Category: Kingdom Come


Bumpers

man-falling-down-mdShe’s gonna blow…”

“No…no no nonono…” Emmet chanted, his eyes on the same tourist they both all watching.

“She’s about to…. oh, there she goes,” Raven said, unnecessarily booting Emmet in the rump. It was his turn.

Emmet launched himself through the crowd, vacuum in hand, followed closely by a herd of cleaning bots, maneuvering expertly in the microgravity.

“Allow me to assist you,” he said to the green-faced woman.

“Mmm…” was all she could mumble, looking like she might throw up again.

He set the vacuum to its task and placed one arm around the woman’s back while placing a barf bag near her face, activating the oxy flow. “Place this over your mouth. It will help you breathe, and contain any more regurgitation.”

Fortunately, she did as she was told. Some people resisted, insisting they were fine and then proceeding to make an even bigger mess.

A couple of rubberneckers almost missed the turn, but Raven launched out and politely nudged them back into position. The flow of tourists and commuters continued to move through the space, being gently pushed along by the bumpers. Emmet carefully maneuvered the woman out of the flow and over to the aid station. “Just put your legs through here…” he said, guiding her to the rails. “It’s just like you’re sitting down…there…”

Once she was settled, Emmet turned back to see if the bots had finished what they needed to do. The vacuum had returned to its station, emptying and cleaning itself. Raven was spraying the mist that would trap any remaining bits as they floated to the filter intake.

Just beyond Raven, there was a disturbance in the pedestrian flow. A largish man was trying to get back through the crowd, pushing people out of the way as he bounced along the corridor.

“Sir!” Emmet called out to him. “Please go with the traffic. There is a U-turn about twenty meters ahead if you need to come back this way.”

The man looked angry, and he was focused on Emmet. “You!” he yelled, followed by something unintelligible.

Emmet looked left and right, but the man was definitely focused on him.

“Sir, you must move with the flow of traffic,” Raven called out, helping the people who had been pushed away from the bumpers back into the flow. It would be disastrous if they ended up with a jam. A large ship had just docked, and people needed to get from one place to another.

Emmet punched his security call button, and the bumpers automatically slowed to half speed. A confused murmur echoed through the crowd as they adjusted to the slower movement. “Sir? Sir!” Emmet dodged as the man launched himself directly at him. The man yelled something in a language Emmet didn’t understand, but it was obvious he was outraged at something Emmet had done.

“Security! Help!” Emmet called, abandoning protocol in an effort to escape. He watched in horror as the man put his hands on the sick woman, attempting to pull her away from the aid station.

Rubberneckers were causing a pileup as more people missed the turnoff, floating away from the bumpers. Raven, who would usually have swept in and nudged them along, turned turbo and launched herself at the angry man. She latched onto his back, then sprayed a mist directly at his face. “Here, sir,” she said, her voice dripping with sarcastic triumph. “This will help you breathe.”

The bumpers stopped, and a soothing computer voice instructed everyone to remain calm in several languages. The angry man slumped, not quite unconscious, but no longer struggling or fighting.

A security detail zipped in on turbo, and Raven handed the groggy offender off to them.

The sick woman called out something in a language Emmet didn’t understand, struggling to extricate her legs from the rails at the aid station. She floated out and Emmet extended a hand to her. She pulled herself to him, then pushed away, directly toward the security detail.

“Husband!” she said, gently grabbing the man in custody. “Idiot,” she said apologetically.

The security detail nodded, and carried her along with them as they removed him from the area and the bumpers started up again.

Emmet let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. Raven came over and slapped his back, sending him spinning.

“You should get hazard pay for that one!” she joked.

“That’ll be the day,” Emmet mumbled, righting himself so he could look down the corridor at the oncoming traffic. A small boy, being held tightly by his mother, was holding his hands over his mouth. “Just promise me you’ll get the next one.”

I fell off the writing wagon a few weeks ago and needed to shake things up a bit to get back in the swing. This is just a random, off the cuff story. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Rozloučení

Schar Dress LunaScharona wasn’t sure what to wear. In the end she chose a soft, somber dress. It let her show a lot of cleavage and hid some of the extra curvature she’d accumulated since moving into government housing. Besides, it had been sitting in her closet for six months with the tags still on it. She’d explained to her mother she didn’t really need dresses, she just needed navy blue pants to go with her work shirts. The rest of her life could be spent in sweats or pajamas. But Mama’nica insisted. Her daughter was going to have a few nice things, even if she was embarrassingly poor.

Scharona had never had a rozloučení. Then again, she’d never had a relationship that warranted a parting ceremony. The closest she’d come was when she ditched final exams to spend the weekend with Kevin, stupidly thinking he was going to propose. He was…to someone else. Or rather, they proposed to him shortly thereafter. But Kevin hadn’t called that last weekend together a rozloučení. The ceremony was only for people who were in a real relationship. Whatever they had didn’t count.

Scharona didn’t think the relationship she had with the other rozloučení guests counted either. She was definitely part of the group…or rather, the two groups. She was somewhere in the middle. The purpose of the rozloučení was for the two groups to separate amicably, letting each other know that they were still cherished, but that they had chosen to go this way or that way.

Scharona had no idea whether she was going ‘this’ way or ‘that’ way. She didn’t particularly care, either. Since discovering that she’d never actually had a relationship with Kevin, she’d been trying to get on with her life, both professionally (since she’d screwed up college after ditching her final exams then spending a semester wallowing in self pity) and personally.

Technically speaking, ‘this’ way was with Dade, and ‘that’ way was with Lorenzo. Scharona had never actually been on a date with Lorenzo…unless she counted the times they all sat around the Step-Up house’s common room and watched old movies. She’d been on a couple of group dates that included Dade, but mostly because Jamie brought her along.

Scharona had been fastidious about preparing for the ceremony. Some of her friends had been talking about the possibility of making love one last time before they parted. Of course, that wasn’t unusual for a rozloučení, especially for one where a large group was splitting into two smaller groups. But Scharona hadn’t had sex with any of them. She hadn’t had sex at all since Kevin left her. Or, rather, since Kevin decided to no longer occasionally give her a booty call, because he was getting serious with another group, and there was no place for her there.

There was a certain irony that a rozloučení might mean her first sexual encounter with her boyfriends and girlfriends, not her last. Hopefully, no one would mention it. She was a considerate lover. She had a lot to offer. This rozloučení was going to be the start of something wonderful, she just knew it. Which kind of wonderful, she wasn’t sure. But it would be wonderful either way.

Scharona took the transit to the Companion House they’d booked for the rozloučení. She was greeted by a professional hostess who kindly kept her company for a half hour since she was the first to arrive. The others trickled in, each greeting her and the others with a kiss and embrace. Seleste was crying already. Scharona wasn’t sure which way she was choosing. They rozloučení had been planned a month ago. That gave everyone time to think and talk about which way they wanted to go, and deliberate “if so-and-so is going ‘that’ way, so am I” or “whichever way he goes, I’ll go the other.”

When they were all present, the hostess gave a lovely speech about parting ways and appreciating the love that was shared along one’s journey. Seleste wasn’t the only one crying. A duo of guitarists began to play, and the hostess handed out a dozen or so delicate floral strands to each of them. “As you say your parting words, give your cariad a strand as a token of your continued respect and deep regard,” the hostess explained. Scharona took hers and tried not to make eye contact with anyone. She didn’t really want to leave any of them.

They all stood, and the mingling began. Scharona wiped away a tear, seeing how emotional some of them were getting. Three of them broke off from the group and went over to an alcove. Soon they were cooing and kissing and, Scharona expected, much more.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned. Damian smiled at her and placed a strand of delicate purple blooms around her neck. “Scharona, you are a sweet and loving person. I will miss you, and I hope that when we do see each other, you will greet me as a friend.”

“Thank you Damian,” she said, hugging him. “Of course I will always think of you as a friend.” She placed a strand around his neck and kissed him goodbye.

So it was decided. Her first goodbye. She was fond of Damian, but didn’t feel any particular connection to him. It would be easy to stay friends. The problem was, she didn’t know whether he was going ‘this’ way or ‘that’ way.

She mingled through the room. Everyone else seemed to be hugging or talking. Another couple had retreated to an alcove, leaving no doubt as to what manner of goodbye they were enjoying. Scharona watched for just a minute. She’d seen other people make love before; the bonfire tradition the counselors had at camp was to divide up for some amorous recreation for the night. But this was more intimate, and more meaningful. This was two lovers saying goodbye for the last time.

Scharona looked up to see Eloisa approaching her, her eyes red with tears. She was already holding up a strand of flowers. They each said a few words, exchanged strands, and kissed each other goodbye.

Eloisa went to Lorenzo, clinging to him but not saying goodbye. That didn’t surprise Sharona. She’d been pretty sure Eloisa would stay with Lorenzo.

That put her into Dade’s group. Scharona brightened, and took a deep breath. She liked Dade. He was the kind of guy who was sweet to everyone. He was also the choice of Jamie, who was the one person Scharona was closest to in the group.

Jamie, who was currently flat on her back with her legs in the air.

Scharona knew that most of the others had been lovers, but she didn’t realize just…to what extent that relationship went. She’d thought that there had been a few random pairings and trios etcetera, but not the close, intimate, extended entanglement it seemed to be.

Scharona exchanged a few more strands and said her goodbyes, then counted the flowers around her neck. She had eight…and there were fifteen people in the room, including her. She wondered if someone in Dade’s group had given her a strand by mistake. That would be awkward, but they could laugh about it later.

Two more friends gave her strands. She mumbled something appropriate with each, then surreptitiously removed a few strands from her neck and returned them to her hand. Maybe no one would notice, but it seemed somehow wrong that she have ten strands when there were only fourteen other people to give them to her.

Scharona was glad that so many others were crying. Tears were welling up in her eyes as she realized what was happening. Unless the groups were splitting into three…not just two.

Hopefully, she cast her eyes around the room. Only a few people were still exchanging strands. One entanglement that looked like four people was buried in a pile of cushions in an alcove.

She felt a hand on her back and turned. Dade and Osima. They each placed a strand around her neck and embraced her together. Tears streaked her makeup down her face, and Osima handed her a box of tissues, helping her to clean her cheeks. Osima had a sweet, melancholy smile, but there was nothing in her expression that showed she held any particular affection for Scharona. Osima was just being kind.

Scharona glanced around nervously. A few people were already gathering coats, and there seemed to be two distinct groups forming in the room. She was part of neither, and there were only two strands left.

Lorenzo embraced her, hugging her hard and long. “You, Scharona, I think I will miss most of all!” The sincerity in his voice was insulting, but the others looked on, some of them embracing her again and saying goodbye.

Jamie hadn’t even bothered to put her clothes back on after her sexual performance. She wore her flowers naked, like a fairy queen. “We’ll still have ice cream together on trivia nights!” she said, as if it was some great promise of friendship. Scharona accepted Jamie’s strand, and gave her one of her own. She wasn’t sure whether it was one of the ones she had taken off already, and she hoped no one would notice that she was wearing more strands than anyone in spite of having taken some off.

The others lingered, as if reluctant to take that final step of leaving the Companion House, admitting that some relationships were ending, even though other relationships were continuing and growing stronger.

Scharona didn’t linger. She didn’t say any more goodbyes, or even tell her friends she was leaving. She slipped out quietly, pulling her hood up over her head as she headed back to the trans, and back to her tiny, lonely room.

Logo Castle Celt Nessie 2This story is a ‘deleted scene’ from Under the Radar, the story in my Kingdom Come series that I recently took off the shelf to re-write. I call it a ‘deleted scene’ even though I just wrote it tonight and never had any intention of putting it in the story. It takes place…but it’s not important to the overall plot. The only character from this entire story who is mentioned at all in the actual novel is Scharona, the main character. In the novel, I mention the fact that Scharona once had a rozloučení with a group of cariads (boyfriends/girlfriends/people who’ve been dating) and everyone but her ended up in a loving relationship.

The Kingdom Come series takes place on a world where committed polyamory is the social norm. A traditional marriage consists of several men and several women. I came up with the idea of a rozloučení as a mature way for people to part kindly with one or more romantic partners, whether or not they’re sexually intimate. Dating on Kingdom Come is usually a group outing, and when the group becomes large and complicated, they usually break up into smaller, more defined groups. To come up with the right word, I put the word “parting” into google translate, and started clicking languages. Czech turned out to have the word I liked best. ‘Rose LOW chen ee’ is the best I can do to sound it out.

I’d love to hear people psychoanalyze Scharona based on this one scene. This very much symbolizes who she is (at least in the beginning of the story.) She is someone who always ‘flies under the radar’ and hopes that she won’t be noticed. She believes if she is just nice to everybody and always acts conservatively and quietly, everything will work out right.

 

imagesPolly had expected to be jealous of the new young wife. At her own wedding twelve years ago, she had known that the group of five spouses wasn’t quite complete yet. When Jacen and Murit joined the marriage five years later, bringing the total number of spouses to seven, there was still a hovering sense that one more spouse would bring them to a perfect eight, just like the nobility.

Polly’s parents had been a perfect eight. They had known each other for several years before having a rozloučení in which the eight of them said a fond farewell to any other romantic entanglements they had. Soon after, they were engaged, and a year later they had one huge wedding.

Polly’s own marriage was a little different. She and Aaron had been a couple since they were teenagers, but they decided they would postpone marriage until they found a few more spouses. When they did, they had a nice normal wedding and began their happy lives.

The five of them all felt that they wanted a larger family, especially after the first couple of kids came along. When they met Jacen and Murit, it seemed meant to be. Polly didn’t remember any particular conflict or jealousy then…

But Abigail was young. Not particularly pretty,but they all loved her. The third wedding brought their group to a perfect eight.

Polly confided to her wives that she was concerned about the sexual relationship…her own breasts were not as perky as they once were, and her stomach bore the marks of two pregnancies. She needn’t have worried. Abigail was sweet, but she was a selfish lover. Not in any extreme way…she was just…young.

Then it started. First, it was the kids. They adored her, of course. Who wouldn’t love the Mommy who rough housed with you at bedtime and gave you snacks when dinner was almost ready? Polly seemed to be the only spouse who noticed. At first, she gently reminded the family that they should calm down before bed, or refrain from eating candy before dinner.

No one joined her. It seemed to be her niche in the family; she was the announcer of rules. The enforcer.

The bad guy.

Next, it was the husbands. Polly enjoyed a glass of wine now and then, and there was usually a bottle open on the table at dinner time. But Abigail treated alcohol like a toy. Sometimes she had a little too much. Polly’s formerly responsible and subdued husbands seemed to find Abigail’s drinking entertaining, and they started drinking with her, sometimes right after lunch. Again, it was Polly who was the one to gently chide “All right, that’s enough,” or “Maybe we should save that bottle for after dinner?”

Even when no alcohol was involved, they gravitated to Abigail.

Polly prodded them to get up in the mornings.

Abigail encouraged them to stay up late at night.

Polly went to the parent-teacher conferences and made the tough decisions.

Abigail played with the kids whenever she felt like it, then walked away when she was tired.

…and then Polly’s sister delivered a beautiful set of twins several weeks earlier than planned. Polly and Murit flew out to help out and be with the family for a month. Polly talked to her spouses and kids every day, but when they asked her about some detail like whether their snowpants from last year still fit, she simply waved and smiled and told them to ask one of the parents who was still home.

When they returned home, Abigail was gone.

Vanilla Pudding

Image Fishnet Stockings courtesy of Sebastian Dooris (via Flickr Creative Commons) This image was the story prompt for Write on Edge this week.

“Ninety-Nine!” Louisa yelled as the pain in her thigh gave way to pain in her hip, spreading quickly as her muscles gave out and she crumbled to the floor. At least, she thought she yelled her safe word, but what came out of her throat was some strangled groan that held no resemblance to her own stage-trained voice.

Instantly Eric’s gentle arms were around her. He lifted her so she was leaning against him instead of slumped on the floor. His fingers fumbled with the silk scarf that bound her wrists, then he gently removed her blindfold.

“What happened? Are you all right? Did you get a cramp?”

Louisa’s mind was racing, trying to figure out why her muscles had suddenly rebelled against her. He’d been teasing her with the flogger, gently running the tails over her skin until she tingled with anticipation. She loved it when he spanked her. Eric had a way of reaching that perfect place, right where the curve of her buttocks met her thighs. And he knew his timing… he always let the sensations sink in a little before swatting her again.

But the pain she was experiencing wasn’t erotic at all. Still, she let it wash through her, experiencing it but not holding on to it, just as she’d learned to do with the pleasurable pain. Soon, it had passed, so completely that she almost wondered if she’d imagined it in the first place.

“Louisa?” Eric asked. She realized that she hadn’t actually answered him, although her body language would have let him know she was processing pain, just as she did when the flogger snapped just so.

“I’m OK now. That was strange… like a cramp or something, but it wasn’t just one muscle…” She stretched and flexed her arms, then her legs. “I don’t feel the cramp anymore… just… odd.” The odd feeling was something she couldn’t put words to. It seemed there was something wrong, somewhere, she just couldn’t tell where and she had no way of describing it other that “odd.”

“I think you should probably lie down. Just to be safe…” That was Eric. Ever protective, and ever conscious of every little twitch her body made.

“Well, I’ll lie down… but we’re not finished yet…” she stood up, using his strong shoulders and making sure her breasts swayed tantalizingly close to his face. “Maybe just a little vanilla though… no more kink.”

“Vanilla…” he jumped to his feet, returning moments later with a tub of vanilla pudding. “I like vanilla too!”

This was written in response to the Write On Edge prompt that is the picture above. Coincidentally, it instantly made me think of the main character in my story The Peanut Gallery Rebellion. In the story, Louisa is coming to terms with a debilitating illness and the strain it puts on her family. For someone who used to enjoy bondage for fun and sex, it is frustrating to find herself bound by her own body against her will.

The Peanut Gallery Rebellion is my entry in the America’s Next Author contest. We’re not only judged on the merits of our story alone, but also on popularity and marketing. I need to get as many people as possible to go to the site and click “VOTE” for me! There’s no log in required to do so, although if you want to create a log-in so you can add a review, that would be incredibly awesome and much appreciated! You can also read the story on the site, and even download if you like.

This is what the contest page will look like. Clicking the image is a link to my page on the contest site. You can vote for each author ONCE during the course of the contest, and you can vote for as many different authors as you like.

The shortlink to this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-p4

Autumn eyed the large animals with suspicion. Audriahna pulled herself up on her chubby little legs, fascinated by the creatures.

“I take it she’s never seen a norse before?” their host asked, clearing the plates from their picnic.

“This is her first time. I’ve only seen horses and norses in parades and petting zoos, never in their natural environment.”

The other children giggled, and ran off to gather flowering thistles to feed the animals. “Heh… I’m not sure if a manicured pasture counts as their “natural environment” but your daughter sure seems to like them.”

Sure enough, Audriahna was teetering on her little legs, one hand with a fistfull of her mother’s blouse and the other hand pointing at the norses as she squealed “Ooooooohsssieee!”

Autumn was not an animal lover. The horses scared her enough, but the norses, almost twice as big, were terrifying. She just could not see what so many people idolized about them. Beautiful, yes. Useful, certainly. But when the host’s children called for her to come over to the fence and pet them, she hesitated.

Audriahna was on the blanket with two little girls, playing with the flowers they’d picked. Autumn considered bringing the baby over to pet the huge creature, but decided the baby was much safer on the blanket.

The norse was surprisingly gentle. Autumn did manage to touch the soft fur on the norse’s nose, but politely refused to attempt to feed the animal.

Too late, she realized that the little girl urging a flower into her hand was the same one who had been on the blanket with Audriahna. She glanced back at the blanket, which was empty. Whirling around, she spotted her baby… her toddler… taking not-so-shaky steps, practically running to the fence where the other kids were attempting to coax the norse to eat.

“No!” she yelled and everything seemed to move in slow motion.  Audriahna fell when she reached the fence, but began to crawl under the lowest slat, right by the animal’s rear hoof. Autumn practically fell over the top slat, scrambled to her daughter and grabbed her out of the way just as the startled animal kicked.

This story was written in response to a Write on Edge prompt about local items, which in this case are the norses. It’s sort-of an excerpt from my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel, Dogs, Cats, and Allergies. I never actually tell the story in the novel, it’s just part of the backstory. I’m not sure it stands alone as a story… more like an anecdote. That time when a mother thinks her baby is safe, but suddenly the baby is much more mobile than she ever dreamed possible!

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-ox

Herb propped his feet on the coffee table without taking off his shoes because there were no wives around to nag him.

Wife, not wives.

He reached out an arm to ask his husband to hand him the extra pillow that their wives kept moving back to the fancy-chair-no-one-sits-in, but Raj wasn’t there.

One wife. One husband. How old fashioned. How Earth-like.

Allora wasn’t home, or if she was, she was being quiet somewhere. He didn’t know, and largely didn’t care.

It’s not like she’d seek out my company…

“Herb?” he turned to see Allora in the doorway. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her eyes were red and puffy.

Wait… what does that mean? I think she’s… sad. Of course she’s sad. It’s only been a few months, but… what does she want from me?

“Yes?” He sat up in his chair and twisted around to see her.

He didn’t get up.

Allora glanced around the room. What she was looking for, he had no idea.

Yes I do. She’s looking for someone who knows what’s going on in her head without her having to say it out loud. Someone who died three months ago.

“I was just wondering… were you going to bed soon?” she asked quietly.

That sounds like an easy question. It must be a trick… a trap… Allora never really says what she means. I’ve gone to bed at nine every night of our marriage. Twenty years of habit, and she doesn’t know that?

Herb glanced at the clock. “I’ll be going up in about a half hour.” He hesitated to add one last word but something in his wife’s eyes made him want to at least try to figure out what was wrong with her. “Why?”

“I was just wondering… we probably don’t need two beds anymore.”

This was written for the Write On Edge prompt to write from a man’s POV. I regularly switch back and forth from male to female as I write, but it is true that I’m more comfortable with the female POV. We only had 300 words.

The story of Allora and Herb is one I began several months ago and never finished. At 300 words, this is really is just a scene, not a story. I’d like to finish it someday. Writing about a world where group marriage is common opens up all kinds of interesting scenarios… in this case, Allora and Herb lose their “better half” in an accident, and realize that over the twenty-some years they’ve been married, the two of them have grown apart. The two spouses who died were the two that kept the union going. Now that it’s just Herb and Allora, they have to figure out how to get along when it’s just the two of them.

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-jW

777

Lucky Sevens!

A writer tagged in this game goes to page 77 of their WIP (work-in-progress), finds line number seven, and copies the next seven lines.

I’m not sure whether Alyssa or Karen tagged me… unofficially, perhaps…

Since my current WIP doesn’t have 77 pages yet, I went to look at the WIPs I have on the shelf. I was curious what they would have for page 77.

My NaNoWriMo novel (the most recently completed) is talking about thank-you notes on page 77.

Yippie skippie.

But Sharona (AKA Under the Radar) is right in the middle of a sex scene!

Twitter says “Post the sex scene!”

So, just the tiniest background: Scharona’s brother has told his former best friend Kevin “Keep your hands off my little sister.”

Scharona’s response is to dare Kevin “Fine. Don’t touch me.” And she proceeds to touch him… and more.

She started grinding slowly, searching for just the right position and movement that would help her reach that shattering peak she craved.

Kevin watched her face as she moved from teasing, to pleasure, to frustration as she couldn’t quite find the perfect balance that would take her over the edge.  She was working too hard.  “Schar…” he whispered.  “Relax… hold on to me, and just relax…”  He half sat up, and she put her hands on his shoulders.  Then he started thrusting up into her, slowly at first, but then building in tempo.

And now it’s my turn to tag seven authors… who haven’t already been tagged by someone else!

Jane Kindred @JaneKindred

Cassandra Carr @Cassandra_Car

Candice Bundy @giggilles

Kat Brauer @KatBrauer

Ashlyn MacNamara @Ashlyn_Mac

Corinne O’Flynn @CorrineOFlynn

Liz Silver @LizSilverWrites

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-gD

What Kind of Man

Male model John Quinlan, looking very businesslike. Yes, there are tattoos under there...

Rhys wound her way through the cocktail party, smiling at neighbors and searching out her spouses.

Rupert and John were talking sports with some of the other men. Scarlet and Liz were getting a little loud, an unfortunate side effect of champagne.

Giovanni had just joined Rony in a group having a quiet discussion over on the other side of the room.

But there was no sign of Lorne.

Lorne, the quiet one. The conservative’s conservative. The man who’d never made a single move without carefully planning for every possible consequence.

Except once…

Rhys found him in the den, having a rather intensely subdued conversation with their local city council representative and a couple members of the board of directors for his firm. Rhys perched on the edge of the large chair her husband was sitting in, and put her hand on his upper arm.

She felt him tense, and it made her smile. The others didn’t need to know what was under his very business-like shirt and jacket. To them, he would always be Lorne Howe, stalwart pillar of the community.

Actually upstanding pillar was a term she loved to apply to other situations as well. In of the bedroom. Upstanding… against the wall of the foyer. Stalwart only began to describe Mr. Reliable.

Someone made a comment about how grateful they were that Lorne had come through for them in a pinch. “He certainly is reliable, isn’t he?” she answered, knowing that although it was a perfectly innocent comment, he would understand the subtext.

Later, when the party died down, he cornered her in the back hall. “Reliable?” His tone was low and menacing, but a smile was beginning to creep across his stalwart lips. She backed up against the wall, but found a low table hitting her just under the plumpest part of her bottom. He pressed her back anyway, using one knee to help her onto the table, pressing himself between her legs.

She gripped his arm, right over the tattoo he’d gotten on her last birthday, the one thing he’d ever done on the spur of the moment.

The hall was deserted, though far from private. And for only the second time in his life, Mr. Reliable indulged his wife without thinking about the consequences.

This vignette was written for the Write on Edge prompt “We wanted you to explore the many facets of tattoos: why someone would get them, what the meaning was, what the tattoo says about them. Word limit 300 words.” I thought this one would be so easy, as tattoos figure prominently in many of my stories. In Synaesthesia, my serial novella, both main characters have multiple tattoos. The chapter I’m writing now (it will be posted in a few weeks) features an aha moment when they see a certain tattoo on a secondary character.

But I couldn’t think of a good, tight focus that connected to that story. I waited until Friday, and read a few other people’s posts. The idea came to me about a man who was otherwise very conservative, but had a tattoo that he preferred to keep secret from his business associates. I started and stopped and erased several times before producing the above 400 words, and that’s after cutting back. I decided to set it in the main world of my novels, Kingdom Come, in which group marriage is the norm. It gave me the flavor I wanted, of showing the wife walking through the cocktail party, with normal people doing normal things. I hope you get the feel of upper-middle class, not necessarily upper class in the story. I could have rewritten it (and condensed down to 300 words) with a contemporary setting and a pair of spouses, but I’d started and stopped so many times I decided to just leave it as is. It’s eleven at night on link-up day, and most people start visiting each other’s posts on Friday morning.

So… concrit! Yes! This post is custom made to graciously receive constructive criticism! Please chime in on that “intensely subdued” line. Also, did you find yourself trying to remember the names of all eight spouses? Or was it apparent that this story would concentrate on the interaction between just two of them?

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-aA

A Charitable Heart

I have endured a certain degree of fame for the rather humiliating story of heartbreak that led to my entering into the service of the Kingdom.

But that was neither the first, nor the worst.

Actually, they say the first is automatically the worst, do they not? That first wrenching twist that makes the heart realize that all those dreams of happily-ever-after are just that… dreams. Not real. Unrequited love is an evil unknown to a young heart who has experienced nothing but unbridled affection for all its life.

I was ten and a half. For those of you on Earth, that’s about the same age as a thirteen-year-old girl. His name was Roth, and he was exactly one day older than I.

Roth was not the handsomest or most popular boy, but I thought he was perfect. We had several classes together at school, and spent every free moment together.

…at school.

Of course, when I went home each evening, it was to the county seat, as my parents are the Counts and Contessas of Finborough. That didn’t mean I was completely sheltered… just… very sheltered. My social life consisted of events, with chaperones and schedules and a strict curfew. But when it was a school related event, Roth was there.

And then came my eleventh birthday. I was going to be allowed, for the first time, to have a separate party with the extended family, and then a smaller, more intimate party with just my friends. I wanted a small group. My addled adolescent brain thought it would be nice to have four boys and four girls; a perfect eight, exactly like an ideal marriage.

Looking back now, that was a very, very bad idea. A couple of my friends thought it was a terribly romantic gesture, and RSVP’d enthusiastically. But I found out later that others thought I was a pretentious brat, creating her own marriageable group.

I can’t say they were wrong. I did pick out friends whom I thought would make an ideal marriage of eight. I even did a little fantasizing about what it would be like when we all grew up and got married.

Roth didn’t turn down the invitation. He just avoided me. I’m not sure what happened when my parents’ scheduler contacted his parents and asked about whether or not he would attend, but my eleventh birthday turned into me and four friends (two of whom I almost did marry, but that’s the other story) having a nice fancy dinner, spending the evening talking about how horrid all the others were, and speculating about why they decided not to come.

It wasn’t long after that Roth became involved with an older boy and a couple of girls I didn’t know. It was like he was purposely removing himself from my company, making a point to create a public display of affection in his happy little foursome whenever I was near. I wish we’d had some real understanding, that he had viciously dumped me in a passionate display of anger. But all I had was a broken idea… a happily ever after that had apparently just been in my own mind.

This story was written for the Write On Edge prompt:

This week we’d like you to explore romantic heartbreak. For you fiction writers, here’s a chance to really delve into the psyche of your character. For you non-fiction folk, well, maybe it’s into your psyche you must delve. We all remember that first love, just like we all remember when our hearts broke for the first time.

Write a piece – 600 word limit – about the first heartbreak your character or you experienced.

This story isn’t related to any of my others. I often use Charity Kochsato, the Violet Duchess of Drakeshead, when I have a prompt like this.

The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1rMYd-8s