Thursday, May 31, 2012


Morning came into the room slowly. As it did, the memories of the night before came creeping back.  "Maybe we're over, then."  Had he really said those words?  Had I imagined them?  Had I dreamed them? I reached a hand to the place beside me where his sleeping body should be, but there was nothing.  His side of the bed was  empty, completely untouched.

I sat up, twisting the ring on my finger slowly. It hadn't been a dream.  The bed was empty. He was gone. The shards of glass from the vase I'd thrown at the wall after his retreat were still strewn about the floor. It had all happened.  The clothes thrown in a suitcase. The car revving up and roaring away down the street. The crying and the throwing things and the wine.

I got out of bed, gingerly jumping over the glass, and pulled a ratty old sweatshirt out of my closet.  It was the kind of thing you love because it's comfortable and homey and warm, but your mother always threatens to throw away.  Padding downstairs, I made a cup of coffee and wandered around our living room.

First, the pink rose on the mantel.  Made of fine glass, he had brought it home from a business trip to Vienna. "It reminded me of you," was what he had said. "Delicate and beautiful and just waiting to be opened."

Turning, I met the my eyes in the mirror hanging on the wall.  On the day we bought it, we had strolled through the antique shop, our fingers entwined. "Oh, that is beautiful," I had whispered when I saw it.  As we admired the craftsmanship, he had murmured his agreement.  As he spoke, he stood behind me, sweeping my hair away from my neck, and trailed kisses down my skin.  I was pretty sure that he hadn't meant the mirror.

Even while I shushed him under the stern gaze of the shop's owner, I had turned in his embrace, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him closer.  After the mirror's delivery, we'd propped it against a wall in our bedroom and made love in front of it every night for a week before eventually finding it a place in the living room. I stood on the chair in front of it now, my fingers trailing along its frame.  Were those people gone now?

My heart stilled when I heard the key turn in the lock. Maybe he'd come back to retrieve more clothes.  The door closed, and I turned to meet his gaze.  The rain outside had soaked through his clothes. Had he walked home?  His shirt clung to his chest, and the water ran down his face from his hair.  But, he didn't seem to notice any of it.  He spoke just two words.  "I'm sorry."

I nodded.  In two steps, he pulled me from the chair.  His arms held me tight, his lips found mine.  And in that that moment, I knew. There would be forgiveness and there would be renewed faith and there would be trust. And always there would be love.

That's what it was.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


It was almost a castle.  A castle in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the wilds of Scotland.  And my parents had rented it for the entire summer. Mom had prattled on about how it was "educational" and "romantic", the opportunity of a lifetime!  All I knew was that we would be miles from the nearest shopping mecca, electricity was minimal, the internet was spotty, and the cell phone reception non-existent. It sounded terrible.  But, my opinions were deemed unimportant, so off the three of us went to our vacation.

So far, we'd been here a week, and I hadn't seen a single person within 20 years of my age. To be fair, the castle was not as rustic as I had been expecting.  My visions of stone beds and windy hallways had been replaced with the realities of fluffy down mattresses and glassed-in windows. Every room had its own fireplace, but so far, the weather had been kind, and none had been needed. I'd been dead-on about the internet and cell phone, though

I sat at the window seat in the front room and sighed audibly for the millionth time. Glancing up from his book with either amusement or annoyance, Dad suggested, "Maddie, it's a nice day out there.  Why don't you go take a walk and see who can sigh louder?  You or the wind?"

"Very funny, Dad." I made a face at him.  But maybe a walk wouldn't be so bad.  It was better than being cooped up in the castle with nothing to do.

Wandering out the front door, I meandered down to the little lake below the castle. Tall blades of grass grew up around it, and vegetation that bore a resemblance to lily pads floated along the surface of the water. The surface of the water was somehow clear.  Last year, we'd summered in the Caribbean, and that water had been clear and warm.  No matter how deep, it seemed that you could always see straight through to the coral reefs that lined the bottom.  This wasn't that kind of clear.  You could see through it. You could see the fish swimming below, but there was a darkness to it, too.

I peered in to watch the fish swim around, and paused to look at my own reflection. A lock of blond hair had fallen out of the braids I had plaited that morning, and I tucked it behind my ear.  There was something off about that reflection.  I turned my head to the left, and the reflection followed. I turned my head to the right, and the reflection followed.  I turned my head back to the left, but quickly snapped it back right... and the reflection just kept turning left.

"HA!" I yelled, pointing at my reflection.  "I got you!"  At that moment, I realized I was talking to myself.  Or, to myself in the water.  And that "myself in the water" had definitely not behaved as she was expected to behave. "What-  Who?"

"Hello, Madison," came the cool voice.  That's the way I always remembered the sound later.  It was like a cool breeze that tickled your skin and set all the hairs on your arms standing straight up. Reflections aren't supposed to talk, but this one did.

I sat on the bank of the water. "Who are you?  What are you doing in there?  Why do you look like me?"

I think the smile Water Me gave me was supposed to be reassuring, but there was something in it I wasn't sure I liked... like she knew something I didn't know, but damn if she was ever going to tell me. "You're in Scotland, Maddie.  Here, there is magic." Suddenly, the water parted. A slender hand broke through and beckoned.  "Come see."

Thursday, May 17, 2012



"Would you stop doing that?" Emily narrowed her eyes in annoyance as I tugged at the bodice of my dress for the umpteenth time. "They aren't going to fall out!"

"I'm just not used to wearing anything this low-cut.  I don't know why you talked me into coming to this party.  Who throws a masquerade ball anymore?"

"I talked you into this party because I'm tired of hearing you mope about Daniel, your pajamas were starting to smell, and the mini-mart is completely out of rocky road ice cream." She turned to me, and adjusted the glittery mask that obstructed half my face. Her tone gentled. "Jess, you need a change of pace.  He wasn't any good for you. Besides, you look gorgeous in that thing. I wish I could pull off red."

I had to admit that I'd felt a little like a courtesan at a London soiree when I shimmied into the dress that evening. The silk had slid tantalizingly over my skin, and the gauze that skimmed over it made me feel like a princess.  I looked down at the alarming amount of skin it exposed.  A moderately illicit princess, but still. She was probably right. I needed to get out of our apartment. I'd done nothing but binge on ice cream, cry, and watch terrible romantic comedies ever since I'd caught Daniel with that woman from work.

Emily snagged two glasses of champagne from a passing waiter, and put one into my hand.  "Drink this.  You'll feel less nervous, and for heaven's sake, stop pulling on your dress!"  Her smile deepened. "And look, here comes a masked man our way!"

Sure enough, a not-very-tall man stood before us.  He was dressed in a blue suit that looked like it had been pulled from his father's closet, and his blond hair standing up from his head left the general impression of a chicken. "Hi," I offered weakly after draining the glass of champagne.  Emily nudged me with her elbow. "Nice party, huh?" I asked in an attempt at conversation.  What was I supposed to say?

"Are you hurt?" he asked with concern.  Did I look hurt? I opened my mouth to answer when he added, gesturing to the dance floor, "Because you look like an angel fallen from heaven."

Really? I mouthed to Emily, but she only laughed. "Go on," she whispered, taking the empty glass from my hand. "They say good things come in small packages."

Chickenman introduced himself as Ted before pulling me toward him in an embrace on the dance floor.  As the music played and I attempted small talk, Ted busied himself with staring down the top of my dress.  Honestly. His hands kept sliding down my waist to rest on my rear end, and I kept putting them back.  His breath was hot in my face and I wrinkled my nose in distaste.  The smell of beer was heavy.  How much had this guy had to drink? I tried to step out of his grasp, but he was a lot stronger than he looked.

"Let me go, please," I murmured.  But he just bent his head to nuzzle at my neck.  Quite unwanted, I assure you. Struggling to loosen his grip, I was surprised when I saw a large hand grasp Ted's arm and wrench it away from my waist.

A deep voice sounded from behind me, "I don't think the lady is interested."

A sneer came over Chickenman's face. "What, so you can have her?  I saw her first."

Before he could reach toward me, I stepped behind my hero's body. "I think the dance is over actually."

"There's more than you here, anyway," he returned, stalking off to find another unsuspecting target.

"Thank you." I turned to the man who had come to my rescue. He seemed very tall, dressed in black slacks and  a white shirt open at the collar, with a black velvet cape sweeping down his back.  He could have passed for Prince Charming, were it not for the mask that gave his costume character. "It was very kind of you to step in, but I really could have handled him."

He laughed. "Oh yes. You were doing a fine job of that, Miss." He bowed with a practiced flourish. "I do believe that, as your knight in shining armor, I am entitled to one dance in repayment. However, I give you my word to act the part of the gentleman."

I curtsied with equal exaggeration. "I'd be delighted to repay your gallantry... do you happen to have a name?"

masked man
"Let's just stick with Zorro for now," he winked, his green eyes crinkled in humor behind his mask.

As I put my hands on his shoulders, I cocked my head toward the rapier at his side and smiled.  "The sword's a nice touch." I studied him a little more closely. His square jaw wasn't quite clean-shaven, but more like fine sandpaper that would give just the barest of sensation against your skin if you ran your hand over it. Where his shirt lay open against his chest, the skin underneath was tan-- a light brown, but nowhere near orange.

Mostly, I closed my eyes and felt. It seemed like a long time since I'd been in male arms. His were hard and strong and warm where they rested at my waist.  He spun me around the dance floor, and the cologne that wafted through my senses smelled so good.  I opened my eyes to find him looking down at me with amusement before catching him glance down to my dress.

I glared at him accusingly. "I thought you were going to be a gentleman."

"I'm just a man, Red.  I can only be so strong." He made a visible effort to pull his eyes back to mine, and I laughed.  He was alright.

The music came to an end, and I sighed inwardly.  It had felt nice to dance in this man's arms.  I made a move to return to Emily's side, but Zorro stopped me. "Wait," he said, his eyes serious for the first time. "Would you-- It feels a bit warm in here. You wouldn't be willing to step out on the balcony with me, would you?"

I hesitated, but what would it hurt?  He seemed nice, and it was a masked ball, after all.  He'd never even know who I was.  I nodded, and let him lead me outside. At the edge of the balcony, I stopped at the stone ledge and looked out.  From this high, we could see far into the night across the river.  The stars seemed to shine like diamonds.

"It's beautiful up here," I said quietly.

He stood behind me and I felt his hand stroke slowly through my hair, sending a shiver down my back. "Yes, it most definitely is," he agreed, but a husky tone had crept into his voice. "I'm really sorry, Red."

I glanced back at him, "For what?"

"I promised you I'd be a gentleman." With that, he bent his head and pressed his lips against the skin at my shoulder.

I probably should have been offended. I probably should have stopped him.  But he was tall and big and strong, and warm.  I'd had champagne.  I'd just been mauled by Chickenman.  Did I mention Zorro was strong and wow?  So I didn't stop him.  No, I closed my eyes and I leaned against him, his hands sliding down my arms.

Turning to face him, I rubbed my hand along the side of his jaw.  Just like I'd thought, it felt like the finest sandpaper. His eyes locked onto mine and he slowly pressed his lips against mine. They were soft. Our mouths parted and the kiss just kept going.

"Masked balls are stupid, anyway," he whispered between kisses and reached up to untie the mask that covered his eyes.  He reached for me to remove mine as well, but then my vision cleared and I really saw him.

"Oh god," I whispered, backing toward the door to the party.

dressed up in cityConfused, he asked, "I don't understand... is there something wrong?"

"N-No," I stammered. "I'm so sorry, but I have to go!"  I rushed through the party, grabbing Emily who was happily dancing with some seemingly-goodlooking guy.  "Come on.  We have to go.  Now."

"What-?" she asked, but I didn't even stop to explain.  We ran outside and flagged the first cab in sight.  Only when we were safely inside did she demand an explanation. "WHAT is wrong with you?? The last time I saw you, you were all dreamy with that Zorro guy."  She looked closely at me. "Did he hurt you?"

I sighed. "No, no, he didn't hurt me.  He was wonderful and handsome and warm and strong. And he kissed me and he smelled like... like... MAN."

Emily raised an eyebrow at me.  "And this is why we had to escape?  I'm not following."

I stared miserably at the skirt of my dress.  "No.  He took off his mask.  Em...  it was SETH."

She stared at me and and then dissolved into laughter.  "Oh Jessica... come on, you have to admit that's a little funny."

It most definitely was not.  Seth Chambers.  The most beautiful man I've ever seen. A man who has never even spoken a word to me.

And a man who lives two floors above us in our very own apartment building.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Getting to know new people is delicate.  You gently tiptoe around each other, slowly sharing little bits of yourself.  You share one thing, and then sort of sit back and see how it's taken. Do you think the same way? Do they think you're weird, do they think you're cool?  The first bit seems to go alright, so you share another, and another, and another.

Maybe you'll start off with how many kids you have, how long you've been married.  Go on to where you live and what you studied in school.  Bit by bit, you reveal a little more of yourself... that you like the color blue, that you can't stand roller coasters.  Maybe then you share what your hobbies are...  a little reading, a little writing, maybe that you like football.

That you dabble in the occasional stalking of Irish manbands.

Wait, what?  You didn't seriously tell people that, did you?

Yes.  Yes, I did.  I didn't mean to!

If you're new around here, I have a confession.  I like Celtic Thunder, a PBS-pushed Irish lovechild that melds really cute boys with really pretty singing. (Ironically, this is also why I liked Newsies when I was 14.)  I like Celtic Thunder a lot.  I'm a fan.  And when I say "fan," I don't mean "and I buy some of their CDs."  No.  I mean "I've flown to Canada, Texas, and Arkansas to see them."

ARKANSAS, kids. For some reason, this seems more drastic than Canada. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

So, it came up.  I've joined this small Facebook group for bloggers, and we're just getting to know each other. They didn't know I was crazy yet! We were discussing the pro's and con's of maintaining a separate fanpage, when I made a passing reference to my experiences with Celtic Thunder.

Oh Jo... I know. I know.

Well, one of the ever-so-nice girls asked me about it, and I gave the short version of how I got involved.  The short version is good. The short version makes me look less insane.  The short version is almost normal.  Not actually normal, but almost normal.

"Oh, that isn't pathetic at all!" came the response.  (Clearly, it was the REALLY short version.) But, it was like I just. couldn't. leave. it. Oh no...  I had to PROVE that my fanaticism was pathetic and absurd.

I posted a picture.  Not just one picture.  But a picture of a whole bunch of pictures, chronicling some of the meets and meetings that have occurred over the past few years. I would post it here but then YOU would know the depth of pathetic, too.  And we're just going to pretend I'm cool for now.

My friend of many years who started the group just laughed at me. "Oh Jo... I can't believe you made a collage!" I cocked my head at this and realized... Yes. That is a very strange thing to do.  And now everyone knows it.

You can't come back from that, guys! I could be 100% cool from now on, but they can always say, "Yeah... but there's that whole crazy boyband thing."  There is no cool after this.  None.

So, the moral of the story...

If you have a hobby that makes you look a little insane, for heaven's sake, don't tell anyone about it!!  Or at least save it for after you've told them you don't like cheese.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Becoming is hard. It hurts.
Becoming requires stretching and pushing and pulling.
It's being put into the fire and hit with the blacksmith's hammer.
And there is pain and there is struggle.
There is a desire to go back. Go back to where you where, what you were.
What it all was when it didn't hurt.
Because becoming is hard and it hurts.

But when you are done becoming, you are such a beautiful creature. 
You are beautiful in your pain now, my little friend.
But, oh the beauty that is to come if you just hang on a few moments longer.
Push through your pain. 
Hang on while they stretch you into things that you didn't know you could be.
Cling to whatever you can to make it just one moment longer.
Because when you are done, when the stretching is over,
When the blacksmith has finished, and your iron is cool
Oh you are beautiful.

Look at what you've become.

Thursday, May 3, 2012




The door shut with an audible click that echoed through the room, and 12 pairs of eyes glared accusingly at me. I held my palms out in front of me in apology and made my way through the library to my table. As I sank into the chair, my eyes flicked up to the clock.

4:16. I had exactly four minutes to make myself look occupied.  I dumped books, notebooks and pencils out of my bag, tossing it onto the floor beneath the table, and arranged everything so it looked like I'd been there for hours, studying my brains out for finals. 4:18. I rearranged my clothes, took my hair down out of its ponytail in what I hoped was a Pantene-esque mane of shiny beauty, and stared fixedly at the book open in front of me.  Was it history? Chemistry?

library shelves
4:20. The door opened and clicked shut again.  This time, 13 pairs of eyes lifted to mark the patron's arrival. 12 pairs glared. One pair, my own, smiled hesitantly into the eyes of the newcomer. Jason Amesbury. He was tall, almost but not quite having to duck his head when he came in the door.  His hair was the color of caramel, his nose had the most adorable crook in the middle, and his brown eyes melted my heart every time I saw him. He found his way to his own table, one over and three down from mine.

I picked up my pencil and began writing notes in my notebook. Glancing up at him through my eyelashes, I caught him watching me and I dropped my pencil in surprise.  With a chuckle, he winked and returned his attention to his books.

I grabbed a scrap paper with call numbers scribbled on it and lost myself in a row of books. Sarabeth, stop it this instant, I thought as I paced up and down. You're here to study, not to meet boys.  So what if he's the best-looking guy you've ever laid eyes on and he's smart and has arms you want to snuggle in and hair you want to touch?  Study, study, study! By now, he thinks you're crazy, anyway!  Now get back out there and do your work! Satisfied I'd berated myself enough, I started for the beginning of the row to return to my table when HE rounded the corner and headed toward me.

Quickly, I turned toward a shelf of books and ran my fingers along the spines.  When he came close, I looked up in feigned surprise like I didn't know he was there. "Oh!  Sorry, I'm just looking for a book on the Civil War," I explained. "Am I in your way?" His cologne wafted over me and I closed my eyes briefly, inhaling it in.

"No," Jason smiled, the heart-melting begun afresh, and held out the paper I'd grabbed from my table. "You dropped this, and I thought you might..."

I couldn't keep the nerves from shaking my voice.  We were talking. Right? We were talking? "Thanks.  That would probably be helpful."

"Well, I guess I should get back..." he trailed off.  "Hey, Sarabeth? You wouldn't want to go get some coffee or something later, would you?"

I blinked at him in surprise. Was he seriously asking me out? "Oh- Oh," I stammered.  "Well sure, that would be nice.  Maybe tomorrow?"

Jason grinned. "Tomorrow would be great... I'll see you tomorrow."

When he cleared the row of books to head back to his studies, I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle a squeal of excitement but couldn't stop the leap of joy.

"Oh, and Sarabeth?" He poked his head back around the corner.

I quickly pulled myself out of the air and leaned in attempted nonchalance against the bookshelves, one eyebrow lifted in inquiry.

He crooked a thumb over his shoulder to the other side of the library and his eyes sparkled in humor.  "The Civil War's on that side.  You're in biology."