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Sticks And Stones May Break Your Bones…but bullying is NEVER OK.

“Sticks and stones may break your bones
But names will never hurt you.”

 

Sticks and stones photo

I wish I had a pound for every time my Mum or my Wee Gran said that to me while I was growing up. I’d be a very rich girl if I had!
Bullying, for various reasons, has cropped up in several conversations recently. It’s stirred up more than a few ghosts from the past, I can tell you.
The childhood rhyme has played in the background like a soundtrack to my schooldays.
As the summer break draws to a close, if you’re a parent of a child who is being bullied and harassed, or a teacher of a class hiding a bully in its midst, you might want o pause and read the tale my daughter and I are about to share.
I’ll pause for a moment to allow you to reflect before continuing….this is could prove to be a difficult read for some.

I was bullied for six years in school (roughly 1979-1985 if you need a timeframe for reference here). To this day, I have no idea what triggered it but I can recall the first incident as clearly as if it happened yesterday.
It was a wet afternoon interval in school. I was in Primary 5. As a class, we had been painting pictures. I genuinely don’t recall saying or doing anything to trigger this but suddenly a few of the kids in the class were round my desk commenting on my poor artwork. (I never was much use at art and never claimed to be any good at painting.) There was a nasty, hurtful edge to their taunts. My desk was in front of the classroom door. The door to the corridor was open. I bolted!
I ran down the stairs, from the first floor to the basement, to seek refuge in the girls’ toilets. Twenty plus kids from the class followed me- boys and girls. I made it safely into a cubicle near the end of the row and locked the door. Safe. Wrong! All the kids, boys and girls, came charging into the toilets screaming and yelling, hammering on the door, trying to climb over the door and partition walls, trying to squeeze under the door and partition walls. I was absolutely terrified. The bell rang and, gradually, they all retreated. I stayed where I was until all was quiet then returned to my classroom. The teacher asked where I’d been and, when I told her what had happened, she didn’t believe me, suggesting I was lying. Suddenly, I was the one in trouble. I returned to my seat feeling twenty plus smug pairs of eyes watching me.
It all spiralled rapidly downhill from there.
I’m not going to go into this blow for blow (Yes, this went beyond name calling on a semi-regular basis for years)
I was ostracised. Outcast. I was nine years old.
If I arrived at school with something new, shoes or a bag or a coat, I was laughed at and ridiculed. My coat or blazer would regularly disappear from its allotted space in the cloakroom, only to turn up stuffed under a sink or behind a radiator, usually having been kicked about by muddy feet first.
The heavy metal band Iron Maiden with their skeleton mascot Eddie were just coming to the fore and one of the boys, who liked the band, nicknamed me “Beast” after the creature in the song “Number of the Beast”. That nickname stuck for years…. for ever. Kids, sometimes kids I didn’t even know, would grab me by the hair and haul at my clothing to determine if I had “666” tattooed at the back of my neck. Funnily enough, I don’t. Maybe that experience has contributed to the fact that I have no ink on me whatsoever, despite having two designs that in my heart I would love to have discretely tattooed.
The few friends I had in the class vanished into the crowd.
Lunchtimes and intervals became endlessly long, lonely periods of time to be endured instead of enjoyed. I retreated into myself. I kept myself to myself, finding a quiet corner to hide and read my book in peace, losing myself in the words on the pages to escape from the reality I was living.
By the time I reached Primary 7, things were no better. It was in Primary 7 that I remember physically striking back for the first time. I was reading the book My Friend Flicka. Several of the girls were taunting me about it and I was doing my level best to ignore them. Eventually, one, who thought she was being smart, was standing in front of me flicking the book up into my face, chanting “My friend fucka me and I enjoyed it.” I snapped. I slapped her. Slapped her hard.
For a short while, the bullies backed off.
All the while, my mother and grandmother thought they were reassuring me with that old childhood rhyme. They weren’t. My mum had tried approaching the school’s headmaster about the bullying but that only served to make matters worse. One of the kids in my class saw her in the school and told the others. The bullying became even more vicious and hurtful as a result.
My mum and grandmother changed tack as the time approached for me to start high school. Almost daily during the summer holidays, they attempted to convince me that moving to a bigger school meant more opportunity to make nice, new friends. I just listened to them, knowing in my heart that they were wrong.
My primary school classmates found a new bigger, rougher, tougher audience in high school and, for roughly three years, things were worse than ever. Now, it was the boys more than the girls who were my daily tormentors. There were parts of the school I dreaded passing through.
Things hit an all time low one Tuesday afternoon in my second year. Again, it was during an afternoon break when it happened. I was standing quietly minding my own business outside my English class when a boy in my year from a different class came towards me and, without a word, drew his fist and punched me in the face. I felt my nose break. Apparently, I was supposed to have passed comment on his girlfriend’s new haircut. I hadn’t seen the girl and certainly wasn’t aware that she had changed her hairstyle. Why would I even care? I barely knew her. Sitting through that English lesson, trying to staunch the bleeding and trying not to cry was one of the lowest points I can recall.
Eventually, by the time we were all fourteen or fifteen, the bullies grew bored and moved on. I continued to keep myself to myself for most of the time. I’d hide at lunchbreaks, usually in the assembly hall, and write as my means of coping with my reality.
It was all too late though. The mental and emotional damage had been done and those scars run far deeper than any of the physical ones.
I left school in 1988.
Several years after I left school, one of the worst of the bullies reared his ugly head again. I was walking on my own from the branch of the bank where I was working into the town centre to catch the bus home. Along the way, I passed several pubs and as I approached one of these, The Green Oak, a group of drunk young men stumbled out in front of me. Among them was one of the bullies. He recognised me, even in his drunken state and started yelling, “I know you. We called you the Beast in school!” Before I had time to react, they had surrounded me and were all chanting “Beast! Beast! Beast!” At that moment, the bus I was rushing to catch came down the road. Fortunately, the driver recognised me, stopped the bus in the middle of the road and yelled at me to” get on.” I’ve never been so relieved to get on a bus in my life. In those few terrifying moments, I’d gone from a 22-year-old young woman to a frightened 12-year-old in my head.
2010 marked the year that my class turned 40 and a school reunion was arranged. It was the last event I wanted to go to but I reasoned that by going, I might finally put some of the ghosts to bed and get some closure. Two friends, who felt similarly uneasy about it, suggested we go to together. Safety in numbers and all that. The event was arranged via Facebook and, as the guest list grew, so did my nerves. When I saw one name in particular, the worst of the original bullies, appear, I almost changed my mind about attending. Even on the evening of the event itself, I was in two minds about going. I was feeling physically sick with nerves as I left the house. The reunion was held in the local rugby club and was all going well until that person arrived. A group of us were already seated at a round table with a drink when she walked in with her friends. She was all “huggy/kissy” with the people round the table until she saw me. As I looked at her, I realised she had stopped in her tracks and was looking at me with the same childish hatred from 30 years before. I looked away and she moved off. Even, after all these years…..oh, well, I guess leopards don’t change their spots.
I will never attend another school reunion.
That one long look from her opened up all the old wounds.
Sticks and stone may break your bones, but bones mend. Words scar your soul forever.
On reflection, while the years of abuse that I endured seemed never ending at the time, I was lucky.
I was lucky this all happened pre-internet, pre-mobile phones, pre-social media, pre- group chats.
At least when I went home from school, the bullies couldn’t reach me, unless they phoned the house or turned up at the door.
There is little escape from 21st Century bullying. It’s a 24/7 affair with little or no respite.

As a mother, one of the hardest things to watch and handle as a parent, has been seeing history repeat itself for my Baby Girl.
She’s agreed to tell her tale for this blog for the first time, so, in her own words-

“Through my life, my mum has told me about her school experiences, now I’m going to tell you mine.
“School years are the best years of your life” – absolutely bloody not!
So, let’s start from the beginning of high school. In first year, I was no longer “cool” enough for my primary school friends so I had to find a new friend group. I managed that and, as far as I can remember, the rest of first year was enjoyable (apart from getting glasses)
Second year things started to go belly up. This was the year I discovered how imaginative people can be. I can’t remember how it all began but a very hurtful story was invented by someone ( I still don’t know who) and it spread like wildfire around the school. At first people shouted names and comments at me in the social area. Then I lost all the friends I had just made the year before because nobody wanted to be seen to associate with me. One day I couldn’t face another day of it at school so pretended to be sick to stay home. Peace and quiet – or so I thought. By 4 o’clock the messages started arriving. My favourite message was from a boy I had never spoken to saying “Have you killed yourself yet?”
At 12 years old, I remember sitting on the bathroom floor with a bottle of toilet cleaner in my hand trying to grow the balls to drink it.
This was the first time I wanted to commit suicide. This was just the start.
From then on, I was extremely self-conscious. For the next few years I worked to lose as much weight as possible with the hope of disappearing. I became so weak it got to the point I struggled to stand without help. This simply led to more taunting. I was now “a bag of bones” and “a starving African child”. As you can assume, this led to more self-loathing and concerning behaviour.
At this point, I had new friends and I was in that group until one girl decided she didn’t like me and turned everyone against me. Of course, there were a lot of nasty messages sent. I will admit, I responded with my own unhelpful messages, fuelled by pain and anger.
In fifth year, I found yet another group of friends who were outcasts like myself. The comments from classmates had continued from second year but in my last year I found a new way to cope. I started to suffer from health problems, for which I was prescribed 30/500 co-codamol pills. After a few weeks, I no longer needed them but continued to take 8 a day for 11 weeks just to get through school. Being in a constant dazed medicated state made it a lot easier to ignore the comments.
So, to summarise my school experience, it was filled with: people making abusive comments, receiving horrendous Facebook messages, self-hatred and self-harming behaviours. But, at the end of the day, I can say I made it out alive.
Now, at the age of 18, I have considered suicide at least once per day every day. I have been prescribed strong anti-depressants and am open to the community mental health team. I have nightmares most nights, some about events from school.
But, I have 3 amazing friends and a family who love and support me.
Upon reflection, I am glad this happened to me instead of someone else, because the thought of another person going through it is unbearable. But the sad fact is, this happens to hundreds of thousands of kids every single day.”

I knew my Baby Girl had had a rough time throughout high school. In fact, it started in primary school. I knew about some of the bullying. I knew about some of the Facebook messages because she would screenshot them and send them to me.
There’s a lot though in that story that I never knew until she gave me her story to add to this blog a few days ago. At this point in time, I feel as if I have failed her.
21st century bullying is beyond evil and, selfishly, I’m relieved that it didn’t exist while I was being bullied all those years ago. I don’t believe I have the strength of character to survive it.
There is NO escape from it.
Facebook group chats are the worst vehicle ever for it. Countless times, she would show me message chains where the comments were directed at her. They were beyond vile. They had been sent day and night.
I sat on the local high school’s parent council for seven years so speaking to staff without my daughter’s knowledge was easy but proved to be a complete waste of time. I tried time and again but was always told that the school had no control over online bullying. As far as I witnessed, they had little control over the bullying and harassment going on within the school itself. On the odd occasion, when a teacher would listen, they never acted as bullies have an uncanny knack of being the teachers’ favourites, the “cool” kids.
As a parent, I felt helpless. Utterly helpless.
I failed her.

Neither of us are sharing this with a view to gaining any sympathy.
Neither of us are sharing this to point the finger at the bullies. If they happen to read this and recognise themselves, then I hope they feel at least some remorse for their past actions. Somehow, based on my personal experience of my school reunion, I doubt that they will. I think that’s sad…..tragic.

The reasoning behind speaking up now is that summer’s almost over and kids are going back to school. Bullies will be seeking new vulnerable targets. Some kids will be facing the school year with dread.
For what they are worth, my words of wisdom are:
If you are a parent, be vigilant. Teenagers are experts at hiding things from us.
If you’re a teacher, don’t turn a blind eye and presume that its just kids being kids.
If you’re a target (I hate the word “victim”) stay strong and speak up. Don’t suffer in silence just because its easier. Be yourself. And remember bullies are cowards at heart.
If you’re the bully or you were the bully, I hope you’ve learned something from this and use your time to reflect on the consequences of your actions.
Thank you for listening.

For more information and support on this subject –

https://www.bullying.co.uk/

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/bullying-and-cyberbullying/

https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/bullying/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/bullying/

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Alphabet Thoughts….

 

letters

 

A thought struck me while I was proofreading and spellchecking Book Baby 4 aka Ellen.

Now, this may be a thought that’s already struck you so apologies if I’m late to the party here.

The thought?

Well, what struck me was what an incredible thing the alphabet is. You take twenty-six wee letters and by rearranging them into various combinations you get words, lots and lots of different words.

The word count for Book Baby 4 is around 106 000 give or take a couple of hundred (still tweaking!). That’s approximately 500 000 letters. That’s a lot of combinations of those wee letters of the alphabet.

And do you know what’s even more incredible? No? Well, that’s the first time that those 500 000 letters have been used in that specific combination, making Book Baby 4 unique.

“She’s lost it this time!” I hear you cry but pause for a moment and think about it. Think about all the great works of fiction, the classics, the award-winning novels, adult fiction, children’s stories….. I could go on but I’m sure you get the hint. Each and every one of them is a unique collection of those twenty-six wee letters combined to make words that are then strung together to make sentences.

Those sentences might be short and simple or long and complex containing may clauses but, at the end of the day, they are a combination of twenty-six wee letters combined to make words that allow authors to tell a story. How incredible is that?

Now, I am not for a second comparing my creative efforts to the literary greats but we all have one thing in common – we each started with a blank page/screen and had the same twenty-six wee letters to play with.

Using those twenty-six wee letters you can create scenes that invoke an emotional response in the person reading the resulting story. You can make people laugh. You can make people cry. You can make people angry. You can make people calm. You can make people happy. How powerful is that?

And, even more incredible, those same twenty-six wee letters can be used to create different languages used around the world. We use the Latin alphabet to write in English. That same alphabet forms the basis for around 6000 languages that  use additional diacritics (those squiggles above and below certain letters) to enhance them.

And to think, each an every one of us from wee me to Shakespeare, to Emily Bronte, to JK Rowling (no, I’m not comparing my ability to theirs)started out the same way – learning how to hold the pen to write our own name.

 

(image sourced via Google – credits to the owner)

Silently Watching on the Blessing Moon- seven days later….

 

dark angel

Exactly one week later, he entered the graveyard as the sun began to set and took a seat on the bench. He had feigned a headache as the excuse to go for a walk and now felt slightly guilty for lying to his unsuspecting wife.
Subconsciously, his hand went to his jeans pocket and fingered the green velvet bag containing the three crystals. He had slipped easily into the habit of handling them whenever he felt something was “different”.
The dark angel had been right about one thing. He had slept soundly and dreamlessly the night following his transformation. In fact, he had slept right through his alarm and had almost been late for work. That morning he had noticed the first change in himself. Having had a hurried shower, he had gone to put his contact lenses in before getting dressed. Following his usual routine, he had settled the squishy discs into place. Immediately the world about him went fuzzy. Assuming that he had put them in the wrong eyes, he switched them over and the bathroom blurred even further out of focus. Somewhat confused, he had removed them and put them back in their plastic case. The world around him came back into focus. For the first time in many years, he had 20/20 vision.
Over the next couple of days, he spotted a couple of subtle changes. At work, instead of reaching for the calculator for the necessary arithmetic calculations his role required, he was doing them mentally with ease. He also realised, during a meeting with his boss, that he could read her mind. Despite what she had written on the appraisal document lying on the desk between them, he “heard” her true thoughts and had to bite his tongue to stop himself from commenting to her. The same thing had happened with two colleagues later the same day. At home that evening, he did discover that this new skill had its advantages as his young daughter tried to plead her innocence as to how the TV remote had been broken.
Mid-week, he had gone for a run to try to clear his mind and make sense of it all. As he ran, he found a new turn of both speed and stamina, not dissimilar to how he had felt after the angel had attempted to bite him. Another definite plus point to his new-found self.
One thing that scared him was the thought of sprouting wings. He became almost paranoid about taking the small measure of the mugwort tincture. Fearing that his family would discover it, he had stashed it behind a loose brick in the garage then used the excuse of stepping outside for a smoke to slip into the garage to take the daily dose. He had brought the small jar with him. After seven days, it was almost empty and his paranoia about wings sprouting overnight was growing rapidly.
To the best of his knowledge, his nearest and dearest hadn’t detected any changes in him and for that he was thankful.

A subtle movement in the air behind where he sat caught his attention. Turning round, he wasn’t surprised to see the angel standing in the shadows.
Another thought immediately struck him – no pain in his tooth and no throbbing at his neck. Putting his fingers on the spot on his neck, he smiled when they came away clean. No blood.
“Good evening,” said the angel as she came to sit beside him on the wooden bench. “You are well?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Good actually,” he replied. “You?”
“Restored,” she said cryptically before smiling and revealing both her sharp fangs.
“It grew back,” commented the runner.
“It did. The moment your transformation took place. Have you noticed any changes?”
“No toothache or blood running down my neck when you arrived,” he said with a grin.
“And apart from that?”
“A few subtle changes. Not as much as I had worried about,” he answered then added, “And food still tastes the same. I’m not craving raw meat!”
The dark angel laughed, “You’ve watched too many vampire films. It’s not all about a craving for blood and meat, son of Perran. Some experience cravings for different things.”
“Like what?”
“Sex.”
Eyes wide, he almost choked before looking away to hide his embarrassment.
“Your transformation was only partial,” she continued. “So, you might not experience any unusual desires for years or even centuries.”
“I’ll bear it in mind,” he mumbled, conscious that his cheeks had flushed scarlet.
“Before I forget,” said the angel, reaching into the inside pocket of her cloak. “Your mugwort tea.”
She handed him another glass jar, a slightly larger one, and a piece of paper.
“This is the instructions for how to prepare it and on where to find the mugwort. You’ll spot it easily. You run past several patches of it on your trails.”
“I do?”
“You do,” she echoed with a hint of exasperation. “I’ve drawn a picture of the plant. There is a large patch of it ten paces east of the oak tree at the end of your trail.”
“I’ll find it,” he promised as he read over the instructions. Her handwriting was beautiful, he noted, and closely resembled Gothic script.
“And you need to drink this,” she ordered as she handed him a slender pewter hip flask. “I will leave this once a week on this day in the hollow of the tree to our left.”
“What is it?” he asked, already pretty sure of the answer.
“Blood.”
“Whose?”
“Does it matter?” she quizzed. “You need it to thrive, son of Perran. Drink!”
Without argument, he drank the flask dry, surprised to find the blood was still warm but with a tangy taste to it this time round.
“Once a week. Don’t forget,” she cautioned as he handed the flask back to her.
“And if I miss a week or am late?”
“Don’t,” she stated. “The desire to kill will mount quickly. You may not be able to control it.”
Slowly, he nodded, recalling her previous warning about the possibility that he could harm his children.
“Do you have any questions for me before we part?”
“I don’t know,” he confessed quietly. “It all feels a bit different. It all feels good. A bit different. Nothing major. I guess it’s too soon to say.”
The dark angel nodded, understanding and remembering the “newness” of those early post transformation days.
“Let’s keep this simple. Live your life. Enjoy your life. Drink your mugwort. Drink your blood ration. If you need me, use the white pebble code we agreed on and I’ll find you. Otherwise, I’ll leave you be for now.”
“When will I see you again?” he asked, realising she was about to leave.
Getting to her feet, the angel said, “When the time is right.”
“Are we talking days? Weeks? Months?”
“When the time is right,” she repeated.
In the blink of an eye, she was gone. All that remained was a small black feather with a bright purple tip. On impulse, he picked it up and slipped it into the green velvet bag with the gemstones.

Ellen – now available to pre-order for Kindle ….. just saying …..

Ellen final version front cover

**** Ellen –  now available to pre-order for Kindle ****

 

Ellen               “I vowed to prove them wrong.”

Tailz               “I believe this is about where we got to before.”

Luke               “You mess this up and you’re history! Hear me?”

Nana               “You should be soulmates not lovers.”

Emotions run high when Ellen Lloyd steps up to the mic as the new vocalist for rock band After Life. Will she prove to be heaven sent or will her arrival see the band descend into the depths of hell?

 Available to pre-order via Amazon

 Amazon.com link

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FYHKR44

 Amazon.co.uk link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FYHKR44

 Ellen will be published 1st Sept 2018

 

#Ellen #indieauthor #rockromance #kindle #ebook #preorder #Amazon #newfiction #bookpromo #bookworms #SilverLakeseries #rockstar #music #love #friendship #rockband  #contemporaryromance #newbook #book

Silently Watching on the Blessing Moon

dark angel

 

Midgies were swarming in thick black clouds as he ran back along his trail route towards the road. A warm, damp July evening was the perfect breeding ground for these tiny, vicious, bloodsucking creatures. Focusing on the music playing through his earbuds and on the uneven path in front of him, he did his best to ignore the myriad of miniscule flies that his sweat was attracting. 

In the shade of a tall oak tree that grew on the corner where the trail met the single-track farm road, the dark angel stood waiting and listening. From a distance she had watched him set off on his run and now she was patiently awaiting his return.

It was time to get her answer.

Four months had passed since she had offered him his choice and she had deliberately given him time and space to consider his options. Twice, when she had watched him pounding the forestry trails from a discrete distance, she had almost approached him but her will power had remained steadfast.

However, time was running out and, if he were to choose transformation, the ideal opportunity was a mere seven days away.

The steady rhythm of his feet on the stony path and the rattle of that infernal noise that he called music brought her attention back to the present.

As she breathed in her nostrils were filled with the tantalisingly arousing aroma of his blood and sweat.

 With the oak tree in sight, he picked up his pace, promising himself a hard, fast last mile home. A sharp pain in his tooth and a throbbing at his neck caused him to miss and almost stumble.

She was close.

He hadn’t seen or sensed the dark angel since their meeting on Easter Monday when she had offered him his choice of future. Over the months, he had thought long and hard about the options, weighing up the pros and cons. He had found himself lying awake in the wee small hours contemplating how life would look if he decided to take up her offer. During his all too brief lunch breaks at work and while out pounding the trails, he had worked out various ways to kills her. He’d wasted hours Googling “how to kill a vampire”.

As the tree grew closer, he realised he’d never once tried Googling “how to live as a vampire.”

When he next looked up, he wasn’t surprise to see her silhouette before him.

“Hey,” he greeted her somewhat breathlessly.

With a nod of her head, she smiled then said, “Well met, son of Perran.”

“I guess.”

“Turn off that noise,” she instructed sharply. “It pains me.”

Laughing quietly to himself, he paused his rock playlist and flicked the earbuds out of his ears, allowing them to rest over his slender shoulders.

“I need your answer.”

“Now?”

“Now,” she repeated. “Depending on your final choice, there are preparations to be made and time is short.”

He could feel her green eyes boring into his very soul as she stood facing him in the fading, dusky sunlight. Gently, her wings rustling softly, she took a step towards him.

“Well, what’s it to be, son of Perran?”

“Can I ask something before I give you my answer?” He was stalling for time and they both knew it.

“If you must,” she replied with a sigh then, indicating a small path no wider than a sheep trail, she said, “Walk with me.”

Without argument, he followed her, marvelling at how gracefully she moved. Once they were out of sight of the farm road, she turned and said, “Ask what you must?”

“If I let you change me…. let you make me like you….. how will I be able to live as normal? Won’t I need to kill things and drink blood?”

The words tumbled out and he suddenly felt that his questions where childish and idiotic.

“It’s all about balance, son of Perran,” she began, her tone that of a school teacher. “Your transformation can be partially done at first. If you choose that path then you will need some blood to thrive but I will be here to provide for you, to teach you and assist you until you learn how to care for yourself. If you drink your blood rations then you won’t need to kill. I promise you will only need to kill for survival if you change your mind and opt to be fully transformed. As you have a young family, I’d advise against full transformation for several years. A child’s blood is so tempting and you won’t have learned the skills to resist.”

“I’d want to kill my own kids?”

“You might,” she replied calmly.

Her words sent icy shivers down his spine. Picturing his three children, he couldn’t even begin to contemplate hurting one of them never mind killing them and drinking their blood!

“And if I choose to kill you, how will I do it?”

“I don’t believe that’s the option you will choose,” she replied sounding calmly confident.

Silence hung in the air as they stared at each other.

 Watching the vein at his neck pulsing, the angel tried to read his mind. Her instincts were screaming at her that he was about to choose transformation but his facial expression was giving nothing away. Gazing into his dark brown eyes and wishing that they weren’t blood related, she waited on him reaching a decision.

“Will transformation hurt?” he asked quietly.

“No,” she replied. “Not the way I have planned. You may suffer a mild stomach ache but nothing worse than that.”

“What differences will I notice in myself?”

“Many. Too many to explain and they are impossible to predict. To everyone around you though you will still be the same man.”

A horsefly landed on his arm and bit him before he could swat it away.

One tiny drop of blood oozed up. He noticed the dark angel twitch as she fought to resist the delectable drop of poison.

“I need your answer,” she said keeping her eyes locked on his.

Biting his lower lip, he paused then said, “Transformation.”

“Partial transformation?”

He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

“An agreeable choice,” she acknowledged with a smile.

“Now what happens?”

“You finish your run and go home,” replied the angel. “Meet me one week from now in the graveyard. It must be after the moon has risen so around midnight.”

“What’s the moon got to do with it?” he asked curiously.

“Your transformation will be blessed under the full moon,” she replied. “July’s full moon has two names. Some call it the Meadow Moon. Others prefer its ancient name of Blessing Moon.”

“Ah……”

“Till next week, son of Perran.”

With one strong beat of her wings, she was gone.

 

Alone once more, he gazed around him wondering where she had disappeared to. The pain in his tooth was gone. His neck was no longer throbbing. Gently, he reached up and touched the spot where the angel’s fang tip was embedded. His fingertips were instantly coated in fresh blood.

As he turned for home, he wondered for the first time if he had made a wise choice.

 

Alone in the mausoleum, the dark angel began the detailed preparations for the runner’s transformation. Since learning his decision, she had scoured the areas for the items she needed to ensure the ceremony went smoothly and painlessly. Sourcing some of the items had been easy. Others had proved more difficult. Three specific crystals were also needed and finding those had proved to be the greatest challenge. Late on the day before the full moon, the dark angel ventured further afield. Her instincts led her to a small New Age shop in a village some twenty miles from her home. Biding her time, she had waited until the owner, a young woman with long, thick red hair had moved to shut the shop. As she had reached to turn the “open” sign to “closed”, the dark angel had swooped in. The shopkeeper’s death was swift and painless; her blood had proved to be surprisingly refreshing. To the dark angel, it had tasted clean and clear and pure. A virgin’s blood. A rare, very rare treat indeed.

The shop proved to be a treasure-trove of valuable objects. Lifting a large canvas tote bag from a hook on the wall she took her time filling it with crystals and other items that she could put to use. Behind the counter, she found some small velvet drawstring bags. Selecting a few of differing colours, she added them to the tote. Almost as an after thought, the angel lifted some incense and candles then left the shop.

 

As the sun set on the day of the full moon, the dark angel laid out the items she needed for the transformation along one of the stone benches. Anticipating how the evening would pan out, she lit two fragranced candles to improve the aroma in the confined space.

 

Standing in his back garden with a mug of coffee, the runner watched the sky turn gold to red, blood red, as the sun set. Despite the summer warmth, a chill rattled down his spine. There were less than three hours to go until he was scheduled to meet the angel. Much to his own surprise, he felt calm about the impending appointment. Since giving her his decision, he had on occasion pondered if he’d made the right choice. Not being of an angry or aggressive nature, he couldn’t contemplate killing her. There had really only ever been one choice.

 

An owl hooted in the trees to his right as he walked down the single-track road to the graveyard. Behind him, he’d left his family sleeping, oblivious to the fact that he had slipped out into the night. Only the family cat had watched him walk off down the hill.

It only took him a few short minutes to reach the cemetery. As he walked along the narrow gravel path between the graves, he scanned about searching for the angel in the shadows. A subtle movement of the air and the softest scrunch of gravel caught his attention.

“Good evening, son of Perran.”

The angel’s voice spoke from behind him. Slowly, he turned round to face her, his heart pounding in his chest as adrenaline kicked in.

“Come,” she commanded, stepping toward him.

Before he could utter a sound, her majestic wings wrapped around him like a cloak and the world went black.

 

Flickering flames and a delicate perfume were the first things he sensed as he felt the angel’s wings unfold from around him. Glancing about, he deduced he was in some sort of stone temple or mausoleum.

“Where are we?” he asked, keeping his voice quiet for fear of it echoing round.

“My home,” she replied, her own tone soft and warm. “Not as far away as you might think but well-hidden from prying eyes.”

His eyes landed on the black velvet cloth draped along the bench and scanned over the various objects lying there.

“Sit,” instructed the angel, indicating the space beside the cloth. “I’ll explain.”

“Explain?”

“Yes. I’ll tell you about what is going to happen to you. Explain what is involved and why I’ve included it,” she replied, resuming her school teacher tone. “I’ve given this careful consideration, son of Perran.”

From a nook in the wall, the dark angel lifted down an ornate pewter goblet.

Silently, he watches as she poured some clear liquid from a small glass vial.

“Holy water,” she said, pressing the stopper back into the thin tube. “Keeps this pure.”

“I thought this would involve blood,” he commented nervously.

“It will but I want to make sure this transformation is partial so I need to include some preventative ingredients.”

“Whose blood will this involve?”

“Ours,” she answered as she added a pinch of silvery powder. “That was the dust of a moonstone. It signifies that two species are to be intermingled.”

She added a pinch of white powder.

“White agate to signify new life and to nurture your transformation.”

He watched as the angel added a third pinch of powder. This time it was pearlescent.

“Opal dust. Perhaps the most important. It will ensure any subtle changes, physical changes, remain invisible. It will also assist you to be more understanding of yourself. Adds a little self-compassion.”

“Some oak,” she continued, adding what looked like a pinch of sawdust to the goblet. “And some mugwort.”

“Some what?”

With a smile, she said, “It prevents your wings from developing. You will need to drink a tincture of it daily. Just a few drops.”

“And where will I get that from?” he asked a little sharper than he had intended. “I’ve not seen it in Tesco for sale.”

“Sarcasm does not become you, son of Perran,” she chastised. “I will prepare it for you to begin with. I’ll teach you how to make it then it is up to you. If you stop drinking it daily, your wings will bud and develop. Consider yourself warned.”

“Sorry,” he apologised. “This all seems so complicated.”

“It’s preventative and for your own good,” she replied. “And for the safety of your friends and family, especially your children.”

She reached into her cloak’s deep inner pocket and produced an ornate dagger. Unsheathing it, the angel handed it to him.

“I need to add your blood to this first.”

“Mine?”

“Yes. Yours. It will bind these ingredients to you and protect you. Just a few drops are all that is needed. I’ll allow you to choose where you make the cut.”

Swallowing hard, he accepted the knife from her outstretched hand. Holding it in his left hand, he flicked the tip of the blade along the inside of his right wrist. The cut was about an inch long and deep enough to immediately bleed freely. On the angel’s instruction, he held his wrist over the goblet until nineteen drops of blood had been added to the concoction.

“Bind it with this,” she said, passing him a strip of white cloth.

“Once you drink the contents of the goblet, it will heal over almost instantly. There will be a distinctive silver scar left though to remind you of this rebirth.”

Bandaging his wrist tightly, he nodded.

“It’s time,” declared the angel. “Follow me.”

Taking the knife and the goblet with her, the angel led him from her mausoleum home and into the night. She took a narrow path to the left and followed it until she came to a small clearing in the trees. Setting the knife and the goblet on a nearby flat rock, she removed her cloak and spread it on the ground.

“Sit,” she suggested softly.

Above them, through the gap in the tree canopy, they could both see the full Blessing Moon. In the distance, the owl was still hooting.

“Now what?” he asked a little nervously.

“I fill the goblet with my blood and you drain it dry,” she said simply as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do.

Understanding that they had gone far beyond the point of no return, he nodded. Wide eyed, he watched as the angel took the dagger in her left hand and made a deep cut in her own right wrist, allowing the blood to flow into the goblet.

When the pewter cup was full, she murmured a short incantation and the flow of blood stopped instantly.

Passing him the goblet, she said simply, “Drink.”

With a trembling hand, he accepted the cup and put it to his lips.

He was prepared for the liquid to taste warm and metallic and vile. True, it was warm but the taste was mellow, slightly sweet with no hint of the true nature of the contents.

“Every last drop, son of Perran,” instructed the angel.

Feeling the liquid coursing through him, he handed the empty goblet back to her.

“You did well,” she complimented warmly. “Did it taste so bad?”

“No,” he admitted. “It tasted alright. Sweet.”

“Good. It tastes different to each of us.”

“So, now what?”

“You go home. It’s late. You need sleep.”

“Sleep? You expect me to sleep after this?”

The angel nodded. “You’ll sleep soundly. Dreamlessly. When you waken, your transformation will be done. If there are to be any changes, physical changes, you will notice them over the coming days. I’ll see you safely home.”

“That’s it? I go home and go to bed? Act like nothing’s changed?”

“Precisely,” stated the angel. “Come.”

He got to his feet and watched as she lifted her cloak, shook the leaves and moss from it, then fastened it securely. With a smile, she beckoned him to step closer, then, once again, her wings enveloped him.

 

Seconds later, he felt his feet touch down on soft grass. When he looked around, they were standing in his back garden. Reaching into the pocket of her cloak, the angel withdrew two items – a small glass jar and one of the velvet drawstring bags from the shop, a green one.

“Drink five drops of this each morning. It’s the mugwort. Do not forget. Drink it at the same time each and every day,” advised the angel as she handed him the jar. “Carry this with you at all times,” she continued, passing him the small, green, velvet bag. “It contains the three gemstones I used in the drink. The dust was taken from each of them. They must go everywhere with you. Do not lose them. Do not let anyone else handle them. They are for you and you alone.”

Accepting the small bag, he nodded.

“Meet me one week from tonight in the graveyard. We will talk then.”

“If I need to ask anything before then? If I need any help?” he gushed, a wave of panic beginning to rise inside him.

“Relax,” she soothed warmly. “Place a white pebble on the bench we shared in the graveyard. I’ll find you when I see it there.”

“Thanks.”

“You need rest. Sleep,” she said softly. “Good night, son of Perran.”

He watched as she spread her majestic wings then disappeared into the night.

 

Before heading indoors, he removed the bandage from his right wrist, hoping that the angel had been correct and that the cut was healed.  He gazed down at the smooth skin in wonder. The wound was healed, fully healed, and in its place was a silver scar in the shape of a crescent moon.  Stuffing the bloodied piece of cloth deep into the wheelie bin, he reflected back, sure he had made a straight cut with the blade.

  

A few hours later, as the sun rose, the dark angel sat on the roof of the church, her favourite vantage point. The transformation had gone smoother that she had dared to hope it would.  It truly had been blessed by the lunar energies in the air. Running her tongue over her fangs, she smiled. The tip of her broken fang had regenerated.

 

And relax….. who am I kidding?

flower collage

Well,  Book Baby 4’s cover has been revealed and the release date announced  so I guess it’s time to relax….NOT!

Now the hard word starts as I stress over proofreading, editing, spelling, grammar, formatting……..

I will though, on occasion, attempt to sit back, relax and enjoy the colours in the garden and maybe even write a little too  #amwritingbookbaby5 #JakeandLori

And the cover of Book Baby 4 looks like….

Ellen final version front cover

And Ellen will be released on 1st September 2018 in both e-book and paperback formats via Amazon worldwide.

Pre-order details to follow nearer the time.

Clock’s ticking…..EEEKKKK!!!