No NaSty Today…

No NaSty today,
Alyss went out to play,
With friend and dogs she went quite wild,
And ran and jumped and acted like a child,
And then she went to have some tea,
Her friend’s way to say: “Thanks for helping me,”
And now she’s back, with her word count nil,
Realizing she was delaying the thrill,
So, alas, no NaSty today,
Alyss went out to play.

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NaStyRoMo – Part 9

As a writer, you know your strengths and your weaknesses. And, admittedly I have to confess that this chapter combined two of my strongest weaknesses. I’m not terribly good with certain types of dialogue and this kind, ‘story telling dialogue’ as I think about it, is definitively my black sheep. Combine that with me trying to bring a key element of the plot over and you have something that’s a little bit disastrous in my opinion. I tried to rewrite it, or try something different, but alas, that failed as well. So, I present you with this original attempt at it, and hope that you’ll come back for part 10 so that I can redeem myself…

Bitten – Part 9

Now.

Once again they were sitting in Francis’s living room, facing each other on opposite sides.

Unable to stay in bed any longer, Vaughn had managed to get herself up and freshen up a little bit. Francis didn’t have a mirror which frustrated her a little bit because she couldn’t see the extent of the damage to her neck and shoulder but she also realized that she didn’t have the strength to face that yet. The wound was sore and itched, but her bandage was clean at least. Before they sat down, Francis first made her some hot tea and something to eat. They didn’t speak, because there was nothing that they could say to each other until Francis explained herself. Romulus also left the cabin and only returned when they were seated in the living room.

He had not spoken to her again, but Vaughn knew that it was out of choice, not because he couldn’t.

Vaughn wasn’t sure what she should feel when she sat slumped on the couch, looking at the woman who had quite clearly changed her life. She knew that she should’ve felt scared but admittedly she was so tired by the time that Francis helped her sit down on the couch that she just wanted answers.

Francis wasn’t looking at her, her face troubled as she looked out of the window, her thoughts clearly miles away. Then, with a visible effort she pulled herself back and turned her piercing green gaze on Vaughn, their depths immeasurable.

“Before I can tell you what happened to you,” she said softly. “I need to tell you what happened to me, years ago when I came here.” She paused, obviously struggling with words and memories. Romulus whined softly and again, Vaughn could understand him. Although he didn’t use words, her mind interpreted it as such.

‘I’m here,’ his whine whispered. ‘I’m here.’

The love that Vaughn sensed in his gesture towards Francis was so acute that it almost hurt to feel it. She swallowed and steeled herself against it, against the foreign feeling of having an animal’s thoughts in her mind.

“You are,” Francis said softly and touched his head. “You are my pet.” She sighed softly and turned back to Vaughn. “After my miscarriage I became… A little lost. The horror of my rape, that I had ignored so well until then, coupled with the relief and pain that I felt with the loss of the child turned me against myself. I won’t go into it as it’s a part of the past, but you have to understand were my frame of mind was.” She sighed. “I wasn’t me, I had become something that functioned on instinct alone. Antonio had not wanted to send me back to the cabin but he couldn’t keep me there, in the town. When I came back here I spend hours just wandering through the forest, not seeing anything except the path that I picked through the rough wood. Some nights, if I wandered too far, I would just remain there, sleeping in a ditch or a tree hollow.” She sighed softly, regret clearly on her face. “I was as mad then as they think that I am now.”

She paused again, looking out to the forest but soon carried on, standing up so that she could move to the window.

“On one of my walks, I stumbled onto something… That changed my life.” She dropped her hand, and immediately Romulus moved to her side, she touched him, her gaze remaining on the world outside. Vaughn moved a little forward, trying to see her face, but she didn’t have the strength to stand up.

“I stumbled across a wolf’s den. An occupied one but unguarded, the cubs old enough to be left on their own.” She looked down at Romulus, her gaze fond and full of love. “There were five of them, but only one was brave enough to come out and see who I was. Knowing that I shouldn’t, knowing that it was wrong and dangerous, I sat down in the ground and encouraged the cub to come to me. It didn’t take a lot of encouragement and I stayed there all afternoon, playing with him and his littermates who eventually deemed me a safe playmate. It was… rejuvenating. I went home before the pack came back, feeling as if a small bit of my world made sense again. I was worried that the mother might move them because I had been there so I returned as quickly as I could, naïve and ignorant of course. I don’t know what I planned to do exactly, but I had felt so at peace when I played with the cubs that I wanted to be apart of that, to find a way to… Belong with them.” She paused and turned back to Vaughn. “You see, my grandfather did that. I don’t know what his first step or first touch had been, but he too had managed to get himself integrated into a pack. Although I didn’t believe him in the beginning, I knew that he believed that, like with St. Francis, there are moments in our lives where we… Become integrated with the world around us. He was quite religious and believed that, in the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve the means to speak to animals, which was why they were supposed to name them.” Francis shrugged. “I’m not going to comment on such matters, what matters now is what happened to me.”

She paused again and sighed.

“When I returned to the den though, I encountered something I had not anticipated.” Her fingers gripped Romulus’s hair. “Someone had been there just after me and had not only destroyed the den but killed all the cubs. I couldn’t believe it, I stood there – seeing the desecration and… I just couldn’t believe that anybody would want to do such a thing. I felt so many things in that one moment, anger, loss, grief even guilt and pain. I walked around, trying to see if I could find anything that would show me who was responsible. The only thing I found though, was some fresh tire tracks on an old logging road nearby and, eventually, the she-wolf where she had crawled to die. Her body was bloody and clearly broken. I couldn’t tell whether she had been shot or whether who ever had managed to catch her somehow and beat her.” She shook her head, anger flashing in her green eyes as she turned back to look at Vaughn. “People here don’t think. They still hate these animals as much as they had been hated in the time that people started settling here. They didn’t even bother killing her quickly and taking her fur, they just seemed to have done it for the pleasure of it.” She shook her head again, a sound much like a growl deep in her throat. “I went to her, my heart aching with loss, thinking that I would take her and the bodies of the cubs that I could find to my cottage and bury them there. It was only when I picked her up that I suddenly realized that she was still alive. I panicked and quickly put her down, not wanting to hurt her more but in that moment I believe that she panicked as well and bit me.”

Francis became quiet and stared at Vaughn who was frowning at her. “You don’t have any scars,” she pointed out. “None that I can remember anyway.”

Francis smiled slightly and touched her upper arm. “It was here,” she said. “It’s faded with age, and I have to confess I had it reduced because I didn’t want to people of the town to recognize it as a wolf bite”

When Vaughn nodded slowly she continued, moving back to the chair with a tired sigh.

“Needless to say it hurt,” she said. “But… More than that, there was what I can only describe as an explosion inside me. My world literally short circuited and for a few seconds I could feel everything. I could feel the trees around me and the ground beneath my feet even though I had shoes on. I smelled the water on the fallen leaves, the decay in the undergrowth. I smelled the wolf’s blood, my blood, and that of her cubs. In those few seconds, I felt everything, her need to protect her young and her knowledge that she had failed, her fear of me, her panic and her strange knowledge that death was imminent. And, as I screamed out in pain and fear, trying to pry her jaws from my arm, I sensed her deep, urge and need to howl one last time, to tell the others around her what had happened. Her howl rose up in my being and finally escaped from my lips as I collapsed underneath her. The world around me faded and I truly believe that in those few seconds, she and I were one being.”

She trailed off, and looked at Vaughn who felt shaky and confused. She sensed it inside her, the howl that Francis spoke of. She could feel the after affects of a touch on her mind that was not her own. And she knew quiet suddenly what had bitten her but she didn’t know quite what had happened.

“What happened then?” she queried, hugging herself, aware of the throbbing in her shoulder.

Francis smiled and touched Romulus’s head. “I woke up to the sound of a child begging me to get up, I was confused and disorientated. I didn’t know who I was, or what I needed to do, but then I saw Romulus – the only cub who had managed to survive, probably because he had followed me home and wasn’t there for the massacre, I knew that I had to take care of him. I pushed his mother, now dead, from me and picked him up. He did not question me, his mother’s smell all over me and my presence a reminder of the good day that we had had before. Like you, I didn’t remember much in the beginning, but I managed to find my way home and see to both his and my needs. He filled the hole in me that had been left by the death of my child and I in turn, became his mother.” She smiled gently and looked down at the wolf. “I soon realized that I could talk to him, direct him, listen to him and more to the point, I could hear the others, as they howled out their grief about the massacre. They don’t communicate as we do, not essentially. Their language is a mixture of gestures and sounds so don’t think that I’ve had endless conversations with them. But – we can say to each other what we need to say, our respective minds able to analyze the string of supposedly foreign gestures into something that we can understand. In my mind, Romulus is a complicated human and in his, I am a complicated wolf. What I really am now, I don’t know and I have never tried to understand it because it is a gift that I have embraced. It has given me a new life and a new sense of purpose. On that fateful day, I finally stopped running and just became who I am now.”

Vaughn swallowed dryly and sniffed. “And who is that?” she queried, too scared of the answer.

Francis smiled and shrugged as she sat back. “Just Francis Mosse,” she said. “Nothing and nobody else.”

The silence stretched around them as Vaughn tried to piece together her own memory and try to put what Francis had said into perspective so that her own life would make sense. She remembered the need to howl and she remembered fear, and hate and love that was not her own. When Francis stood up to sit beside her on the couch, she didn’t look up immediately, but looked at Romulus, his eyes ageless as he stared at her.

“Should I tell you now what happened to you?” Francis queried softly, but she shook her head, shaken.

“I know,” she said quietly as her mind latched onto a memory. “I remember…”

&&&

To Be Continued…

The Weekend in a Flash.

Flash – Friday afternoon.

You standing behind me, staring at me in shock. “Alyssa,” you say, you’re voice uncertain. “We’ve had a lot of bad results, but I have to say, yours takes the cake.” I stare at you shocked, worried. Have I wasted my money? I think as you prepare to give me my results. Have I truly become stupid?

“Yours is a first,” you continue as you lean forward. “We’ve never had a result like this before.”
You put it in front of me, my test, the ticket that I had hoped would give me freedom from the blankness my life was starting to fall into. I couldn’t look at the number, but wait for you to break it to me, to tell me of my failure. You waste no time.
“99%” you announce, still surprised. “You almost had 100% for this test…”
I don’t hear the rest, relieved as I looked at my result.
Yeah baby, I found myself thinking. I’m still the shit…

Flash – Friday Evening.

You standing beside me, my friend with your heavy heart. Drowned with loss in pain. You have to say good bye tonight, and walk into your future uncertain. Fatherless, far from home. All I can tell you, is that the only cure for pain is to spread it. Share it, pass it along so that you don’t carry it by yourself. It passes. And, you forget. Eventually.
So, laugh with us, and smile. Let down your hair and go wild, we’re your friends. That’s why we’re here, to carry you. And, if you want to cry, and if you want to scream, do so.
That’s why we’re here. Why I’m here.

Flash – Saturday Morning.

You sitting beside me, with your smile and your soft touch. You, my other half. You might think that it’s a chore for me to sit and social with these people, but it’s not because I am with you. It might be hot, but you are beside me, and it is enough.

Flash – Saturday Afternoon.

You below me, with your heart of gold, your power, your spirit. You, looking at the golden horse in front of us, who managed to take the short cut because he wasn’t afraid to swim… It’s alright, I will never force you. You are my heart, my extension. And, if you can’t, then I will never, ever make you. I don’t know who had you before me, I don’t know who made you fear like you do. But, I will help you, as you are my beat, my rhythm. I feel you, listen to your body that’s almost like mine. My extension.
I know you hate being behind, hate going slow. I have not let you run since your illness but perhaps… today. You sense my thoughts and turn sideways, tossing your head, the golden horse growing ever smaller. With a laugh of permission, I let you go when you move again and you shoot away. Not from me, but with me as we race to catch the golden horse, the wind rushing by us, our breathing and hearts as one.

FlashSunday Morning.

Your hand in mine. Your face close to me. Your breath on my face.
Your smell… So close.
“I love you,” you whisper. “Happy Valentine’s day.”
I smile, my hand entwined in yours, the fingers of my other reaching out to touch your cheek.
“And, I you,” I whisper and mean it. “Thank you for being a great other half…”

Flash – Sunday Evening.

You staring at me, this face in the mirror. You are not who I had thought who I wanted to be, yet you are more me than I ever thought I’d be. I stare at you, meet your gaze, defiantly perhaps. Perhaps in friendship. We have come a long way you and I. We have changed, we have grown. We have been humbled and bend, yet never broken. In your eyes, I have discovered that I am blessed, that the world is better than I had thought it was. That there are friendship, and thrills, and love, all for me.
So, I stare at you and I smile, because tomorrow has come, and will come again.
Life, with all it’s changes, with all it’s fears, is worth living.

NaStyRoMo – Part 8

8, I’m sure it’s 8… If I wasn’t so lazy to look I’d know. 😉 Anyway. Here we go! Sorry for the long delay and I’m sorry for not reading the others at the moment! I’m on a course and I can barely juggle learning, writing and everything else, lol. Tomorrow, I promise. 😉

Bitten Part 8.

&&&

What has come before…

Antonio was looking at her, his eyes laughing kindly

“I have to say Vaughn,” he said. “You’ve been acting like a lost soul for weeks.”

Vaughn – amidst packing out stock for the store – looked up and blushed, realizing that she had been staring at the same bottle for several minutes.

“I’m sorry,” she said automatically. “I didn’t catch what you just said.”

Antonio shook his head with a smile. “Ever since you stopped delivering to Francis, “he started, “you’ve been drifting around like a lost soul. Don’t you see her anymore?”

Vaughn was careful to keep her expression neutral, not sure how Antonio would react if he knew how often she saw Francis. They had chosen to keep their relationship as quiet as they could in order to protect Vaughn from the town’s scrutiny.

“I see her,” she said. “But – you know – I’ve been delivering to her ever since I came here. You get used to things the way they are. Change is difficult.” She shrugged. “I miss going up and seeing her regularly with the deliveries, things are more erratic now. I worry about her.” Antonio gave her a patient look and hunched down to help her with the box.

“Francis Mosse has been living up on the mountain for years,” he stated. “As her grandfather had before her. The mountain takes care of its own and the Mosse family is as much a part of this place as the trees and the wolves they love so much.”

Working carefully, Vaughn gave her boss a curious look. “Did you know her grandfather?” she queried. “Francis rarely speaks of him.”

Antonio nodded slowly, and shrugged. “I suspect it’s because she didn’t know him very well,” he said. “I don’t think she ever came to visit him.” He trailed off and carried on unpacking the box. When it became apparent that he wasn’t going to volunteer anymore information Vaughn carefully prompted him further.

“What was he like?” she asked. “Was he a lot like Francis?”

Her boss paused and ran his hand through his thinning hair. “No,” he said after some consideration. “No, Francis is a lot more open. Old Mos was quite mad…” He paused then, shaking his head. “Rather,” he said after a minute’s thought, “he was different. You have to understand, I saw him through the eyes of a teenager, much the same way the teenagers of this town see Francis. Children are cruel Vaughn and the poor old man was the but end of any string of gossip or joke.” He resumed his packing, not looking at her. “My father didn’t encourage me to join in, but people like Alan Donald from the Mike’s Garage were very cruel. Like Francis, Mosse used to come down to town on the odd occasion to get some supplies. Like Francis, he also had a wolf who ran with him.” He shrugged. “They say that in families, things tend to run a full circle eventually. In those years, people were even less friendly towards wolves and people like Mosse than they are now.”

Shivering suddenly despite the hot summer air, Vaughn wondered again where Romulus had come from and where Francis had found him. She had never volunteered the information, despite the fact that she had asked her repeatedly. Although she never flat out refused to answer it, she always managed to delay answering the question or change the subject. Two weeks before, Athena had not shown up when Romulus and Francis howled, and instead of being concerned, Francis had been excited, saying that the she-wolf had had a litter of cubs. When Vaughn had asked her if she had taken Romulus from such a litter she had seemed almost insulted and angry. She decided to let the subject go after that.

“I still worry about her,” Vaughn said eventually. “Despite the façade that she puts up, she’s very vulnerable Antonio. There’s… so much that people here don’t see.” Although she wouldn’t say it out loud, she wondered sometimes whether Francis was just as scared of them as they were of her. She gave Vaughn clear instructions not to ever approach her when she as in town, again because she didn’t want the people to turn on Vaughn because they couldn’t get to her. The younger woman never understood what Francis was so afraid of, but then – considering her history, she couldn’t blame the woman, only respect her wishes.

Antonio smiled at her statement but didn’t say anything as he stood up when the shop bell rang. A quick look showed Vaughn that it was just John Donald returning from his delivery round. At eighteen, he was a broody youth with carrot red hair and pale, blotchy skin and Vaughn liked him about as much as she did his father, though she tried very hard to keep a good work ethic. He handed Antonio his delivery ledger and, at his boss’s bidding came over to help Vaughn with packing out some boxes. It was only a few minutes later that one of his mates came into the shop, his dark eyes shining in contrast to his shaved head and string of piercings. The young man joined John, the two of them not paying Vaughn any mind.

“The freak show’s in town,” he said in a hushed whisper after checking to see where Antonio was. “It’s a shame she couldn’t just say on her mountain like in the winter.”

John chuckled softly and looked up. “Even wolves have to leave their den at some point,” he said as Vaughn saw Francis’s big black cob through the window. “Which reminds me, I need to tell you something.” She tried not to listen to the boys and stood up to move to another shelf, knowing that it wouldn’t do any of them any good if she lost her temper with them. She watched Francis tie down her horse and step into the shop, her green eyes alert as she looked first to where the boys where standing and then to Vaughn. She smiled at all of them, though it was a closed smile and turned to Antonio who had moved towards her, smiling as usual.

“Come for the usual?” he said by way of greeting as they embraced. “It’s good to see you Francis.”

She smiled at him and took a list from her pocket. “That and more,” she said. “I’ve brought you a list of things I’ll need to have delivered. I won’t be able to bring it on Bucephalas.”

Antonio made a considering sound as he looked at the list and then at Vaughn. “I’m sure I can arrange that,” he said with a smile. “Making some repairs?”

The older woman laughed and nodded. “Catching up with everything I let go last season. How is Denise?”

Vaughn missed her boss’s reply when she saw John’s friend nudge his mate and take a bottle of ketchup from the rack. Without paying for it, he slipped out of the shop and disappeared round the corner. Feeling her irritation increase, Vaughn tried to see where he went and gave John a dirty look. The young man rolled his eyes and mouthed. “I’ll pay for it,” to her. Frowning at him, Vaughn turned her attention back to Francis. The woman was still talking to Antonio, but she could see that her attention wasn’t with the man, her body alert. Realizing that it might look suspicious if she continued staring at the woman, Vaughn quickly went back to her work, all the while glancing at Francis when John looked away.

She felt sorry for her lover every time she came to town. Although she never said anything, she could see that Francis was tense, like a wolf on edge. As open as she was at her cottage, she lost all of that the moment she rode in on her horse. She wondered whether the violation that had caused Francis to move here had left her with a form of social anxiety. She rarely spoke of her life before she lived on the mountain and the only thing that Vaughn had gathered was that she had been a literature lecturer from the work and papers that she worked on.

Her train of thought was cut off sharply when Francis turned around surprised, seconds before they heard a panicked shout and cry from outside the shop. Francis moved first, cursing softly as she rushed to the door with Antonio and Vaughn hot on her heals. There was another cry and a fierce growl that could only be Romulus. He had pinned John’s mate to the floor and was standing over him, growling fiercely. To Vaughn’s horror she saw that the boy was covered in blood and screaming at the top of his voice. Francis moved like lightening, her face tight with fear as she grabbed Romulus and pulled him off of the lad while Antonio grabbed the boy by his shoulders and pulled him away.

“John!” He snapped as the young man came out of the shop. “Get some towels for Benjamin and…”

The young man in his arms began to laugh with delight, a sound in such sharp contrast to the continued growling of Romulus. Francis looked at her animal and then suddenly, fixed a look of pure anger on the boy with Antonio. She let go of Romulus and took a threatening step towards Benjamin as he pushed himself away from Antonio and rubbed at the fake blood on his clothes and neck, the smell of ketchup slowly filtering towards them.

“Chill woman,” he said. “And get that beast on a leash; you saw what he did to me.”

Francis took another sharp step towards him but Vaughn quickly jumped in between them put her hand on Francis’s shoulders. The woman ignored her though and balled her firsts, Romulus still growling though he was standing behind her.

“You provoked him!” She snapped. “And, when he didn’t react immediately you tried to hurt my horse! You wanted him to make a scene!” She was so angry that she was shaking against Vaughn’s grip. “I don’t care what you say about me or do to me but heaven help me you leave my animals alone!”

Antonio looked at her surprised and then down at Benjamin who looked very smug. With an angry grunt he grabbed the boy by the collar and shoved him against the shop wall. “Is that true mate?” he snapped.

Benjamin chuckled and tried to shove Antonio away but the older man didn’t budge. “Hey,” he said. “I don’t know where she got that idea. Admittedly, I wanted to see what you guys would do when I ran into the shop covered in blood but I didn’t expect her wolf to just attack me.” He looked past Antonio at Francis, his dark eyes wicked. “He’s dangerous, I’m gonna tell the Sherriff of this incident. He should be shot.”

Francis ground her teeth but abruptly stood back from Vaughn and glared at the young man. “You little lying coward,” she snapped. “I’ll…”

“Easy Francis!” Antonio said quickly as he turned around to look at her. “I have a security camera out here. This matter can be sorted out very quickly.” He glared at the young man. “If you wish to involve the law.” He pushed him away and turned to the people who were starting to gather around. “If not and your story won’t quite hold up to the evidence I suggest you get a move on.” He pushed the boy away and turned to everybody else. “You can all move along, there’s nothing to see here!”

When they didn’t leave, Antonio turned to Francis, schooling his face to sympathy and calm as they heard someone whisper loudly, enquiring whether Romulus had bitten someone. “I think you should go Francis, before people get too pushy and the wrong idea, I’m sorry love.” He walked to her to comfort her but she took a wild step back which gave Romulus a chance to move in between them, every hair on his back standing upright. Antonio didn’t seem phased but kept his distance.

“Go home Francis,” he said softly. “I’ll send Vaughn up with your stuff, no charge. I think you need to get your friend’s settled.” He glanced at the horse who was also looking at him, the white’s of his eyes showing as he tried to reach out and pat him. “I’m sorry about this.”

Francis didn’t say anything, but stepped towards her horse and patted him soothingly. Without looking at anybody, she untied him from his post and mounted smoothly. Romulus remained between her and everybody else until she was seated and ready to go. The gathered crowd quickly moved out of her way when she turned her horse around sharply and smoothly, with no visible signal, pushed him into a canter.

Vaughn watched her leave with an icy grip in her heart, until she heard Antonio snap at Benjamin to get away from his shop and at John to get back to work. He then came to stand by her and lay a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Give her some time,” he said softly. “Then please go up tonight and see if she’s alright. I’m sorry that you had to see that Vaughn.”

She turned to him, not sure if she should feel sad or aghast.

“I’m sorry that it had to happen at all,” she said softly and pulled away from him, back to the shop, wondering how she was going to manage to remain civil with John for the rest of the afternoon after she saw what his friend had done.

&&&

To Be Continued…

Out of Time.

It’s 11pm and I have to go to bed, lol. The next section of my NaStyRoMo became longer than planned (as did the story really…) so its release will be moved to tomorrow. Now, if I was Kim Harrison’s publishers, moving the release date of Black Magic Sanction on for a month, I’d have a riot on my hands. As it is, lol, I just have insomnia. But, it’s time to power this baby down and get horizontal. 😉

Good night everybody.