have helped him.  His guts were strewn around like pink ropes and he’d thought I could do something about it?

All he’d accomplished was to remind Drew of my existence.  He’d turned red-rimmed eyes in my direction.

“Oh, you asshole,” I’d muttered.  Then I’d bolted.

Luckily for me, Drew had slipped in Tim’s blood and intestines and had fallen on his butt.  Of course, it had made him angrier than he already had been, but by the time he’d scrambled to his feet Martine had finished rampaging over Max’s poor corpse and Drew had made so much goddamn noise roaring, she’d gone after him, not me.

While they’d been busy staging the Geek Scientist Fight of the Century, I’d managed to haul ass into the storage closet where I’d hunkered down and waited to see who won.

It was too much to suppose they’d rip each other to pieces. No, one of them would win the fight and then stomp around in a victory dance which would culminate in the discovery of one, scared, sarcastic girl scientist shivering in the closet with only a pen and a tissue for weapons. 

How had it come to this?

No one had known what would grow from the prehistoric seeds. We’d had ideas, of course, because the cellular composition told us they were of the species Sirene Splendophylla but we were not prepared for what it would look like. 

“Ugh. That is one fugly plant.” I’d declared. The damn thing had blossomed overnight. Thursday it had been a pale green stalk and Friday morning it had bloomed into something tragically gross. 

The flower was a putrid shade of purple with liverish brown spots. They’d combined to look almost sentient, like an old, evil witch.

Drew had suggested we call it Martine Splendophylla and for once Martine hadn’t simpered and batted those goddamn French lashes.  She’d looked offended.

“Crone Flower,” I’d said and the name had stuck.  You know, for the thirty minutes we’d had until utter chaos had descended and ruined our lives. 

Although the Crone Flower was ugly as sin, its scent was irresistible. Or so they’d told me.  I’d had a damn cold for what seemed like forever and was so stuffed up I couldn’t smell a thing. 

“Like cotton candy laced with coffee,” Drew had mused, a strange expression of ecstasy all over his handsome face.

“More like roses and summer wind,” Martine had said with a sigh of rapture.  

“Gluwein and Christmas snow,” Max had decided.

“Pizza and bubblewrap.” Tim’s smile had been wistful.

“Gross,” I’d muttered. I’d been the only one working.  The other four had drifted around the lab, transported by the delicious smell of the fugly flower.  Irritating as hell.

“Blow your nose, you might smell it better. And you might stop that annoying sniffing,” Martine had suggested.  I’d curled my lip and continued to stare into the microscope. I’d sniffed too. Loudly.

Bent over my work as I’d been, I’m not sure who had approached the Crone Flower first, but I’d heard Martine’s nearly orgasmic moan and looked up to see her with her face stuffed into the Crone Flower’s petals. 

Nearby, Drew had looked out the window at the frozen tundra and for some reason a prickle of unease had marched down my spine. 

When Martine had looked up, her eyes had had a suspicious red sheen I’d thought at first was a trick of the Siberian sunlight.

“This plant is mine. No one shall smell it but me!” She’d shouted and Drew had swung around from the window just in time to knock aside the beaker she’d winged at his head.

Max, the peacekeeper, had tried to intervene.

“Now, now, Martine, whatever is the matter cannot be solved by throwing things, yes?” He’d smiled right up until the second she’d bitten off his nose. 

Thirty seconds ago, someone had let out a gurgled scream as if they’d been choking on their own blood.  Which, of course, was entirely possible.  I couldn’t tell if it was male or female, but after the shriek petered out, there’d been silence. 

Then, movement near the hall door.   The rattle of the doorknob.

I’d thought, Maybe, just maybe, I might get out of this alive.

That’s when I sneezed.