The Bones of Who We Are: Aesthetic

I love Gabe. He’s the moody, brooding hero, and his story explores the why of his emotional journey. But his story needs a trigger warning. He’s dealing with some dark stuff (with support), so in the forward, I’ve provided an escape hatch for readers in case they aren’t in the head space to read it.

As I’ve been writing In The Wait: A Companion to Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth, (published to Wattpad or look for a new installment each Wednesday here) I’ve had more clarity about Gabe’s journey which I hope readers will be able to see as well.

I created this aesthetic to provide a visual reflection of Gabe’s story.

The Bones of Who We Are Mood Board

The Bones of Who We Are Mood Board

Writing Inspiration: Music

When I was little, family gatherings were defined by music. From my grandfather and his brothers who sang Barbershop quartet, to my mother and her sisters who’s harmonies drew us all together, and my father - a gorgeous lower register tenor - would croon to us. Then the rest of us cousins (vocalists, guitarists, pianists, drummers) would offer our musical sacrifices. Music was our definition.

So, as a writer, music isn’t just a step in my process; It is the origin of my process. Music transports me, swirls like a sound cosmos, effervesces inside my brain and inspires my creativity. And then I tell the story.

When I was little and a classical piece was playing, my mom would say: What’s the story?  We would close our eyes and listen to the undulation of the melody, the kinship of the instruments, the rise and fall of the music from beginning to climax to conclusion, and when it was over, we’d tell the story.

Try it. Find a piece you like, close your eyes, and watch the story in your mind. Then write it down.



Awesome Writer Spotlight: Mary E. Pearson

It’s no secret. I’ve said it before: I do a lot of reading. King said it best, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no other way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut,” (On Writing). Last year, I read fifty books and have made it through 22 books so far this year. I read, and I’ll read most anything, from romance to suspense, to YA and MG, to fantasy and contemporary, from fiction to nonfiction, reading is my lifeblood. While I like stand alone novels, I’m a sucker for a kickass series, and adore well written fantasy. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for a good book. Last year, on Instagram, a noticed a recommendation for The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Off to Amazon I went (because, unfortunately there aren’t any independent book stores near me). Labeled as a Young Adult fantasy with an intriguing blurb and an awesome looking cover, I was immediately intrigued. I took a chance, ordered the book.

Read it. Couldn’t put it down. Loved it so much I ordered the rest of the series before I’d finished the first book. I read the remainder of the series and adored it. Now, I would say Mary E. Pearson is one of my favorite authors.

Dance of Thieves  is the first novel in a Duology. Vow of Thieves will be released August 2019.

Dance of Thieves is the first novel in a Duology. Vow of Thieves will be released August 2019.

I’m currently reading the first book in her new duology set in the same world of Remnant called Dance of Thieves. Halfway through and I’m in love with it . It’s one of those books that I know I’m reading it too quickly; I want to slow down to savor it but I can’t because I NEED TO KNOW NOW!

As a writer, here are five reasons I love Pearson’s writing and what I’m learning:

  1. The perfection of economy. Pearson knows when to elaborate and when to keep it simple. She doesn't belabor points that aren’t purposeful to the whole of the narrative. Her world building is stellar. She takes us into the world and guides us through rather than dropping us in where we get lost in the details. She unfolds it bit by bit as though we live there, seeing it through the eyes of the characters who live it day in and day out. It isn’t overpowering, but it blooms like a flower - beautiful.

  2. The chemistry she develops between her protagonists is heart thumping (and wistful sighing by me - the reader). She takes me on that emotional journey drawing out the romantic tension.

  3. Her stories are action packed and page turning. The conflict and related tension is tight which makes me think just one more chapter. Then I’m still reading after three.

  4. Her female characters are strong and defined - they are gorgeously human, independent and adept. Her male characters are strong and defined - they are gorgeously human, independent and adept. Both of them developed into complex people with triumphs but also with complex flaws.

  5. The dialogue! I’m picky about dialogue and one of the biggest reasons I’ll close a book. When dialogue reads like I’m standing amidst two people having a conversation - magic. Pearson does this well. I love the way she uses dialogue to embody the conflict and additional characterization of her rich characters.

I could go on about regarding Pearson’s work, but I think maybe picking up her work and reading it for yourself is a better option.  Are there author’s you adore because of how they write?

I read the Remnant Chronicles last year. So good.  Here  for Mary E. Pearson’s Amazon Author Page.

I read the Remnant Chronicles last year. So good. Here for Mary E. Pearson’s Amazon Author Page.




Happy Book Birthday: A Character Interview

Interview with Adam Kāne and Alexandra James from…

The Letters She Left Behind


May 6, 2019

New romantic suspense book by CL Walters available May 7, 2019

New romantic suspense book by CL Walters available May 7, 2019


Tomorrow is the book birthday for my new adult romantic suspense The Letters She Left Behind. In celebration, I thought I would commemorate the event with an interview of the main characters, Adam Kāne and Dr. Alex James.  Born on the page in 2004, these characters have waited patiently for this author to rediscover them in 2019.

Some context for your reader imaginations:

Adam Kāne is a successful Hawaii business man at 47. He’s hard working, and loves his children. He misses his late wife and is in the late stages of grief at the opening of this story; he’s complex and definitely not perfect. Of course, he’s perfectly handsome - a gorgeous Hawaiian man (does Hugh Jackman with Hawaiian features help to picture him?).

Alex James - Adam’s counterpart - is an independent and smart woman. A forty-six year old college professor who’s bread and butter is Women’s Studies, she’s bright. But she also a fallible human woman who has secretly loved Adam for her entire adult life. She’s a beautiful, engaging, loyal, and funny. When I think of Alex - the beautiful Lauren Graham comes to mind.

So now, fifteen years after their creation … without further ado:  

Welcome, Adam and Alex. I know that living in my head has probably been a bit stifling. Was it worth the wait?

Adam: Definitely. I’m a patient guy.

Alex: Sure, though it’s difficult sitting around and waiting for you to get your act together.

Hahaha! Wow. Okay. Why do I feel like there’s more in those answers than meets the eye.

Alex: I’m not one for being passive aggressive, CL, but you did write the story. You know.

Adam: (chuckles and shakes his head): Patience is a virtue. So is biting one’s tongue when necessary.

Moving on then. Without giving any spoilers, what do you like best about your story?

Alex:  Megan. While she doesn’t make a huge appearance in the story, her part in the journey is equally important to the entire narrative on so many levels. I love that about her starring role. The way it all comes together.

Adam: Me too. I also like how there is the sense of time. The way life works sometimes to bend and twist in order to get you where you need to go when the timing is just right. It’s like as much as you might want something right now, it isn’t the right time for it.

Kind of like this story. Fifteen years ago, when I wrote it, I was in my late twenties - early thirties and here I was writing about grief and second chances. Perhaps I needed additional time and world view to draw the story together. On another note, there’s this point in the narrative when both of you see yourself - or the truth of who you are - outside of the fear. Can you comment on how that moment or moments like that are impactful.

Adam: I know exactly the moment you’re referencing, though I would say I had more than one of these sort of ah ha moments. It’s like that one step forward, two steps back paradigm. A person discovers a truth about themselves. Moves forward and then regresses until another discovery occurs. I think most times, for me anyway, those self-discoveries or facing those honest truths can be painful, which is why we regress.

Alex: I think so too, which is why sometimes we don’t face them. It’s easier just to stay in one place because the threat of change might be more than we can accept.  I know that for my part in the story, this fear of things being different was paralyzing.

I love that scene - when you walk into the ocean, Alex. It was pivotal for your character.

Alex: Yes. Truly makes the difference in the overall movement of my journey.

What about you, Adam? Is there a pivotal scene for your character?

Adam: There are a few, but I don’t want to give anything away by sharing them. I can say at the beginning of the story, I’ve been in a tailspin of grief for nearly a year. I’m raw at the opening, at the precipice of either burying myself in it completely, or doing something different. Megan’s journals were pivotal for me. Without them - well, there wouldn’t be a story.

Let’s talk a little bit about place and culture. As a Hawaiian, Adam, do you think your ethnicity is relevant to the story?

Adam: Not so much. I think I represent a Hawaiian male, but I don’t necessarily embody the cultural values of being Hawaiian, if that makes sense. In all fairness, I would add that who I am is on the edge of understanding my own Hawaiian identity. With the loss of language and culture, how does one rediscover those losses when you’re disconnected from them?

Alex: Do you think that lack of culture then misrepresents you in the story?

Adam: No. I feel like it accurately represents that it is a missing piece in my life, but more could be done to explore that. Maybe not in this story, but perhaps in others. But I think place is explored and the usage of  ʻOlelo Hawaii vocabulary which add depth to an understanding that Hawaii is more than a tourist destination.

Funny you mention stories to explore that. I’m working on a story for Trey. I don’t know if it will be a short story or longer - beginning stages - but that idea of cultural rediscovery is a theme I’m noticing as I work on it. Speaking of secondary characters, who do you think will be a fan favorite?

Adam: The kids.

Alex: The kids.

Neither of you are partial… Why the kids?

Alex: Each of them are unique and bring a whole different dimension to the story. Without them, I think the story wouldn’t be as layered.

Adam: I agree. I’d like to see them all with their own stories.

What are you hoping happens with your story?

Alex: I hope that a reader can close the book and feel like “Wow, I don’t need to worry about that thing anymore.” I think it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of our lives and forget the big picture, the what’s really important.

Adam: That! Yes. And to remember that life is a journey. It doesn’t stop. It moves forward and we move along the timeline with it. Sometimes we’re blindsided, sometimes we’re broken, but always the timeline continues. Something else I hope people remember - we can’t live it alone. Along the way, we need those special people to share it with in some capacity.

Thank you for hanging out in my head for a bit. Happy Book Birthday tomorrow to The Letter She Left Behind!

Order here.

YA Author Series - Author Spotlight: M. Wednesday

M. Wednesday

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Three Things About Me and Why I Write:

I’m 25, and as a housewife, I’ve been pursuing my career as a full-time writer for the past three years.

When I’m not writing, I’m drawing, playing guitar, skateboarding, entertaining my dogs, or taking care of my plants, or fish tanks. (I have a lot of plants – they’re all tropical and they hate Connecticut winters.)

I’ve always been a writer.  

My dream since second grade was to be an author, and my husband has helped me pursue that dream to the highest degree. I always felt like words and books were just my element. Since very little, I’d find happiness in daydreams and bringing them to life through spiraled bound notebooks. Simply, I write because the people living in my head need their story told.

The Story . . .

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Moon Reign is my first real book – a full length novel where I’ve thrown my whole soul into it. It revolves around nineteen-year-old Drystan and his dragon, Soren, and how they witness what is said to be known as The Birth of a Unicorn the night prior to Soren’s unwilling farewell. For hundreds of years, unicorns, their magic, and their origins have been condemned to legend throughout the galaxy. Though Drystan has his doubts of this phenomenon, his urgent need to reestablish his father’s depleting health drives his faith towards the healing powers of star magic, the most dynamic force in the universe embedded in unicorns. However, they were not the only ones to have witnessed The Birth. Drystan determinedly leaves home in pursuit of it, and Soren, a kingdom away, endeavors to stop the new people in his life to abandon their obstinate desires in capturing the unicorn for themselves. 

Three Things to Know as You’re Reading…

  1. Drystan's father, Hamond, a wealthy landowner and owner of a dragon breeding business in Hardinggate, is battling failing health.

  2. All the while, Drystan is battling with Hamond's decision of selling four-year-old Soren for an extremely lavish price. Come morning, the Prince of Aledonia, the Elvish kingdom to the North, will have a dragon of his own…

  3. This is their final flight, their last moments together before daybreak disbands true friendship. But, it’s blessed with the light of a phenomenon, one that triggers Drystan to leave home in search of something that could cure his ailing father. 

Where Can You Find Me. . .  

There’s this coffee shop in Middletown, CT called Perkatory. I’m usually there with a turmeric latte… No, I’m playing. I’m active on Instagram @m.wednesday’s_inkwell. Once Moon Reign is published, which all my stars are aligned to hopefully be published by the end of spring/early summer 2019, my debut will be available on all indie author platforms. I’m aiming to have Moon Reign in a few local bookstores in my town that support indie authors, as well.

From . . . Moon Reign . . .

The sun had diminished to a bright orange streak, inky clouds crowning the sky. The cliffs called to them, as they always did. A place of silence and solitude. A place where flight broke free. 

Thundering waves attacked the rocks on a lulling metronome. Drystan’s attention folded to the looming castle behind… Nothing. No signs of movement. No wings rounding elegant towers. A sigh hopped him onto Soren’s back.  

Claws gripped the edge of the land, particles crumbling to hissing whitewash. This is it… this is… our last flight. He gulped down the impaling thought. But, you’re right beside me. And nothing in this moment could separate that. He inhaled the ocean breeze and all the scents carried within. Breathe. All he had to do was breathe and his wings would carry them away into the patient sky. Eyes fluttered open to clustered stars. The sky always understood, always waited. And, with a small confident leap… 

He dove.

Dove them into a time-stopping fall. Dove to abandon all despondent thoughts. The air, the rush, revived and renewed with fleeting euphoria. Oh, how he wished their fall could plummet them out of tomorrow’s sight. 

Parachute wings braced their fall, angling them with the land. Hardinggate’s dimly lit seafront came into view. Piers and ships along a cluttered boardwalk. The curve of lights along the coast. Up… Up, and over the city, wide easy arches combed velvety moonlight. Wings pivoted towards the black sea. There, still miles from the harbor, a triad of ships sailed towards land. 

Playful circles rounded above, swooping closer. 

With each.

Large. 

Bend. 

Coasting alongside their decks, wingtips smacked the waves between paralleled glides. Spray from the bowsprit blew with salty kisses. If anyone on board observed the dragon’s ballet at their port side, he didn’t know. And, if they hadn’t, they were too late. Soren surged upwards in a leisure spiral.  

He leveled on an air current, somewhere between planet and stratosphere. All was quiet, save for the occasional drum of his wings. Beyond, ocean and oxygen melted into abysmal darkness. Above, stars and distant galaxies seemed wet enough to smear, watercolor on canvas. Sceaobyss sliced through the masterpiece with its neon blue rings, Arigae’s tropical neighboring planet. Thin gridlines of starships, strung high past the moon, laced between the two planets. 

Their bond, fastened under the network of stars above, grounded deeper than the ocean below, could not be swayed even with approaching dread. Neither spoke. Words would not express the grief, the fear, that lay just beneath the surface of their bliss. And a satisfying silence capped their flight.  

Drystan released his grip, unbinding his hands from the leather straps, and sat upright. He kicked his shoes from the short stirrups, letting his legs hang casually. Heights inflicted no fear. Gaze meandered to the heavens. 

But, expectation was thwarted. 

He strained his eyes. Refocusing. Blinking. No, it was there. It was definitely there. Parting stars and atmosphere, a wispy pattern of dusty rose in its wake… “Soren, look.” He tapped the dragon’s neck… “Look up there. You see that?” …And Soren craned his eyes. Blackness was seared with a captivating streak of magenta light. A curious head-tilt angled Soren’s wings. “…What is it?” He tightly flattened into Soren’s ascent.   

 “I don’t know.” Hushed interest hooked in his rasp. “It looks like… a comet.” 

 “A comet? No, that’s too fast to be a comet.” Arigae welcomed it, magenta igniting to neon pink as it punctured another layer of sky. 

“Maybe a shooting star? I didn’t think there was such a thing as pink stars, though.”

 Reply came distantly. “… Neither did I.” 

And Soren’s giggle-snort came with delight. “It’s the Birth of a Unicorn.” 

Drystan shook his head at Soren’s reference to the fabricated children’s tales. “Right, that’s exactly what it is.” Pink gaseous trail smudged in its wake. But, the bedtime stories he’d heard growing up… The stories of legend and magic and brave hunters who fought the most powerful unicorns into extinction… They watched neon-rose slowly dissolve into space, following until the East swallowed it up. “Who’s to say they even existed in the first place?”  

 “Well, I think they were real,” Soren muttered. 

 “Horned space horses. Known as the only creatures to possess star magic, whose one desire was to bring love and peace to the galaxy, devoured under man’s blade and never to be seen again. Right.” 

 “Oh, c’mon. Remember Hamond telling us those stories that one winter? We were little, but –”

 “You were little. He was telling you those stories.”          

 “How did it go? Something that they were all stars…?” 

“That unicorns were mere stardust. And, when they died here in our world they would return to the stars, to be reborn in another. Yeah. Something like that. You know how it goes. I’m sure every kid grew up hearing the same stories.” Recalling young nights by the fire with his father, a quilt and socks, a hot mug in chilled hands… “Even if they were real,” he huffed, thwarting memories, “They haven’t existed for hundreds of years. Hunters slaughtered ‘em all. Because, supposedly, they had the most powerful magic in all of creation. S’pose to be more mind-blowing than any magic. Even the Elves’ magic. Or, dragon magic.”   

“I don’t have any magic,” Soren answered flatly. 

“Well,” came a shrugged eye-roll, “Alright, wild dragon magic.”

 Soren pondered over denying words and old fables, all the while admiring where plunging magenta had scored the night. “I think it’s a legend,” he decided, a glimmer in his eye, “And, legends stemmed from truth at one point in time. Don’t you think?” 

A chuckling smile pushed dark hair from the wind. “Whatever you want to believe, Soren. That’s fine with me.” The last wisp of pink dust faded, blurred, and the night claimed its unknown destination.  

 

YA Author Series - Author Spotlight: Leslie Arambula

Leslie Arambula

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Tell us three things about who you are and why you write . . .

  • I’m a wife, teacher, author, and mother of three.

  • Some of my hobbies include picking up the same toys over and over again, cooking, video games, reading, and avoiding stacks of papers that need to be graded.

  • I write because the people in my head won’t stop telling me their stories, but mostly because I think stories connect us to each other, and I hope that mine will do that for readers as well.

Tell us about the story…

Nobody will tell Gia about her mom, but she is on a mission to learn more about her. The opportunity comes on Gia’s fifteenth birthday, in the form of a surprise package. Little does Gia know that the small box contains a power that will change her fate and the fate of the world.

What are three things you want us to know as we read?

  • This scene happens in the opening chapter of the book.

  • Gia’s mom and Alex’s parents were all killed in the same accident when the girls were just toddlers.

  • Gia has been a victim of bullying for years, and Alex always tries to shield her from it.


Where can we find this story? Where can we find you?

My story is currently unpublished but will be soon!

IG @authorlesliearambula

Twitter @leslie_arambula

Website: lesliearambula.com


FROM . . . Guardian (Working Title)

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When I woke up the next morning, I was laying on the couch in the living room and the monster movie marathon I had been watching was now an infomercial about slow cookers. I turned it off just as a loud knock on the door startled me out of the lumpy cushions.

When I opened the front door, nobody was there. Looking down, a pile of envelopes were laid on top of a brown package. I scooped them up and deposited them onto the entryway table then went to grab some cereal.

A pang of loneliness thumped in my chest. I thought that my dad would have at least tried to postpone or shorten his current trip for my 15th birthday. I was wrong. 

My mother had only been alive until my third birthday, and then she and Alex’s parents had been in a train wreck on their daily commute to work. Alex’s grandmother, Sofia, moved in with her across the street and had become the only real parent Alex and I had ever really known.

Now, I stayed at my own house but shared a lot meals and time with them when Dad wasn’t home. So pretty much every night. 

The front door handle jiggled from the other room, and someone came in. I could hear rummaging in the pantry. Alex.

She walked into the dining room. She wore cutoffs and a Led Zepplin shirt she’d bought at Goodwill a few months ago. She was munching on a granola bar, and didn’t even wait to swallow it as she said, “Happy birthday! Wait—what are you doing? I thought we were going to the bookstore today.”

“Yeah, but I thought we said at eleven.”

“It is eleven, goofball,” she said.

When I trudged up the stairs, Alex grinned, grabbed up my cereal bowl, and went to pour herself some while she waited. 

When I had showered, I went to my room and found Alex, feet up on my desk, playing Call of Duty and bossing her teammates around. The empty cereal bowl rested on one of my library books. I moved it on top of my Chemistry homework to avoid any milk stains that I’d have to pay for. 

“You guys go around from the west, and I’ll hit them from the East. No, not you, idiot. You’re coming with me. You’ve got the RPG, right?”

A few minutes later, the game cut to the lobby between matches. Alex pumped her fist and pulled off the headset. 

“Impressive,” I said. “I wonder where you learned that strategy.”

“Ha ha,” she countered, “If I can’t be a genius tactician, I might as well rip one off. So, thanks, genius tactician.” 

“Thanks, but you should actually thank the English. It was actually back in 1332—” 

“Are we going or what?”

“Sure,” I rolled my eyes and let her change the topic. 

As we were about to leave, she stopped short. 

 “I saw this on my way in,” she pointed to the small brown package that had come with the mail. “You should open it.” 

I had forgotten all about it. 

“I’m not into dog food samples, but thanks.” 

The typical packages sent here were from companies sending things to my dad in an effort to get his feedback or so he could compare some of the competition’s products. 

“It’s for you, dummy,” she sighed. “It has your name on the top.”

Confused, I picked it up like it was one of the bombs the other team had just seen blown up in their faces. It was a small, square, heavy box. On the outside, it was wrapped in plain brown paper, a little worse for wear, but I was surprised it had made it through the postal system without tearing. On the top, written in a looping scrawl was my name: Giassa Renee Meliar. 

“Weird,” I said. “Nobody uses my whole—”

“Just open it already,” Alex interrupted, bouncing up and down like a bratty toddler.

As my fingers brushed the rough paper, I thought about opening this later, when I was alone. Alex was my best friend, practically my sister and we spent every holiday, birthday, and every day together. But this felt different. This felt private.

Pushing that feeling aside, I began to unwrap it. Beneath the wrapper was a wooden box, a deep red wood that was so slick, it gleamed in the light streaming in from my window. I ran a finger over it. I hesitated. I didn’t want to be disappointed too quickly. Happy Birthday, here’s some premium dog treats!

“What is it?” Alex broke through my thoughts. 

When I cracked open the lid, something small and round caught the light and blinded me for just a moment before I angled the lid all the way open. 

It was a sphere, a glass orb, sitting within a dark blue velvet compartment in the box. My memory flashed: the man that I thought I had hallucinated in the forest. And again in my dream last night. That man had an orb like this. What did it mean?

I reached a hand toward the orb, but stopped myself. Pinned to the inside of the lid was a scrap of paper with four words on it:

For Gia, 

Love Mom




“Do you think—” Alex breathed beside me. 

I jumped. I had forgotten that she was even there. I closed the lid and straightened. 

“She’s dead,” I said. “It’s fake. A sick joke.”

Alex’s face crumpled into something that looked like pity and then jealousy, so I stared out the window instead, sticking my hand in my pockets and fiddling with my keys.

“Are we going?” 

Alex cleared her throat, “Yeah.” She pulled her gaze from the note. 

I left the room first, trying to put as much distance between me and that box as possible. 





YA Author Series - Author Spotlight: Alison Aldridge

Alison Aldridge

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Tell us three things about who you are and why you write . . .

I am a natural redhead.  I drink a lot of tea and feel it can solve most problems.  I am a mum to a son, daughter and two pussy cats.

I write because when I don’t write I feel stressed. It is a release for me.  My imagination never switches off so if I don’t let it go somewhere it gets crowded in my head.  Sometimes, to sleep, I have to jot down ideas otherwise they keep me up all night.

Tell us about the story…

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Mariah has a magic-meddling mum, and about to discover she’s a storm summoning mermaid that needs to gain control of her emotion-connected powers ready for the impending battle with the powerful, unstoppable death crows!

What are three things you want us to know as we read?

You most likely think you are an ordinary human being but what if one day your ordinary life was turned upside down.  Everything is changing, you feel vulnerable and start crushing on your best friend. Do you peruse that romance knowing it could destroy your friendship or watch in agony as they get closer to someone else.  To make matters worse, imagine your emotions give life to your dormant supernatural abilities and you have no idea how to control them. This is what is starting to happen to Mariah.

Where can we find this story? Where can we find you?

Link Tree:  https://linktr.ee/redfae

Website:  https://allyaldridge.wordpress.com/

Wattpad: @redfae  https://www.wattpad.com/user/redfae

IG:  @redfae https://www.instagram.com/redfae/

Twitter:  @Fae7 https://twitter.com/Fae7

Goodreads:  Alison Aldridge https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8108229.Alison_Aldridge



From… Jewel of the Sea…

Splinters threatened my skin as my hands grasped the wood and pulled at the panel of cheap fencing to open a triangle at the foot. Once wide enough to fit through, I flattened myself to the ground. Using my elbows and hips I pushed my way past the rich scent of soil that warmed my heart and made me think of my best friend Jace.

Once through on the other side, I dusted the dirt off my knees. Jace's garden looked empty. My shoulder stung.  As I glanced to my left I saw where I'd caught myself on the fence. The scratch left a bright red line and blood smudged across onto my blue vest top. Mum would be mad. I licked my thumb and tried to rub it off.

"Aghhh!" I screamed as my body was shocked in an icy cold shower. I turned around to find Jace standing there with the garden hose in his hand, laughing his head off.

"Jace!" I yelled. We'd spent all summer hanging out, like always.

With a naughty glint in his eye, he lifted the hose and soaked me again.

"Cut that out!" I ran at him to pull the hose out of his hand. He dodged out of my way and ran past me. As I chased after him, round his garden, he kept spraying me over his shoulder. In the beautiful heat of the summer sun, I welcomed the refreshing relief.

Finally, trapping him by the shed, I grabbed the hose. He still wouldn't let go and as we wrestled over it, he kept managing to squirt my face. Using my fingers, I changed the direction of the water and got him back. He made a funny gurgling noise and laughed, shaking the water from his blonde mop of hair.

"That doesn't sound like my plants are getting watered!" Denny yelled from the kitchen window. His mum was younger than mine. She had delicate features and high cheekbones framed by her dark pixie cut.

"Sorry, mum," Jace yelled back. His lip curled on one side as he tried in earnest to appear sincere, "You need to let go so I can continue with my chores."

"No way," I giggled, knowing as soon as I let go, he'd spray me, "We'll just have to do it together."

We then started watering the plants together, both refusing to let go of the hose.

"This is stupid Mariah," His blue eyes twinkled. "It would be much quicker if you just let me do it."

"I know you too well, Jace." I grinned as I argued back. "Why don't you just let me do it?"

"I couldn't shirk my responsibilities like that." Jace countered.

"I really don't mind."  I felt him try to tip the hose up towards me. The water ran up the fence but I managed to stop him. "Cut it out, Jace?"

"Oops!" He said with humour, his eyes alive with merriment.

The afternoon continued with the same upbeat light-heartedness. We sat out in the sun, enjoying ice creams and chilled drinks. Little did I know that it would be one of the last days of carefree fun and games next-door.  It started with Denny arriving at our house without Jace. We always found excuses to hang out together, so it made me feel unsettled that he hadn't come over with her.

She'd come to see mum, but I hovered around the kitchen. Her eyes stared down into a mug of tea, slowly stirring her sugar spoon, her gaze lost in a deep spin of thought.

"Are you going to drink that or spit out what's on your mind?" Mum asked.

Denny sighed, "I was hoping you already knew."

Mum isn't like ordinary mums. She is that woman with dark flowing hair who tells fortunes at spiritual fairs.

I stood up on my tiptoes to reach the cake tin and helped myself to one of the buttercream cupcakes; a product of mum and Denny's Sparkle Cake home bakery business.

"Don't make me dig out my crystal ball..." Mum threatened Denny. Her tone made me think I'd been caught with my sugary delight. For a moment I paused, wincing as I waited for 'don't spoil your dinner' or 'stop eating our profits' but she was too focussed on Denny to notice me.

Denny took a deep breath like she was conjuring up the courage to speak. With an awkward smile on her face, she said, "Dave and I have found somewhere to live together, a home of our own." But her blue eyes shone, brimming with tears.

"That's great news." Mum cheered.

"But..."

"What is it, Denny?"

"We’ll no longer be neighbors and it's all the way over on the other side of town. I feel so conflicted. It's perfect but I'm gonna miss you guys."

Her words were like the icy shower from the hose but without the warm relief of the sun or uplifting sound of Jace's laughter.

"You can't!" I snapped. Jace was my life! I needed him close! I needed him next door! I no longer wanted the bun, it was too sweet and I cast it aside on the counter.

"The cakes?" Denny gasped realizing what I'd done.

Mum threw me a disapproving look, "Mariah, go get the washing off the line!"

I stormed out the kitchen through the back door of our small terrace house, slamming it shut behind me. Without bothering to unpeg the clothes from the line, I began pulling them free and dumping them into the laundry basket. This haphazard manner completed the task too fast and I wasn't ready to go back inside.

I snuck over to the fence looking for the loose panel and pulled... but it wouldn't move. Then, I saw the evil glint of a new nail, hammered in to keep the plank in place; Keeping me out. I kicked at it, hurting my foot.

I sank onto the grass, my back pressed against the fence.  As I gazed up towards Jace's bedroom window my heart felt like a rock, unpleasant and heavy in my chest. I was consumed by a sinking feeling as I realised he really was going and there was nothing I could do about it.  

Then, to make matters worse, the sky beautiful blue sky darkened.  Heavy rapid rain soaked through my t-shirt as I raced inside. I didn't stop in the kitchen with mum and Gwyn, I carried on up to my room.  I dropped onto my bed, laying on my back, staring out the window at the raging storm that felt as if it spoke to my soul, mirroring my anger.