[Silence Isn’t In My Nature]

In a world that’s told me all my life to shut up

I spend my spare time stringing words together

Filling pages with what I have to say

And sending them out to strangers

Hoping that someone might listen.

[You’re Safe With Me, I Promise]

I’m not careful.
I’ve dropped more things than I can count
I trip over at least once a day
I walk into things much bigger than me
Because I don’t pay attention.

 
But I pay attention when people talk
I notice quirks and mannerisms
I remember small details
And store them like secrets
Like precious treasures.

 
I’m accident-prone
My hands are covered in cuts
My legs are covered in bruises
And I barely notice
Because it’s normal now.

 
But I’m mindful of their personal space
I’m careful of their boundaries
I’ll swallow my words and my heart
To keep others comfortable
And put them at ease.

 
I fall out of chairs
I trip up staircases
I slip on wet floors
And I spill enough coffee each week
To fill an entire new cup.

 
I’m not careful
Not with myself, at least
But with other people?
My hands will always be steady
And my heart will always hold you safe.

“Out Of Your Mind”

Author Note: This is a little story featuring Arun and Naomi as a small birthday gift for my wonderful friend Taija. It was inspired by a comment she made whilst beta-reading for me a long while ago about how she would deal with an unwanted presence in her mind via Bond spell, and after having this song stuck in my own head for the last three days, I thought it would be a fun thing to write!

***

‘Twenty-two bottles of milk on the wall, 

Twenty-two bottles of milk.

If one of those bottles should happen to fall,

Twenty-one bottles of milk on the wall.’

Arun’s feet were wet.

‘Twenty-one bottles of milk on the wall, twenty-one bottles of milk…’

He hadn’t exactly expected to be in this situation, but still.

‘If one of those bottles should happen to fall…’

The king’s boots shouldn’t leak.

‘Twenty bottles of milk on the wall.’

He caught himself flinching, but whether from the freezing bog he and his men were being led through, or the song stuck in his head, he honestly had no idea.

‘Twenty bottles of milk on the wall, twenty bottles of milk…’

Swallowing back an agitated sigh as the next, repetitive verse started over, he spared the small woman leading their group a quick glance before gritting his teeth and looking away again. He didn’t want her to know she was annoying him. He wasn’t even sure she knew he could hear her, but the cold tug of humour on the Bond every time she started a new verse made him think she knew exactly what she was doing.

‘Seventeen bottles of milk on the wall…’

She had been counting down from ninety-nine, which possibly wouldn’t seem like very much at all under normal circumstances. It wasn’t a long measure of time, when all was said and done, but it was driving him slowly crazy.

‘Eleven bottles of milk on the wall…’

She was downright infuriating. He knew he had annoyed her that morning –in fact, his entire existence seemed to annoy her no end- but this was another level of petty entirely. She wanted him out of her head, she wanted to Bond severed, and she had no understanding of how impossible that was. It seemed she was going to try and drive him out of her mind through sheer madness.

‘Eight bottles of milk on the wall…’

Well, good luck to her. She would have to give up eventually, and that would happen long before the Bond ever broke. She would realise it sooner or later.

‘If one of those bottles should happen to fall, five bottles of milk on the wall.’

Sooner, he hoped.

‘Three bottles of milk. If one of those bottles should happen to fall…’

He was cold, he was wet, he was tired, and he had long since had enough of Ffion. Why was it always so miserably dark and damp? Arun just wanted to go home, to feel warm, and for his life to be back under his own control again.

‘One bottle of milk on the wall, one bottle of milk….’

As it was he was just as stuck here as Naomi was with the Bond spell tying their minds and lives together.

‘If one of those bottles should happen to fall…’

He supposed that he should set an example and deal with it with as much dignity as he could muster.

‘Ninety-nine bottles of milk on the wall!’

“What Do You Want?”

I want to wake up and know that each day is mine for the taking. I want to drink my coffee and leave the cup in the sink without feeling bad about it. I want to sing in the shower. I want to wear the things I like, and have my hair the way I like, and do my makeup the way I like. I want to be able to meet my own eyes in the mirror. I want to own myself again.

I want my own home. I want to sleep in a real bed. I want to fill my home with pretty lights, art, and music. I want to buy lots of houseplants and name them all and grow smaller plants from cuttings and give them to the people I love.

I want to make noise; to sing and laugh and dance without being told I’m making a nuisance of myself. I want to do things that make me happy without being harassed. I want to learn to play the ukulele. I want to knit. I want to learn to crochet. I want to read whenever I feel like it. I want to write, write, write!

I want to achieve my goals. I want to work hard. I want to succeed. I want to have fun while I’m doing it. I want to create things and fill my life with beauty and magic. I want to learn new skills. I want to meet other writers and artists. I want to share ideas and ideals. I want to be a good friend. I want to bring a bit of sunshine to the people around me. I want to make people laugh. I want to help people believe in themselves. I want to be soft and loving and kind.

I want to be in love with someone who’s in love with me. I want to be with someone who doesn’t think I’m disposable, or a stop-gap until something better comes along. I want to be in love with someone who thinks my laugh is the best thing they’ve ever heard. Someone to share the things that matter with. Someone to share the things that don’t matter with.

I want everything to be simple. I want to enjoy life. I want to do things and see things and go places. I want to spend entire weekends in bed, doing absolutely nothing. I want to learn how to make myself a priority. I want to be done with feeling guilty for making myself happy.

I want to be happy.

“A Purrfect Match” – Prologue

Helen Smith was boring.

Her life was boring. Her job was boring. Even her name was boring. She was average height, average build, her eyes were brown and her hair was mousey. The most extraordinary thing about her face were the few freckles that scattered her nose, cheeks, and forehead.

She was in her mid-twenties, and she had done everything by the book – whatever that meant. She had finished her education, partied a bit, landed a reliable job, had a few unsuccessful relationships, and lived with her best friend, Jules, for the past three years.

Jules was not boring at all, and the two of them had been close since senior school. Jules had always kept Helen’s life a little more interesting. That was all changing now, though. Jules was moving in with her boyfriend, and Helen was moving into a new place. Alone.

She was happy for Jules, but she enjoyed company in general. She had considered looking for another roommate, but after meeting with a few interested parties, she had quickly changed her mind again.

Perhaps she would get a cat.


Author note: This is just a small thing I’m working on at the moment to try and get myself back in the habit of writing daily, and finishing something, and allowing myself to write badly. The plot isn’t even my own idea -a friend suggested it as a joke- but I’m having fun and that’s what counts.

When it’s finished I don’t plan to do anything with it, but I wanted to post this first bit to let you guys know that I am working on something. Even if that something is just learning how to be a writer again! 

Do You Know What Your Problem Is?

“Do you know what your problem is?” Asks the stranger at the party. He has that smug look on his face I’ve come to associate with questions where no answer can ever be right.

‘Yes,’ I reply, more bluntly than I meant. I laugh quickly to dispel the sudden tension. ‘Would you like a list?’

Would it surprise you to know that he didn’t?

I excused myself soon after. The topic was a sour one, and his unmitigated gall in trying to tell a woman he barely knew just what was wrong with her left a bad taste in my mouth that lingers still.

I know what my problem is. All of them. I see them every single day. I hear them. No one knows what’s wrong with me more than I do.

I’m too hard on myself. If I can’t do something perfectly I will punish myself until I can. I forgive mistakes in others with ease, but never in myself. I never feel worthy of anything good.

I’m in no way moderate. My whole life is all or nothing. I burn myself out until I can’t move, I laugh until I cry. I get annoyed when I have to stop, because going and going and going is all I want to do.

I’m self-destructive. I don’t get nearly enough sleep. I don’t eat well; I live on coffee and toast. I tell people I’m fine when I’m clearly not. I hold everything in until I can’t hold it in any longer, and then I snap like a brittle twig.

I’m a living contradiction. When I’m upset, I can’t look anyone in the eye. We all know I’m hiding, but I do it anyway. Suddenly making eye contact becomes the hardest thing in the world, because I don’t want people to see. But I want people to see, too.

I’m socially inept. I talk before I think and I make people uncomfortable. I say things that aren’t acceptable. I can’t lie. My face always betrays me. My mouth does, too.

I’m too loud. I laugh at inappropriate times and things. I laugh at everything, and where my laugh used to be a comfort to me, now it’s just another insecurity. I sing off-key. When I get excited I talk too quickly and my voice pitches too high.

I’m emotionally volatile. I get hurt easily. I worry too much. I worry about things I can’t change and people who barely give me a second thought. I would do anything for anyone, even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.

I dislike myself. I won’t let myself be angry, even when I need to. Even when it’s justified. I always find a way to make everything all my fault, so my anger becomes internalised and aimed straight back at me.

I apologise too much. I run myself down. I can’t stand the sight of myself or the sound of my own voice.

I am a wreck of a human being.

But you know what else? I’m determined to do better. I’m stronger than I look. I get up every single day and face the world, even when it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I still believe in love. I believe the best of people. I am full of hope.

So yes, I do know what my problem is, but knowing a problem is the first step to solving it.

Going Under: Part 1

The first time she summoned me, neither of us realised she had. It was only long after the fact that even I understood how she had called me to her side, and longer still for her to believe it. We did not recognise one another for who or what we were that first time, which was more my mistake than hers. I am as old as time itself; older even. My domain is the dark depths of the ocean, my power as strong as the currents and my strength implacable as the tides. She was only a child of six, living in the human world.

There is a storm ravaged and remote beach along the south coast of England, a place where I had visited a few times in my existence, the small patch of sand only visible for a few hours each day before being swallowed up by the sea, leaving only the sheer, red cliffs to be battered by the ocean. That was where I first saw her, not questioning for even a moment how such a small thing had managed to get there, let alone how she planned to get back out again.

I stayed away from humans for the most part, but something about this child called to me, her carefree laughter like music and her blue eyes dancing with a wonder that I knew was only brief in their realm. She saw the magic of the world, but human society had a harsh tendency to blot that out of their young as quickly as possible. I was tired from my travels, lonely perhaps, though I would not have admitted it at the time, and this small child caught my attention.

She was quite alone, racing back and forth and laughing as she played tag with the waves, shrieking in delight each time I caught her. I had not meant to play along, but her simple pleasure and innocent glee made my involvement irresistible. Her black hair streamed out behind her, her round face red with exertion and hilarity as my waves chased her back and forth, and as we played the small game, I noticed save for her tiny feet she was completely dry. Perhaps it was cruel, though I tend to believe it was mostly thoughtless, but I felt challenged by that. I am old, as I have said, and details occasionally slip away from me. Details such as young human children being unable to swim.

I pulled my power back, then pushed forwards once again, with much more force than I had been using, and the little girl hardly had time to cry out as the wave washed over her head and knocked her over. The act itself was careless, but when I look back now I am filled with abhorrence that I almost decided not to help her. I am often accused of cruelty, but have always shrugged it off as a human concept, far beneath my notice. I suppose that is what comes of being as old as the world and commanding the power of the oceans.

Still, save her I did, despite my brief hesitation. I felt responsible for her predicament as her body was dragged back into deeper water than she could possibly survive, her little lungs filling with cold ocean as she tried to cry for help. She fought against me, even as I lifted her up to the surface and pushed her tiny body back towards the safety of the beach. She continued to inhale more water than was safe for a human, and I knew she did not understand that I was trying to help.

I pulled together my power until I was a solid form, making certain it was human-shaped, and swept her little body up in my arms. I thought little above the basics of the shape I took; male, black hair not unlike her own, and adult. A normal sort of human shape, I believe, and other than the sea green eyes that I couldn’t help, relatively unremarkable. She coughed and spluttered, heaving and crying as she clung to me while I carried her to dry land, and I remember thinking how very small and easily broken these creatures were.

‘There there,’ I said patting her back and helping to expel the water from her lungs. ‘You are safe now, little one.’

She said nothing, but continued to cry and gasp, pointedly refusing to let go of me. I tried not to sigh in resignation, sitting down on the sand and rocking her gently as I waited for her to become calm. It’s difficult to explain in terms that can be understood how it feels for me to contain myself to a body. It isn’t uncomfortable, exactly, but it is unusual. To me the world is small, the creatures who reside here smaller still. When I confine myself to a solid form I do not feel small, but I feel like I ought to. I occasionally make myself far too large for the species I am attempting to impersonate, but as I held this shivering bundle of frightened human child, I had never felt larger. She was so tiny and helpless, and for the first time in my long years, I felt clumsy. It was odd, and in my confusion, I became annoyed.

‘What are you doing playing with the ocean if you cannot swim?’ I asked, the question being the very justification I would have gifted myself had she not survived. She looked up at me, and I could see the hurt and fear in her sky blue eyes, the innocent joy of only minutes before completely dissipated.

‘It wasn’t supposed to do that!’ she cried, her lips quivering. ‘I was only playing! We were having fun!’

Her choice of words confused me for a moment. ‘We?’

‘Me and the sea!’

I watched her carefully, but felt an odd shame for my actions. She did not mean to accuse me, at least not in the sense of her knowing I was personally to blame, but it cut me somehow. We had been having fun, and I had ruined it. It was not her fault that I had become carried away.

‘You must be more careful in future,’ I cautioned, sweeping my strange reactions aside in the face of her sense of betrayal at my hands. ‘The ocean is dangerous. It is vast and deep, and cares little for those who treat it with no respect. You must learn to swim if you wish to play again, but even then you must understand and accept the dangers of taking so lightly a timeless creation.’

She looked up at me, the wonder at my words plain on her open face. Perhaps it was a little heavy for one so young, but I felt compelled to warn her if I might. She shifted slightly on my lap and the movement jolted us both as the red, bleeding scrapes along her legs and arms where the sand and sharp stones had dragged against her helpless body pained her. Tears again began to well up as she noticed the state she was in, and I found it almost laughable that humans were more upset by the site of an injury than the actual pain itself.

‘There now, don’t weep,’ I soothed, looking at the injuries and assuring myself they were only superficial. There was no real damage, no broken bones or even seriously damaged flesh, but her tears came anyway, a fresh tide of salt water pouring forth. ‘Hush little one, won’t you? It is not serious.’

She hiccupped, her emotions more volatile than I had expected, her own anger and frustration at her tears flashing forth. ‘It hurts!’

‘I can heal you, if you choose?’ I asked, my dislike for the sound of her weeping becoming stronger with each moment. Elementals such as I are governed by strict rules, the most important of these that we cannot give without receiving, nor can we take without giving back. So far we were balanced, she having given me her laughter and I had given her life back. There were always loopholes, ways around certain things in order to get or do what was needed, but to heal her injuries would require more obvious payment.

‘Can you?’ she sniffled. ‘Do you have a plaster?’

I believe I may have smiled at that, her innocent misunderstanding of my offer, her childlike belief that a strip of man-made plastic would set everything right once more was endearing and sweet. ‘No little one, I do not have a …plaster. I have instead the ability to make your wounds vanish immediately, but it is very precious. If you wish me to use it, I must ask for something in return.’

‘What?’ she asked, the simplicity of a child much more refreshing than her adult counterparts. There was no suspicion, no disbelief for my words or claim, and I became a little saddened that one day this would leave her. She would become as jaded as every other human at some point, and it was a terrible shame.

I considered my options as I looked at the child. Payment must be taken, but she had nothing to offer me. An adult, in the rare instances that I had offered any service, could be bought off with a kiss or some personal gesture, but this was a small girl and I did not want such a thing from her. I saw the tears on her round cheeks, the way they had tracked to her chin and mingled with the water of her near drowning, and I was struck by an inspiration.

‘May I?’ I asked, reaching out carefully to her face. She nodded, and I gathered each droplet upon my fingers, using my magic to bind them together. A small drop of her blood was mixed in with the tears and seawater, and I gently extracted it into a separate creation. With these things, I forged a pendant for myself, a milky stone from the water and salt, decorated with swirls of silver and adorned by the tiniest red gem from her blood. I looked at the beautiful thing and smiled, creating a slim chain and looping it over my head to wear. It would remind me to have more care with my power.

When I looked back up at the child, still sat upon my lap, she looked at the pendant with awe. I smoothed her black, wet hair back from her face, then offered her the pendant to look upon. Still on its chain about my neck, she took it up in her tiny fingers and caressed the smooth stone and raised silver design. While she was distracted, I washed my power down her broken and sore flesh, mending it immediately. She appeared not to notice.

I allowed her to sit and fiddle with the charm I had made from her pain for a while, the peace of the moment soothing. Eventually though, I became afraid she might fall asleep, and knew the time had come for the tide to turn.

‘Time to return home, little one.’ I said more softly than I’d intended. She said nothing, only releasing the pendant and nodding once. I helped her stand, and she ran a pudgy little hand down her leg as she realised her injuries were gone. She gasped in surprise, but I was already gone. I did not want her to thank me, as it had really been my own fault to begin with.

It was only when I had moved miles from the coast that I realised she had no way out of the enclosed beach, and without thought, I turned and went back again. I chose at the time to not too closely examine my concern for her as I rushed back to the patch of sand on that rocky outcrop that I knew full well would be almost swallowed whole by now.

When I got there, however, there was no sign of the child.

***

Continue Reading Here