The cottage garden was sheltered from the breeze and, with the chimnea blazing, the patio felt cosy and intimate. Lit tealights in old jam jars were scattered around the boundary of the paved area, their flames flickering in the darkness. Plucking a gentle melody, Taylor watched as Nana and Jen brought out bowls of crisps and dips and some beers and cider. He smiled over at Ellen, who was sitting on a pile of cushions beside the fireplace.
“You ok?” asked Taylor, noting that she was staring intently at the flames.
“Never better,” she replied with a relaxed smile. “I was just daydreaming.”
“Ghosts in those flames?”
With a wistful smile, she nodded before confessing, “A year ago I couldn’t have sat here. Couldn’t stand to see flames. My dad helped me over those ghosts. Calmed my fears.”
“Shit! I never thought!”
“It’s fine, Tailz,” assured Ellen warmly. “In fact, it’s more than fine. This is perfect.”
Want to know more? Check out Ellen on Amazon today.
Last Wednesday, I spent the day in Glasgow shopping with my Girl Child. We did the usual mother/daughter things- coffee, shopping, lunch, more shopping. After so many long, restricted months, it was nice to just meander through the shops, masks on, doing something that felt “normal.”
One of our last stops of the day was Paperchase. I love that shop. As a writer ,what’s not to love – notebooks, journals, pens… oh I was in seventh heaven! I was also looking for a specific journal as a gift. As I searched for it, I spied this lonely book lying on the shelf. It wasn’t what I was looking for, wasn’t what I was planning to buy but it spoke to me… no, more accurately, it screamed at me! I bought it. (Well, it was the only one left and it looked lonely…. and well it had pleaded with me…)
I’ll confess, creatively of late, I’ve struggled. Progress with Book Baby 7 has been painfully slow. For once, I actually have a clear idea of its storyline but putting pen to paper and stringing some sensible words together just hasn’t been happening. This isn’t writer’s block as such but more like burn out. The batteries were totally flat.
As I shared on here last week, I knew I needed a rest. And you know what? For once, I listened to myself.
I’m in the middle of my two-week 2021 Staycation. Week one has been hot and sunny (I love the sun!) and I’ve barely been indoors. After months of working in my living room, I can honestly say I’ve hardly set foot in it for 10 days. I’ve walked, I’ve run, I’ve practiced my yoga, I’ve listened to music, I’ve shopped, I’ve relaxed in the sun, and I’ve read and read and read (I’m on book 4 for this staycation). Apart from last week’s blog, I’ve not written a word.
Having bought the Continue the Story journal, it lay abandoned on my desk for three days before I picked it up and flicked through its pages. They whispered encouragingly…. I picked up a pencil, selected my prompt and tentatively tested the waters….
If you can’t read my handwritten scrawls, here’s the typed version of the short piece I wrote last night.
She’d waited a lifetime to see this view. Well, it felt like a lifetime- a hundred lifetimes! All those long cold months dreaming of this moment. Those endless dark depressing days where thoughts of this moment were the pot of gold at the end of her rainbow. The hours she had spent breathing stale clinical air, imagining it was clean salty ocean air.
As she’d sat on the plane the ay before, she’d fretted that she’d done the wrong thing. Was it too soon? What if the kids needed her? Would the cats be ok? Was four weeks too long to be away?
Despite her exhaustion, jet lag had kicked in. She’d been wide awake in the strange bed at 4am. With no one to answer to, no one to tip toe around for, she’d got up, showered and dressed, throwing on a vest tee, shorts then, as an afterthought, her Hard Rock Café hoodie. Slipping her bare feet into her flip flops, the key and her phone into her pocket, she left her rental apartment.
The pre-dawn air was still and cool. In a few short strides, she was across the worn planks of the boardwalk and heading down the nearest path. The sand felt icy cold on her feet as it flowed over her flip flops. Kicking them off, she padded down the beach towards the ocean.
Gentle waves lapped ashore. Sitting down on the soft sand out of reach of the waves, she hugged her knees and let out a long sigh as the sun started to rise above the horizon. Her pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The creative batteries aren’t quite fully re-charged yet but they’re getting there.
escape to the beach this weekend with Jake Power….
An early morning mist had rolled in off the ocean creating an eerie atmosphere along the beach. It had been early when Lori had crept out of the house to go for a walk. She did some of her best thinking alone down on the sand. Over the months her confidence and her physical strength had grown allowing her to walk along the shoreline without a constant nagging fear of falling. With the broad base plate attached, she still used her cane for support, psychological as much as physical. She had left Jake snoring loudly in bed, his long limbs spread out over more than his fair share of the mattress. When she had come down the hall, she had found Rich asleep on the lounge floor, his leather jacket serving as a blanket. As she wandered through the sun room, Lori wasn’t surprised to find both Paul and Grey asleep on the couches. The last two revellers hadn’t even made it indoors. Gary and Scott were dead to the world on the sun loungers outside. Someone had had the good sense to cover them with the fleecy blankets from the sun room. Images of the sleeping rock stars made her smile as she strolled along the sand. This early the beach was deserted, and the pockets of morning mist created her own small private thought bubbles.
If you want to read more then check out the Silver Lake series today
Ever been tempted to leave a wee note on the wall when you have been decorating for future generations to discover? Your own wee DIY memorial?
Did you ever expect to see any of your own notes again?
Me neither…..until last week.
One of the girl’s I work alongside in “the salt mine” lives in a house we used to live in. Small world, eh? We moved from there a long long time ago. In fact it was almost twenty-two years ago so you can imagine my surprise when she messaged me one evening last week to say she’d found something whilst decorating.
She sent me three photos … these three photos.
Coming face to face with my own “decorating graffiti” from twenty-four years ago was a bizarre feeling.
Equally bizarre – I remember writing it!
The room in question was Boy Child’s nursery. At that time. the Big Green Gummi Bear and I agreed not to find out the sex of our first baby so, until he was born a few months after the graffiti was left for posterity, he was known as “Jellybean”.
I loved that nursery when it was finished! It was such a bright cheerful room. We kept the furnishing simple- pine cot, pine chest of drawers and a pine rocking chair. We thought we’d created the perfect room for Jellybean to sleep soundly in.
He was a “difficult” baby and a terrible sleeper! He never slept a full night in that room!
Now all that’s left, apart from countless precious memories, is the chest of drawers, the cushions that sat on the rocking chair and “Jellybean” himself!
Want to spend 4th of July at a Silver Lake BBQ for free…
Less than an hour later, the burgers were sizzling on the grill, Maddy and Lori were bringing salads and relishes out from the kitchen, Becky was contentedly watching TV and the four band members were all catching up with each other, as they sprawled across the sun deck. Rich had taken charge of the BBQ, ordering Jake to stay clear of the smoke. Happy to relinquish the cooking duties, Jake had gone back to the sun lounger without a word of complaint. Once all the food was out, Lori came and sat beside him. He draped a protective arm around her shoulders, kissed the top of her head and whispered, “Love you, li’l lady.”
“Love you too, rock star,” she purred, resting her head against his bare chest.
Within a few minutes, Rich was dishing up burgers and they were all scrabbling round the table for rolls, salad and relish. No one was standing on ceremony and the relaxed atmosphere gave it the feel of a family meal.
Stronger Within, book one in the Silver Lake series is free to download today. Check it out using the links below:
His feet landed firmly on a patch of rough gravel. The jolt caused the dark angel in his arms to groan weakly. Swiftly, he left the path, crossed the narrow strip of grass then carried her down the rough-hewn stone steps to the walled courtyard of the beach hut, taking care not to slip. Hearing him approach, Trine opened the door, spilling light out into the courtyard.
“You brought her here!” she gasped, eyes wide with surprise.
“I didn’t know where else to take her,” said the runner as he carried the angel inside. “Close the door. Can you fetch the bag of first aid stuff? I think it’s beneath the sink.”
Heading into his own bedroom, he called back, “I’ll need some hot water soap and a flannel too.”
“Do you need help?”
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation. “That knife is still in her back.”
“I think she’s been on the floor of her mausoleum for the last three months,” he revealed as he laid the dark angel on the bed face down. “She’s barely alive. She’s been feeding on mice and voles. The place was littered with them.”
“It’s a miracle she’s alive,” muttered Trine as she turned to fetch the supplies.
Taking care not to hurt her any further, he began to strip the dark angel’s soiled clothing from her limp body. Her cloak practically fell off in his hands, revealing her blood soaked back. The fabric of her blouse was torn and thick with congealed blood and stinking green pus. He could see it was all crusted round the embedded blade and around the hilt of the knife. Through the sheer fabric he could see that the skin around the root of her wing to the right of her spine was black. The root of her wing looked shrivelled, and the wing lay limply by her side, the feathers dull.
“We need a healer,” stated Trine simply as she appeared beside him with the Boots bag and a bowl of steaming hot water.
“I know but I can’t rock up to A&E with her, can I?” he replied sharply. “We’ll need to pull that blade out ourselves. Unless you have a better idea?”
Silently, Trine shook her head.
“Let’s clean her up first before we touch the knife,” he suggested. “Do you have any spare clothes she can borrow?”
“I’ll find something,” said the Ice Maiden, already heading towards her own room.
By the time she returned a few minutes later with some underwear and a loose blouse, he had stripped off the angel’s stinking clothes and thrown them outside.
“I’ll bathe her,” said Trine bluntly, her tone leaving no room for debate. “We’ll need more medical supplies. More of those white pads and more of that sticky tape.”
Nodding, he said, “I’ll fetch some. I’ll see if I can find some antibiotics too. We need to kill any infection.”
“Your modern drugs may kill her,” said Trine wisely. “Bring back some honey. Manuka honey if you can find some. We’ll treat this the old-fashioned way.”
“Ok. I’ll see what I can find,” he promised. “I’ll be as quick as I can.”
Finding the first aid supplies was easy. He transported himself back to Boots and filled another bag from their shelves, adding some penicillin from the pharmacy just in case. There was no food section in the store so there was no honey. Thinking on his feet, he transported himself out of the shop and into the empty concourse of the mall, keeping to the shadows. Nervously, he looked around. Further along to his right, he spotted a sign saying, “Health Food Store”. Cautiously, he crept through the empty mall, praying that he was avoiding being seen by the cctv cameras. Once outside the small health food shop, he transported inside. Luck was on his side! Inside the door was a display of manuka honey. Quickly, he scooped six jars into the bag, folded his wings around himself and returned to the beach hut, landing lightly in the courtyard.
When he re-entered the bedroom, Trine had just finished bathing the dark angel and had managed to dress her in some clean underwear. She had begun to gently clean the infected skin around the knife.
“How is she?” he asked anxiously.
“The same,” replied Trine without looking up. “She hasn’t regained consciousness. I haven’t found any other injuries though.”
“I got everything you asked for including the honey,” he said, holding up the bulging bag. “I brought some antibiotics just in case. Penicillin.”
“I’m no chemist but they discovered it was a cure for infections a hundred years ago. It grew as a mould or something.”
“We’ll try the honey first,” suggested Trine. “If it doesn’t work then we can talk about using your modern magic pills.”
“Ok, so now what?”
“We pull out the knife and be ready with clean clothes to staunch the flow of blood,” she advised calmly. “You pull it.”
Silently, he nodded his agreement.
Space in the room was tight. Carefully, Trine climbed up onto the far side of the bed, gauze swabs in hand, taking care not to move too much and disturb the prone angel’s position. Standing at the side of the bed, the runner placed a hand on the dark angel’s arm and whispered, “I’m going to pull the knife out now. Sorry. This is going to hurt.”
“Slow and steady. Don’t twist the blade,” cautioned Trine, looking as anxious as he felt.
Wrapping his hand round the ornate hilt, he pulled gently. At first there was no movement from the blade.
“Harder,” instructed the Ice Maiden.
He applied a little more force, and the blade began to ease its way out. It was catching on something hard inside, either the edge of her shoulder blade or maybe a rib or a vertebra. Blood started pouring down her back around the metal.
“Pull hard. Quicker!”
“You said slowly.”
“There’s too much blood. Get it out now!”
With a final tug, he freed the blade. The second it was out, Trine placed a wad of gauze over the wound to soak up the blood. A putrid smell filled the room.
“That wound is bad,” she said. “Smells of death.”
“Well, that knife’s been in there a long time. I felt things moving inside her as it came free. I’ve a feeling there might be bone fragments loose in there,” he explained, feeling a little queasy as he recalled the blade catching on bone as he’d pulled.
“Bones will heal. We need this bleeding to stop first. Pass me more of those white squares.”
It took a few minutes, but the flow of blood finally eased then stopped. Taking care not to start the bleeding again, Trine washed the gaping hole out with hot water then cleaned it with some antiseptic wipes. The runner watched as she then soaked some more the square swabs with honey and packed the wound. She taped a large clean white dressing over the top.
“That will need to be cleaned and dressed daily until it heals,” she said calmly. “If it heals.”
“You’ve done a good job. Thank you.”
“I’ve done my best,” she said with a weary sigh. “Healing her just to kill her feels all wrong.”
“I know,” he acknowledged. “But she’s got to heal first. That wound could end it all.”
Trembling, he dropped to his knees on the bloodied rug and gently placed a hand on Trine’s shoulder. She whimpered faintly. Taking care not to hurt her even further, the runner scooped her up into his arms and carried her through to his bed. Blood had soaked through the leg of her tight trousers and a second patch was soaking through her cloak at her shoulder. How to stop the bleeding? As a feeling of panic began to creep over him, instinct took control, fading memories of teenage first aid training filtering through. Grabbing a nearby t-shirt, he tore it into pieces then pulled the leg of her trouser up to expose the wound. It looked like a deep ragged knife wound running down her calf, stopping just shy of her Achilles tendon. He applied compression to the wound then bound it tightly with strips of the torn fabric. The Ice Maiden’s wings were folded awkwardly and, fearful that they would break, he eased her into a sitting position, rearranged the feathers to protect them before easing her cloak from her slender shoulders. It slid off easily. Blood oozed from a second deep wound to her shoulder, but he could see that it was already congealing. Taking care not to hurt her, he eased Trine’s top away from the wound, reached for another t-shirt and pressed it onto the wound, unsure how to immediately secure it in place.
In his arms, she let out a sharp cry of pain. Her eyelids flickered then he felt her go limp. Was there something in that shoulder wound? What had caused it? A knife? A shot? An arrow? Regardless, both wounds needed to be cleaned properly and dressed. The beach hut was void of medical supplies. Knowing he couldn’t just take her to A&E, the runner reasoned that the quickest way to get what was needed was to transport himself to the nearest pharmacy. It had been years since he had last set foot in one. The best he could visualise was the local branch of Boots. Holding onto as clear an image as he could recall, he closed his wings round him, silently praying that he’d end up where he needed to be.
Unfurling his majestic, green-tipped brown wings, he opened his eyes and looked round. Hairdryers, curling irons and electric toothbrushes were on the shelves in front of him. Bingo! He’d at least made it to the correct shop. First aid supplies and antiseptic were at the back of the shop. Finding a large plastic bag behind the counter, he filled it with everything he thought he could possibly need, closed his wings around himself once more and transported himself back to the beach hut.
He gauged he’d been gone less than ten minutes.
Pausing to put the kettle on to boil, to give him some hot water to clean Trine’s wounds, he hurried back into the bedroom. The Ice Maiden was lying where he’d left her.
“Trine?” he spoke quietly, trying to keep the panic from his voice. “Can you hear me? Who did this to you?”
Her eyelids flickered but that was her only response.
“Fuck,” he muttered, tossing the bag of medical supplies onto the bed. “Let’s get those clothes off and get those wounds cleaned up.”
Cursing himself, he realised too late that he should have tried to find some antibiotics in the pharmacy. Would they even have been effective on a vampiress?”
It took him a few minutes, but he finally had her stripped down to her silver silk camisole and panties. He’d checked her over for other signs of injury but, apart from a few ugly purple bruises and the nasty gouges on her cheek, he found none.
In the living room, the kettle began to whistle on the stove.
“I’ll be right back,” he promised softly.
Using warm water laced with disinfectant, he bathed her wounds tenderly then carefully dressed them. The stab wound to her leg was still bleeding but the flow of blood had slowed considerably. Her breathing was slow and steady. There were no signs of fever, but she still had not regained consciousness. Positioning her as comfortably as possible, propped up on pillows, he let her rest. With a heavy heart, the runner dragged in a chair from beside the dining table and settled himself to keep a vigil over her.
As the first light of dawn began to streak across the skies, Trine began to stir. At the first sign of movement, the runner was on his feet and by her side.
“Hey, it’s ok. You’re safe,” he said gently, laying his hand on her forehead to check for fever. Her skin was still cool to the touch.
“Pain,” she murmured. “Thirsty.”
“Give me a minute. I’ll fetch you something.”
He returned with a glass of blood infused wine and some painkillers he’d thought to toss into the bag almost as an afterthought. He held the glass up to her lips.
“Sip it slowly,” he cautioned. “I’ll hunt for us later. This will need to do for now.”
“Tastes good,” whispered Trine, struggling to open her eyes. “Wasn’t sure I’d make it back here.”
“I’m glad you did,” he said warmly. “Now, rest. There’s time to talk later.”
“Stay with me.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere.”
Three days and nights passed before Trine was strong enough to stay awake for more than a few short minutes and felt well enough to get out of bed for a while. She had barely protested when the runner offered to carry her through to the living area to sit by the stove.
He’d hunted the moment it had grown dark, settling for sheep’s blood for them both as he hadn’t wanted to stray too far from the hut. Already he could imagine the farmer’s protests over the loss of two ewes to “dogs”.
Passing a glass of the still warm blood to her, he asked, “Do you feel up to telling me what happened?”
“It was her,” began Trine, pausing to drink deeply from the glass. “She was here. She followed me. Hunted me.”
“The dark angel,” she revealed quietly. “She’s beautiful.”
“She is,” he acknowledged. “But she’s dangerous with it.”
“We flew north. Flew for hours. I lured her away from here. There was a storm. We fought. She stabbed me. I managed to grab her knife. Managed to stab her in the back with her own knife. She fell. I did too,” she paused then continued, “I hid in a church for hours, but some men came. I transported back here before they would see me.”
Telling the abbreviated tale had left the injured Ice Maiden exhausted. The runner refilled her glass, and she drank in silence.
“She said you were hers. Said you were unique. She described you as pure,” Trine paused, her pale face a mask of pain. “She knows you intend to kill her. Knows about the deal with my father. She said he won’t honour it.”
“How could she possibly know about that?”
“I have no idea, but she knew.”
“Do you think she survived?”
Trine nodded, “But I’ve no idea where she may be. Wherever she is, she’s badly injured.”
“Should I look for her?”
“Do you even know where to start to look for her?”
The runner sat in silence, staring into the flames dancing in the wood burning stove. Trine’s question hung in the air unanswered.
By the eve of the full Strawberry Moon, Trine was almost restored to full health. The long light summer nights meant their time outdoors was limited to a few short hours. Neither of them had strayed far from the beach hut while she’d recuperated. Initially, the runner had hunted for her but gradually, over the cycle of the Strawberry Moon, Trine had felt strong enough to hunt locally for herself.
With their thirst quenched with doe’s blood, they sat on the beach in front of the hut, listening to the gentle movement of the river before them.
“I wish we could stay here forever,” whispered Trine, playing with a smooth round white pebble.
“Don’t you miss your life in the castle?” he asked curiously.
Trine shook her head, “No. I’d miss the freedom being here gives me. I’d much rather be here than there.”
“Why do you bring this up now?”
“Because I know my father and he’s going to expect results from you,” she replied. “And soon.”
“But if he’s searched for her for years, why would he expect results from me in only a few months?”
Gazing into his dark brown eyes, Trine said simply, “Because a child always knows the way back to its mother.”
With a long sigh, he confessed, “Well, I used to.”
As the Strawberry Moon shone full and bright over the calm river the next night, the runner sat alone on the beach in front of the hut, deep in thought. He’d barely slept after his conversation with Trine the night before and the little sleep he got was troubled by bad dreams. Putting his hand in his pocket, he pulled out the small white pebble that he’d picked up months before. He sat lost in his thoughts, turning it over and over in his hand.
Although she hadn’t said as much, he guessed Trine knew he was struggling with the thought of actually killing the dark angel. He held onto a false hope that her fight with the Ice Maiden had seen her fall to her death. In his heart, he knew he had to look for her, to at least confirm if she was dead or alive.
“You look troubled, Son of Perran,” commented Trine as she approached him, picking her way carefully over the uneven rocks.
Without looking up, he said, “If she survived the fall after your battle, she’ll have found her way back to her mausoleum.”
“And you know where it is?” Trine’s words were more of a statement than a question.
The runner nodded.
“Go,” she said warmly. “If we can at least report back to my father that you’ve seen her that may stall him for a few more months.”
“Don’t you want me to kill her?” he asked, feeling suddenly confused.
“I want you to keep your word to my father so that you stay in his good graces,” replied Trine honestly. “But I’m not ready for our time here together to end. I’m not ready for you to die, my dear.”
Reaching up to take her hand in his, he said, “I’m not ready for this to end either but I need to check to see if she made it back or not. I need to check her mausoleum.”
“Is it far?”
He shook his head.
“Then go before you change your mind.”
The ground under his feet felt soft as he landed silently in a clearing near the concealed stone tomb. It was the same small clearing that the dark angel had led him to many years before. Moonlight lit his way through the trees as he walked soundlessly towards the mausoleum. There was no sign of fresh footprints near the small stone building; there were no signs of life near it either. Carefully, he walked round to the front. He stopped dead in his tracks. The door, usually tightly closed, was slightly ajar.
With his heart pounding and his hands suddenly sweaty and trembling, he walked towards the door. Reaching it, he pulled on the edge to open it wider. A sense of dread hung over him as he stepped nervously inside. He could smell the distinctive ferrous aroma of blood in the air; he could smell the stomach-turning aroma of decay and excrement. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the runner thought that the tomb was empty then he spotted something lying crumpled on the floor. Now able to see a little clearer in the dim light, he noted the numerous dead mice and voles littering the stone floor. Cautiously, he approached the dark bundle.
It was her. It was the dark angel.
At first, he thought she was dead then he heard a shallow rasping breath.
She was alive.
Using his cigarette lighter, he lit two of the wall sconces. The flames hissed and spat as the light grew brighter around them.
Slowly, he knelt on the floor beside the prone angel. One of her majestic wings lay at an awkward angle. From the stench surrounding her, the angel had lain there for some considerable time.
“You came,” she whispered hoarsely. “I knew you would.”
“Sh,” he said softly. “Don’t try to talk. Let me help you.”
“Don’t touch me!” she spat venomously.
“I need to if I’m to help you,” he said firmly. Reaching into the back pocket of his jeans, the runner produced a slim pewter hip flask.
“Drink this,” he instructed, holding the flask to her parched lips. “It’s still warm.”
Holding her head in his left hand, the runner put the flask to her cracked lips. The dark angel took a few hungry sips then slowly opened her eyes.
“Help me,” she whispered, her eyes silently pleading with him.
“That’s why I’m here,” he assured her, offering her more of the warm deer’s blood.
“My back. The knife,” she said weakly.
“The knife’s still in there?”
Gently moving her wing, the runner saw the hilt of the knife lodged in the angel’s back between her shoulder blades and close to the root of one of her magnificent purple tipped black wings. Blood was crusted round it and there was a putrid smell from the wound.
“I can’t treat you here,” he said simply. “I’ve nothing to clean that wound even if I can get that blade out. You could bleed out. I need medical supplies. You need a doctor!”
“Do what you must, Son of Perran,” she said faintly. “I trust you.”
Knowing he had but one choice, he lifted her into his arms, taking great care not to touch the knife, wrapped his wings around them both and visualised his destination.