Laura DePace: When You’re Ready

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

When You’re Ready

Laura DePace

The circus had come to town, with all the noise and color and excitement that came with it. The posters had been up for days, announcing its arrival: “Two Days Only! The One and Only Star Light Circus! Fun for All Ages!”

“We should go!” Charmaine giggled, clutching her best friend’s arm. “Two days only! We should go today, and then, if we like it, we can go again tomorrow.” She eagerly looked over at Lee.

Lee smiled indulgently at her friend. “Sure, why not?” she smiled. “Anything that breaks up the “boring” of this place is worth a shot, right?”

The girls continued walking through the small town towards the bustling activity down the street. A large tent was going up, circus workers swarming all around it, shouting as it rose majestically.

The park, usually just a large green area with benches and a small gazebo at the edge of the lake, was sprouting booths and small tents everywhere. The girls wandered through the chaos, being careful to stay out of the way of the many workers who were setting up a small carnival surrounding the giant circus tent.

There was a nice selection of food booths: cotton candy, fried dough, hot dogs, popcorn. There were carnival games as well: ring toss, darts to burst balloons, basketball free shots. There were even some small kiosks offering all sorts of wares: crystals, T shirts, small stuffed toys, jewelry, soaps, and candles.

Suddenly Charmaine squealed, “Oh, look! A fortune-teller!” She pointed out a small black tent, set back from the other tents and booths. Within was a rosy glow, and a beaded scarf covered part of the tent opening. A hand-lettered sign hung above the entrance: “Mistress Morgan: Tarot, Cartomancy, Palmistry, Tasseography.” 

“Really?” Lee mocked. “You want to go to a fortune-teller?” She laughed, shaking her head.

“Well, why not?” Charmaine retorted. “What’s the harm? I’ve never had my palm read, or my Tarot, or – whatever Tass-ee-o-graph-y is.” She cocked her head at her friend. “Have you?”

“Cartomancy is card-reading,” Lee informed her. “Not sure how it’s different from Tarot – which, after all, is still reading cards. Tasseography is reading tea-leaves.” 

Charmaine gaped at her. “How do you know that?”

“I read, silly,” Lee replied. “Plus,” she added offhandedly, “my great- great- something-or-other was into that sort of thing. Descended from real live Gypsies! She traveled with a caravan and all.” She shrugged. “Me, I don’t believe in that stuff.”

“Oh, come on!” Charmaine said impatiently, grabbing Lee’s hand and dragging her into the tent. 

The smell of incense filled the air inside the small, dark tent. A round table covered with a lace cloth sat in the middle of the space, two chairs drawn up to it. In the center of the table sat a crystal ball on an ebony stand, pulsing with a faint pink glow. A candle burned steadily behind it. The room appeared to be empty, though it was so dark and smoky, it was hard to tell.

The girls looked around the tent. To the right of the opening was a display stand of Tarot cards of all sorts, from sets with artwork of dragons and fairies to others illustrated with stars and moons. The back of the small tent held racks of scarves and shawls, fading into darkness in the depths of the gloom. To the left of the opening stood a small bookshelf on which were displayed a collection of elaborate tea cups with saucers. They edged nearer to take a closer look. 

“Ooh, look at this one!” Charmaine whispered admiringly. The background was a creamy bone-white, upon which iridescent peacocks were depicted, their lovely tails fanned out behind them. 

Another caught Lee’s eye, a pink confection that looked for all the world like a giant peony. Charmaine pointed out another, where golden fairies sparkled under a jade fern.

“No,” Lee whispered softly. “This one.” She carefully lifted a delicate teacup of blue and gold, with an intricate Asian scene painted in the center of a creamy heart shape. “This is a special cup.” She gently stroked the beautiful treasure.

“You have chosen well,” a low, cracked voice murmured.

Both girls jumped, Charmaine nearly knocking over the cup she was reaching for. Lee kept a firm, but delicate, grip on the Oriental cup in her hand. They turned to see a very old woman, dressed in layers of skirts and scarves. She wore a silky cloak of black, with a hood drawn close around her face. The girls could not make out her features in the dark, smoky space, but they felt a sense of great age from the mysterious figure.

“Come. Sit,” the old woman croaked, gracefully waving her hand toward the table, where she settled into a tall, ornately carved, throne-like chair that the girls had not noticed before. 

 “I am Mistress Morgan.”

Feeling drawn to the old woman, the girls wordlessly approached the table, waiting for her next instruction.

“You have not chosen!” the old woman barked impatiently at Charmaine. Charmaine jumped again, rushed back to the shelves of teacups, and grabbed the peacock cup that had first caught her eye. She scurried self-consciously back to the table, cradling the cup and saucer in both hands. She extended her choice towards the old woman, who merely looked at her, then she quickly sat down in the chair next to Lee. 

In the center of the table sat a teapot, gently steaming a fragrant scent. Where did that come from? Lee wondered. She could have sworn that there had been a crystal ball on the table when they came in, not a steaming tea pot. The old woman waved her hands from the girls to the table before them. They carefully placed their chosen tea cups on the lace cloth. 

The old woman looked from one girl to the other, gazing deeply into their eyes.

“Your name, child?” she asked, looking at Charmaine.

“Ch – Ch – Charmaine,” she stammered with a gulp.

“I’m – “ Lee began.

“I know who you are,” the old woman said softly. “Welcome, Lilith’a’Lee”

“What?” squawked Charmaine. “Lilith? No, no, her name’s Lee. Just Lee. ”

“Is it?” Mistress Morgan asked softly.

“Well, yeah, I think I know my best friend’s name!” Charmaine snorted. “We grew up together, and -”

Lee quickly covered Charmaine’s hand with her own. She shook her head at her friend, glancing back at Mistress Morgan. “Let it be,” she whispered.

Charmaine stared at her, wide-eyed, but held her tongue.

Mistress Morgan gracefully poured steaming tea into both of their cups, then into a small black-and-gold cup for herself. When the silence stretched uncomfortably, Charmaine moved to speak.

“Wait,” Mistress Morgan commanded. “Watch. Do as I do.”

She lifted her cup and sipped delicately, then nodded at the girls. Obediently, and silently, they copied her action. After seven sips, Mistress Morgan held her hands out, cradling her cup between them. At her nod, the girls held out their own cups for her inspection. She nodded, then carefully swirled her cup counter-clockwise three times, sending the tea leaves, afloat in a few teaspoons of liquid, swirling around the bowl of the cup. She nodded again, and the girls copied her movements. Finally, the old woman turned her teacup upside-down and gently rested it in the saucer with the handle of the cup facing herself. The girls followed suit.

Mistress Morgan reached a gnarled finger across the table and tapped the bottom of each cup three times. “So,” she said.

She reached for Lee’s cup, but Lee covered it with her hand. 

“No,” she said, and nodded at Charmaine. “Her first.”

Mistress Morgan and Lee locked eyes. Tension crackled in the air. Neither blinked.

Finally, the old woman broke eye contact, with a small nod, and a tiny gleam of a smile. “The blood of Lithia is strong in you.” 

She turned her attention to Charmaine. “What do you seek, my child?” she asked in a husky voice. “What can Mistress Morgan do for you?”

“Umm…can you just, like, tell my fortune? Like, will I be rich? Will I meet the man of my dreams?” She looked a bit wildly around the tent. “Will I ever get away from this tiny little town?”

Mistress Morgan reached for her cup, turning it over in her gnarled hands. She gazed into it.

“I see a palm tree, with a bird soaring above it.” She looked up, meeting Charmaine’s wide-eyed gaze. “You will embark on a journey to a warm place, a place of sand and water and sunshine.” 

Charmaine smiled, cheeks pink in excitement. “Ooh! Wonderful! A tropical island!”

Mistress Morgan continued. “I see a letter… M? Possibly N …” She looked into Charmaine’s eyes again. “Do you know a person whose name begins with an M or an N? Or perhaps you will meet this person on your journey. This is what I see.” 

She replaced the cup gently in the saucer before Charmaine. Charmaine sat lost in excited speculation, muttering to herself. “Michael? Matthew? What’s his name? That cute boy in Math class?” She turned to Lee. “That boy in Math class? Isn’t he Michael?” Her eyes widened with a new thought. “M! Math! Michael!” 

While she speculated excitedly, wrapped in her own thoughts, Mistress Morgan turned to Lee. Gazing intently into Lee’s eyes, she held her hand out for the teacup. Lifting her hand from the cup, Lee relinquished it, eyes locked with the old woman.

With a tight smile and a nod, Mistress Morgan gazed into Lee’s cup. She turned it three times, peering into the depths of the beautiful cup. The light of the candle caressed the deep blue and cream of the cup, sparkling as it caught the gold accents.

After what seemed like a long time, she looked up into Lee’s eyes.

“I think you know some of what I see,” she said softly. “I see a long chain, connecting you to the distant past. The letter L. Your ancestor, Lithia. She reaches across the ages to touch you.”

Lee felt an icy touch slide down her spine. She shivered, suddenly chilled. The light in the room seemed to dim, darkening around her, focusing the light of the candle on the table, the old woman, and the gleaming cup.

“I see a break in the chain. The letter V divides it. But the chain continues. Another L. I see the sun and the moon, together. A small star beneath, a larger star rising above. A soaring bird. This is what I see.” She gently placed the cup back in front of Lee, and took both her hands, holding them in a  firm grip. Lee’s fingers were icy; the old woman’s surprisingly warm. Their eyes locked again.

“Your ancestral legacy calls to you,” Mistress Morgan pronounced in a voice full of power.

“No. No!” Lee protested, shaking her head. 

“Yes!” Mistress Morgan insisted. “You know this! You have seen … things… images … dreams…”

“NO!” Lee shouted, yanking her hands away. Charmaine, jolted out of her daydreaming, jumped, staring at Lee.

“Lee?” she asked uncertainly. She reached out to touch her friend’s shoulder. Lee shivered, crossing her arms in front of her, sitting up straight in her chair.

“Come on!” she snapped, bolting to her feet and dragging Charmaine with her. “I think I’ve heard enough!” She marched from the room, dragging a bewildered Charmaine behind her.

“Lee? What’s wrong?” she questioned shakily. “Shouldn’t we – “ She stopped, yanking her hand away from Lee. “What is wrong with you?!” she demanded. “Where are your manners? We can’t just stamp out of there! We didn’t thank her, we didn’t pay her! I want to ask her more about my fortune! Michael? Matthew?”

“Don’t go back there!” Lee ordered, eyes flashing. “Don’t go near that crazy old woman!”

“What did she say to you?” Charmaine asked, glancing nervously at her friend. She stepped closer, peering into her eyes. “Geez, you’re really rattled,” she said softly, reaching out to her friend worriedly. Lee pulled away from her, arms crossed.

“You heard her,” she said flatly.

“Umm … not really.”

“What do you mean?” Lee demanded. “You were right there!”

“Umm… well, I wasn’t really listening,” she continued apologetically. “I was trying to think of who M could be…. What did she tell you?”

Lee locked eyes with Charmaine for a moment, tension crackling between them. Then she broke contact, shook herself, and took a step back. She forced a smile for her friend. 

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “Just some nonsense about my ancestors.” She shook her head. “She was just making stuff up. Like you could really see the future – or the past – in a bunch of soggy tea leaves!” She laughed an almost-normal laugh.

“Well, I liked what she told me!” Charmaine grinned, relieved that her friend seemed to have calmed down. Lee is acting so strange! Weird! she thought to herself. She looked at her for a moment to reassure herself that Lee was alright. “I want to go back and thank her,” she said, turning away. “And maybe ask her if it’s Michael or Matthew!” she added with a grin. “Coming?”

Lee shook her head. “No, I’m not going back,” she said. “Creepy old lady!” she added with a shiver.

“You are so odd sometimes!” Charmaine laughed, shaking her head. “Be right back.”

Charmaine ducked inside the tent. It was dark now. No candles. And empty. The old woman was nowhere in sight.

“Hello?” Charmaine called. “Mistress Morgan? It’s me, Charmaine! I wanted to ask you…” 

There was no response. Puzzled, Charmaine shook her head and ducked back out into the sunshine. She returned to where Lee was waiting for her.

“Did she tell you his name?” Lee asked her with a smile.

“No,” Charmaine replied, bemused. “She wasn’t there. The place was empty.”

“Weird,” Lee murmured. “Well, I guess there’s only one thing to do,” she said.

“What?” Charmaine questioned, still looking over her shoulder at the empty black tent.

“Get ice cream!” Lee replied with a smile. She grabbed her friend’s hand, and the girls, giggling, went off in search of the ice cream tent.

The girls spent the rest of the day at the carnival, and bought tickets for the midday circus show. For a small circus, it wasn’t bad. The trapeze artists were satisfyingly thrilling, and the dog act had them in stitches; one very small, very naughty poodle stole the show. 

They walked away after the show, carrying boxes of popcorn, show programs, and the stuffed toys that they had won at the dart-throwing booth. The sun set in a blaze of flaming-red glory.

“Bye,” Charmaine said as they reached her door. “That was really fun!” She hugged her friend goodbye. 

“Bye. Sweet dreams,” Lee replied with a smile.

Lee continued to her own door, tired from the long day. She didn’t want to admit it, even to herself, but her encounter with Mistress Morgan had really shaken her. Calling her Lilith’a’Lee; that was what her grandmother had called her. Her grandmother, who had died when she was six. 

Lee stopped, a sudden memory striking her. Her grandmother! Her grandmother, who used to read her tea leaves, and describe all sorts of wild fortunes for her. Reading her tea leaves…using an old, beautiful cup…a cup that could have been the twin of the one Mistress Morgan had used. She could picture it now: blue and white with gold accents… an Oriental scene…Weird, she thought. “Just a coincidence,” she muttered to herself. “Probably a million cups like that.”

As she rounded the corner just before her house, she noticed something on the doorstep. Jerking to a stop, she looked again.

“What – ?”

She approached slowly, cautiously.

On her doorstep sat the Oriental blue-and-white teacup, the last rays of the setting sun glistening on its gold accents. She knelt for a closer look. Tucked inside was a black card with gold lettering: “Mistress Morgan. Fortunes told. Fate revealed.” Lee picked up the card with shaking hands. She looked around her, but saw no one. As she dropped the card back into the cup, it flipped over. On the back, in spidery handwriting, was a message.

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Kenneth Lawson: Tea for the Chosen Two

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Tea For the ChosenTwo

Kenneth Lawson

I hated to touch the little cup and saucer.

The fear of breaking it was always in the back of my mind, but my morning wasn’t complete without a cup of tea from the little cup. The little figure on the cup that watched me seep my tea and gently pour it into its cup every morning seemed to be beckoning me somehow.

Many times during the day, I would stop what I was doing and delicately pick up the cup and stare at the pictures glazed into the finish.

 “Who are you?” I’d asked the figure. Of course, painted figures a half-inch tall can’t talk. But in my mind, I wondered what they would say.

I knew the cup’s history, age, and even where it was made. That only added to the mysticism of the cup. 

One morning while I was contemplating my morning tea. I glanced at the little figure as I put the cup down. It wasn’t right. She had moved. Every so slightly, but she wasn’t where she had been. Finishing my tea quickly, I took the cup to the kitchen window, where the light was best.

With the morning sun coming through the window, I examined her again. She had moved. Then as I watched her, she smiled at me.

No, this can’t be right. Porcelain cups do not smile at you.”  I shook his head and looked again. She was still smiling and turned to face me. One small hand lifted, and she motioned for me to come closer to her.

My face was already barely an inch from the cup. Without warning, I felt a sensation course through my body like nothing else I’d experienced—the feeling of being lighter than air and nothingness that I couldn’t explain. I blinked once, and I was standing next to the red-robed lady.

She was short,  her black hair perfectly coiffed, and the red robe made her look rounder than she was. My modern clothes seemed out of place, but she did not notice. 

A  nod had me following her to the familiar shed with the green tile roof I knew from the cup. We passed a  field of rice harvested by a man, exactly like another image on the cup. 

Tables loaded with various flowers in vases and pots fill the shed. Women and men milled around the inside, carrying pots, gardening tools, or observing. Everyone seemed in their own world and paid no attention to me. I wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or not. Yet.

I followed the red-robed woman through the shed and out the back onto a small path that led up a gentle slope to a small house. She seemed in no hurry, taking her time, which gave me a chance to try to take in my new surroundings. A narrow strip of well-worn gravel made up the path. Along either side was a neat row of miniature flowers I didn’t recognize. About halfway to the building, a narrow stream meandered through the lawn. Along the stream bank, I noticed rocks in various places to outline features and fill space, reminding me of rock gardens I’d seen.

The red-lacquered wooden bridge that crossed the creek was large, arching high in the center, and rose above a pond created by the stream. Six posts with carved knobs on top supported the arched railing. The stained brown deck planking was worn in the center by traffic over the years.  I paused in the middle of the bridge to take in the calm that seemed to ooze from the environment. Breathing deeply, I took in the fresh air fragranced by the lush flowers and looked around slowly. The Lilies covered the pond, and golden fish swam in the green water.

I felt a stare drilling into me. Startled, I returned my attention to the far end of the bridge where the red-robed lady stood, glaring at me. She said nothing, but her look told me I’d spent too long on the bridge. I hurried the last few steps to catch up with her. 

We made our way to the stone building that stood on the rise behind the outbuildings.  Windchimes hanging from an ornate overhang above the doorway jingled lightly in the breeze. A pair of stone dragons guarded the front door, each with its head raised and mouth open with large teeth daring anyone to challenge them.  Stone or not, I wasn’t about to question their authority.  Without a word, she opened the door and stepped inside, motioning me to follow her.

I had barely been in this world for five minutes but was fascinated with Japanese history and culture.  I knew there was more to this than a living history lesson, but I couldn’t understand what I was doing here, much less how I got here.  Right now, I wanted answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask.

The room was larger than I anticipated from the outside. The far wall had a large fireplace in the middle, Its mantle lined with glass vases and ceramic figures. At either end were oil lamps that gave a warm glow, throwing shadows over the mantle.

 As the door closed, I took in the rest of the room. Several large pillows dotted the floor, and low tables, also with lamps, sat near them. The window on one side threw a shaft of light that bathed the center of the room in an almost fake whiteness.

An old man sat in a chair near the fireplace and immediately drew my attention.  What I could see of the chair was wood, with ornate carving in the arms and legs.  A red velvet cushion peeked out from around the tops of his shoulders.  He wore a silk robe decorated with dragons and flowers. I noticed the dragons had an unusual number of claws, reminding me of something I’d read before. The number of claws indicated their station in life—the more claws, the higher the station.

I didn’t have time to count them as the robed lady motioned me to the center of the room. Facing the old man, I admit that I was nervous. Until that moment, the entire series of events in the last few minutes had seemed like a dream, a fairy tale. But now, standing here before this grizzled old man, with the foo man choo mustache that hung past his chin and the bald head covered by a silk cap, scared me shitless.

The red-robed lady knelt on the nearest pillow and  looked back and forth between us as if to say, “Well?”  I glanced between them and wondered the same thing. 

The old man seemed to have found some energy as he looked up at me, and a thin smile crossed his face as his eyes seemed to light up for a second.  A thin bony hand moved surprisingly quickly as it reached for mine. I extended my hand automatically to find his hand cold and stiff, but the sureness of his grip was a pleasant surprise.

“I am Akio, Aka’s father. Aka, tells me you’ve been studying our culture.” His voice was quiet and unassuming, but I sensed a deep power under it.

This wasn’t what I expected. “Yes, sir. I’ve been studying your history and culture for ages.”

He held up a cup identical to the one I’d been using for my morning tea.

“Aka has been watching you for years.”

The meaning was clear. I glanced back and forth between them, not sure what to say.

“You are not married?” it was more of a statement than a question. I nodded yes.

“Aka would like you to be her husband.”  

I stood in a small cottage in a faraway place in an even farther away time and offered to marry a woman who had been dead for three hundred years. I stood there looking back and forth between them and the teacup in his hand. 

Aka spoke. “Father, may I take him and talk to him?” He nodded yes, as he set the cup on the table.

She took my hand and steered me back to the front door. This time she was much more gentle and less formidable than the lady I’d met only a few minutes ago.

I followed to a gazebo that sat along the stream. A thousand questions ran through my mind, but none had answers. What she had told her father about me was true. 

I had been studying Japanese history and culture for decades and collected many original pieces of their china and art. I thought I knew quite a bit about their social structure and culture, but this surprised me even more.

 The whole time traveling through a teacup was scary enough, but this was something else again. 

As I followed her to the gazebo, I felt my tension ease. There was something relaxing about being here. I knew I didn’t belong in this time and place, but it seemed natural to be here. There had to be a reason for me to be here.  

We sat opposite each other on curved benches as the sun shone from the west. Neither of us spoke for a time. I studied Aka. She had twisted her black hair into a bun and applied light berry stain to her lips, highlighting her smile. Her red robe covered most of her body and made it hard to tell exactly how she looked. But she appeared more petite than the robe made her look.

Aka seemed calm as she sat and looked past me to the house and back at me. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I had to say something. “Aka, can you tell me what is happening?”

She looked down at her hands, then past me toward the gate. “I had visions of you and your house. I watched you make your tea in the morning, and when you took your cup into the other rooms, I saw your world.” She tailed off.

“Aka, these visions, when did you have them?  When did they start?”

 “I’m not sure. I think they started in my dreams. I dreamed about you making coffee and tea, and I remembered seeing you with other people.  I didn’t like it when you had other girls there.”

That last statement surprised me. It must have surprised her, too, as she turned red and looked down. I felt myself turn red. I’d had a string of girlfriends over the last few years, but none serious.  She’d seen them. I felt embarrassed at the thought of someone else seeing my private world—even a girl from three hundred years before I was born.  I thought about all the times I’d taken my tea into my bedroom and turned even redder. Unconsciously I reached for her hand and gently held it. She didn’t move it or tell me to let go.

We talked for a while as she told me how her dreams had become more frequent and vivid. Now she had visions even when she was awake. She had told her father of the visions, and he had explained that sometimes the gods choose someone, not from our time for us.  He had only heard legends of it happening until now.

 She had prayed to her gods about the vision. This morning she woke up feeling peaceful and knew today was the day.  So she’d put on her best robes and waited at the spot in the picture.  

I told her about the smiling and waving of her now-held hand. She told me there had been a flash of light from the west, and I was here.

“Your father said you would like to marry me.” She bowed her head and nodded yes. “You don’t know me, only what you’ve seen from the teacup. My world is completely different from yours. Just as you would not be happy in my world, How can I be happy here, in this world?  I do not understand your customs or cultures. How would your people respond to me, to us?”

Aka looked up and me, her big brown eyes pleading with me. “You must.!”

“What about my returning to my world?”

“There is no returning. Once the Gods have brought you here….” 


The next several months became a blur as I  settled into my new life. I met the village elders, and when Her father introduced me, they bowed respectfully and said nothing of my evident western heritage. I had started wearing traditional Japanese clothes by then, so I fit in better.  Somehow I instinctively understood the language. I spoke and heard  English in my mind, but they seemed to hear Japanese.  Whatever the Gods did, it worked.

As I spent time with Aka and got to know her and her life in 1700 Japan, I found life here was simple and challenging and much more physical than I had ever had to be. But It also felt good. I still hadn’t consented to marry Aka, so I lived in a separate cottage on the property. It dawned on me slowly that I was much happier here in ancient Japan than I had been in the twenty-first century with all of its modern convinces. 

One day I blurted out. “Aka. Do you still want to marry me?”

Her big brown eyes grew large, and her grin spread wider as she  shouted.” Yes!”

The weeks leading up to the wedding were busy. As Aka’s mother was no longer with us, other female members of her family took on the traditional role her mother would have. I spent more time with Akio learning my role in a traditional Japanese wedding.

But it was not to be.


I picked up the teacup and gazed at Aka’s image. She had been beautiful, kind, and loving, but she had been wrong.

The same gods that sent me to her chose at the last minute to take me away from her. As the priest was about to pronounce us husband and wife, dark clouds gathered rapidly, and a brilliant flash of light blinded everyone. At that moment, the same feeling of nothingness that brought me to her returned me to my world. 

My kitchen was as I’d left it. According to the clock on the wall, only a few minutes had passed, but I knew differently. I was different.

I spent the rest of my life continuing my collection of Japanese art and china, as it kept my time with Aka fresh in my mind. I never married. No one could compare to my Aka.

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Images are free-use and do not require attribution. Image by Beate from Pixabay.

Cheryl Ann Guido: Tea for Two

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Tea for Two

Cheryl Ann Guido

I’m a sucker for antiques and in particular, fine China tea cups. I began collecting many years ago when a beautiful piece came into my possession. I had just closed on my new home, an old two-story Victorian row house built in the early nineteen hundreds located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia. Although overwhelmed by all the necessary repairs and upgrades, I remained undaunted. At only twenty-five, I figured that since I intended it to be my forever home, I had the rest of my life to bring it back to its former glory.

I decided to start with the huge dining room on the first floor. Although I knew some repairs demanded the services of workers with skills much better than my own, I thought I could save some money by knocking out some of the old wall that separated it from the living room without help. My plan was to open it up and link the two rooms via a three-foot half-wall connected to pillars on each side, thus allowing a walk through in the middle yet still maintaining an open-air feeling. Starting with a floor to ceiling rectangular shaped section that jutted out approximately two feet from the rest of the room, I swung my mallet with gusto, all the while envisioning the renovated room inside my mind.

I spent the entire day breaking down that wall and removing the splintered pieces of wood that soon littered my floor. The fun part about home renovation is that you never know what you will uncover and I was not disappointed. My efforts exposed a magnificent brick fireplace topped with a stone mantle. In the center of the mantle, an exquisite antique China cup and saucer sat atop the stone as if someone had set it down then left it there, forgotten. The setting was perfect. No cracks or chips marred its surface. No stains ruined its beauty although upon further inspection I discovered a bit of residue inside on the bottom.

How curious, I thought, it’s as if someone placed that cup on the mantle and then sealed up the fireplace. I picked up the cup and turned it around, admiring the delicate artwork depicting a tranquil Asian scene and I wondered how long it had remained hidden behind the wall.

Admiring my new found treasure, I realized that I held a story in my hand. I had heard of other unusual things being found while renovating old homes. A friend of mine once found a half empty bottle of whiskey underneath some floor boards he replaced and a newlywed couple I knew had discovered newspapers from the turn of the century lining some upper cabinets in the kitchen of an old house they had been gifted by a rich relative. Much to their dismay, they also found an attic full of various items that took months to go through and clean out. I am certain there were stories behind all of those things, stories that remain untold. However, I decided to do some research into my Victorian’s history to try to find out more about my home’s former occupants and more specifically, why my perfect tea setting and intact fireplace had been sealed up and forgotten. After wiping off the dust, I brought the set upstairs and set it on top of my dresser in my bedroom, an area safe from the ongoing renovations. I made a mental note to give it a thorough cleaning later when I had time.

That night I had the strangest experience. I heard muffled conversation downstairs. Two people, a man and a woman, spoke in hushed tones interrupted occasionally by the woman’s high-pitched giggle. Since I lived alone, the sound of voices alarmed me and I crept down the steps to investigate. As I descended the staircase, I inhaled the smoky aroma of wood burning in the fireplace. It crackled every now and then sending bits of bright ash onto the floor of the hearth. Two people, a man and a woman, sat at a long rectangular table, he at the head and she at his left. Steam escaped from the spout of a China teapot as they both sipped from matching cups and saucers. Even in the low light lit only by the flames in the fireplace and two candles on the table, I recognized the pattern as the same one on my recently discovered set.

The pair seemed to be from another time. He wore a dark suit with a long navy colored coat and matching trousers adorned with a gold stripe down each pant leg. His beard, full and curly, framed lips topped with a long mustache that curled upward at each end. Tucked behind his ears, brown hair brushed the top of the high collared white shirt underneath his jacket. I took note of a brimmed flat-topped cap hanging from a coat stand next to the foyer leading to the exterior door. Something on the front of the cap glinted as it caught the flickering light from the fire. The man smiled over the top of his cup, focusing his eyes on the woman. A vision of subdued loveliness, she wore a modest off-white colored dress trimmed with lace. High necked with long sleeves, its folds spread across her lap then fell to her ankles revealing high topped black boots with laces. Her brown hair, though parted in the middle was pulled back into a large round bun.

The man reached over and lifted her hand. He brought it to his lips and kissed the tips of her fingers. Head tilted slightly down, her eyelids fluttered as she gazed up at him sideways, her eyes twinkling in the semi-darkness. It was then that I noticed. He had taken her hand with his left. That left hand sported a gold wedding ring. Immediately I wondered, are they married to each other?

As I sat on that last step mesmerized by the scene I witnessed, I totally forgot that these people enjoyed their tea in my home. It seemed so surreal, like watching a movie unfold but with me being immersed into the scene. I dared not move lest they detect my presence.

After a few minutes, the pair rose from their chairs. They embraced and shared a long kiss. He stepped back and turned to get his hat. It was then that I noticed the shiny silver badge on the left breast pocket of his coat. As they walked toward the front door, they seemed to fade into the darkness. The fire had gone out. In fact, no evidence of any blaze having ever burned remained. Gone also were the table, chairs and tea service. I shook my head. Had I been sleepwalking and just awakened from a strange dream?

After checking the front door to make sure it was still locked, I padded back up the steps and into my bedroom. My eyes traveled over to the tea cup and saucer on my dresser. I climbed back into bed and decided to make some inquiries the following day to see if anyone knew anything about my home’s original owners.

The next morning some contractors came to work on constructing the walk through from the dining room to the living room. One of the supervisors, Carl Walters, descended from a family that had lived in my area for over a hundred years. Although he did not live on my street, I hoped he might be able to shed some light on the history of my home. When they broke for lunch, I served pizzas I had ordered and we all sat on the floor eating slices of plain, peperoni and sausage. I seated myself beside Carl.

“Hey Carl, you’ve lived in this neighborhood all your life, right?”


“Do you think you could answer some questions about my house?”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing, when I took down the wall that sealed up the fireplace, I found a beautiful antique China cup and saucer. I wondered why someone would just leave something like that there then close up a perfectly good fireplace.”

He scratched his head then took a long sip of water. “Ms. Deltoro, we find all kinds of weird stuff behind the walls of these old houses. Who knows why or how they got there.” He shrugged then grabbed another slice.

I also took another slice. “Ms. Deltoro sounds so stuffy, Carl. Please call me Anita.”


“Anyway, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of strange things during the course of renovations and …”

“You can say that again.” His belly shook with hearty laughter. “In fact, sometimes we find stuff that’s downright valuable. Of course, we never keep it.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. “You’re not even tempted?”

“Sure, we’re tempted but we gotta stay honest, you know?” His broad grin was infectious.

“Well, like I was saying about the tea placement, it got me wondering about the people who built this house. Do you know anything about them?”

“Yeah, I do actually. This house was built sometime during the 1880’s by Joshua Baldwin, my great-great uncle on my mother’s side. He, his wife Lenore and daughter Olivia lived here together with a few servants. When Joshua died in 1899, his wife went back to Boston to be with family. I heard she died not long after.”

“What happened to Olivia?”

“Oh, now that is a mystery. She had stayed behind after Joshua’s death. Back in those days being nineteen meant someone was an adult, you know? She inherited a whole lot of money from her pops so she didn’t have to worry about paying for stuff. The story goes that Olivia loved this house and Philadelphia. She refused to leave despite her mother’s pleas. Anyway, one day she just up and disappeared.”


“Yeah. A neighbor got worried when she didn’t show up for a luncheon appointment they had. The woman called the police who found the place unlocked, ransacked and Olivia gone.”

“Wow, that’s really interesting. Did they ever find her?”


“Do you know what she looked like?”

“Nah, I was never really interested in that old family history but I’m sure the local paper has pictures of her. They’ve been printing since 1910 and she disappeared in 1915. I heard that it was a really big story back then so they must have lots of information.”

“Where is their office?”

“Actually, they are really close by. They’re at Ridge and Domino on the second floor. Ask for Ed Jennings. He’s a friend of mine. He’ll help you.”

“Thanks Carl. I appreciate it.”

Carl stood up. “I’m not being nosy Anita, well maybe I am just a little, but why are you so interested in finding out about Olivia Baldwin?”

“I don’t know. After finding that tea cup, I just feel like I need to know more about her and this house. Besides, I’ve always been intrigued by mysteries.”

The next day I walked to the newspaper office. After entering the small workplace, I asked the receptionist if I could meet with Ed Jennings. The man behind the desk cocked his head then stood up. “I’m Ed Jennings, what can I do for you Miss …”

“Deltoro, Anita Deltoro.” I held out my hand. “Pleased to meet you Mister Jennings.”

We shook hands as my eyes swept around the cluttered room filled with boxes and file cabinets along with manilla folders scattered all over the desk and floor. Jennings ran his fingers though his short cropped sandy colored hair. “Forgive the mess. My receptionist is on maternity leave and since this is only a two-person operation, I’m doing double duty. Hopefully when she comes back this,” his arm swept across the air in front of him, “will all be cleaned up. She’s not going to be too happy about that though.” His chuckle almost sounded like a grunt.

“You’re probably right. Making a mess is easy, cleaning up, not so much.” I had no idea why I said that but it invoked another chuckle from Jennings who shoved a pile of papers onto the floor revealing an old uncomfortable looking chair.

“Please, have a seat.”

“Thanks. The reason I’m here is because I’m interested in the old Baldwin place. I recently purchased it and have begun some renovations.”

“Ahh yes, I heard someone bought that place again.”


“Hmm, maybe I should not have said that.”

“Why not?”

“Well, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I might as well tell you. That house has a reputation. It’s changed ownership numerous times because each of the occupants claimed that it’s haunted.”

My eyebrows arched as I processed that information. My vision from the previous night flashed through my mind. Apparently, I had encountered the ghosts. “The realtor never said anything about it being haunted.”

“They never do. Bad for sales, you know?”

“Well, would it surprise you to know that last night I myself witnessed something that I cannot explain?”

“Whew,” he whistled, “those ghosts certainly didn’t waste any time haunting the new owner.”

I nodded my head. “No, they did not. I’m not frightened by ghosts though. As long as they aren’t malevolent, I’m okay with sharing my home with them.”

“Brave girl.”

“Not brave so much as curious. In fact, curiosity is what brought me here today. Do you still have files on Olivia Baldwin’s disappearance?”

Jennings scrunched his nose then tapped his temple with his index finger. “Hmm. I’m sure I do … somewhere.” Mumbling to himself, he began to rummage through files in an old, battered grey file cabinet. After a few moments he pulled out a tattered brown fold over file tied shut with a lace. “Aha, success!”

After snatching his glasses from the top of his head and settling the bridge firmly on his nose, he flipped through pages until he found what he needed, an old yellowed newspaper clipping. Its edges were tattered and fragile. Jennings removed it and handed it to me. “Careful, this is really old and could disintegrate easily.”

The paper had a sketched image of Olivia with the article beneath. Soft dark curls framed her delicate features. The sketch displayed her as a serious young woman with an expression of stoic demeanor. I recognized her immediately as the woman who flirted with her gentleman over tea in my home.

“Yup, that’s who I saw alright. Did she ever marry?”

Jennings pursed his lips. “I don’t know but her last name was always Baldwin so probably not.”

“Ed, may I call you Ed?”

“Yeah sure.”

“I saw two people last night, Olivia and a man. He wore a uniform and appeared to be a police officer. This article doesn’t mention a husband or even a beau. I’m wondering if he may have been her lover.”

“Folks were secretive back in those days. If he was her lover, I doubt anyone knew.”

“Alright. Thank you, Ed. You’ve been quite helpful.” I rose and began making my way toward the door.

“Hey, if you find out anymore about her or her disappearance, let me know. It’ll make a hell of a story.”

I turned and waived. “Will do.”

After the workers left for the day and I cleaned up what I could, I trudged upstairs, took a shower and laid down on my bed intending to take a short nap then make dinner. Sometimes good intentions don’t go as planned and evidently exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep. When I awoke at about 3:00 am, I realized that once again, the sound of voices filled my ears. Only this time, they seemed to be right there in my bedroom. I sat up in my bed. My eyes visually swept the room in an effort to locate the sources. I saw nothing, but what I heard chilled me to the bone.

One voice belonged to Olivia. She spoke in an angry tone that sounded like her teeth clenched together as she blurted out her words. “Why won’t you leave her, Patrick? You don’t love her. You simply tolerate her because she is the mother of your children. You promised me that we would be together and now you’re saying that can never happen yet you still want to be my lover. How dare you make the assumption that I will always be your harlot!”

I heard four dull thuds. They almost sounded like someone pounding on another person’s body with their fists. I then heard Olivia whimper and a man’s voice. “I never said I would leave her, Olivia. You were the one who kept saying that and stating it as fact when I never agreed to it. I cannot leave her. I will not leave her. Her family is too powerful and I will not risk my career for you or any other woman. I do not understand you, Olivia. Why can’t we just keep going on like we’ve been doing for the past year? We have both been happy and …”

“Do you think I can survive on brief midnight trysts, Patrick? I am a lady not a streetwalker. I have breeding, money and … oh, wait a minute. You want my money, don’t you? All this time you have been courting me with the intention of somehow getting me to give my fortune to you.”

“No, you’re wrong.”

“Am I? How were you going to trick me out of my money, Patrick? How?

“I’m not going to play your little mind game anymore, Olivia. We’re done.”

“I’m going to tell her Patrick. I’m going to tell her everything.”

I heard a noise like a body being slammed against a wall, a masculine growl and the unmistakable sound of fabric ripping, then Olivia’s high-pitched shriek. “Please don’t leave me, Patrick. I don’t know how I can live without you!”

After a moment of silence, the man spoke. This time his voice resonated with an eerie calmness. “Let’s go downstairs. You go sit by the fire and I’ll make us some tea.”

I waited, but heard no more conversation. I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them pondering the meaning of their words. At least I had the man’s name now, or part of it at any rate. His name was Patrick. Although I had no idea if that knowledge helped me discover any more about Olivia’s disappearance. Still, I had the uncomfortable feeling that something was not quite right and the lovers had not really settled their quarrel.

While renovations were going on the next day, I decided to use my time to try to investigate the case on file with the police department. I called the Fifth District and lied just a bit, telling them I was an author writing a book about Olivia Baldwin’s disappearance. Although apologetic, they informed me that they did not have records that went back that far, but if I really wanted to delve into the past, I might be able to find some information at The Philadelphia City Archives on Spring Garden Street.

I asked Carl if they needed me to be at the house while they worked and he said no but that they were just about finished for the day anyway as a new crew needed to come in to repair and rewire the electrical work the torn down walls had exposed. Since it was only shortly after 11 am, I waited for them to pack up then walked to the main road to board a bus to take me to Center City.

The ride took about a half hour. I had to change buses after I arrived downtown. When I finally got to the City Archives building, I realized that I had not eaten anything since my coffee and donut at breakfast. The pungent aroma of hot dogs filled my nostrils and although I seldom buy food from street vendors, my growling stomach compelled me to purchase a Nathan’s dog with mustard and relish. I wolfed it down then entered the building.

After speaking to someone at an enormous crescent shaped desk, I boarded an elevator that took me to the third floor. The receptionist on that level seated me at an old microfiche machine where I scrolled through strips of celluloid containing police reports and newspaper articles for April 23, 1915, the date of Olivia’s disappearance. I snapped pictures of those I thought useful. Two hours later I sat beside a window on a bus bound for home.

My search had not yielded much. Sorting through all of the information had been what took up most of my time. I did find out however, that a police officer by the name of Patrick O’Reilly had filed a report after his night shift stating nothing had seemed out of place when he passed by the Baldwin home at approximately 10 pm. Could he have been the same Patrick as the man in Olivia’s bedroom? I knew that her Patrick was a police officer by his uniform. It seemed too coincidental that the beat cop and her Patrick shared the same first name. I theorized that he visited her for their nightly trysts while still on duty. Since Olivia had never shared her secret with anyone, it made sense that he would not be questioned further about her disappearance.

In the weeks that followed, my life became too busy to pursue my mystery obsession further. I had not received any more visits from either Olivia or her lover and all but forgot about them until one day, when my doorbell rang and I greeted a grinning Ed Jennings on my doorstep.

“Hiya Anita! I have something you might find interesting.”

I opened the door and let him in. We sat at the dining room table and I poured some coffee for us both. He visually scanned the newly renovated first floor. “Looking good. I like how you opened this all up.”

“Thank you. We are currently remodeling the upstairs bathroom but once it’s finished, that will be it, at least for a long while. It’s just too expensive. I need to recoup.”

“Yeah, fixing up these old homes does tend to drain you dry. Anyway, after you left that day, I started going through all of our records of events around that time. I came across this article.” He slid a photocopy across the table. “This picture is from a home tour. Apparently, back then, the well-to-do folks opened up their houses and let people walk through. Nothing like dangling the fruits of wealth in front of the needy, you know?” He laughed at his own joke. “But seriously, look carefully at what’s in the China cabinet behind Mrs. Baldwin.”

I examined the photo. Inside the cabinet there appeared to be several tea placements. “So, she had a tea set. I’m sure everyone did back then.”

His eyes gleamed. “But, is it just any old tea set? I brought a magnifying glass. Here, take a good look.”

I hovered the magnifying glass over the China cabinet in the photo. I looked, then looked even closer. Although a bit grainy, I saw that the tea sets seemed to match the cup and saucer still on my bedroom dresser. I pointed my index finger upward, indicating a moment, then ran upstairs, snatched my set and bounded back down the steps. I placed the set beside the photo, then using the magnifier my eyes swept back and forth from the image to my set and back.

“Well, I can’t be absolutely certain. This picture is old and a bit distorted but it sure does look like that set matches my cup and saucer.”

“Yes, it does indeed. Now, here is the fun part. The article states that tea set was Mrs. Baldwin’s pride and joy. It had belonged to her grandmother who received it as a gift from her grandfather before they were married. It also states that there were twelve settings.”

“Is that significant?”

“It certainly is. Look, I went to the City Archives myself and spent a few hours going over every police report written on that day with a fine-tooth comb. One of them details an inventory of the contents of the house filed on the day of Olivia’s disappearance. They listed eleven sets in the China cabinet.”

“And mine makes twelve but it doesn’t give us a clue as to why mine was missing.”

Jennings grunted. “No, it doesn’t.” His eyes caught sight of the residue still inside my cup. “Hey, what’s that?”

“I guess it’s what’s left of the tea. Apparently, the cup was placed behind the wall unwashed.”

He picked up the cup to get a better look. “Do you mind if I borrow this? I have a friend in a forensics lab who might be able to tell us exactly what’s in the bottom of this cup. I don’t know if it’s significant, but we’ll never know unless we have it tested.”

“Be my guest, Ed. Just be gentle.”

“Don’t worry, it’s safe with me.”

A week later Ed called with the results of the tests. In addition to tea and milk residue, the lab had found traces of arsenic. Olivia Baldwin had been poisoned.

I felt an odd sense of satisfaction after receiving that information though I did not understand why. I had no blood ties to Olivia or any kind of ties at all except that I owned her former home. Still, the discovery of her death hopefully would put her spirit to rest and I wouldn’t receive any more ghostly visits. However, she was not through with me by a long shot.

The next night a turbulent storm swept through the city. High winds and pounding rain continued all night. Just before dawn, I lost power. After going down into my basement in hopes that I only needed to reset a circuit breaker, I tripped over an uneven portion of the concrete floor. Before I could reach the breaker box, I heard the distinct sound of a shovel digging into soft dirt over and over. I shined my flashlight around the room, then onto the cracked floor. A moment later the power came back on and the shoveling stopped. Due to the late hour, investigating the damaged floor was out of the question. As I climbed the steps, I turned and took a second look at the concrete pieces protruding upward and decided to give Carl a call in the morning.

The next day Carl rang my doorbell shovel and pickaxe in hand. “Are you sure you want me to do this, Anita?”

“Yes, I’m sure. I think Olivia’s body is under the floor, Carl. That’s why she’s been haunting this house all these years.”

He rolled his eyes. “Okay. Let’s get to work.”

I made a quick call to Ed and when he arrived, he joined us in the basement. After almost two hours of breaking up the concrete and removing dirt, Carl unearthed a bone. It appeared to be a human femur. At that point I told Carl to stop and phoned the police. The discovery needed to be in their hands now.

Within minutes my house swelled with law enforcement. Some questioned me while others stood around watching the forensics team unearth the body of Olivia Baldwin piece by piece. My head swam as I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Of course, since her murder happened almost a hundred years ago, none of us could be charged. Still, I had no idea that my home would soon become a circus where people would gawk, ring my bell and talk about the discovery for years afterwards.

The detectives scoffed at my theory that Olivia’s ghost guided me in solving the mystery of her disappearance. Although they read the report stating Patrick O’Reilly had been the beat cop the night she disappeared, they claimed no evidence existed connecting him to her murder and attributed the absence of my tea set in the inventory to human error.

Through ancestry records, Ed and I found that O’Reilly was married to a woman named Agatha and they had two children, Oscar and Lily. Through police records we discovered that Patrick quit the force a few months after Olivia’s disappearance. Soon after, another record indicated Agatha filed a missing persons report on her husband. No other records of Patrick O’Reilly exist or at least none that we found.

Real estate deeds revealed that Olivia’s home was purchased through auction a year later after she had been officially declared dead but the new owners did not record a new address until early Spring 1917. Carl’s revelation that renovations of many homes uncovered hidden objects led us to speculate that the new owners had the house renovated prior to occupancy and the workers simply walled over the fireplace without removing the tea set.

The ghostly forms of Olivia and Patrick never visited me again. Apparently, solving the mystery had freed Olivia from her unfinished business and she crossed over.

Ed and I co-wrote a book about Olivia’s murder. In it, we theorized that since forensics labs did not exist until 1923, O’Reilly simply placed the tea cup on top of the mantle, not giving it another thought. Over the years, Ed and I have become close friends. In fact, I work in his newspaper office three days a week. That man definitely needs someone to keep him organized. But more than that, we shared an adventure that few will ever have thus creating a lasting bond.

In a way, I miss Olivia and the excitement of helping to solve her mystery. Even now years later, I look at the tea cup and saucer that has a permanent home on top of the fireplace mantle and I smile. I have always said that every old house has a story or two to tell. You just need to know where to look.

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Images are free-use and do not require attribution. Image by Beate from Pixabay.

Lynn Miclea: Gold Teacup

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Gold Teacup

Lynn Miclea

Mia looked wistfully at the gold cloisonné teacup in the store window. She had been admiring it for months and had fallen in love with it. Although she really wanted it, it felt like a luxury she simply couldn’t afford, especially since she had been fired from her previous job and currently had only a temporary job. Besides, she had enough teacups. She didn’t need another one. But she didn’t have that one, and it was so beautiful. That one tugged at her heart.

She pulled on Jason’s sleeve as she pointed to it. “That one,” she murmured. “I love that one.” She sighed with longing.

Jason nodded and then patted her on the back. “Maybe one day you can get it.” He gestured down the street, placed one hand on her lower back, and started walking. “Let’s go. It’s getting late, and I really need to get home.”

Mia sighed. “I know. I just love that cup.”

“I know you do. You’ll get it one day. But right now, I need to get home. I’m sorry — there’s something I really need to do.”

“Okay.” Mia felt an emptiness in her belly. She tried to push her feelings aside but her fears rushed at her and she felt defeated. After her dad had left and abandoned the family when she was little, and her mom had died a couple of years ago, she felt alone and unwanted. There were times when it was overwhelming and she couldn’t shake it. As much as she tried to be strong and independent, sometimes the feelings of being abandoned, isolated, and alone felt suffocating. But she didn’t want to put that on Jason. If he had something he needed to do, she would give him space and not stand in his way. She would let him do whatever it was.

After Jason dropped Mia off at her own apartment, she couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss. It was more than the teacup. She felt like she was losing Jason. He seemed to be getting busier lately and having less time for her. Was she still important to him? Did he still love her? She didn’t like even asking those questions. If she had to ask those questions, something was wrong. Maybe he really had something legitimate that he needed to take care of. Maybe she was reading too much into it. But then again, maybe he was getting tired of her.

Would she ever be good enough for someone? Would she ever find true love? Would she ever stop feeling lost or abandoned? Trying to take her mind off her relationship and sense of impending loss, she busied herself with cleaning the apartment.


After a week of brief phone calls but not getting together with Jason, Mia felt even stronger that she was losing him. They had started dating just over a year ago, and their relationship had quickly grown close. Now the anniversary of their first date was coming up in three days, and she wondered if she would even see him. The pit of her stomach felt hollow.

She jumped as the phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, she saw it was Jason. Did he want to see her? Or was he breaking up with her? She hesitated for a few moments and then answered the call.


“Hey, babe,” Jason’s warm voice replied. “Can I come over?”

Mia swallowed hard. She ached to see him, but she wasn’t sure what to expect. The world felt like it was crumbling around her. “Sure,” she finally answered.

“Okay, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

Mia paced back and forth in her living room, agitated but trying to stay calm. Jason meant more to her than she wanted to admit, and she had thought he was the one for her. It broke her heart to think he might be breaking up with her.

Finally, the doorbell rang, and she stepped to the door, not sure what to expect.

Jason stood there, a bit awkward, with a tentative smile on his face. “Hey, babe.”

“Hi.” Mia’s mouth was dry and the word came out breathy and weak.

Jason moved his arm and brought forward a bouquet of yellow roses from behind his back. “For you.” He held out the flowers and then leaned in and gave her a soft kiss on her cheek. “Can I come in?”

Mia nodded and took the yellow roses. She smelled them and smiled. “Thank you, they smell wonderful.” After closing the door, she led him into the living room. “Let me put these in water.” She scurried into the kitchen, put the roses into a vase, and then filled the vase with water.

As she returned to the living room, she saw Jason standing, his face serious. “C’mere, babe,” he said softly, as he opened his arms for a hug.

Mia melted into his strong arms. It felt warm and loving and so comfortable. She wanted so much more of this, and she hoped this was not the end. She didn’t think she could take more rejection and loss. She pulled back and looked up into his face, her eyes searching his. His eyes looked haunted and troubled, and he gently kissed her.

He finally pulled back. “Let’s sit. We need to talk.”

A tremble of fear ran through Mia as she gingerly sat on the couch. She had no idea what was coming.

Jason sat next to her and reached for her hand, the warmth of his hand enveloping hers. He remained silent for a full minute, lost in thought, his face pensive. The tension rose in the silence. Mia’s stomach knotted up, and it was hard to keep still.

Finally, he spoke. “My mom is in a nursing home.” He paused, trying to find the right words. “She is going downhill and is not doing so well.” His face looked pale. “She was just put in hospice care. There’s nothing more to do now but keep her comfortable.”

Mia squeezed his hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m sorry too. I just couldn’t talk about this before. I couldn’t deal with it. Now that she’s in hospice, we know the end is coming. They are keeping her pain free, and there’s nothing more I can do but visit her. But it’s so hard. I don’t know how much longer she has.”

Mia rubbed his thigh. “I know that is so difficult to deal with.”

Jason reached for her hand. “I haven’t told anyone else yet. I haven’t been able to even talk about this.” His eyes grew moist. “I know I haven’t been here for you lately. I know I’ve let you down. But this … this just took all my time and energy, and I just …”

Mia felt her eyes burn as tears filled them. “It’s okay. I understand. Thank you for telling me.” The pain of what he was dealing with ate at her. “I know what you’re going through. I’m here for you if you need it.”

“I appreciate that. I just don’t even know what to do.”

“Do you want to talk more about it?”

Jason shook his head. “No. I can’t. I need to just stay busy.” His eyes met hers, and his face was filled with grief and fear. “Let’s go for a drive. Please. I can’t sit still.”



Jason pulled out of the parking spot and eased into the street. Traffic was light, and Jason blew out a long breath as he began to relax.

Mia patted him on the leg. “It’s nice out, and I’m glad traffic is not bad now. This is a good idea.” To fill the silence and keep his mind off his mom, she told him about her temp job and what she had been doing the past few days and pointed out things along the way that they were passing.

“Thank you, Mia. This helps. This feels more normal. I need this.” He stopped at a red light and glanced at her. “You’re helping me more than you know.”

The light turned green and he began to move forward.

A sudden screeching of tires and a loud blare of a horn filled the air. As Mia gasped and looked to her right at a moving vehicle aimed right for them, a huge crash sent their car spinning and flying through the intersection.

Mia vaguely heard strange noises. Echoes. Voices. Alarms clanging. All sounding far away. Lights blaring.

Her eyelids slowly fluttered open. Jason was peering down at her, holding her, his face filled with concern. She became aware that she was in his arms.

“Mia,” he breathed. “You’re still here.”

She tried to talk and nothing came out at first. Then finally one word came out. “Jason.”

“I’m here. Are you okay?”

“I think so. What happened?”

“We had a bad car accident. Someone ran a red light and crashed into us. The police and ambulance are on the way.”

She squinted, trying to think. “I barely remember …”

“It’s okay, save your voice. Just rest for now. Help is on the way.”

Mia nodded and closed her eyes.

Jason held her closer to him and gently kissed her. As his face brushed against hers, she felt a warm tear fall onto her chin. Was that from him?

Sirens blared, getting closer and louder.


After she was released from the hospital the following morning, she lay on the couch in her living room, her head in Jason’s lap. Jason played with her hair and stroked her face with his fingers.

“I was afraid I lost you,” Jason murmured. “Everything came crashing down. The accident, beginning to lose my mom, and then almost losing you. I … it was too much.”

Mia reached up and squeezed his hand. “I’m okay. Thank you for taking care of me.”

“I was so worried. I’m glad you weren’t hurt more than this and it was nothing serious.”

“How is your mom?”

He let out a long breath before answering. “She’s hanging in there and okay for now, but I don’t know how much longer she has.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. She’s in good hands right now, and she’s comfortable. She’s being taken care of. I’m actually more worried about you right now.”

“I’m okay. Just a bit achy and bruised.”

“I could have lost you. Mia, I love you. You are everything to me.”

She smiled as warmth filled her. Those words were nice to hear. “I love you too, Jason.”

“Our one-year anniversary is in two days. Do you think you’ll be well enough to go out and celebrate?”

Mia struggled to sit up and she swung her legs down from the couch. “Yes, I’ll be fine. I just need to rest for another 24 hours, but I’ll be fine. I ache all over and feel shaken up, but I’m sure I’ll be fine in a couple of days.”

“I feel like this is all my fault.”

“No, you did nothing wrong. It was the other driver’s fault. Hey, did they catch him?”

“Yes. He was driving under the influence and is being charged.” He pursed his lips. “I want to protect you. I want to help you.”

Mia smiled. “You are. You are helping me right now. I love that you are here.”

“You are so important to me. My world fell apart when I thought I might lose you. Between losing my mom and almost losing you …”

“You are important to me, too. And yes, we’ll go out and celebrate our anniversary.”

He leaned in and tenderly kissed her.


Two days later, as they pushed away the dessert plates after a tantalizing and satisfying meal, Jason placed a medium-sized box on the table. “This is for you.”

“What’s this?”

He gave a small smile. “Open it.”

She hesitated for a moment, her eyes searching his face, and then she slowly opened the box. Pushing aside the bubble wrap and tissue paper, she saw the beautiful gold cloisonné teacup that she had wanted. “You got it for me!”

“Yes. I knew you loved it.” He gestured toward the box. “Look inside the cup.”

She picked up the teacup, admiring the beautiful motif on the side, and then looked inside. A small piece of paper was at the bottom of the cup. Curious, she picked up the paper, unfolded it, and read the words.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart. Will you marry me?

She looked up at Jason. “Are you serious? Is this for real?”

“Mia, what’s happened recently really drove it home for me. I’m about to lose my mom, and I almost lost you. It really hit me hard.” He closed his eyes for a few moments, and when he opened them, his eyes were piercing and intense. “I can’t imagine my life without you. I need you.” He took her hand and squeezed it. “I don’t ever want to be without you. Sweet Mia, will you marry me? Please?”

She felt a surge of love and couldn’t stop the huge smile from forming as a giggle came out. “Yes, absolutely, I will marry you.”

He leaned in and kissed her gently. Her lips parted, and the kiss grew more passionate. Finally, they pulled apart.

Jason’s eyes sparkled. “Thank you for saying yes.”

“Thank you for asking me. And thank you for the teacup.”

“I would get you anything to make you happy.” He trailed his fingers over her jawline. “And you are special, Mia. Don’t ever forget that.”

She looked at the gold teacup and then at Jason’s warm face, and her heart swelled. Maybe her days of feeling abandoned and lost were finally over. Maybe she did deserve to be happy.

She gazed into Jason’s eyes with renewed hope, ready to move into a future filled with love.


Copyright © 2023 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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D. A. Ratliff: A Cuppa

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Four young friends, intrigued by a mysterious woman in the woods, seek out who she is.

A Cuppa

D. A. Ratliff

She lived in a little cottage up the lane. You know the place. A narrow leaf-strewn path through the woods glowing from dappled sunlight shining down. At the path’s end, a stone wall seemingly built before the dawn of time—the stones worn and pitted, moss in the crevices, and ivy creeping over the top—enclosed a tiny cottage. The arched wooden gate with openings in the slats allowed you to peek into the small flower-filled yard.

As a child, I remember hearing the adults’ hushed voices speak of Madame Idella Enstone. They warned us to stay away from the cottage as they considered Madame Enstone eccentric. Again, you know children. We went anyway.

I always blamed Derrick Jones for the trouble we got into as kids. He was a year older than we were but in our year at school. Taller and older made him think he was in charge, and we let him. That we followed him anywhere was a testament to our youth.

We were a motley crew—four fourteen-year-olds who became fast friends the summer before and were inseparable. My best friend, Pandora Fox, was the Vicar’s daughter and quite the dichotomy. She was at once daring, but just as quickly, remembering her father’s position pulled her back to reality. Derrick Jones’ dad owned the pub in town, and his parents worked twenty-four hours a day. At least, it seemed like that. Derrick was on his own most of the time and got into trouble often. Magus MacGregor’s mother opened a veterinarian’s office, and his father served as the headmaster at our school. My name is Agatha Lane. My father is the police detective inspector for the area, and my mother is a nurse. We were normal kids, but things around us were not always normal.

We first snuck to Madame Enstone’s on a cold October day. We followed Merrie Lassiter, who was eighteen, four years older than us, as she hurried down the path. Merrie was a plain girl who cared for little besides books, but rumors around the village were that she was also crazy about the hot local rugby player, who never spoke to her. Darting in and out of the trees, we tried to keep from giggling as we shadowed her. She hesitated momentarily at the gate before opening it and entering the garden. Once she disappeared, we approached the gate, hiding behind the stone wall, taking turns peeking through the gate to look into the cottage.

Pandora leaned over my shoulder. “Can you see?”

“No. There’s a lamp on and a cat in the window. I can’t see anything else.”

Derrick motioned to Magus, his best friend. “Shimmy up that tree and tell us what you see.”

“Me? You climb the tree.”

A sharp look from Derrick and Magus scurried up the branches, high enough to see into the cottage. He whispered from his perch. “The old lady is serving her a cuppa.”

The wind picked up, and a thin tree branch slapped Magus in the face causing him to lose his grip on the tree limb where he had perched. Quick thinking by Derrick broke Magus’s fall, but Magus cried out as he fell, disturbing the forest’s silence. Afraid the old lady had heard, we ran down the path as fast as we dared, taking refuge in the vicarage at the opposite end.

Pandora led us to a guest bedroom on the second floor that offered a view of the path, and we waited for nearly forty-five minutes before Merrie appeared and headed into the village. As it was almost dusk, Derrick, Magus, and I headed home with the mystery of Madame Enstone unsolved.

It was a week after Christmas when Pandora pounded on my front door. My parents, older brother Quinn, and I returned from visiting my grandparents in London that afternoon. My mother opened the door, and Pandora raced past her to me. Then realized my mother was still present.

“You seem quite excited about something, Pandora.”

My friend glanced at me and then at my mother. “Oh, just happy to have Agatha back, Ms. Lane.”

“Good.” Mother slipped on her coat and grabbed her purse. “I am off to the market. We need a few things. The tin with your grandmother’s cookies is on the counter if you two want a snack.”

The second my mother closed the door behind her, Pandora grabbed my arms. “Remember Merrie, who went to see Madame Enstone?”

“Yes. What?”

“My older sister and her friend were talking on Boxing Day. Seems as though Merrie and that rugby player are getting married.”

“Really? The guy who wouldn’t even talk to her?”

“Yes, Matilda and her friend said that on All Hallows Eve, they saw Merrie and the guy together, and now they are engaged.”

I plopped down on the couch. “Do you think those stories about Madame Enstone being a witch might be true?”

“I don’t know, Agatha, but Matilda said something about a love potion.”

“We need to tell the guys. Derrick and Magus won’t be back until after the new year. Then we need to check this out.”

The New Year came, and we spent much of our free time watching the lane for who came and went to Madame Enstone’s over the winter months. We saw four people visit in that time and snooped around to find out that all four of them had troubles that seemed to disappear after they walked down the path. It was the beginning of March when we had gathered at the vicarage on the pretense of studying, but we were staring at the lane, waiting for Kenny Walmsley to show up.

Derrick overheard Walmsley tell someone at the pub that he was at his wits end with his dairy and cheese business. He was losing money and needed new clients. He didn’t know what to do, but he needed help with two kids and a new baby on the way.

It was past five, and we were about to give up when Walmsley appeared and headed toward Enstone’s cottage.

I looked at Derrick, who had his face pressed against the window. “How did you know he’d go see her?”

“He was talking to Mr. Tom. You know, the old guy who found that old wooden box of rare Roman coins that turned out to be worth some money. He told Walmsley to see Madame Enstone, and she could help. That she’d helped him.”

Magus pointed to the path. “You think he’s going to ask her for help?”

None of us knew, but we waited. When Walmsley returned an hour later, I could have sworn he was smiling. We vowed to keep an eye on what happened to him.

By the beginning of June, Walmsley was the talk of the town. At the Founding Fete held each year in April to mark the village’s founding, he set up a cheese stand, and a chef from London tasted his products. Within a month, TV stations and the London newspapers ran features on his cheese, and his sales skyrocketed. We sat on the pub’s patio, drinking orange juice and discussing what had happened.

Pandora shook her head. “What do we know about her? Whenever I ask my parents, they tell me to stay away from her and change the subject.”

“Yeah. I get the same thing. I did hear my dad say she had been seen in town walking with a couple of women that no one knew, a ginger and a brunette.” I drank the rest of my juice. “We need to find someone who knows.” Then it hit me. “I’m going to talk to Merrie.”


I loved the library. Every time I walked through those heavy wooden doors, I felt euphoric, transported into an inner sanctum created especially for me. It wasn’t, but to a fourteen-year-old, it was all mine. I didn’t feel that way when I walked in to talk to Merrie. My hands shook. I had never spoken to her before and was about to ask about visiting Madame Enstone. What would she say if she didn’t want anyone to know?

The librarian at the desk told me where to find her, in the history stack returning books to the shelves. I cleared my throat, and she turned and smiled at me.

“Can I help you?”

Taking a breath, I spoke the words I had rehearsed. “I am Agatha Long, and I’m doing a paper on interesting characters who live in the village.”

Merrie seemed surprised. “You can’t mean me?”

That threw me a bit. “Uh, no… I want to know what you can tell me about Madame Enstone.”

Her eyes widened briefly, then softened. “Ah… Madame Enstone. I wasn’t aware anyone knew that I had spoken to her.”

“I hope you don’t mind my asking. Someone saw you heading to her cottage, and they told me when I asked about her.” Her right eyebrow raised, and I added. “My friend is the Vicar’s daughter. She saw you enter the path to Madame Enstone’s a while back. Told me maybe you had an interesting story.”

She smiled again. “I have no interesting story. I felt a bit down and heard she was a good listener. I visited, we chatted, and she served me a cuppa—the most delicious tea in the loveliest china cup. I left feeling wonderful, but truly no story of interest. Just a nice chat.”

She turned toward the shelves again, and I sensed she didn’t want to talk any longer. I didn’t mind as my courage waned. My dad might be a detective, but I don’t think I’m good at it.


We struck out as amateur sleuths. For weeks we waited for someone to visit the cottage. Derrick thought we weren’t vigilant enough, but we’d spent so much time at the vicarage Pandora’s father joked he had adopted us. Our fixation with Madame Enstone seemed abnormal even to us, but it was a small village, and we had to entertain ourselves somehow.

School was out for the session, and we had gathered again at the vicarage but in the rear garden. We were playing croquet when Magus motioned to the path. A man approached and turned down the narrow lane. We exchanged excited glances, dropped our mallets, and followed him.

The warm early summer brought thick vegetation, and staying off the path proved difficult. We held back, trying to be quiet, and reached the stone wall after the man entered the cottage. Derrick glared at Magus and glanced upward. Magus groused but climbed the tree for a better view.

Crouched next to the gate, we relied on our outlook to tell us what was happening, and Magus motioned that he couldn’t see anything. We waited for what felt like an eternity before the man emerged. Magus had no time to climb out of the tree, so he pushed back against the trunk. We slipped around the wall to blend into the vegetation. The gate creaked, and we held our breath while the man walked past and out of sight.

Pandora grabbed my arm. “We still don’t know what’s going on.”

Derrick stood. “Only way is if we just knock on the door. Pretend we’re lost.”

He had a point, but I was nervous. I started to tell Derrick how nervous when Magus fell out of the tree.

He landed with a thud and a loud grunt. Before we could get to him, a voice rang out.

“Who’s there?” The gate opened, and Madame Enstone stood before us.

She wasn’t at all as I expected, and from the open-mouthed stares of my friends, they thought the same. Madame Enstone was about my grandmother’s age, thin, with mousey brown hair lightly streaked with gray, wearing a tweed skirt, white blouse, and jumper. She reminded me more of one of my teachers than whatever she was. She nodded to Derrick, who was helping Magus up.

“Bring your friend and come inside. I want to make certain he is not hurt.”

Her voice affected us as it was mesmerizing and soothing. We did as she said. I helped Derrick support Magus, and we entered the cottage with Pandora following.

The cottage interior reminded me of my Aunt Ester’s—filled with plants, flowers, and chintz upholstered furniture. I had to admit that I expected a dark, ominous room, not one filled with light from a sizable, beveled window at the rear of the long parlor.

Magus eased onto the couch, and Madame Enstone bent over him. She peered into his eyes and placed her hand flat on his chest before standing up. “He appears unharmed, only bruised. I will make him a special tea so he will feel better.” She paused. “And I will make you tea as well.”

She disappeared through a swinging door. We looked at each other and took a collective breath. Pandora plopped into an overstuffed chair, and a fluffy ginger cat jumped into her lap. “I can’t believe how pretty this place is.” She was smiling as she stroked the cat’s head.

Derrick stood at the window. “This looks like my grandmother’s yard in Devon. I loved going there when I was little.”

I joined him. The stone wall encircled the entire yard that held flowering plants and vegetables. An alcove in the wall had a cushioned bench, chairs, and a brick fire pit. “Your grandmother’s garden must be lovely.”

“Was lovely. She died when I was six, but I loved playing in her garden.”

Before I could say more, Madame Enstone returned with a tray of teacups, biscuits, and a teapot. Another large cat with sleek black fur followed her into the parlor. “Please have a seat.”

We sat, and she handed Magus an already-filled cup. “Drink this, laddie. It will keep you from hurting.” He took the cup and sipped it as she poured tea from the pot into cups for us.

“Now help yourselves, children, and have a biscuit.”

We all grabbed a teacup. I held mine, admiring the fine bone china and the lovely Asian design, much like the service my grandmother had. She taught me about tea services when I was eight and even held high tea for my friends and me. I looked up to find Madame Enstone watching me. She tilted her head slightly as she glanced at the cup and saucer.

“You seem to like the teacup.’

I nodded. “It is lovely.”  I reached for a biscuit to hide my nervousness and bit into the best shortbread I had ever eaten.

“What brings you children to the cottage?”

A glance at my friends and I knew we were frozen, not knowing what to say. Pandora saved us. “Oh, we were chasing my cat who escaped the vicarage. Magnus thought he saw him in that tree and climbed up. Lucky that he wasn’t hurt when he fell.”

That she rushed her words seemed not to surprise Madame Enstone. “I see. Well,” she patted the two cats now sitting beside her, “I know a few things about cats. I am sure your pet will come home when he is hungry. Just put some food outside by the door.”

Pandora murmured, “Yes, ma’am.” Madame Enstone began asking who we were and how we enjoyed our summer. When we left about an hour later, she knew a lot about us, but we knew little more than we already did about her.

I remember the walk home that afternoon. Each of us was smiling and content. Pandora’s mum said she could hear us laughing before we left the path. We never went back to the cottage after that day. Our curiosity sated, or was it something else that kept us away?


Sixteen years passed, and the four of us remained friends. I married a police officer Martin Gray, who became a detective with my dad, and we had two children, Liam and Elyse. Derrick and his wife ran the pub now that his parents retired, and Magus had become Vicar and married with three children. Pandora’s dad became a Bishop, and her parents moved to London.

Pandora remained my closest friend and nearly my sister-in-law if my older brother Quinn had his way. But it didn’t happen, and she married Dennis Cravatt. How can I put this politely—a most despicable man? Pandora had gone to nursing school and returned to the village to work in the regional hospital. She had not married for years after turning down Quinn, but after traveling to Brighton on holiday, she returned with Cravatt. They had been married for six years, and the marriage was nothing but trouble.

How much trouble I didn’t realize until Pandora appeared on my doorstep one night at nearly midnight–her lip cut, dried blood caked in the corner of her mouth, and her left eye swollen and bruised. The years of verbal abuse had escalated into physical abuse, yet she refused to leave him.

I was happy and couldn’t bear to see my friend this way. She had begged me not to tell my husband as she was afraid he would arrest him, and he would have. I couldn’t keep that from him, and he went to talk to Dennis, a chat that resulted in his hitting her again.  

What could I do? Marty couldn’t arrest him unless she pressed charges, and she refused. That he would hurt her more the next time petrified me. And there would be a next time. I wracked my brain, trying to think of anything I could do. Then when putting away the teacups, it dawned on me. Where did people go when they were in trouble? They went to see Madame Enstone.

She was still around. I’d even seen her in the village with the two women who accompanied her in the past. Funny, I never had the urge to speak to her. Until now, that is, and that was what I was going to do.

The following morning after Marty left for work and the kids for school, I drove into town and then walked to the vicarage. Magus’s wife was quite the gardener, and the grounds had never looked lovelier. The opening to the lane was trimmed and surrounded by beautiful spring flowers, and the aroma of hyacinth, freesia, and lilac wafted toward me as I passed.

A feeling of deja vu caused me to shiver as I walked along the path. I could feel Derrick, Magus, and Pandora with me, but I was on a mission and put them out of my head. I reached the cottage as nervous as I was at fourteen but more resolved. I opened the gate, walked through the lush spring plants, and knocked on the door.

Shock was my first reaction upon seeing her. She looked as she had years ago. She smiled and waved an arm for me to enter.

“Please have a seat, Agatha. Let me make you a cuppa.”

She remembered my name, and that made me more nervous. I sat on the couch, soon joined by both cats. The ginger one climbed into my lap, purring. Madame Enstone returned with a tray of tea and biscuits and sat across from me. As she poured, she nodded to the cat.

“I see Rune has taken to you. She always senses when someone is troubled. Raven is the warier of the two. She likes to know what the problem is before she becomes involved.” She handed me one of the beautiful cups from the first visit. “Now, I sense you are troubled by a friend’s situation. Tell me.”

I sipped tea, and I talked. I talked more than I ever had to anyone about Pandora. About how my brother had loved and lost her and the horrible situation she was in now. When I took a breath, I realized I felt calmer and more resolute about helping her.

“Madame, I do not know why I came here. I’m sorry to have troubled you.”

Her brilliant green eyes sparkled. “You know exactly why you are here. You have always known. I find myself able to solve issues that keep others from being happy. I usually see those in need and not their friends, which tells me you have sensed who I am but refuse to admit it.”

“I don’t know what you mean?”  I suspected that I did but was too frightened to say so.

“Yes, you do. The fact is, I cannot make things change, but I can influence outcomes. The results are always the choice of the one in need. Your friend is in need, and I will help.”

She left the parlor not for the kitchen but through another door. I nibbled on another cookie, and the black cat she called Raven decided to lay next to me. She must think my cause worthy. I jumped a bit when Madame Enstone returned to the parlor. My nerves were still a bit on edge.

“Serve him this.” She handed me a handmade tea bag. “But remember, what he does is of his choosing. This will only make him reveal his true nature.”

“Him? You mean I should serve this tea to Dennis?”

“Yes, but only to him. To no others and burn the teabag after brewing.”

“But what will it do?”

“We will not know until it is done.”

I left Madame Enstone’s cottage with a tea bag and a plan.


As I feared for my friend, I didn’t wait. What concerned me was her comment that his true nature would be revealed. I knew if his true nature were worse than we had seen, it would be horrid. I invited Pandora and Dennis to dinner on a night when I knew Marty would be gone to London for a Met meeting. I would tell them he was called away on a case. The kids would stay with my mother.

My nerves had never been more frayed as I opened the door with a smile. Dennis barreled into the house as if he owned it, pouring himself a whiskey without asking. The evening went as I expected. He monopolized the conversation telling us about his latest conquest. He was an estate agent and talked himself up more than he talked up the property. I could tell Pandora was on edge but knew she was safe as long as she was with me. After dinner, we retired to the parlor, where I would serve dessert and tea.

As I dropped the special teabag into a teacup and poured hot water to seep, I admired the beautiful bone china. When I bought it, I loved the Asian design, much like my grandmother’s. Now it reminded me of Madame Enstone.

I served the tea and cake, petrified that I would accidentally serve the tea to Pandora or myself, but I didn’t. I tried not to stare when he drank from the cup. I suppose I was waiting for him to throw a fit or something. However, he just remained his obnoxious self. When Pandora asked for another cup of tea, I was sure she wanted to extend the evening. I diverted him from more tea with a drink from Marty’s favorite Scotch.

Pandora wanted to stay, but I could not delay them from staying past ten. Dennis wanted to go to the pub. I hugged my friend and closed the door, tears spilling down my cheeks. I had done all that I could.


The call came at four in the morning. Pandora was hysterical, and I rushed to her. Dennis had dropped her at home, saying he didn’t want to be saddled with the likes of her. He wanted to have fun, and she would be in the way. The constable with her told me that Dennis had gotten totally out of control and yelled that he was tired of being something he wasn’t. He had been drinking heavily at the pub. Derrick tried to stop him, but he sped off in his car. He lost control and plunged off a bridge into a river and died.

As I held my sobbing friend, the constable recanting Dennis’s words replayed in my mind—he was tired of being something he wasn’t. He was finally being his true self.


I stood with my husband and children at the graveside service as Magus led the mourners in prayer. Mourners. Dennis had no family, and I imagined no one present shed many tears for him. As the service ended, my heart warmed as Pandora turned to Quinn, who walked her out of the cemetery.

We followed, and then I noticed Madame Enstone and her two friends, the brunette woman and ginger-haired woman, standing on the edge of the churchyard. With a slight nod, her green eyes twinkling, Madame Enstone and her friends departed. She had been right all along. I did know who she was but did not know what to call her. I will call her our fairy godmother.

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Lynn Miclea: Special Calling

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Special Calling

Lynn Miclea

Sandra stared at the teacup sitting on the kitchen table. She loved that cup — it was such a beautiful, delicate china cup that her grandmother always used and cherished. And over the years, Sandra began to love and appreciate it even more.

As the late afternoon sunlight streamed through the kitchen window and fell on the cup, Sandra stepped closer, amazed at how the cup sparkled in the sunlight. Admiring it, she looked inside.

She took a sudden, quick step back. Her mouth open, her breathing shallow, she stared in disbelief at the tiny, glowing, blue-gray creatures that now crawled around the bottom of the cup. Shaking with terror, she backed up until her back hit the counter behind her. Unable to process what she was seeing, she froze, unsure what to do, and she looked again toward the cup.

With a quick intake of breath, she stared in horror as the creatures now flew out of the cup. They glowed and buzzed as they circled the room, and then they flew away.

She tried to swallow, but her mouth was too dry. What the—

All smiles, her grandmother bustled into the room and started reaching for the teacup. She suddenly stopped when she noticed Sandra’s face. “Sandy, what happened? What’s wrong?”

Sandra stared at her grandmother and struggled to get words out. “The … the …”

Her grandmother approached her and touched her arm. “Tell me, sweetie. What is it? What happened?”

Sandra pointed to the cup. “In the cup …”

Her grandmother removed her arm, and a look of concern crossed her face. “Uh oh. You saw them.” She peered into Sandra’s face and then sat down at the kitchen table. “Come and sit. Tell me what you saw.”

“Little tiny creatures … they … they …”

Her grandmother nodded. “Okay, it’s time you knew. I should have told you years ago, but I wasn’t sure when you would be ready to hear and understand this.” She pursed her lips. “I guess now’s the time.”

Sandra licked her dry lips and her voice came out in a dry rasp. “What? Tell me.”

Her grandmother peered into the cup for a few moments, collecting her thoughts. “Have you noticed that you have some abilities that your friends don’t have?” She paused before continuing. “Some psychic experiences such as seeing things before they happen, or maybe hearing a warning in your head to be careful. Or maybe just a sense of impending danger.” She picked up the teaspoon and tapped it on the table a few times. “Maybe you actually heard someone else’s thoughts in your mind. Or maybe you ran and felt as light as air as though you could almost float or fly or leap a great distance.”

Sandra sat up straighter. “Yes, I’ve noticed those things. I have kept them to myself. But what does that have to do with—”

“You have some extra abilities that others don’t. And those abilities were given to us by those creatures you saw.”

“What?” This made no sense.

Her grandmother nodded. “It started a few generations back. They contacted my grandmother, and for some reason, she was not afraid of them. She was a bit eccentric.” The elderly woman chuckled. “She did things her own way. And, well, she made a good connection with those creatures.” She fiddled with the teaspoon and then put it down. “They told her they could help her and give her special abilities, and she loved the idea. So they inserted some of their own DNA into her. At first, she didn’t notice much, but over time, she developed some amazing talents. And those abilities have been passed down in our family.”

She watched Sandra’s face, making sure her granddaughter was following, before continuing. “We have some amazing skills. And those creatures are helpful to us — they will not hurt us.”

Sandra chewed on her lower lip before speaking. “Can we really trust them? Where are they from? Why are they here?”

“Good questions. And yes, we can trust them. I’m not sure where they are from, but they have been good to our family for generations. They have helped to keep us healthy. Have you noticed that you almost never get sick?”

Sandra thought about that. Yes, that was true. But she still did not trust an alien life form interfering with their lives.

“I know you’re wary,” her grandmother said, as though reading her thoughts. “But they do have our best interests in mind. And not just our family, but all of humankind. In fact, all life on this planet. They are good beings. They are here to help all of us and the entire planet.”

“Well, even if that’s all true, I have one more question. Are there any bad side effects from what they’ve done to our DNA?”

“The only side effects are good ones. Enhanced abilities, including some you have not yet discovered.”

Sandra let out a long breath. “I just don’t know. It still goes against all my—”

“Wait.” Her grandmother held up a hand. “Something is wrong. Our planet is being attacked.”

Sandra’s eyes widened. “What?”

The house shook as a large BOOM sounded, and dishes rattled in the cupboards.

Goosebumps rose on Sandra’s arms. “What was that?”

Her grandmother motioned with her hands. “Some type of weapon. Wait. They’re coming back.”

Before she even finished the sentence, the tiny, glowing, blue-gray creatures flew back into the room and surrounded Sandra’s grandmother, hovering there for a few minutes. The elderly woman nodded, as though in communication with the creatures, and the creatures then took off.

The woman looked at Sandra. “This is serious,” she said quietly. “There is an attack on the Earth, and these creatures are reinforcing the defense field around the planet. Please focus with me. Picture a field of protection around the Earth.”

Sandra nodded but was unsure of what to do. She closed her eyes and visualized a bright light encircling the planet, protecting them. After about twenty seconds, she opened her eyes and peeked at her grandmother, who was still deep in concentration. Finally the elderly woman opened her eyes and looked at Sandra.

“I could feel your energy,” she told her granddaughter. “It helped. Thank you.”

“You felt what I did?”

“Oh, yes, definitely. You might not be aware of it, but your link to the energy is powerful. Stronger than you realize. Your visualization focused energy exactly where and how we needed it. There is a lot to teach you and a lot you need to learn. But you also have a sense of what to do, and it helps.”

“But I have no idea what I’m doing.”

The elderly woman laughed. “You were great, Sandy. And don’t worry, they are doing the main work — fighting the alien threat, repairing holes in the force field, and creating and reinforcing energy barriers and buffers. What we do, as we tune in, helps to reinforce and support their work with the energy fields. It adds more power and focus to what they are doing. It is not needed, but it does help. It all helps.”

The tiny, glowing, blue-gray creatures flew back into the room, swirled around the room, and then hovered around Sandra with a light buzzing sound. Sandra felt the vibration throughout her body, and a sense of warmth spread through her. After a couple of minutes, the creatures returned to the small teacup.

The room grew very quiet and became silent.

Sandra stared at her grandmother. “What the—”

The elderly woman smiled. “The creatures are helping you and bringing you into the club, so to speak. They are helping you to open to receive further knowledge.”

“I felt heat and a vibration.” She thought about what was happening. “So are we safe now?”

Her grandmother patted Sandra’s hand. “The crisis is over for now. The creatures took care of protecting the Earth, as they have done for many years. And what we did supported them and made it easier for them. We help fortify and strengthen what they do. And I suppose it’s time to teach you more of what you need to know.”

“I don’t think I’m—”

“You have so much more to learn. Sweetie, we can fly, we can disappear, we can teleport, we can move objects with our mind, we can implant thoughts in people’s minds, and we can hear other people’s thoughts. And this power and ability is strong in you — I can feel it.” The look on her face was intense. “But I don’t want to overwhelm you.” Her face relaxed and she stood up. “That is enough for one day. Let’s get ready for dinner, and we can talk more later.”

As Sandra watched her grandmother begin to prepare dinner, she felt a powerful surge of heat and strength move through her. Instinctively, she knew she was being called to a greater purpose, and she was determined to learn more from the creatures and fulfill whatever she had to do.

She turned to her grandmother. “But why was I able to see them today, and I never saw them before?”

The elderly woman stopped chopping vegetables and looked at her granddaughter. “They knew you were ready. You’ll see, sweetie. Many things will unfold as you become more open and adjust to this. But all in good time. And I’m proud of you, Sandy.”

Sandra stood up and began setting the table for dinner. As she moved, she heard whispers in her mind, strange words, and a sense of purpose that seemed to make sense of what she was now learning. Somehow a line of communication had opened between her and the creatures, and she immediately knew she could trust them. She felt something intangible inside her open as well, as heat flooded her body.

She glanced at the beautiful, delicate teacup as she finished setting the table. What more would she learn from her grandmother and from the creatures? She couldn’t wait to find out.


Copyright © 2023 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit Lynn’s blog and follow her at –
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Images are free-use and do not require attribution. Image by Beate from Pixabay.


Welcome to Write the Story!

Don’t Forget: We made rule changes last month. The word limit is now 5000 words. Also, we will no longer do minor editing on these stories.

Thanks to all who share their writing with us and to all of you who read their work!

A reminderWU! created this project with two goals: providing a writing exercise and promoting our author sites to increase reader traffic. We ask that you please include a link to the Writers Unite! blog when you post your story elsewhere. By doing so, you are also helping promote your fellow members and Writers Unite! We encourage all of you to share each other’s stories to help all of us grow. Thanks!

Here is the March 2023 prompt!

Images are free-use and do not require attribution. Image by Beate from Pixabay.

Here’s the plan:

  • You write a story of 5000 words or less (minimum 500 words) or a poem (Minimum 50 words) based on and referring to the image provided and post it on the author site you wish to promote. Don’t forget to give your story a title. (Note: You do not have to have a website/blog/FB author page to participate, your FB profile or WordPress link is acceptable.)
  • Please edit these stories. WU! will no longer conduct minor editing on your story, so please send in edited work. WU! reserves the right to reject publishing the story if poorly written.
  • The story must have a title and author name and must include the link to the site you wish to promote.
  • Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff or email to Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message.
  • Please submit your story by the 25th day of the month.

WU! will post your story on our blog and share it across our platforms— FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The story will also be available in the archives on the WU! blog, along with the other WTS entries.

We ask that you share the link to the WU! blog so that your followers can also read your fellow writers’ works.

The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time, but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your writing.

Please visit Writers Unite! Facebook and join us at:

Calliope Njo: The Bridge

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

The Bridge

Calliope Njo 

Lilliesol stood across from the person on the other side of the bridge. It wasn’t that long of a bridge. On the other hand, one had to yell in order to be heard from the other side. Having said that, she spent the day in the village mingling with the commoners and didn’t feel like yelling. She turned around and walked away in the hopes there would be another day.

Lilliesol had been promised to the firstborn of a family from the desert region. The midwife of the family had reported back that it would be a baby boy. She had never been wrong in the past, and there was no possible way she could ever be wrong.

Something didn’t feel right, though. The thoughts that came from the other side didn’t seem masculine. They didn’t center around competition or strength. Instead, they centered around how they felt about certain clothing items or the look from another person. The thoughts didn’t fit. Yet, the other person was supposed to be masculine.

The long hair was not unusual, as men had long hair as well. Their slim build, though, seemed more feminine as their bodies tapered at the waist instead of being a straight line like that of a man. Maybe the midwife was wrong. She was getting older, and her senses could have deteriorated. Even still, making that kind of mistake was unheard of for a midwife of the royal elite.

Lilliesol made it back to her kingdom. She avoided the Presentation Room because her parents would be there. The first thing they would ask was if she liked the other person when she couldn’t answer that question.

The guards saw her return and would notify them anyway. The little bit that it would take for them to get the message might be enough time to think of an excuse. The simple answer of no, I didn’t, they wouldn’t accept. She needed to think of something else.

In her room again and secured, she held up her hand to open the drapes over the windows. The bright sun was always welcome. It brought enough warmth and light to her room to chase away anything that dared to linger in the darkness.

A little bit after that, someone came into her room.

“Hello, Mother.” She kept her eyes closed as she absorbed the sun.

“Daughter. Did you meet with your promised one?” She pinched Lilliesol’s nose and then let go.

There it was. The question she hoped to avoid. The proper response would be an honest one. “You didn’t need to do that, and of course.” She laughed to herself.

“Well, you do know I want details.”

“It was a brief encounter. We exchanged greetings and left. He had to do some things that needed to be accomplished before sunset.”

“We promised you to him. The day of your joining will be coming at the beginning of the cold season. The least you could do is to be sure you do know what he looked like.”

She knew what the other looked like, and if truth be told, wasn’t attractive enough for her. “We will have an entire day for that. Now, if you will excuse me, I must bathe before the last meal of the day.

“Oh. All right. Keep in mind that the success of our kingdom lies on your head.” Her mother turned around and left.

The click of the door meant that she could breathe. Sort of. At least without the reminder that everything rested on this strange relationship. What if the other was indeed feminine and not masculine? Names would be a clue, but that wasn’t until the day before.

Lilliesol stripped down before she entered the bathing chambers and walked into the water. She came up from beneath the water’s surface and made her way to the edge of the large bath.

Attempting to drown out the thoughts didn’t work. They were still there and grew in intensity the more she tried to avoid them. There had to be something wrong. What if it wasn’t the person she was supposed to marry? That could’ve been it, the answer. It had to be. She finished and left the bath to get ready for the gathering of the night.

All the landowners in the Western Area came over to dine and meet with everyone. Everybody knew each other, so it wasn’t that. It was how much more did they have over the next one. A sort of contest of who is the more superior one.

Lilliesol stepped on the foot of the man who was supposed to have gained two Dawn Horse ranches and a precious metal mine. Of course, he was lying, but so was everybody else. The man’s hygiene, or lack thereof, was questionable, as well as his manners.

That was when the door creaked open. Lilliesol could tell by the thoughts that they had never been here before. That made her look in their direction, and that was when she saw someone she would never forget.

Long bendable and fluid lines, hair the color of the night, with painted lips that reflected the color of ripe summer mountain berries, but the thoughts got her attention. She chose not to pay attention to the specificities but rather the emotions. They ranged from anger to ferocity. Wine bottles exploded when she walked by. The few candles that were not lit came to life as well.

Then she saw the eyes as red as anger could make them. When their eyes met, she tried to send calming vibrations, but it didn’t seem to work. It didn’t matter. That only meant she needed to see if she could calm the other party before the palace exploded.

Lilliesol held up her hand and waited for the wine to appear. After it did, she approached the stranger. She smiled at the tall guest. “The wine was not exceptional. The candles needed to be lit. Please calm yourself before you cause my palace to explode.” She sipped her wine.

“I am Molopo of the Desert Nomads. If someone could explain how it is I need to be here, perhaps your home would remain standing.”

Each word was pronounced with precision. Father had been trying to stretch his kingdom, so making this connection would benefit him. Mother would appreciate the traders that brought fine materials and jewels from afar. That left her with… nothing.

Lilliesol nodded. “So you would be the promised one. The one who I am to follow without question. You have a masculine name instead of a feminine.” She took another sip. This wine might as well have been nectar. At least then, it would taste better.

They indeed named her promised one Molopo. However, that was with the promise of it being a man. There couldn’t have been two. Maybe a brief investigation was necessary before the joining. With a little more information, maybe she could convince Father to cancel the joining.

It had been a long night of drinking, gluttony, and anger. Lilliesol was never so glad to be able to leave and go to bed. She did try to keep Molopo from getting angry and was successful up to a point. Every time the older male came around her, the flames from the lit candles grew in intensity.

The following morning, Lilliesol sought out the midwife. She wanted to see how accurate the midwife’s predictions were. It started with a simple enough question.

A young woman with a smile that reached ear to ear walked out of the room. Lilliesol almost smiled at the dominant thoughts that came from the woman. They centered around having a baby, and a girl at that. She wondered how accurate that prediction was.

Lilliesol knocked on the door, and the old woman answered. “Yes?”

“I am from the Western area. I was wondering if you could tell me what the child would be.”

The old woman smiled. “Oh yes. Yes. Of course.” She grabbed Lilliesol’s hand and pulled her in. She sat down on a wooden chair. The old woman put her hands on her stomach and rubbed them in a circular motion.

Lilliesol tried everything not to laugh. There were no thoughts present about the situation. Only that of fish and the afternoon meal.

The old woman stopped and looked up with a smile. “You will have a son on the first day of the season of rebirth.”

Lilliesol thought that was interesting because she wasn’t pregnant. She hadn’t had sex yet. She smiled. “Thank you. Husband will be glad of the news.” She stood from the chair and wondered if she should reveal those basic facts. Maybe later, because she needed to let Mother and Father know of the encounter.

A quiet night with only the songs of nature in the background. At least the wine was better. After the last crumb had been eaten, Lilliesol wanted to keep what she found out a secret. Thought better of it when she realized it would be for the better.

Lilliesol cleared her throat and looked at them. “Mother. Father. I think the midwife has lost her sense. I arrived there this afternoon and asked what I would have.”

Mother opened her mouth and closed it. “You were not supposed to be carrying until after the first year. This is much too soon.”

Lilliesol knew this would be a hard task. “Mother, I am not with child because I have not had sex yet. I could not possibly have any child. Her answer, however, said that it would be a male born on the first day of the season of rebirth.”

“Daughter, you will use proper language, and she has served as midwife for a long time. She could not possibly be wrong. She predicted you would a female, and here you are.”

“What I am trying to tell you is that she has lost her senses. She is old, and this should’ve been expected. I am saying this because my promised one is a female from the Desert Nomads and not a male. I am asking you, begging you, to cancel this union.”

Father pounded the table and stood. “I will not. This union will go on as planned. There are many offspring within the Nomads’ clans. You just haven’t met the right one.”

“They do have many offspring, but only one named Molopo.” She shouldn’t have raised her voice, but the situation warranted it. She lost her patience.

Mother stood. “That cannot be. We have verification that Molopo was to be a male child and not a female child. You will fulfill your duty and do as you were directed. There will be no more discussion of this.”

Both left the room and slammed the door behind them. Lilliesol breathed out all the breath she had been holding. She should have predicted it wouldn’t work, but what choice did she have? She refused to be the first female child of the Royal Elite class to be wed to a female. It had never been done. Only because two females could never birth an heir.

She left the dining hall and went straight to her room. Maybe if she left the palace, the joining could never take place. On the other hand, Father would send out every knight he had to find her. The end result of that would not be good.

She returned to the bridge the following morning and hoped Molopo would be there. Lilliesol smiled at the sight. Molopo threw fireballs in her direction, and Lilliesol blocked them. There were tunnels under the bridge as a result, but no other damage was seen. Something else had to be going on.

Lilliesol crossed the bridge until she stood in front of Molopo. “We could stand on opposite sides and play with each other. The other option would be to think of a way to convince our parents this union would not work.”

“So you knew.” Molopo smiled. “How nice.”

“Yes, I did. So should have you. I tried telling mine last night, but that didn’t end well. The other option would be for both of us to leave our homes. Your ideas?”

“The same as you. I came and hoped that I could convince you to think of something. Anything.”

“I am out of options. The last option would be for us to leap the bridge.”

Molopo shook her head. “All of this because that old woman predicted wrong.”

“Do you have any brothers that could stand in?”

Molopo stood straight and blinked. “Yes. Of course. I have one that owes me a favor. This would be a way to pay that debt.”

“Would he agree to be called Molopo?”

“Of course. Anything to go along with paying that debt.” She smiled. “That leaves me free to do as I please.”

Lilliesol smiled and heard the hope in Molopo’s words. “Does that leave you free? Only in terms of doing what pleases you when no one’s watching. As you please? Well… there would be spot checks. Of course, you knew of that already.”

Molopo growled. “I will not do as another pleases. I am a grown woman. I do not take orders any longer.”

“Of course, you are a grown woman. That was not the question. The question was, would that leave you free to do as you please?” Lilliesol put her hand on Molopo’s shoulder. “I answered that question. To me, it doesn’t matter. To others, it would. Specifically, your family and those who had arranged this relationship.”

“That is a vague answer if I ever heard one. Point taken, however. We can dissolve this bonding next autumn.”

“I am afraid that in terms of an arranged marriage, the only way to dissolve the bonding is by death. Before you plan my death the following day, let me remind you that when they find my body, they will take you and put you to death without question.”

Molopo screamed and threw fireballs anywhere she could. Instead of running everywhere to extinguish the blazes, Lilliesol used an old trick she learned when she was younger. If one concentrated hard enough, the sun could be put to sleep. With enough practice and effort, water could start falling from the sky as well.

Lilliesol did this, and all was fine. Wet, but at least the fires didn’t exist anymore. The sun rose once again to reveal the areas set ablaze by anger.

“The sudden cleansing was much appreciated,” Molopo said as water dripped from her hair.

Lilliesol heard the sarcasm and winced at the tone. “Would you rather have me explain what had happened?”

Molopo shook her head, and water sprayed everywhere. “So my brother comes to the bonding ritual and then beds you while I sit aside and wait for his departure.”

“Yes. That would be it. After that, he would only need to appear when the occasion calls for it. I would suggest he stay close for those on-the-spot visits. The ones that our parents plan but tell us they didn’t plan any such thing. It was a simple error in direction.”

“All right. So be it. ” Molopo turned around and left.

It was at that point she heard the thoughts of another. One of the palace guards had followed her and would report what he heard. It was too late to stop him, as he was far ahead of her.

Lilliesol tried to prepare herself for the inevitable. The series of possible questions that might follow such a report. The need for water after talking for so long.

She stopped in front of the castle. The drawbridge needed some repair, as holes and thin spots were noticed. The guards on the top came to sudden attention. They pushed aside fun and games for the moment, at least until she entered.

Lilliesol crossed and came upon the castle grounds. She hoped that the nervousness she felt in the pit of her stomach would be unjustified. It would be a simple misunderstanding.

The closer she got, the more her parents’ thoughts became clearer. Her nervous stomach was justified. Locked and bound supervision was the only choice they seemed to agree upon. She had no idea how to escape the inevitable. Word had been sent to the Desert Nomads as well.

As she approached the Presentation Room’s doors, a guard blocked her way in. “As the daughter of our leader, you must turn around so I may bind your hands. You were ordered to appear in front of them post haste.” He bowed with apologetic thoughts. Yet, his rough handling betrayed those thoughts.

When the doors opened, she was pushed through the doorway before the doors slammed shut behind her. All she wanted to do was be able to live her life. “Yes, Mother. Yes, Father.” Did she need to ask? She fluttered her lips.

“The guards reported your actions to us before leaving to let the Desert Nomads know of your deceit. Until they report back to us, you will be locked up in the high tower. You will receive food, warmth, and the occasional bath. Dismissed.”

A guard approached from behind her and pushed her. She knew the way, and it would’ve been easier to do it. So why couldn’t her feet move as they should?

After what seemed like a fortnight to reach her destination, she was pushed inside before her chains were released. The door locked as they left.

She could escape without a problem and get away. What would that prove? That gave her a place to be so she could think of a way out.

She finished the last crumb of bread before she walked to the window to stare at the moon. It didn’t shine bright that night. Only a sliver of it was visible.

With only a bucket in the corner and a pile of straw in the other, she did with what she had. Sleep never came, and neither did any answers. She should’ve been more careful. It wasn’t anybody else’s fault but her own. The first chance she had, she would apologize for this mess.

The sun came up. The sun went down. The birds sang. The herds’ noises came from down below. All she had to look forward to. She got a bucket of fresh water every morning to keep herself clean. There was nothing but time and still no answers.

About to lose control of her mind, the door opened to show a guard holding up shackles. She turned around, and they were secured.

The same walk she did to get to the tower they took to get down all the way to the Presentation Room. Mother and Father sat next to each other on the dais.

The Desert Nomads came into the room with a smiling Molopo. That was when she heard Molopo’s thoughts. She would be released without the impending death hanging over her head.

“As rulers of the Western Area,” Molopo said. “It would be futile to concentrate your efforts and resources on such a petty thing. I am sure that there are more important matters to attend to than to concentrate on the matters of a child. It has not even been decided if she will take your throne. Simply set her free and be rid of her.”

That was her plan? To convince them I meant nothing to them? Would it even work?

Mother and Father whispered to each other for quite a long while. So long, in fact, the guards fell asleep. She glanced at Molopo and recognized the smile. She knew something.

The scepter was pounded twice before Father rose to speak. It shook the guards some but thought better of making it known that they fell asleep.

“We, as rulers of this given area, have decided. The thoughts, actions, and responsibilities of caring for Lilliesol have become unnecessary. Therefore, it has been ruled she is no longer of our blood. Her presence will no longer be here as of morning the following day. She is to be treated as any other.”

The guards had a group shrug, and one of them came over to release the shackles. He leaned in close to her. “I would not wait until morning.”

Lilliesol heard the urgency in his voice. She looked at him and nodded. “Thank you.”

He nodded his head before returning to his spot.

“Lilliesol will report to the healer to have her gifts erased,” Father said.

Lilliesol smiled. “Don’t you know? My gifts cannot be erased. They didn’t come from an outside source. They were born into me.” She laughed. “Thank you for your decision. Come morning, you will not see me.”

Lilliesol walked as fast as she could to her room. She needed the basics, at least. A couple of shifts and a head scarf to wear to protect her head.

Someone came in. Lilliesol looked behind her and saw Molopo. “You don’t need anything, my sweet. The only thing you need is you.”

It had a suspicious ring to it. “So you are taking me without being able to dress, then?”

“I will provide anything you need. Everything you see will be yours anyway. If you can wait, you will find the answers to your questions.”

It sounded suspicious, but she was not going to question this precious gift. “All right. We will see what happens next.”

Lilliesol and Molopo walked down the hallway and out of the palace. Lilliesol looked around. “We are alone.”

“Let me tell you that your father’s plan to expand his kingdom will never happen. It seems that old lady was not the midwife. She was a common person from the village. The midwife met a sudden death during the hottest time of the year.”

Lilliesol stopped, turned around, and raised her eyebrow. “And you know this how?”

Molopo smiled. “You already met my sister. Like you, she remains untouched. She was only told to concentrate on the man of her dreams.”

“So you knew about this.”

“My mother suspected when I was born. The old woman kept going back and forth, masculine, feminine. The whole thing was forgotten until your parents brought up the subject. Father and Mother needed to be sure. Due to current events, the original deal has been voided. The marriage cannot happen now because I am a female and not a male. At least in the sense that was intended.”

Lilliesol smiled. “So we can do what we want as we please, then?” She cupped Molopo’s cheek.

Molopo nodded and came down for a kiss. “Of course. The outcome and any planning that was done no longer apply. Now let’s go to the desert for some refreshments. I skipped the morning meal.”

Lilliesol smiled. “But of course. I could use a good bath and some good food.”

Molopo looked into her eyes. “It would be my pleasure.” She looked up into the sky as two dragons appeared and landed close to them.

Lilliesol opened her eyes and mouth. “I had never seen any such thing. I thought they were fantasy .”

“You’re not the only one with magic born into them.” They climbed up and sat on the saddle. They flew away from the Western Area. Never to be seen again.

Please visit Calliope on her blog:

Images are free-use images and do not require attribution. Image by Alexei from Pixabay.

Anita Wu: Dancing on Edge

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Dancing on Edge

Anita Wu!

It was like magic.

First, it was the sun, orange and large in all its glory, sinking slowly and gracefully into the ocean. Its reflection became a brilliant fire in the water as the heat danced with the waves, moving with the push and pull of the moon. Living and breathing, as alive as each of us. It cast shadows on the bridge, making puppets of the people standing still as they stood watch, mesmerized.

Then, as grand light shied away, the puppets shrank into their homes, and orange blobs from the street blinked in and out of existence as cars passed. Some lights stayed but a short while, silent, while other lights lingered longer, blaring in complaints.

A background of blurred florescence amidst the backdrop of darkness where the sun had left.

The glowing lights pulled you into a dream, one where she was an angel cast from the heavens above to show you the way, but she was really just the devil trying to seduce you into the night. She moved with grace, without the gloom that lay in the hearts of every person standing here, their puppets and secrets blinking into existence unknowingly and randomly. Her feet moved quickly from one spot to another, clearly practiced. Her muscles knew each motion and pause. When her hands moved, she caught your attention, brought it towards her, and her eyes held your gaze. You became mesmerized, unable to look away. Her lips were tainted blood red – a perfect shade, a perfect gloss, a perfect curve – yet that curve did not hold a smile.

Never a smile. Always a thin line.

And on the days those lips were smeared, you could barely see what lay behind her eyes, behind the glass she used to hide herself. If you were careful, you could catch a glimpse of the pain, the way her heart hurt with each step she took or each deliberate pause she made. No, her movements were not off. They were elegant as always.

As if it were an act and her body knew every line.

But beyond the frazzled hair, smudged lips, and stained cheeks, you could see the empty eyes. They could not pretend. No matter how much her body worked perfectly, her eyes sat stone cold, void of life.


The horns blared a fourth time, and I closed my eyes and exhaled, clenching my fists together and reminding myself that I am here for Kat, for our friend who said goodbye on this bridge without giving anyone a chance to change her mind. I thought we were close, but my heart ached when I realized she never considered me close enough for her to share her painful thoughts with me.

When I opened my eyes again, I didn’t see the small dedication to Kat that I set up earlier this week: her photo with her favorite tulips keeping her company. Instead, I saw a green and red plaid shirt. Someone had moved in front of me and blocked my view. Another man pushed my shoulder from behind as he weaseled his way closer to the show.

The show that had no right to be here in the first place: Areis. She danced on the railings, where one wrong move would either have her face kiss the cement or the water. Yet she continued to do so every night, confident, as though she would never falter. What drew the crowds was not her recklessness but rather Kat’s actions that made this particular spot on the bridge special. Areis had first danced here as a tribute to Kat, and the city loved it. So she came again and again and again.

And when people started to come less, she did more. She incorporated ribbons into her performance, wore clothes that hugged her curves, and started a website that promoted her act. The men came in droves, and I saw the hunger in their eyes as they did not bother to hide their desire for her body. Smiles plastered their faces as they shouted obscenities at her and videoed her for their personal pleasure.

Areis had taken over this spot that was meant to be for Kat. When the whistles slowed down and the cheering died away, the performance was over. As people scattered, talking about the show or gossiping about something else on the internet or contemplating what they were going to have for dinner, I was left with the sound of coins clinking as they were thrown into the jar that sat next to Kat. I was left with Areis.

Areis who may have come for our friend but stayed for the money. Areis who wanted the videos on those phones to find themselves online so that others would see the performance, or the dance, or the outfit. Areis who wanted people to come back again, who wanted people to remember her face.

She didn’t care about this place or Kat.

I watched as she gathered her jar and her clothes and as she smiled at the people who walked up to talk to her. I watched as the crowd dispersed and Areis left, brushing against my shoulder without meeting my eye or exchanging a word.

We were once friends, the three of us.

So I was angry, betrayed, that I was left alone with the memory of our friend while she continued with her life as though nothing had happened, going so far as to make a profit of this sacred place. Every night I came to say hello to Kat, I was forced to watch her be the star and take away from our friend. Every night I watched her leave without saying hello.


Music engulfed the room. Little by little, the volume went up and took over the rhythm of my heart. As it blasted, it urged our bodies to sway to its beat. And through the night, people did just that: brushing their arms against another’s, daring to use their hands to venture to places otherwise shunned. And in the madness, everything was welcome. Intoxicated, women smiled and teased, and men followed like puppies.

Ecstasy mingled amongst us as well. Murmurs of brownies that could calm you or dust that could make you see things you could never dream of. There were things that would make you sit on a cloud so high you would never want to come back down.

But they never tell you about the crash. How sick and empty you felt afterwards, how dark the days become without another high, how your body would chase it over and over again before you realize that you would never reach a cloud so bright ever again. But by then, it was too late.

I had no interest in the fantasies that some people toyed with, as though their lives were not on the line. The deafening music, the warm sweat, the incoherent screams, and the cheap alcohol had always been enough for me.

Except today.

Today, my stomach churned as I sat at the bar, my hand nursing my third drink as I looked through the crowd for my friend. He was supposed to be here an hour ago. I took another gulp, the bitter liquid burning on its way down, and my stomach wanted to throw it back out.

“You look like death,” he crept up behind me and slapped his arm across my shoulder, bringing his face so close to mine that I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He had been here an hour ago, alright, but he had avoided me as though he saw my mood.

“Down another drink. It’ll make you feel better.” He grinned, then called the bartender, waving her over with a wink, “Ey, Ems! One for my dying friend here.”

I hissed at him and opened my mouth to yell, but I felt a pressure at the back of my throat, quickly brought my hands to my mouth, and managed to keep it down.

My head pounded.

I didn’t feel the high. I didn’t feel the distraction.

I still saw the girl on the bridge: the one who stepped off into the air and fell to her death and the one who danced, her face a beauty, as though there was nothing in the world that could stain her. They stood together, side by side, as the visions of them shifted and swayed, becoming one, then splitting into two. They faded in and out. In and out. I saw Kat’s soft, fake smile, then Areis’s blood red lips.

I wished they had switched.

My head pounded.

He grimaced. “Listen, if you’re going to be moody, go home.” He started to look around the bar. “I’ll find another girl to entertain me.”

“You’re just like her,” I spat.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, darling,” he entertained my comment until he found someone and didn’t need me anymore. I saw the sparkle that glimpsed his eye. I watched as he walked away, a pep in his step, and as he started to dance towards her. He screamed back at me, “Don’t cry to me about it. I’m just here to have fun. Figure your own life out and stop ruining the party.”

“Just like that wretched bitch. Using my friend. Pretending to pay tribute to her when she just wants to get rich.”

The bartender clinked the drink on the counter, drawing my attention and giving me a wary smile, trying to be friendly because she wanted a tip at the end of the day but she was probably disgusted at me and my comments. Probably calling me a bitch.


I came every night. There were the days when I would stand near the front, like today, when I dared her to look at me, to acknowledge me, and to remember the days when we used to be friends and when we used to say hi to each other.

Kat had been there too. We had danced together, children who treated everything as a game. Areis had the same red ribbon that she held now, always in her hand and always in the air. She had always taken it to the beam with her. Kat had left her white ribbon resting on the floor because she didn’t want to accidentally step on it during her routine. My blue ribbon had always been tucked away in my bag because I was always tripping and falling and landing on my arms even when I held nothing.

She had laughed, “you have to balance better.”

“Yeah, yeah. You make it look so easy, Areis.”

She had smiled in response, mischief in her eyes, “Of course it is!” And she had run along the beam, her arms in the air, moving with such elegance that the ribbons in her two hands twirled with the sudden movement, cartwheeling on the beam before perfecting a jump and landing on the edge. Always beautiful, always flawless.

Kat had clapped her hands. “You’re amazing!”

And I had smiled at her, proud. But I would never have guessed that that feeling would fade slowly over time.

Faded so much so that there were the days when I would blend into the crowd and stand at the back. Those were the days when I did not want to see Areis or acknowledge where life had brought us now. If I stayed in the crowds, I could stay in my own mind and remember Kat in my own way, untainted.

I would remember the girl who always had my back, when the older boys would come and pull on my hair or steal my water bottle. Kat had dived between us and pushed the boys away. “Hey, leave her alone! Pick on someone your own size!”

“Shut up!” they had shouted, bright ideas behind their eyes, and they had pushed her, making her fall on top of me.

“You asked for it!” She had leaped at them, fingers like claws and her mouth hissing. But she always had a smile on her face, one so intoxicating that it made me want to join her. So I did. I had jumped at one of the boys, and we had tumbled in the grass for minutes before the adults came and tore us apart.

Kat had grinned at me and given me a secret thumbs up, a little promise that she would do the exact same thing again if she had the choice.

I missed her.

And I wiped the tears that were wetting my cheeks.

Kat wasn’t here anymore, and Areis was taking advantage of Kat. I felt my fingers digging into the palm of my hand. 

My head pounded. Again.

I wanted to scream, but everything was stuck in my throat, and I was unable to say a single word. My arms moved before I could realize what I was doing. Then, I saw her eyes as they came to my level, as they finally met my gaze. I saw the smile on her face and the tears that reflected mine.

And I saw the body falling into the water.

I heard the gasps around me. I felt the slight breeze from the rush of people as they pushed past me to be as close to the railings as they could, so they could witness firsthand the splash of the water down below.


It was all a blur to me. The backdrop of orange lights became blue and red, and I stood there, numb, unable to feel my arms or legs, unable to think.

The crowd slowly formed a circle around me, keeping their distance. They didn’t want to be close, lest I did something to them, yet I appeared harmless enough that they stayed to see how the night would unfold. They were too captivated to leave.

Soon, rough men shoved my shoulder and pushed me against the bridge railing, forcing me to look down at the water, its raging yet calm waves as it took everything away. I considered going with the water, wondering if it were a better ending than what was going to come.

The cold kiss of metal against my wrist told me that it was too late. All that was left was hurt as the cuffs tightened. I winced.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you…”

I heard the words, but I couldn’t process them. I only remembered the aggressive pushes as they urged me to the car seat, the eyes of the crowd who judged and thought me a psychopath, the whispers of the people who claimed to know me.

“She stalked her. I saw her here last week.”

“She’s always drunk.”

“She planned this, didn’t she?”

There was laughter from the men who drove the car. Metal bars separated us, so they felt as though they were superior, treating me as though I were not here. They spoke about the bridge, the girl, Kat.

Kat. I should have jumped down with her. Then we would be together.

“Let me go,” I mumbled softly. But they didn’t hear me.

“Let me go,” I repeated, louder, staring only at the metal bars that separated us. The driver turned his head to look at me. I met them. His eyes were as empty as hers.

“Shut up.”

My head pounded. Those two words made me wince. Kat wasn’t here to defend me anymore. I was on my own.

“Let me go, let me go, let me go,” I repeated, a mantra. I squirmed in my seat, pulling my hands apart in hopes of freeing my wrists, ignoring the pain that shot up my arm; I thrashed and kicked the metal bars until I fell sideways on the seat, and I shuffled towards the window and contorted to angle my hands at the door handle, only to find it locked.

Defeat washed over me, and I could only muster a scream, those same words: “Let me go, let me go, let me go!”

“Shut up, woman! Do you need me to hit you?”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I shook, my arms slumped onto the seat. Kat wasn’t here. I was alone, and I had lost them both.

So the emptiness took over.

The one that showed itself when you were on a dark road and you turned back to realize that the people you thought were behind you had disappeared, when it dawned on you that you didn’t know where you were going or where you had come from. You could not turn back even if you wanted to, for there was no visible path backwards and no path forwards. There was only darkness. Emptiness.

My head pounded. My mouth was dry.


I daydreamed about the times when I was a child. Kat and Areis and I had run around in the matching skirts that our mothers forced us to wear. Areis had loved skirts, Kat had never cared, happy to wear whatever her mother wanted, and I alone had mumbled under my breath because I preferred pants. I remembered the sunny days with picnic blankets laid on the grass. I remember hiding under the shade of trees. The park was our oasis, and we had the freedom to do anything and everything. As a child, there was never anything wrong with what you did. There was always an excuse; there were never consequences.

However, children rarely did something so bizarre, so extreme, that it warranted dire repercussions. As adults, however, we had more destructive freedom and darker thoughts. Left alone, we would wind up permanently swimming underwater or stuck in a room against our will. 

I laid on a white bed in a room painted a pale cream, my wishes for a deep ocean blue ignored. I had no pictures or windows or things. I only had a table stuck to the wall and a chair stuck to the floor.

They did give me a journal. It sat on the table untouched. They told me it was Areis’s. They told me she was not selfish. They told me she was hurting, just like Kat, just like me.

They told me to read it.

I refused to touch it. I did not want to read the lies that she had spilled. The illusion that she wrote for others. 

So I laid on the bed, watching the dusty ceiling that no one bothered to clean. I followed the nurse who would come in once a day to take me outside to see the sun, or the rain, or the clouds. I found company in my thoughts of Kat when no one else would come to see me.

My head still pounds, so my nurse would come to give me pills to take. They never give me a high, though. I still don’t know how it’s supposed to feel.

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Lynn Miclea: The Last Piece

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, and Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

The Last Piece

Lynn Miclea

After parking his car, Kevin walked through the trees in the small wooded area. He loved coming here, and as he thought about being able to relax by the lake, he tripped over a strange root, which made a bizarre clicking noise. Quickly regaining his balance, he didn’t think much of it, and he stepped down onto the soft dirt leading to the water. 

Breathing in the fresh air coming off the lake, it felt cleansing, and he let it fill him. It always felt refreshing coming to this spot, especially on days like today when no one else was there. Soft clouds dotted the sky, and a gentle breeze washed over him. Hearing the soft gurgle of the water as it flowed, he took another deep breath and glanced around.

His eyes suddenly opened wide as he saw an old stone bridge. It had not been there before. He was sure of it. He had been coming to this lake shore for years, and that bridge had never been there. But it looked old — it was clearly not new. Where did it come from? Was he hallucinating? Had he lost his memory?

He shuddered and his mouth felt dry. Something was not right. Something was definitely off. Goosebumps rose on his arms.

Strange noises and squeaks came from the base of the bridge, near the stone footing on the shore, and the hair stood out on his neck.

A tremor of fear running through him, he decided to keep a distance, and he quickly turned and rushed back to the shelter of the trees. Then he turned and strained his eyes to try and see what was down there.

At first he saw nothing. Then movement caught his eye, and he noticed three small gray creatures huddled next to the footing of the bridge. He stared in shock. Whistles, clicks, and squeaks floated to him from the creatures.

A human voice cried out. “No! Stop!”

Kevin focused on the area where the voice came from and noticed a young man lying on the ground, tied up and struggling. Horror flooded him.

More whistles and squeaks reached him. One of the creatures held up what seemed to be some type of weapon.

“No! Please! Help!” the young man cried out.

Kevin desperately wanted to help the man, but what if the creatures turned their weapons on him? But he had to try to help no matter what. Stopping for a few moments, he noticed he was in a slightly darker area beneath the trees. It felt cooler in that spot and strange whispers filled the air. 

The creatures’ whistles and clicks reached him, echoing slightly in the breeze. What was going on here? Stepping carefully, his eyes watching the area by the lake, his leg inadvertently pressed into that strange root again, and it made another clicking sound. Ignoring it, he stepped forward and came out onto the grass.

Staring in disbelief, he noticed the bridge was now gone. What the —. He spun around and looked back down at the shoreline. Nothing. A calm lake. No bridge.

Turning back, he retraced his steps through the darker area beneath the trees and again his leg pressed into that root, which created a clicking sound. Confused, he looked back at the lake. The bridge was there again.

“Please don’t do this!” the young man called out. “Please let me go!”

Kevin had to help this guy however he could. He would deal with the mystery later. He began rushing down toward the young man.

The three creatures quickly turned toward him. One of them held up a weapon and aimed it directly at him.

Terrified and gasping with fear, Kevin slowly backed up. Swallowing hard, he stepped back to where the tree line was and went back into the darker area beneath the trees. The coolness of that spot enveloped him, and the whispers were more audible. What was this area for? What was happening here?

A sharp tremor of fear jolted him as he stood there. The whispers began to form into phrases that he half heard and half sensed. Destroy … wipe out … earthlings … in the way … this one for research … then it will be ours …

Somehow this darker area seemed to be the contact point for the creatures, to both see them and hear them. But what was going on? What was it all for? And did that strange root that made a clicking noise have anything to do with it? Did that somehow control what was happening?

Kevin turned in a circle, scanning the darker area beneath the trees. He suddenly sucked in a quick breath. A small dark gray metal box sat at the foot of one tree. Approaching it and bending down, Kevin carefully opened the box. A few strange controls, dials, and bizarre markings were inside. Was this device theirs? Was this some type of alien control device? Could he impede or stop what they were doing?

His fingers trembling, he slowly reached forward. Then he hesitated, not sure if this would be a good idea. Should he touch it? What if he made things worse? But he had to try. As his fingers touched the dial, he felt a buzzing and got a small shock. He quickly pulled his hand back.

After another few moments, he covered his fingers with the bottom of his shirt and tried again. This time, there was no shock as he touched the dial. He slowly turned the dial down and glanced at the creatures. They flickered and dimmed. He turned the dial back up, and the creatures returned to full clarity.

Staring at the creatures, he wondered if he was correctly understanding what he saw. He turned the dial down again, and the creatures again flickered and dimmed. One fell, appearing weak. Were they somehow getting energy from this device? Was this device connected to something more powerful that helped them? Maybe it connected to something through an unseen portal or to a ship somewhere. He had no idea.

Whatever it was, he knew he had to stop whatever they were doing. He turned the dial all the way down. A squeak and then a low moan came from where the creatures were, and the three creatures flickered and fell to the ground.

Feeling the need to remove and possibly destroy the device, Kevin dragged the box toward the edge of the darker area. As he moved, he again pressed into the strange root and heard a loud click. The area he was in seemed to flicker.

He dragged the box out onto the grass into a patch of bright sunlight, wondering what to do next. As he stared at the box, it shifted, lightened in color, and slowly disintegrated, turning into a soft beige powder.

Kevin turned and peered at the lake where the bridge had been. It was gone. But a soft whimpering sound reached him.

He rushed to that area and saw the young man, still tied up, lying on the ground.

Kevin kneeled down next to him. “Are you okay? Let me help you.”

The young man looked up, terror showing on his face. “Yes, please untie me. There were strange creatures … I don’t know where they are now … but they were here …”

Kevin reached forward and untied the thin ropes, freeing the man. “Yes, I saw them. But I think they’re gone now.” He tossed the ropes to the side. “What is your name?”

Confusion and horror flickered across the young man’s face as he rubbed his arms where they had been tied. “I’m Nick. I can’t explain any of this. I don’t understand what happened.”

Kevin watched the young man for a moment, feeling a mixture of concern, fear, and compassion flowing through him. “Are you injured? Did they hurt you?”

Nick shivered. “I’m fine, just shaken up. But I heard them — I heard their thoughts. Every time they touched me, I could hear what they were thinking.”

Kevin nodded. “I heard them too. Tell me what you heard.”

“They …” Nick shook his head, his face pale. “They were going to use me for research. They wanted to learn our weaknesses as a species.” He took a few breaths, his face pale. “What they would learn from me, they would use to wipe out and kill all the humans on the planet.” He stared at Kevin. “I know it sounds strange, but I swear, that’s what I heard.”

Kevin licked his dry lips. “Anything else?”

“They planned to do this within a few days. I didn’t know what to do or how to stop them.”

“I think I found their equipment, some type of device, that helped link them to a power source. But I have destroyed part of it. So I hope they are gone now.” He shook his head. “But I don’t understand the bridge. Did they say anything about the bridge that was here?”

Nick looked around, searching for the bridge that was no longer there. His gaze then returned to Kevin. “Yes. They had seen people around other bridges, similar to that one, which they had previously investigated. They thought bridges attracted humans, and that people would be drawn to this one too. They were going to set up a trap to entice people to come here. They were going to test out a few of their scenarios and do some experiments to see if they could easily destroy the people. Then they planned to use it on a larger scale.”

Kevin stared at the young man who was now getting more animated and color was returning to his face. Nick shrugged. “I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what I picked up from them.”

“Wait here. Let me check on something.” Kevin ran back to the trees. The beige dust that had been the control box was still there just outside the trees, looking like a pile of soft powder. The area under the trees was still dark. His eyes scanned the area. Where was that root that made the clicking noise? There — Kevin stared at the root, which stood up from the ground at a strange angle. He turned in a circle, surveying the ground. Three more piles of powdery dust were beneath other trees. There had obviously been a network of those devices. Those were now destroyed, but the root remained. That needed to be destroyed as well. He had to finish that. But first he needed to help the young man.

He raced back to the young man who was now standing up and brushing himself off. Kevin gestured toward the trees. “I believe most of the control devices from the aliens have been destroyed. I hope this is the end of them.” He glanced around at the lake which now looked peaceful, then he looked back at Nick. “Can you walk okay? Do you need help?”

Nick shook his head. “No, I’m fine. I really just want to go home. There’s no way I could explain any of this to anyone, and I would rather avoid any in-depth examination or investigation.”

Kevin nodded. “That makes sense. I understand. Those aliens can’t hurt you again, and I don’t think they can return. Most of what they had here has been destroyed. It should be over.”

“That was close. Too close.” Nick looked around wistfully. “But I’m not sure. What’s to stop more of them from coming back and trying again?” His eyes searched Kevin’s face for answers. “We just don’t know. But thank you for helping me.”

“No, we don’t know. But I’m glad I was here. Can I take you home?”

“Nah, my car is still in the parking lot. That’s where they first got me.” He shuddered and let out a long breath. “I’ll be okay.”

“Wait.” Kevin wrote down his own name and phone number on a piece of paper and handed it to Nick. “If you need any help or need to talk about this, please call me.”

Nick took the paper and gave a weak smile. “Thank you.” He shook Kevin’s hand and then slowly shuffled away.

Kevin watched the young man walk toward the parking lot beyond the trees. Then he turned back to the lake, which was now serene and calm, with a cool breeze blowing off the water.

Nick is right, he thought, as he turned and began to slowly trudge back to the parking lot. There’s nothing to stop more of them from coming back.

Fear nibbled at his gut as he thought about the possibility of the aliens returning and what they could do. He had to finish what he started. That root was the one remaining piece and it must be destroyed.

He turned around and rushed back to the darker area beneath the trees and searched for the root. There it was. Stepping closer, he inspected it. As his eyes roamed over the entire piece, he noticed various markings toward the bottom. Feeling desperate, he began pressing the markings. Nothing seemed to happen. He grabbed a nearby rock and pounded at the markings. Then he pulled on the root. At first it stayed firmly stuck in the ground, and then it suddenly loosened and came out, the weight of it heavy in his hand as he stumbled for a few steps.

A few buttons showed at the bottom of the root. He needed to destroy this. This was the last piece, and he had to make sure this was really over. As he stood there staring at the alien device, the whispers returned. No, not the black button … don’t touch it … emergency only … black button … destroys our ship … no …

Focused on the device and guided by the information that he was picking up from the whispers, Kevin slowly brought his finger toward the black button. The button seemed to have some type of warning on it. Hoping he was doing the right thing and that the warning was regarding the destruction of their own devices and possibly a ship rather than Earth, he reached forward with a cold, shaky finger and pressed the button.

At first, nothing happened. Then a loud rumbling filled the sky. A few seconds later, the ground shook with a huge explosion. Oh no! What have I done?

Panicked, his eyes widened and he froze in place. A second explosion rocked the area, and Kevin jumped and dropped the root device. The explosion sounded like it came from above him, and his eyes desperately searched the sky. Flashes of light and pieces of flaming metal filled part of the sky. The realization hit him — a hidden spaceship had exploded. Chunks of scorched metal fell into the lake a short distance away, making clunking noises and a huge splash.

Rubbing his face, he looked around. Was it finally over? Peering at the ground for the root device, he now saw a pile of powdery beige dust where the root had been. That device must have channeled power from some source, probably the ship, and all of it was linked and connected — the root, the control box device, the spaceship, the aliens, the bridge, and the darkened area under the trees. It dawned on him that the link from the black button must have gone back to the ship and sent a signal back to them. That button must have been a last means of protection for them — destroying the ship itself.

Kevin stared in disbelief. It finally was all destroyed — even the strange root, which did the work for him. And the area under the trees had brightened. It was no longer dark.

He shivered as he thought about what might have happened if he had not come to the lake on this particular day and at this time. Or if he had not finished the job and destroyed the ship. That last piece was the key.

He slowly walked back to the parking lot. Shaken and trying to relax his tight muscles, he got into his car and sat for a few minutes. Taking a few deep breaths, he gradually calmed his breathing.

Not quite the relaxing day at the lake that I expected, he thought, as he stared through the windshield at the trees and the peaceful lake beyond.

Taking one more deep breath and letting it sink in that it was now really over, he finally started the car and headed home.


Copyright © 2023 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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