Below is the story that I wrote for the YA LGBT Books Group Valentine’s Day challenge on Goodreads. The challenge was called “Hell & Love Hearts” and the goal was to write about demons and such, and love. Enjoy!
Kris Hunter looked up at the cracked and overgrown facade of the small two-story house in front of him. He’d heard rumors of this house, this supposed portal to hell. The people of the nearest town feared it – none of them would even drive him out to the place, just utter directions and beg God for forgiveness afterward. Kris had been forced to walk the ten miles, glad that he had worn sneakers and that everything he had brought with him was in a convenient backpack.
An elderly woman opened the front door as soon as he set foot in the overgrown driveway. She hobbled out onto the dilapidated porch and down the rickety steps, stopping on the bottom one. “What can I do for you, lad?” she called, voice wavering a bit.
Kris walked closer and looked up at her. “I’d like to see if this house is really haunted,” he stated plainly.
“Cursed is more like it,” the woman replied, wrapping her tattered sweater closer around her frail body.
“I have been very interested in curses, ghosts, and demons since I was a child,” he explained. “Now that I’m on my own, I travel the country to investigate places that are supposedly haunted or cursed. Would you mind if I visited for a few days?”
She looked around the weed-infested, overgrown lawn and demanded, “Where’s your camera crew? You lot always work for television.”
Kris shook his blond head. “I don’t, ma’am. It’s just me. One day I’m going to write a book, but for now I just enjoy the experiences.”
No need to add that he was no longer welcome at home and that spending nights in haunted houses was the only high he could get out of life. There was nothing more intense, he had decided.
“Well, lad, no one who comes into this house ever leaves,” she declared, gazing back at the house behind her. “Alive, that is.”
He shrugged. “I’ve heard that about a lot of places I’ve visited.”
She smiled, and it was quite sinister for an old woman. “If you’re so set on finding out, you’re welcome to stay. You can have the attic. It’s a cozy little apartment.”
He smiled. “Thank you. I won’t stay more than two nights.”
“We’ll see about that,” she replied as she led him into the old building.
Kris assumed she was joking.
The stairs to the second floor were treacherous, and the apartment that was his was no better. The window was cracked and a threadbare couch was the only place to sleep – there was no bed, only some scraps of fabric on a metal box spring in what was clearly supposed to be a bedroom at one end of the attic. At the other end was a door that was locked. Kris decided not to offend his hostess by trying to get it open.
There was a TV in the middle of the main room, an old-fashioned thing that showed nothing but static. The only things that seemed new were the blanket and pillow on the couch. Tired from his walk, Kris lay down on the couch and let himself go to sleep early. No doubt, creaks from the ancient house shifting in the slightest of breezes would wake him later.
But it was something else that woke him a few hours later. He could sense someone watching him, and, expecting to find the woman who owned the house, he sat up.
Someone was standing directly across the room from him, and it wasn’t the old woman.
It was a man.
The full moon outside the window showed his features clearly; sharp angles of his face, thin black eyebrows, long black hair, black and red robes…
Kris was too shocked to move. Before he could rationalize what he was seeing, the strange man spoke.
“My name is Mikolai,” his voice was soft, and it added more terror to his presence. “This is my domain. Many have come before you, and likely many more will come after. You will either set me free, or you will die. Likely, you will die.”
Was someone trying to mess with him? If they were, it was one elaborate hoax that they’d have to keep up with. No, this had to be real. It was happening.
“My name is Kris,” he offered, hesitantly.
Mikolai crossed his arms and raised one perfect brow. “I see you’re a talker. Go on, then. Ask all your questions. Might as well get it all out in the open. I tire of being a mystery to everyone.”
Kris swallowed. “Okay, then. What are you?”
“There is no word in your language for what I am. I am the child of a man with a demon soul and a mortal woman. I was born in this house twenty-five years ago. I am trapped here until I am set free to be a human, or I am forced to be a full demon.”
“How can you be set free?” Kris questioned, curious. If it meant his own life, surely he could figure out a way to help that no one else had.
“The same way all curses are broken,” Mikolai answered without emotion. “A human’s true love will make me human. If I do not find love, killing all those who become trapped here will slowly bring my demonic powers to a greater strength, until I must live permanently in the demon world. But the woman who loves me will be forced to die as my son is born, and my son will become what I am now.”
So he probably couldn’t help. After all, love wasn’t something to be forced. “What about the woman downstairs? Is she your grandmother or something?”
Mikolai laughed, and it didn’t sound evil at all. “She’s not real. That was me. I come up with disguises when I’m bored here. I cannot leave this house. Now you can’t, either.”
“So, I can’t eat?” Kris demanded.
The demon-man cocked his head to the side. “Do you feel hunger?”
Surprised, Kris shook his head. “No…”
“Your body’s functions are halted for a time here. It will take weeks before you feel thirst, and there is water here, though it isn’t the best. It won’t kill you, but you’ll hate it. You’ll find you only need to relieve yourself once a day. It will be months before you feel hunger. When you begin to starve, I will have to kill you.”
“So, you’re not giving me any chance?”
Mikolai started walking toward the locked door. “If that were the case, you’d be dead already. It is more that I give myself very little chance.”
Whatever that meant, Kris had no idea. He watched Mikolai vanish into the other room and shut the door.
It was just after dawn when he was startled awake again, once more by Mikolai’s presence. The strange man was sitting on the floor in front of Kris, staring at him with his eery red eyes. Kris couldn’t help but wonder if there was going to be some torturous activity in the near future. It didn’t seem likely that this demonic being was going to just let him live peacefully in his house until the inevitable killing took place.
“What brought you here?” Mikolai asked.
Kris was surprised by the simple question. “I told you, I like visiting haunted places. I like finding out what stories are true and what ones aren’t.”
His host tilted his head thoughtfully. “But why? Don’t you have a home of your own?”
Kris shrugged. “Not really. My parents don’t want much to do with me. The only excitement I get from life is discovering new haunted places.”
Did Mikolai seem suddenly sad?
“Well, you have found your last adventure,” he said quietly, then stood up. He didn’t look nearly as terrifying in the daylight, but there was still something decidedly unhuman about him as he moved to the cracked window. “My demon blood demands that I travel to the demon realm for some time every day. While I’m gone the house is yours. Just don’t enter my personal room.”
Kris nodded, knowing exactly what room he meant.
Mikolai returned the nod, and with a sound like the screech of metal, he was gone.
During these times when he was alone, Kris wandered the tiny, ramshackle house. He found nothing to even suggest that any other human had been in the house, just a lot of dirt and dust. The strangest part was the obvious lack of animal activity; there were no rat or mouse droppings, no bats roosting in the attic rafters, not even a single spider or cockroach. It was as if everything was afraid to be near the half-demon living here. Everything but the weeds.
Mikolai always returned just before dusk, and Kris wasn’t sure why he liked having the being around. It wasn’t as though they spent much time socializing. Mikolai always asked him if he’d done anything interesting, and Kris always shrugged and gave a vague answer. It was obvious that Mikolai was trying to be polite, since he surely knew that there was nothing for a cooped up human to do in that tiny house. Kris had tried to leave once, and had found it physically impossible to leave the porch steps. He was a prisoner, and Mikolai knew that.
After those strange moments of conversation, Mikolai would vanish into his room, and would remain completely silent until morning. Kris wished he knew what his host did in that room, what he did in the demon realm, how he felt about trapping humans – he wanted to know so much more. He just didn’t know what he could ask.
Finally, with the knowledge that Mikolai was going to kill him no matter what he did in the end, Kris broke his host’s only rule and slipped into Mikolai’s room when he was alone. At first he expected a horrible demonic lair, but that wasn’t what he found. Had Mikolai set up an illusion, and left the door unlocked to lure him in? Had the door even been locked since the night Kris had arrived? Would Mikolai know he was here, even in the other realm?
It didn’t matter. Kris needed to know more about his host. Immediately, he began looking around the room. It was much more than Kris had expected. There was king-sized bed with blood-red sheets, a closet with no door but what appeared to be a large number of red and black robes, and a large wooden table covered in partially-burned candles.
Kris noticed something else on the table; a black leather book with a black ribbon marking a page. Beside it was a quill and a bottle of red ink – at least, he chose to think it was ink and not blood. Was it some sort of journal?
“He’ll kill me regardless,” Kris murmured, gently opening to the bookmarked page. What he read surprised him.
#39 – He’s gorgeous. I’m going to hate killing him, I know it. If only I knew… but I don’t know how to ask. I’m tiring of this. At least he didn’t force me to kill him right away like the rest of the men have. The women always think they can make me fall in love, the men never want to try. If only…
It seemed like suddenly there really was hope for Kris’ survival. Excited, he turned back an entry.
#38 – She’s far too old. And a woman. Why can’t I find someone I can actually love? Why can’t there be a man, one who will actually try?
A floorboard creaked outside. Mikolai was back already? Kris quickly shut the journal and moved across the room, his heart pounding. Mikolai marched in, slamming the half-open door hard against the wall with a massive bang. He was beyond terrifying. His red eyes were slits, his fingers ended in claws, and he suddenly had fangs.
“What are you doing in here?” he demanded, voice edged in pure rage.
He didn’t give Kris time to answer, though. Instead, he grabbed Kris by the shoulder and threw him from the room. Kris stumbled madly across the main room, coming to rest against the couch. His shoulder hurt, and when he touched it, his hand came away bloody.
There was no time to think about it before Mikolai came barreling at him, pulling him from the couch and slamming him against the wall.
“What did you read?” the demon – that was the only way to see him with all of his rage transforming his features – demanded.
When Kris didn’t answer, Mikolai slammed him against the wall again. He was holding his prisoner by the arms, and Kris felt – and heard – a sickening crunch as the bones in his left forearm snapped under the power of the demon holding him. He let out a scream that should have been heard for miles as his vision became spotted. Just before he blacked out he thought he saw Mikolai’s face change from demon to human like a switch had been flipped inside him.
Kris was somewhat surprised to regain consciousness, since he was sure Mikolai had been ready to kill him. He was even more surprised when he finally realized where he was.
He was in Mikolai’s room. In his bed.
Looking around the room in confusion, Kris noted the burning candles and the thick scent of incense. Mikolai was sitting on the floor in the far corner of the room, and seemed to be meditating. Demons meditated?
While Kris waited for his host to finish so he could ask what was going on, Kris noticed that his broken arm was splinted and bandaged, and that he felt very little pain. Had Mikolai healed him?
When Mikolai finished meditating he came to stand beside the bed, his face unreadable.
“I’m sorry for coming in here,” Kris said sincerely. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted to know more about you.”
“Anything you want to know I would have told you,” Mikolai replied. “I have no secrets to keep from those who end up here.”
Kris looked away. “I’m sorry, again.”
“I’m sorry for breaking your arm,” Mikolai stated. “That was my demon side, which shows itself when I get angry. When I realized what I had done, I did my best to heal you. The incense helps to ease the pain.”
Mikolai sighed. “May I sit with you?”
Kris thought it was strange for the bed’s owner to be asking permission to sit on it, but Kris nodded and sat up awkwardly, trying not to jolt his arm much. Mikolai settled down beside him and picked at his dark robe.
“So…” Kris ventured when the silence began to feel awkward, “how do you find out whether or not someone can set you free?”
Mikolai avoided his eyes. “The transformation can only happen during physical union with that person, if the love is there.”
Kris was pretty sure he knew what that meant.
“It’s always frustrating and pointless,” Mikolai added with a sigh. “When I get frustrated I kill things.”
Kris could hardly believe what he was thinking. Maybe the incense was getting to him. “I’m going to die anyway, right? Might as well get it over with.”
Mikolai glanced at him, one perfect brow raised in surprise. “Are you suggesting –”
Kris cut off his words with a kiss, but Mikolai didn’t hesitate. It was startling for Kris to learn that he was wrong with two of the assumptions he’d had about his host; Mikolai did not actually have fangs or a forked tongue. Mikolai was also gentle with Kris’ injured arm – completely undemonlike.
At one point, when theirs kisses paused, Kris looked at Mikolai’s naked body above him and had to ask, “Do you normally glow?”
Mikolai glanced at himself and shook his head. “My skin is on fire,” he breathed.
When the transformation finally happened, it involved a blinding light and demonic scream that shook the house and blew the roof away. Mikolai blacked out and almost fell off the bed before Kris caught him with his good arm. Struggling to hold him, Kris gently lowered his lover to the floor, where Mikolai slowly came back to himself.
Kris noticed the changes immediately; many of the sharp angles of Mikolai’s face had softened and his eyes, when he opened them, were deep brown, not red. After a moment of looking at himself in wonder, Mikolai climbed back up with Kris, laughing and crying. He held on to Kris tightly, crying against his chest. Kris held him, grinning.
“I finally found you,” Mikolai declared, looking up into Kris’ eyes. “I love you.”
Kris smiled. “I love you, too.” Then he added, “Does this mean we can leave the house? I’m freaking hungry.”
Mikolai grinned. “Yes. Show me the wonders of the human world.”
Kris was only too happy to.
First, I wish I’d get less SPAM COMMENTS. It’s really annoying.
Anyway, this SST is different. Today I have a short story from The Angel. This is something I wrote recently, because I kept thinking about what happened the night Brian did all his mean things. I think a lot about the side characters from The Angel and what they were doing at certain times. This is one of those times.
Warning: This scene contains vulgar language, sexual language, gore, and spoilers if you haven’t read the book. Thus, read at your own risk and only if you feel comfortable.
A soft summer breeze blew across the city, bringing with it the sounds and smells of an average day. Alone on a bridge over a calm river stood a man. Arik leaned against the rusted railing and stared off into the distance as cars passed behind him. A woman walked past him on the bike lane, talking loudly into her cell phone about her car insurance bill. Arik didn’t even hear her. He was too lost in his own thoughts. Memories replayed before him, increasing the pain in his heart. He vividly remembered the events of nearly three weeks before as a lump grew in his throat.
Leo had come back to their apartment looking rather upset. His neat chocolate-brown hair had been disheveled, his chestnut eyes piercing.
“Where were you the other night?” he demanded.
Arik was taken aback. “I told you I was running an errand,” he replied calmly. “I had told you the day before that I had something to do.”
Leo wasn’t looking any more relaxed. “What were you doing?”
“I can’t tell you yet.”
“I just can’t.”
Leo slammed his fist against the wall. “Some guy at work says you were with him.”
Arik’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Who?”
“I don’t know his name!” Leo practically shouted. “All I know is that he claims you were with him while you were running your ‘errand’.”
Anguish began to rise in Arik. “Leo, do you really think I’d cheat on you?” He reached out to touch him, to try to calm him.
Leo smacked his hand away. “He showed me a card you’d given him! Do you know what it said? It was a Valentine’s day card! It was signed ‘love Arik’! You gave it to him this year! He said so, and I know your handwriting!”
Arik shook his head desperately. “No, Leo. I could never cheat on you!”
“Get the hell out of my apartment!” Leo yelled as he pushed him roughly.
Arik tried to defend himself. “Leo, whoever this idiot is, he’s trying to hurt us. You know I’d never do anything like this.”
Leo pushed him again, harder. “Liar!” he bellowed. “Get out!”
Three weeks later Arik was living with his mother again, trying to fight off depression, and no closer to finding out who’d destroyed the greatest thing he’d ever know. He’d been with Leo for sixteen months, and had been living with him since their one-year anniversary.
Arik dropped his dark blue gaze to his hand and stared at the silver ring on his palm. He’d tried so hard to hold on to Leo that night, but all his lover seemed able to do was command him to pack. In the two weeks that followed he had tried calling and catching Leo anywhere he could. But now, as they closed in on three weeks, he’d given up all hope of ever being happy again.
He closed his fist around the ring tightly, fighting back the tears that were building. It would be impossible for him to find someone else; he’d never cared for any of his exes as much as he had for Leo. He’d really felt like he was in love.
All time seemed to vanish as he stood on that bridge, reliving the happiest times of his life. His light blond hair rippled in the breeze and he closed his eyes, breathing deeply. There had to be something to make him happy again. Maybe when his sister’s baby was born he could lose himself in spoiling the kid like any decent uncle. Maybe then life would seem worth living, and maybe Leo would just be another name on his list of exes.
His eyes suddenly flew open. It had been one of them, one of the others he’d dated before, who’d broken up him and Leo. One of them obviously wanted some sort of revenge, so he’d used an old card to trick Leo, a card that had to be over two years old. Arik kicked the railing in frustration. Why hadn’t Leo even considered this?
He fought back another large lump in his throat and bowed his head. It was over, he knew it, and some jealous ex had ruined his life.
It was then that a car swerved to the shoulder, not far from where Arik stood. He only half acknowledged it, until someone called out his name. He looked up slowly, and to his shock he saw Leo walking toward him. Emotion overpowered him and he had to look back out over the river to keep himself under control.
“Arik, what are you doing?”
He didn’t move, just stared out into the distance. Yet, he couldn’t help but wonder why Leo actually sounded concerned. He managed to ask in a hoarse, choked voice, “Why do you care?”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Leo questioned, his voice strangely quiet.
Arik gave a snort that was half a sob. “Because you broke up with me over a lie, for one thing.”
Leo said nothing, but Arik could hear him shift awkwardly.
“You knew then I’d never hurt you by doing anything,” Arik said quietly. “Since the day we first started dating I was faithful to you. I don’t understand why you’d take something a stranger said as truth, just because he showed you a Valentine I’d given him more than two years ago.”
“I… I know,” Leo replied, almost too quietly to be heard over the passing cars. “I know what I did was stupid. I’ve known for the last two weeks. I was just stressed and overworked that day… and that guy had been dropping hints about us. He works in my office, and as soon as he saw a picture of you on my desk… he starting going at it. I let him play me too much. I’ve been trying to call you, but every time I do your mom says you’re out or working a new shift. And you never answered your cell when I tried that.”
Arik tensed when he gripped his arm.
“Arik, I’m really sorry for what I’ve done,” Leo told him, his own voice tight with emotion. “I wish I hadn’t been so stupid. And I know it’s probably unfair to ask, but could you possibly come back to me?”
Looking up, Arik saw tears in Leo’s chestnut eyes. He didn’t say a word as he turned and wrapped his arms around his lover, not caring in the least who saw them. Leo’s arms slipped around him, and Arik could feel him trembling as he cried into the shoulder of his tee-shirt. Arik finally let his own tears fall as they held each other tightly.
Several minutes passed before they pulled away and dried their eyes. Arik smiled at Leo and whispered, “I love you so much, Leo. Thank you for coming back.”
Leo just nodded, smiling. “I love you, too. Now, please tell me you weren’t going to jump.”
“Jump?” Arik repeated, confused.
His lover motioned to the railing. “You know…”
Arik had to laugh. “No. I’ve been depressed since you broke up with me, but I’m not close to suicide. No, I was going to get rid of this.”
He lifted his hand and opened his fist, revealing the silver ring. Leo just stared at it.
“I was going to give it to you that night,” Arik explained, “to tell you I really wanted to finalize the ‘forever’ thing. I know we can’t get married, but I wanted to have the emotional aspect of it.”
Leo looked up into his eyes, his own wide. “Oh God,” he breathed.
“I was having it engraved when I was running ‘that errand’,” Arik added.
Leo’s hand traveled slowly to his gaping mouth as he looked back down to the ring. “Oh God,” he repeated. “I feel so horrible.”
Arik could see the irony that Leo had to see. He changed his hold on the ring to grasp it between his fingers. “This isn’t exactly the way I was planning on doing it, but…”
Leo hesitated briefly before taking the ring that was being offered to him. He examined it, found the inscription inside, and read it softly, “‘You, me, and love forever.’ Yes, forever.” He slipped the ring on and shared a fierce hug with Arik. “I missed you.”
Arik smiled. “I missed you, too.”
Leo pulled away and gripped Arik’s arms. “Come on. We’re going out to dinner.”
“We are?” Arik asked, smiling still. It felt so odd to smile again after three weeks.
His lover nodded. “Then you’re coming back to our place, where you belong. We can move your stuff back in tomorrow.”
Arik had to kiss him, and he didn’t care about the people driving by. He was just too happy to be back with Leo that none of that mattered.
When the tender kiss ended they both got into Leo’s car and headed toward their favorite restaurant. It sent a jolt to Arik’s heart when he saw the ring on Leo’s hand that held the steering wheel. They came to a red light and Leo caught him staring. With a smile, he rested a hand on Arik’s thigh.
“I won’t listen to that guy at work again,” he assured him.
Arik gripped his hand. “I know. I love you, Leo.”
Leo gave him a loving smile as the light turned green. “I love you, too, Arik. I really do.”
This, dear readers, is a very, very, very, very old short story. I have absolutely no idea how long ago I wrote it, but it has been at least five years. (Yes, I did some editing before I posted it.) Enjoy!
Chance rolled out of bed and yawned. His gaze fell on the dog calendar hanging on his wall. He could see the number at the bottom of that day’s box; 1,139. Three years, one month, and thirteen days. That was how long he had been alone, without Mack.
On the dresser beside that calendar was a framed picture of a young man with sleek brown hair and bright hazel eyes. Chance walked over to the dresser and lifted the picture from it. He gently brushed off the thin layer of dust that had accumulated since he’d last cleaned two days ago.
For 1,139 days he’d looked at the picture, hoping that the pain would go away, but for 1,139 days it had remained. He couldn’t bring himself to get rid of the picture, or to date anyone else. There was a yearning still, a yearning that wouldn’t die. He wanted to be with Mack again, and he had ever since they’d parted ways 1,139 days ago. Seven states lay between them now, but for the first time in 1,139 days, Chance was ready for a change of scenery.
He put down the picture and sat on the bed. From his nightstand he pulled a folded paper. It was what Mack had jotted down his new number on before he’d left.
Feel free to call me if you ever need me, or if you just want to. And, you’ll always be welcome at my house, if you ever want to come to Georgia.
Would Mack even remember those words? Would he really want to talk to his old boyfriend from New York?
Chance glanced at the clock, and he knew Mack would be awake already, even on a Sunday. With trembling fingers he picked up the phone and dialed the number on the paper. He tapped his foot as he waited, listening to the ringing on the other end.
Chance swallowed. “Hi, Mack… It’s Chance.”
There was a silence, then a quiet, “Chance?”
“Yeah.” He fiddled nervously with the paper that he still held.
“It’s been so long,” Mack practically whispered. “How are you?”
“I’m… fine,” Chance replied, fighting back a lump in his throat. “I… miss you.”
“I do, too.”
Chance finally brought up the nerve and asked, “About what you said before you left… Am I still welcome at your place?”
“Of course. Always.”
“Good, because I think I want… us to get back together.”
When Mack spoke his voice was more distant, as if he had taken the phone from his ear. “Honey, can it wait a minute?”
Chance felt an iron fist pummel his chest.
“Sorry about that.” Mack’s voice was clear again. “What were you saying?”
“I’m sorry,” Chance replied quickly. “I should have known.”
He hung up on him, tears burning his eyes. After 1,139 days he was finally certain that it was over. He should have known that Mack would have moved on. He was a lovable guy, after all. With shaking hands he tore up the paper holding Mack’s phone number. He wasn’t going to thrust himself into a life where he wasn’t wanted.
The phone rang beside him, but he didn’t pick it up. He flopped back on the bed, letting the tears come. Then the phone stopped ringing and he heard Mack’s voice from the answering machine in the den.
“Chance, please pick up. Chance, please.”
As soon as the phone started ringing again, Chance went to the den and unplugged the answering machine.
For three days Chance stayed at home in a deeply depressed state. Mack had stopped calling after the first hour of that first day, but that didn’t make him feel any better. He called in sick to work, then took his remaining two weeks of vacation time. Fortunately, he had an understanding boss.
A knock on the door brought Chance out of his depressing thoughts on the that third afternoon. Wondering who could possibly want to visit a moody gay guy who was still in his pajamas, Chance answered the knock. What he saw shocked him.
There stood Mack, exactly as he remembered. He was dressed in a light jacket, jeans, and a pair of sneakers. His brown hair had been cut shorter since they’d been together, but everything else about him was so familiar.
Except the little girl standing by his side, holding his hand.
She had long brown hair that flowed about her shoulders. Her shirt and skirt were both pink, and she had matching shoes. The hand that wasn’t holding onto Mack’s awkwardly held the hem of her shirt, as if she were nervous. Her bright blue eyes looked wearily at Chance. She couldn’t be any older than three years.
“Chance,” Mack said quietly, “this is Ella, my daughter.”
Chance swallowed back tears. Mack had obviously moved right on as soon as he’d gone to Georgia. He couldn’t find his voice, only stare.
“Her mother is my sister,” Mack went on. “She couldn’t take care of her, once her boyfriend left, so I adopted her. It was a couple months after I moved back there, and I thought it might help me to get over you. Raising her kept my mind off you at times, but I haven’t stopped missing you, or loving you.”
Chance looked up, surprise stopping his tears.
“I guess we had a misunderstanding on the phone. You heard me talking to Ella, not anyone else. She’s been my only love since you. When you ignored all my phone calls I figured the best thing to do was take some time off and come visit you. Why did you call?”
Chance glanced away. “I… wanted us… to get back together.”
“I’ve wanted that since the day we were split apart,” Mack told him softly. “It’s what I had hoped for when I heard your voice again.”
Chance took a step back, holding the door open. Mack took the hint and stepped inside, leading Ella. Chance smiled as he closed the door, then hugged his old love tightly. Mack returned the hug, but they didn’t kiss as Chance had hoped.
“We can’t get too far ahead,” Mack murmured into his ear. “I don’t want her freaking out. You need to win her over.”
Chance nodded and pulled away. He wanted so desperately just to pull Mack into the bedroom after so long, but he held himself in check. Mack gave him an encouraging smile, and Chance knelt down before Ella, who had been watching them.
“Hi,” he said with a smile. “Your name’s Ella, right?”
She nodded vigorously.
Mack knelt down next to him. “This is Chance. He’s a very dear friend of mine from years ago.” He put a hand on Chance’s shoulder. “Why don’t you say hi?”
Ella just waved bashfully.
Mack smiled at her. “He won’t hurt you, I promise. Will you Chance?”
Chance shook his head. “Of course not. Would you like to watch TV?”
Ella looked at Mack, as if asking permission.
“Let’s get your things from the car,” he suggested, getting to his feet. “You can watch one of the movies you brought.”
Chance got up as well. “I’ll get dressed while you do that,” he declared.
Mack gave him a smile, one that mixed gratitude with relief and joy, then he left with his daughter. Chance walked to his room, thinking he might be dreaming. It wasn’t until he was halfway dressed that it finally hit him; Mack wanted their relationship back as much as he did. That was why they’d come all the way from Georgia just to see him.
With a lighter step, he went back downstairs to the den. Mack had just put in one of Ella’s Barney movies, and sat her down on the sofa to watch. He spotted Chance and walked to the kitchen, motioning for him to follow.
“How long are you staying?” Chance asked.
“I have to be at work Monday,” Mack replied. “So we’ll probably leave Saturday morning. Will you come with us?”
Chance shook his head. “It’ll take me longer than a few days to get things organized here. It’ll be a month or so.”
Mack nodded. “I didn’t think about that.”
“I’m on vacation for two weeks,” Chance explained. “I can hand in my forms when I go back to work. Then I’ll just have to pack and sell off a few things, mainly the house. I’m sure Mom would take care of that for me, though.”
“Do they hate me?” Mack asked suddenly.
Chance, stunned, shook his head. “I don’t think so. I know Mom would be more than happy if I asked her to sell the house so I could be with you again.”
Mack smiled slightly, then pulled Chance into his arms. They embraced tightly, and they kissed softly. Mack had tears in his eyes when they pulled away, and Chance gently brushed away the ones that escaped.
“I never really thought this would happen,” Mack whispered. “I’ve missed you so much, Chance. I love you.”
Chance smiled. “I know exactly how you feel.”
Just then they were startled by Ella wandering in. “Daddy, can I have a drink?” she asked.
Mack composed himself within moments. “You should ask Chance. This is his house, not ours.”
Ella looked up at Chance awkwardly. “Can I have a drink, please?” she questioned quietly.
Chance smiled and walked over to the refrigerator. “What would you like? I have milk, orange juice, or water.”
“Do you have chocolate milk?” came her soft voice.
“We can make some,” Chance replied, pulling out the milk and chocolate syrup. He took them over to the table, then grabbed a plastic cup for her. This he filled just over half way with milk. “Tell me when to stop,” he told her as he began squeezing in the syrup.
“Okay,” she said a moment later.
Chance stopped and got her a spoon. “Do you want to mix it, or should I?” he asked.
“Can you do it, please?” she replied.
Chance smiled and stirred the mixture.
“Can I have a straw?” she requested when he finished.
He nodded and got her one. With a smile he placed it in the cup, then removed he spoon, taking a bit of the chocolate milk for himself. “It’s ready,” he told her.
She giggled. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Chance told her with a smile. “You can drink it in the den if you promise to be careful.”
“I promise,” she vowed, hopping off the chair she had been kneeling on. She took her cup into the den where Barney was still playing.
When he turned to take the milk and chocolate back to the refrigerator, the spoon in his mouth, he saw Mack. He was leaning against the wall, smiling.
“You make a really great father,” he stated.
Chance smiled, but could say nothing around the spoon. He dropped it into the sink, then replied, “Thanks. Do you think she’ll think so too by Saturday?”
Mack nodded. “She’s warming up to you, and we haven’t been here an hour yet.”
Chance smiled again. “I’ll do what I can.”
The night was clear and quiet, except for the sound of the box fan running outside the guest room that had been given to Ella. They’d found it in the basement, after Mack had explained that she had one at their house, and she couldn’t sleep without it. He’d used the sound to soothe her into sleep when she was a baby, but they’d found other, just as beneficial reasons for the loud fan that night.
“So, what did you tell her?” Chance asked, curled up with Mack in bed.
“Just that I would be sleeping in the room at the end of the hall and to make sure she knocked before she came in if she needed me,” Mack replied.
Chance let him run a hand down his bare arm. “I meant before, about why you were coming and about us,” he clarified.
Mack rested his hand back on Chance’s shoulder. “Just that there was someone I cared a lot about that I needed to see again. I said his name was Chance and he was a very nice man who meant more to me than I could ever imagine. I told her I missed him because I hadn’t been able to see him in three years.”
“Three years, one month, fifteen days,” Chance corrected.
“You counted?” Mack asked, raising a brow.
Chance nodded. “I thought maybe the pain would go away after a while, but it never did. I just marked my calendar with each full month that passed, hoping the numbers would start to be just numbers. They never did.”
“What made you call me?” questioned Mack softly.
“I didn’t want to be alone anymore,” Chance murmured, “and I thought you might just want me back.”
Mack smiled and gently stroked Chance’s cheek. “When you called, I was so hopeful. I thought you were asking to come stay with me. Of course, I had to be an idiot and talk to Ella when I knew you had to be incredibly anxious.”
“I shouldn’t have hung up on you,” Chance argued. “It was my fault. I should have let you explain. I just jumped to conclusions.”
“I love you, Chance,” Mack breathed, bringing their lips hairs apart. “We both made mistakes that day. It’s okay now.”
Chance smiled. “I love you.” He pressed his lips to Mack’s, realizing how much he’d missed this closeness over the last 1,141 days.
Ella warmed up to Chance quicker than he had expected. Thursday evening she convinced both him and Mack to watch one of her Barney videos with her. They sat on the sofa, Mack in the middle with an arm around each of them. Chance sat with a hand on Mack’s knee and his head on Mack’s shoulder, pathetically drawn in by the video.
Without warning, Ella looked up at Mack and asked, “Daddy, do you love Chance?”
Chance, a bit startled, glanced at Mack, wondering how they were going to explain it. He had been thinking over it for a while, but he hadn’t expected it to be so soon.
Mack looked at his daughter, fully composed. “What would you say if I told you that I did?” he asked.
Ella wasn’t daunted. “I like Chance, Daddy. Can Chance be my daddy too?”
Chance and Mack both exchanged a smile, and Chance was truly relieved to hear that she accepted their relationship.
“Yes,” Mack stated, turning his gaze back on Ella. “Chance is going to move in with us in a little while.”
Ella grinned, clapped her hands, then returned her attention to the movie. Mack hugged Chance tightly, a hug he returned before reaching over to gently squeeze the little girl’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Ella, for liking me,” he said, fighting tears of joy.
She just smiled at him.
It was hard to tell them goodbye Saturday morning, but he did it. He made breakfast, then helped load the car. Ella hugged him goodbye and gave him a kiss on the cheek. With a smile he hugged her back and kissed her forehead.
“Why aren’t you coming?” she asked when he let her go.
“I’m coming by myself in a few days,” he told her. “I have some things I need to do first.”
“Come soon,” she ordered, then climbed in the back seat of the car.
“I hate to say goodbye again,” Mack admitted as he approached.
Chance nodded. “Me too. I’ll be there in a month, I promise.”
“I left the directions for you in your room,” Mack stated. “Don’t lose them.”
“I won’t.” He put his arms around Mack in a fierce hug. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Mack whispered, then kissed him lightly. “Call me, everyday.”
Chance nodded again as he let him go. “Of course.”
Mack smiled, though he had tears in his eyes. He got into the car and started the engine. As Chance watched the car pull out of the driveway and turn down the street, both Mack and Ella waving from within, his vision blurred with tears. This time they were tears of joy.
Exactly one month later Chance rang the doorbell of the neat white house. He saw a little face in the window and a happy shriek followed the ring of the bell. Moments later the door opened. Mack half pulled him inside to hug him tightly and kiss him deeply. They were both crying when they pulled away, and Chance knelt to embrace Ella.
After bringing in all Chance’s bags and sharing a joyful dinner, they sat down to watch TV, Ella sitting between both Mack and Chance, who had their arms around each other. Chance couldn’t help but smile. At last he was completely happy, and life was his. He had what he’d wanted for so long.
Somehow I managed to forget all about this post! I blame school. I was also busy making fun of people who really thought the Rapture was going to be today.
Anyway, here is the third part of The Purification of the Fallen.
Naois recovered quickly from his brush with death, and Conan continued to reject the idea that his brother had been the victim of an otherworldly demon. He never returned to his brother’s room that day, though he sent Ara to bring him lunch and dinner. Naois could hardly bear his frustration. To have his brother completely disregard his story hurt him unfathomably.
Avichai was the only one who seemed to be on his side. The apprentice stayed in the room until Ara informed him that Conan needed his assistance. Naois spent the remainder of the day lying still in bed, allowing the last of the Killdark to be destroyed. It wasn’t until dusk that Avichai returned, just after dinner.
“You can stay here tonight,” he told the Fallen. “You shouldn’t move too much until morning. I’ll find somewhere else to sleep.”
Naois shook his head. “Here.” He moved over to the edge of the bed, his back to the center, and wrapped his wings around himself. “Have the other side.”
Avichai surveyed him for a moment, then smiled. “Thanks.” He made himself comfortable on the opposite edge of the bed, wings surrounding him. Soon they were both asleep.
Naois was the first awake the next morning. He got up and stretched, his wings nearly filling the entire fourteen-foot-long room at their greatest extent. No pain or dizziness overtook him, signaling that the Killdark was completely neutralized. He rolled up his sleeve and saw no remaining sign of the purple welt that had been there before.
With a silent yawn he made his way to the window and gazed out at the sunrise. The first rays of sun touched his pale face and he leaned against the window frame. His attention was drawn from the golden sky minutes later by the presence beside him. He glanced over at Avichai and found that the light of the dawn contrasted them greatly. While it hid him in shadows it allowed the Pure to glow, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from him. He longed for that same glowing Purity to be his again.
He lifted a hand, without thinking, and lightly touched Avichai’s wing. The pure white feathers were silky and light beneath his touch, until a split second later they were pulled away. Avichai hadn’t been expecting the touch. Naois quickly took his hand back, looking away.
“You really do want to be a Pure again, don’t you?” Avichai asked quietly, gazing at the Fallen.
Naois nodded and looked out to the sunrise, thinking of what came with being a Pure and that which came with being a Fallen. “I just want my dignity back,” he whispered. He knew it was more than that, but he didn’t know how to explain all that he felt to someone who had never shared his experience. “I’m afraid now, to leave this house. I don’t know how anyone expects me to Purify with so many others wanting to kill me. My own brother has even lost what respect he had for me.” He swallowed back the lump in his throat.
Avichai was silent, then he gently pressed a wing closer to Naois. “Take one,” he offered.
Naois glanced at the wing, then to the Pure’s violet eyes. “Why?”
“Maybe I can help,” Avichai replied. “Just take one.”
The Fallen reached out and carefully selected one perfect feather four inches long. Avichai didn’t flinch when it was removed, and a new feather grew in its place immediately. The Pure turned to face the Fallen, pulling a strand of white hair from his scalp. Naois, slightly confused, allowed Avichai to loop the long hair around his neck. Avichai then took the feather and pressed it to the ends, his lips moving in silent incantation.
Naois waited, and very shortly felt a warmth about his neck. Avichai stepped back and the Fallen looked down. A fine silver chain held the light feather around his neck, contrasting to the black robes it rested against. He gently touched the feather, then the chain, before looking back up at the apprentice. His smile gave away his gratitude, and their embrace was instantaneous.
Naois couldn’t recall the last time he’d been hugged, and he knew it to be a great experience. Maybe, with a friend beside him, he’d be able to Purify.
He didn’t notice the change, so tiny yet so immense, until Avichai met him in their room again that evening. He was watching the sunset when the apprentice entered, and the gasp he heard come from the doorway made him turn around.
“What is it?” he asked, concerned.
Avichai’s violet eyes were wide and his hand covered his mouth. “Look at your wings,” he commanded breathlessly, taking the hand from his mouth to point.
Naois brought a wing more into his line of vision, and dropped back against the wall. At the tips of his evil black feathers were small spots of white.
“I’m Purifying,” he whispered.
Avichai nodded and stepped closer. “Your wings are like the clear night sky,” he mumbled, “and your hair is white at the ends, too. Soon you’ll be like the rest of us again.”
Naois smiled and hugged his friend as he had that morning. He knew the ordeal was far from over, but three days as a Fallen was enough for him. At last progress was being made.
This edition of SSS is another story that I wrote for my creative writing class back in high school. It is a six-part series called The Purification of the Fallen, and here is part one:
The sun was setting over the far reaches of the realm most mortals thought of as Heaven, though if not for the overwhelming number of white-haired, white-winged, white-clothed angels one would think it were actually Earth. The architecture, however, was clearly not that of modern Earth; every building was built of white marble, with veins of various other precious materials making every wall glimmer.
The onyx streets were nearly empty by that dusk hour. Just within the gates of the realm sat an angel obviously different from the others. His long, flowing hair was black, not white, and the large wings sprawled about him were of that same, cruel color. The white robes that should have covered his body had been replaced by a worn-out pair of mortal jeans. He held his head in his hands, questioning himself over and over about what had happened to him.
“I knew it wasn’t wise to let you visit Earth.”
Naois lifted his sapphire eyes to see the angel before him. He was like the others; a Pure. Atop his head was a circlet of braided gold, the symbol of marriage that mortals mistakenly took to be a halo. Blazing blue eyes gazed at the sitting male with something between shame and embarrassment.
“Get up, Naois,” the Pure ordered.
Naois looked away, trying to keep his own emotions in check.
The other responded by grabbing his hand and forcing him to his feet. “If you’ve got to be a Fallen, at least be respectful,” he warned viciously.
Naois ripped his hand out of his grip. “Like you even want to help me, Conan!” he accused. “You’d just love to see me suffer!”
“Well at least you still have the same attitude!” Conan snapped back. “If you don’t master that, I’ll tear off your wings and throw you down to Earth myself! Damn it, Naois, how did you even get permission to visit Earth in the first place?”
Naois snorted. “It helps that my brother is in a pretty high position as an adviser to the Ruler.”
“I’ll be lucky if I keep that job after this!” Conan pushed him roughly, forcing him to start walking. “You have ten years to Purify yourself or you will be thrown to Earth. Understand? The Council’s already watching you, and I’m not going to lie to them when they ask me about your progress.”
For a long moment all that could be heard between them was the soft sounds of their footsteps on the onyx roadway. Naois was deep in thought, trying to comprehend all that was about him. He knew he was a Fallen, an angel cursed into darkness by sin, and that he first had time to change before his full punishment was given. But that was all he knew.
“Conan,” he asked quietly at last, “what did I Fall for?”
Conan gave him a sharp look. “You ought to know.”
“I honestly can’t remember,” Naois replied, looking away with a shake of his head.
His brother sighed. “You slept with a woman.”
Naois looked back at him in even greater confusion. “But that’s not a sin.”
“Without love it is,” Conan reminded him.
“But… I…” Naois didn’t know what to say. Why hadn’t he assumed that? After all, he did remember waking up in a run-down hotel room without clothes moments before realizing his wings were black. But, he knew that was something he wouldn’t sanely do. Something was missing.
“You probably felt left out with all those other young men talking about their women, and the pictures of practically naked men and women all over the place.” Conan gave him a sly look as he spoke.
They had reached their house, and Naois shot his brother an ungrateful glare as he entered. He slammed the door in his brother’s face and flopped down on the floor, lying with his wings spread out. It didn’t matter to him what Conan thought. He knew that whatever had happened to him hadn’t been his fault.
“Very nice,” Conan declared as he entered. “Slam the door in my face, when I’m the one helping you.”
“How are you helping me if you’re not listening to me?” Naois demanded, sitting up. “You’re not trying.”
Conan walked across the room, stepping over a long black wing. “I’m letting you live here,” he pointed out as he disappeared into an adjoining room. “And I’ll tell you how to become a Pure again.” He didn’t speak again until he reappeared in the room holding something black, which he threw at his brother.
Naois guessed what it was and let the light bundle of fabric hit his chest and fall into his lap.
“Take off those disgusting mortal clothes and put on your new robe,” Conan instructed.
Naois sighed and did what was asked of him, not caring if his brother saw him.
“To Purify yourself,” Conan explained as Naois changed, “you must either win the forgiveness of all the Council members, or find real love.”
“Don’t you mean ‘true love’?” Naois asked, smoothing out his new black robes.
“That sounds too unlikely,” his brother answered. “This love can also be in the form of friendship. I know you’ve never had a friend before. It’s your only option, because very rarely does the Council forgive. I have forgiven you only because you are my brother.”
Naois snorted and made for a nearby door. “I’m going to sleep. Go cuddle with your wife.”
He closed the door without hearing what else Conan was about to say. He was back in his room at last, and he dropped onto his soft bed with a groan. His confusion and worry left him as sleep dragged him away.
Minutes later he awakened to someone speaking words that he didn’t register. He opened his eyes drowsily, and jumped so severely that he fell off the bed, bruising a wing. “Who are you?” he demanded.
The Pure male who had been leaning over him gave him a curious look, which gave way to a sharp scowl. “Avichai. Conan’s apprentice. Who are you?”
Naois could read the bias easily. “Naois. Conan’s brother. What are you doing in my room?”
“I was given this room,” Avichai replied, violet eyes looking over the Fallen on the floor.
“Just take it,” Naois ordered, getting up. He wasn’t in the mood to argue, so he left the room and walked upstairs. There was a large sunroom that was lit by moonlight streaming through the windows. He climbed onto one windowsill and sat, one wing drifting out the open window. With a sigh he leaned his head back against the frame and gazed at the stars a moment before closing his eyes.
It wasn’t the dawn sun that woke him the next morning. He sensed a presence near him, and when he opened his eyes he saw Avichai standing nearby.
“Conan and I had some early morning work to do for the Council,” he stated, “filing reports on Earth-bound Fallens, and he told me about you.”
Naois looked out at the sunrise. “He probably increased your bias,” he grumbled.
“No,” Avichai replied. “He doesn’t seem the type to show his siblings how he feels, but he really is worried about you.”
Naois snorted. “He’s worried about his reputation.”
“But he’s worried about you, too,” Avichai argued. “He doesn’t want you to become fully Fallen, for your sake, not his own.”
Naois just shook his head, but was distracted by a group of three Pures on the ground below. The two men held small bows with dart-sized arrows, and the woman was cursing Naois. Before he could realize what was happening and get into the room, he felt three sharp pricks in the wing that had been floating outside, followed by one in his shoulder.
He flinched in pain and fell into the sunroom, knowing what was inside the darts he’d been shot with. It was Killdark, a poison used against Fallens. Avichai seemed to know it, too, as he instantly yelled for Conan before going to Naois’s side.
Naois tried to fight back his feelings of pain and fear. “I want to Purify,” he whispered, looking into the apprentice’s eyes, “not die.”
“Don’t move,” Avichai ordered, removing the darts. “Don’t make it circulate faster.” He rolled up Naois’s sleeve, revealing a slowly growing purple welt where the dart had been.
Sweat began to form on Naois’s forehead as his breathing grew heavier. He grasped Avichai’s wrist and winced at the pain surging with each beat of his heart.
“Relax,” Avichai reminded him.
“What happened?” Conan demanded as he entered.
Avichai looked away from Naois and held up a dart. “Someone shot him with Killdark.”
“Damn it,” Conan spat. “Ara!” he called down the stairs to his wife. “We need the Killdark remedy made, now!” He looked back into the room. “Avichai, we need to get as much of that out of him now or he’ll die before we make the potion. I need to help Ara. You need to draw it out of him.”
“How?” the apprentice demanded.
“Have you ever heard of a vampire?”
“Yes…” Avichai replied slowly.
“There you go. The poison has no effect on Pures.” Conan headed for the stairs as he spoke, leaving Avichai staring at the growing purple welt on the wounded Fallen’s arm.
Naois tried to speak, making Avichai look back at his face. No words came, but he managed to mouth a shaking “please.” Avichai nodded, and as he leaned his head to Naois’s arm, the Fallen lost consciousness.
Time for another edition of Short Story Saturday! This time we have the first part of a short series I wrote for my creative writing class a few years ago. In it, you will find some characters who are major players in Vows (though I eased up on their strict adherence to tradition in the novel). Enjoy!
Saga of an Outcast; Part I
The room was darkening with the setting sun, and the flames from wall-mounted torches danced eerily in the Grand King’s office. Grand King Deandre was pacing before the darkening window, his hands clenched in tight fists that swung dangerously as he moved. The torchlight made his tight jaw and scowling brows more frighteningly defined. Second King Shelton stood watching him, fingering his nearly non-existent beard as thoughts moved rapidly through his mind the way they always did. Queens Xiao and Yvona were standing beside each other, hands over their mouths. Yvona was crying.
It was young Prince Evant that all the fuss was over. He stood, arms crossed, as his brown eyes followed his father’s movements. No matter what any of them said or did, he was not going to give in. It didn’t matter to him that he was still only eleven years old, or that he was attempting to sever tradition. His happiness was what he valued.
Deandre stopped pacing to turn his tall, powerful frame to his son, locking his brown eyes upon him. “Tell me how you came to this conclusion,” he demanded.
Evant didn’t fall under the intended intimidation. “I won’t follow the traditional customs of marriage,” he replied levelly, “because I don’t understand how it is right to do so.”
“What do you mean it isn’t right?” his father demanded. “The people of Phelin have followed this tradition since the first royal family took power three hundred years ago! No member of the royal family can rightfully refuse this tradition!”
The prince was beginning to feel annoyed. “I refuse,” he declared.
“You are a Phelin prince!” Deandre bellowed. “You will not refuse!”
“I already have!” Evant snapped.
The Grand King took a great step forward, hands outstretched as if to grab the boy. Xiao grasped Yvona’s arm so violently that both their bodies swayed a moment before they stood perfectly still, wide eyes fixed upon their family before them. Shelton acted swiftly, jumping into Deandre’s path before any harm could be done.
“Don’t touch him,” he warned, gripping the other man’s wrist. “Be sane.”
Evant swallowed hard, for the first time losing his nerve. Deandre had never acted so threateningly towards him before.
Deandre took one look at the Second King’s lavender eyes and turned away. He went to sit by the window, a look of anger still plastered to his aging face. Shelton glanced over at the wives, who were still holding each other in fear. “I think Evant should be allowed the right to speak,” he said, “without any of us interrupting.”
It took a moment for Evant to remember what was going on, but as he watched the rest of his parents sit, he felt his old determination slowly trickling back to him. He sat down on a cushioned wooden chair and thought over what he would say.
“Speak,” Deandre ordered him.
Evant built up his confidence and began, “I do not wish to take part in the traditional marriage custom. I don’t think it right, in my own opinion, to take two wives and a husband. I don’t believe it possible for me to love three equally.”
“We do,” Deandre replied sharply.
“For the most part,” Shelton added in a grumble.
The Grand King’s eyes flashed to him, but the Second King merely shrugged. “Then what do you intend?” Deandre demanded of his son, looking back at him.
Evant stared straight into those brown eyes identical to his own. “I intend to marry only one person, the first man or woman I find I love.”
Deandre made a sound that was something of a snarl and rose again to his feet. He would have gone for Evant if only Shelton and Xiao hadn’t grabbed his violet robes. “You must follow the tradition!” he yelled, straining against the hold and causing Yvona to put a protective arm around their boy. “You’re a prince of Phelin!”
“But I’m not the heir!” Evant yelled right back. “Wildas is! And even if he dies I won’t take his place!”
“If your bothers could hear you say such things! You are much too young to make a declaration such as this!” his father argued.
The prince rose to his feet in protest. “I am not!”
Deandre glared at him. “This sin is punishable by death,” he reminded him. “By choosing this, you have chosen to be hanged.”
Xiao and Shelton jumped in front of him, both pressing their hands to his chest. The Grand King struggled to push them away, but though his body was more massive than his two tall and thin spouses, they easily held him back from attempting to reach Evant again.
“Don’t you dare put your son to the death!” Xiao hissed at him while Shelton continued to tell their husband to relax.
“Deandre!” Yvona called, raising her voice over the others as Evant sat shocked beside her. “If you take his life from him I refuse to remain your wife.”
They all looked at her, wide-eyed.
“If he dies under your control, I leave,” she went on. “No matter how I love you, I cannot tolerate a man who kills his son for choices he makes. Shelton and Xiao may be able to forgive, but I cannot.”
“If you must be rid of him,” Shelton added suddenly and quietly, “banish him from the country. Please, allow him to live.”
Deandre locked eyes on his son, now nearly trembling. “All right,” he responded. “Evant, you are to pack what you can carry. This is your last night in the castle of the royal family of Phelin.”
With slightly shaking legs the prince got up and left the room. For a moment he considered begging for forgiveness and agreeing to his father’s demands, but he knew he couldn’t bring that show of weakness to himself.
This is another new feature I’ve decided to include, since I recently came across a number of short stories I wrote a while ago, and I’d love to share them. This will be a bi-weekly event. The first story does not involve any of the characters you may know, but I like it. I originally wrote it for a contest, where it got third place, I believe.
The first thing Klin noticed about the house was its sweeping architecture. Even though he had been living in a near-castle all his life, it hadn’t been nearly as lovely as the house he and his father were about to move into.
“The house is far too large for me now,” the gray-haired owner was telling them as he showed them around. “With all of my children married and my wife gone, I’ve no use for such a large place.”
Klin’s father nodded. “My son and I wanted a place that would suit both us and his future family,” he explained.
Klin suppressed a snort and scanned the hall they were walking through with emerald eyes.
“Such a fine son will fetch a finer woman,” the owner said approvingly.
Klin ignored the comment.
“How, may I ask,” the owner questioned of Klin’s father, “did you come upon your wealth?”
“Breeding and dealing horses,” the other man replied proudly. “Farm horses, carriage horses, riding horses, children’s horses, sport horses – whatever you need, I can supply you.”
“Well, there’s plenty of land for your business around this house,” the old owner added. “Do you use slaves in your business?”
“If I didn’t pay my stable hands I fear they’d harm the horses,” the breeder replied. “I would never trust my prized horses to slaves.”
“I understand, a wise choice. Do you have slaves in your home?”
“Only a servant who shared in the pay of her husband and son who were two of my hands. She has recently retired, however.”
They entered the elaborate dining room then, and Klin caught sight of a youth his age wiping down the already polished table. He was beautiful, even at a distance. Dark, lavishly dark brown hair fell straight to his shoulders, flowing as he worked despite its slight tangles. Klin caught a glimpse, only briefly, of plum-colored eyes that fell quickly to the work he was doing. His clothes were more snug than they should have been, despite the youth’s thin frame.
“This slave comes with the house, as well,” the owner told them.
“What’s his name?” Klin asked, not taking his eyes from the slave.
The master snorted. “Why would he have a name? He’s my wife’s bastard child; I wouldn’t bother naming him.”
Klin took one more look at the boy. Nylen. It was the name that came to him, and that’s how Klin would think of him. Everyone deserved a name, especially a slave.
Soon Klin and his father were settled in the house and a large stable was being built behind it. Klin grew used to seeing Nylen regularly, but he couldn’t suppress the anguish he always felt at the young slave’s situation. Though Klin’s father wasn’t overly cruel, it was clear by Nylen’s almost constant silence and skittish movements that he was used to far more than harsh words and a rare rap on the shoulder.
One day, a few weeks after moving in, while his father was working with the stable builders, Klin found the slave in his chamber, cleaning.
“Would you like help?” Klin offered.
Nylen jumped and spun to face him. “It’s-it’s my work,” he stuttered.
“I used to help our old maid clean my own room,” Klin persisted. “Do you ever rest?”
The slave went back to work, shaking his head. “No, sir.”
“Don’t call me ‘sir’,” Klin told him as he closed the door.
“I’m sorry,” Nylen said quickly, dusting Klin’s desk faster.
Klin straightened the blankets on his bed. “Is my father being good to you?” he asked.
“He is much more kind than what I’ve come to expect,” the slave replied as he moved on to dust the bureau.
“He doesn’t hurt people unless they deserve it,” Klin explained. “Small mistakes don’t usually upset him too much, though he does have a temper. So, how old are you?”
Nylen shrugged and didn’t turn around. “I’ve never been told.”
“You look about my age – seventeen.”
The young man finally turned to him, a confused look in his plum eyes. “Why do you speak to me as if we are equals?” He bowed his head quickly. “Please, forgive me.”
“Forgive you for what?” Klin asked. “For asking a question? Nylen, I’m not your master. In truth, I want to be your friend. I hate seeing you so alone.”
The slave looked even more confused. “What did you call me?” he questioned without restraint.
Klin thought a moment and realized he’d used his personal name for the servant. “Nylen,” he replied. “I think it’s your name, or, it’s the one I gave you, at least.”
Nylen repeated the name several times, looking dumbfounded and speaking softly.
“Do you like it?” Klin ventured to ask.
The other young man nodded. “Yes. Thank you. I’ve never dreamed of having a name before.”
Klin smiled. “Everyone should have a name, especially someone as hard working as you. Now, let me help you. I have nothing better to do anyway.”
Over the next several weeks Klin helped Nylen whenever he had the chance, whether it was simply by keeping his own room as clean as possible, or by working with the slave on his chores. He easily got to know the young man, and soon there was no hesitation or awkwardness in their conversations. Klin learned how Nylen had suffered at the service of the house’s previous owner, and saw the scars that were proof. He learned of Nylen’s hopelessness, how he knew he’d only be free when he died and so had tried to kill himself twice before. Each time he had been found, sent to a healer, and brought back to be punished severely.
Klin listened as a good friend would, and in turn told of his own life. He told him how his mother had died when was a toddler, of how his father occasionally lost his temper if things didn’t go his way, of how he’d grown up around horses. The day he first brought a smile to the unfortunate servant’s face was the day Klin felt his heart warmed by him for the first time. And the more Nylen smiled the more Klin felt drawn to him. If only he could get him away from his terrible life of service…
“I’ve noticed you’ve been with the slave often,” Klin’s father observed one afternoon as Klin helped with the finishing of the stable.
Klin just shrugged as he checked the hinges on a stall door. “I want to help him. It’s sad how alone he is.”
His father shook his head. “Don’t get attached to him, like I tell you with the horses. I can sell him any time I wish to.”
Klin stopped and looked at the older man. “Please,” he requested, “he’s been through enough.”
The breeder shrugged. “I don’t want to sell him now, I’m just warning you.”
Klin went back to work, but he was distracted by the thought of Nylen leaving. It would break his heart to see the young man leave, and Nylen would be thrust into a situation far worse than the one he was currently in, most likely.
He couldn’t let that happen.
A few days later his father left to secure some new breeding stock. Klin was left alone in the huge house, alone but for Nylen.
“What would you like for dinner?” Nylen asked that evening.
Klin leaned against the doorway to the kitchen. “You don’t need to cook anything,” he replied.
Nylen shook his head. “It’s part of my requirements to cook for the master’s family.”
Klin walked in, took part of a loaf of bread and a bit of cheese, and sat down on the swept floor. “This is perfect for me,” he told Nylen.
His friend sighed. “As you wish.”
As Nylen started to sit down next to him, Klin stopped him with the shake of his head. “Get yourself some food,” he told him.
“I’m not supposed to eat with you,” Nylen reminded him.
“Get yourself some food,” Klin repeated, this time more sternly. “I order you to.”
Nylen sighed and took another piece of the freshly-baked bread. He then sat down close to Klin. They ate silently and Klin felt so content beside Nylen that he smiled as he finished his small dinner. He didn’t want to think about his father possibly selling the slave or hurting him; he cared about him too much.
He jolted to reality when he felt a hand touch his. Only then did he realize that he’d rested a hand on Nylen’s thigh, and Nylen had rested his own hand on top of Klin’s. Klin looked at Nylen’s eyes, hoping to find out if the servant was taking this as friendship, or the deeper feelings it was meant to portray.
Nylen’s plum eyes had a gentle glitter that Klin wasn’t used to. And he was smiling that sweet smile that warmed Klin’s heart. Almost before he realized it, Klin lifted his free hand to caress Nylen’s cheek. The servant’s eyes almost seemed to mist and Klin felt an arm snake around him. He leaned closer, his heart soaring.
Their sweet, tender kiss sent his heart skipping. He slipped both his arms around Nylen, and kissed him like he’d never dreamed of kissing anyone before. When it ended it was too soon, but it stirred them both so that they looked at each other and laughed happily.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you since you first came here,” Nylen said, “that you’re one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen.”
“But you never leave,” Klin pointed out, laughing.
Nylen shrugged. “I’ve seen the boys who deliver the groceries, your father’s stable hands, and my old master’s friends.”
Klin smiled. “So, you like me just for my appearance?”
“Of course not,” Nylen assured him. “But it’s a bonus.”
“I see the same bonus in you,” Klin told him, then gave him another light kiss.
They kept their relationship to themselves, only expressing affection when they knew for sure that no one would catch them. Gradually they became more and more daring in their exchanges, until the night when Klin slipped silently from his room to the one in which Nylen slept. It would have been more comfortable in Klin’s soft bed than the pallet on the floor that the servant called a mattress, but neither of them thought of that.
Neither of them thought of breakfast either.
Klin’s only thought was of how much he loved the man he slept with. He was so happy to wake up in Nylen’s arms the next morning that nothing else mattered to him, until the one thing they hadn’t anticipated happened.
When Klin heard his father coming his first instinct was to hide, but there was nothing in the bare room to hide behind or in. Nylen was up with him, trying frantically to help.
But the door swung open with Klin’s father demanding, “Where is breakfast you lazy servant?”
He froze as soon as he saw the couple, cowering, heads bowed, naked. Klin didn’t dare look up, because he knew his father’s temper was close to breaking. It had to be.
“Get up,” the older man demanded.
Both youths scrambled to obey, but he had moved closer and pushed Nylen back to the floor. “You stay,” he growled, then grabbed his son by the arm. “Get your pants on!” he ordered.
Klin obeyed and let himself be dragged from the room. He glanced back at Nylen, who was cowering on the floor, his head covered by his hands. Klin’s heart broke with the fear of what was to come as he was dragged down the hall to his own room and thrown inside.
“What compelled you to do something so horrible?” his father demanded of him.
Klin shook as he glared at the older man. “It wasn’t horrible.”
His father slapped him across the face. “It was! Klin, you slept with a servant – a slave! And as if that wasn’t terrible enough, it was a male slave!”
Klin ignored the pain in his cheek. “I love him!”
Another slap landed on him so heavily that it made him stagger. “He’s bewitched you, and he’ll be whipped to death for it!”
“Don’t hurt him!” Klin yelled as his father turned away.
The only response was the slamming of his door.
Klin ground his teeth and made the only choice available to him worth making. He took the pouch of money from beneath his mattress and slipped it into his pocket, laced his boots, and grabbed his small knife just in case.
Everything was silent as he slipped from his room only minutes after his father left. He moved as quietly as possible out of the house, easily avoiding anyone. Outside, he stealthily made his way to the stable, but he wasn’t seen anyway, since all the stable hands were gathered about to watch – from a distance – Nylen’s brutal punishment.
Klin slipped a bridle onto his mare and led her from her stall. He swung easily onto her bare back and headed out of the stable. He kicked her into a full gallop toward the crowd, which broke out of his way as he rode in.
His father was already cutting bloody gashes into Nylen’s back and only looked up when Klin’s mare reared over him. “What are you doing?” he demanded, stumbling back away from the thrashing hooves.
Klin just maneuvered his mount between his father and his lover, who was tied with his arms at each of two fence posts. He knew his father would never harm a horse for any reason, and he also knew that his personal mare would only respond to his commands, not his father’s. Klin hopped from her back, pulled his knife, and cut the ropes binding Nylen.
The slave was shaking and his back was bloody and raw. Klin could tell he was in shock and he guided him to the horse. “Hold on,” he commanded, slipped his knife back into his belt, and boosted Nylen onto the mare’s back.
It was the moment Klin’s father had waited for. Immediately, he tried pulling Nylen off, but the boy clung to the mare’s mane. Klin easily swung up behind his lover and kicked his father’s arms away. Enraged, the man raised his whip, but Klin drove his mare into a wild gallop. Klin held Nylen firmly with one arm around his waist and steered his steed away with the other hand. He hardly noticed the blood from Nylen’s back smearing onto his bare chest.
They didn’t speak until the horse tired and they finally dropped to a walk after what seemed like hours. Klin unstuck himself from Nylen and winced when he saw the wounds.
“It hurts,” Nylen told him when he asked how he felt.
“Let’s rest,” Klin suggested, stopping the mare beside a stream. They had followed a game trail into a patch of woods, and were now in a clearing. Klin helped Nylen dismount and embraced him gently. “I’m sorry I wasn’t fast enough to stop him before he started.”
Nylen shook his head. “Thank you,” he whispered. “I was so afraid of dying alone.”
Klin kissed him gently. “I could never let that happen to you.”
“Now what?” Nylen asked.
“You’re free,” Klin replied. “You can make your own life, stay with me, work for someone else – whatever you wish.”
“It would be foolish of me not to stay with you,” Nylen told him. “I don’t know how to survive alone, and I don’t want to be away from you. I love you.”
Klin smiled and ran a hand through his lover’s tangled hair. “Then let’s find a village for some food and a healer. After that we can find a place to live. Together. And you won’t be my slave.”
Nylen smiled. “It’ll be hard to break the habit of cleaning and cooking.”
“I can’t cook, so you can still do that,” Klin told him. “Now, maybe we should keep riding. I don’t think my father will follow us, but you need a healer.”
Nylen agreed and allowed Klin to help him mount once more. They continued on at an easy trot, away from their past and into their future.