Mar 232017
 

Zane came down the steps off his deck just as she rounded the corner from behind dunes and golden grasses, the waves of the Atlantic tickling the shore behind her. He started towards her, across the soft sand. He wanted to see her eyes, needed to see the secrets hidden in their depths, and found himself sailing through the air, landing with an oomf at her feet. Pretty feet, with nails painted coral. Were those happy faces on the nails of her big toes?

Lifting his head, he admired long, long legs; the pale blue sundress flirting in the breeze; muscular arms folded over her abdomen below small breasts; a straw beach bag slung over one sun-kissed shoulder; long neck, tilted slightly; the smirk of a smile; and one perfectly shaped, raised eyebrow. There was a sparkle of amusement in her blue eyes. Whoa! The whole package up close was something to behold.

“Well,” she said in a warm, rusty voice. Sexy. “It’s not every day I have men falling at my feet.”

The weight of the pain and sorrow emanating from her, so sharp he could feel it himself in the weeks he’d watched her from his office window, seemed to have lifted with her amusement. “Ah,” he said. Jesus! He was a man who made his living with words and that was the best he could do? He pushed up to his feet, brushing sand off his rumpled clothes – the wrinkled t-shirt he’d taken out of the laundry hamper, the tan shorts he’d spilled his morning coffee on. “Sorry about that.” He glanced behind him, narrowed his eyes at the piece of driftwood in the sand. “I guess I should pay more attention to where I’m going.”

“You never know when beach trash is going to jump up and grab you.”

He laughed, stabbing his fingers through his medium brown hair and realized he hadn’t bothered to run a comb through it. Dropping his hand to his side, he said, “I just came out to invite you to dinner.”

“Dinner?” Her arched brows drew together.

“Yeah, I thought it was time to introduce myself. Be neighbourly.”

She cocked her head, staring at him.

“I’ve seen you coming up from the beach from my office window for weeks now. You look physically strong, yet whatever you’re carrying around with you is weighing so heavy you can barely lift your feet.” He motioned to the marks in the sand behind her. “You’re dragging your feet.”

She turned, examining the drag marks the sand.

He was making a mess of this and wasn’t sure how to rescue himself. “Sorry, just an observation. I’m a writer, so I observe.”

“A writer.” She turned back to him with fire in her eyes. “So, what? You want me to come to dinner so that you can observe my brain, figure out what it is I’m carrying around with me?”

“I…hmmm.” He frowned, scratched his head. “I thought maybe I could help.”

“Are you a reporter?”

“What? No. I’m a novelist. Zane Ziegler.” He held out his hand, saw the recognition in her eyes and it stemmed some of the fire. Her hand slid into his, gripped firmly.

“Elle. Elle Dawson.”

Zane grinned. “So, you’ll come for dinner, Elle Dawson?”

She sighed deeply, brushing loose strands of hair from her face. “Sure. It will give me the chance to make up for my amusement at your misfortune.”

#

Elle studied herself in the mirror, turning to take in the simple sundress. Stupid, she thought. Stupid to accept a dinner invitation from someone she knew wanted to pick her brain. But, it had been so long since she’d had someone to converse with and the disheveled, clumsy Zane seemed harmless.

She’d given herself a month at the beach house to figure things out and decide what to do with the rest of her life and, three weeks in, she was no further ahead than the day she’d arrived.

So maybe Zane Ziegler could help. And that was stupid, too. Who goes to a writer for psychological help? She dropped down onto the bed and buried her face in her hands. Get a grip, Elle. It’s just dinner.

She let her anger at herself propel her next door. She marched up the deck stairs and froze, staring at the quaint table set with gleaming silverware and short candles in crystal bowls. Not exactly what she’d expected.

“You look lovely.”

Elle spun around to see Zane leaning in the doorway. He didn’t look so unkempt now. Although still shaggy, he’d made an attempt to tame his hair. He wore dark dress slacks and a pale blue button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Casual elegance. Man, he cleaned up well! He pushed off the jamb and walked to her, offering one of the glasses of wine in his hand.

“Thank you.” Elle motioned to the table with her glass. “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble.”

“No trouble. I enjoy eating in a … nice setting. Why waste a view like this?”

She got the impression he’d been about to say romantic setting, maybe because that was exactly what it was. Elle turned to look out over the beach and the ocean beyond it. “It’s beautiful.” She was going to miss it. One week seemed entirely too soon to be leaving.

Zane brought out salads to start and they sat at the table. It wasn’t long before the small talk turned to questions about her.

“Tell me what’s troubling you?”

She nearly laughed, and would have if he didn’t look so serious. “Just like that? You expect me to just vomit out all of my…” She waved her hands in front of her as if searching for the right word. “Stuff because you ask?”

Zane shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

The sun was beginning to set, casting shadows among the dunes. Elle set down her fork and stared out over the beach, let the whoosh of the waves rolling into shore, the caress of the warm breeze, the fresh, salty scent of the air, settle her. Why not? Maybe vomiting out her stuff would help. “All my life I wanted to be a cop,” she began.

“A cop? Damn, I had you pegged for an athlete.”

She couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. “It burns that you got it wrong, doesn’t it?”

“Well, yeah.” He frowned into his wine glass, the candlelight flickering over his face. “I’m usually pretty good at figuring people out.”

“Keeping in shape is important to me. I need to be strong in my job.”

“Okay. I get that. So, what’s got you questioning your career choice?”

She cocked her head and locked onto his hazel eyes. He was good at observing, she thought. He saw more than most. “We were investigating a series of murders where the victims were tortured, raped, and their bodies dumped like trash. We knew where he was targeting the victims. They’d all been taken from the same mall. But, that was all we had. No witnesses, no forensics. Nada. We had a member of the team who matched the victimology, so we organized an op, sent her in as bait.”

Zane’s fork came to a halt halfway between his plate and his mouth. “You were the bait.”

Yeah, he definitely saw more than most. “I was the bait.” She traced the rim of her wineglass with her finger, surprised at how easy the words were coming. “We had cops all over the mall, inside and out. A couple of hours in, the mall Security Supervisor, Michael Cheney, walks up to me and says Detective Aldsworth would like to see me in the Control Centre. They had a guy on CCTV, stalking a woman fitting the vic profile on the west side of the mall, second level. I headed to the Control Centre in the basement on the east side of the mall while the rest of the team raced to the west side. Cheney badged us in to the Security Admin area then motioned for me to go ahead of him. I didn’t even think about it … until I felt the pinch on the back of my neck.”

“You would have investigated all of the security employees when you knew where he was grabbing the victims.”

“Yeah, we did. There was nothing there. Nothing that popped.” She stared out over the beach again. “I made a rookie mistake and I’m no rookie. I should have called Aldsworth to confirm. When he didn’t answer, I would have known something was hinky.”

“The rest of the team just reacted as well. No one stopped to question the supervisor.”

“I knew better. I was blinded by my desperation to get this guy. I guess we all were.” It was the first time she’d allowed herself to contemplate that she wasn’t the only one who’d screwed up. She took a gulp of wine then sat back and closed her eyes. She could see it all happening like it was yesterday, today, five minutes ago. “I came to strapped to a table, like the ones they have in the morgue. Six hours. That’s how long it took them to find me.”

“He made a big mistake. Better if he’d waited for the heat to die down, but he took you in the middle of an op. That gave the team his name and the basis to search for properties he’d have access to.”

“Not hard to tell you write mysteries.”

He smiled, raised his glass to her. “Finish it.”

“That’s it,” she shrugged. “It was humiliating. I screwed up. Really screwed up. How am I going to face them again? How am I going to be able to walk into my station house?”

She’d done a darn good job of skipping over the trauma she’d suffered during those six hours and that was okay. He didn’t expect her to talk to him about those details, but she needed to spill them to someone. “You’re going to piss me off if you keep blaming yourself. Do you blame the other victims for falling into his trap?”

Her fist slammed the table sending her fork clattering off her plate. “They weren’t cops!”

“Then it was every member of the team’s fault that raced for the west side of the mall without checking in with Aldsworth. If you blame yourself, you have to blame the rest.”

The sun had set, but she turned to stare out at the darkness. Damn, she hated that he was right.

#

“Wow. You made this yourself?” Elle stared down at the plate Zane had just set in front of her with the main course of grilled grouper, steamed vegetables, and baked potatoes. She looked up at him with wide eyes.

“I figure if I want to eat, I better be able to cook since I spend so much of my time sequestered.”

“Yeah, but I bet you could afford someone to do it for you.”

He laughed. He could probably afford a house full of staff to see to his every need at this point, but he enjoyed the solitude. And he enjoyed cooking.

He let her get a few bites in before he hit her with his next question. “Are you afraid to go back to work because you feel like you screwed up or because you feel ashamed of the trauma you suffered?”

Elle narrowed her eyes at him as her neck and face flushed red. “I’m not afraid.”

He preferred that flash of anger in her eyes to the despair he most often saw there. “I’m sure your department provides counselling, so why haven’t you seen someone?”

She shrugged. “I took a leave of absence as soon as I got out of the hospital and I came here.”

“Elle? You need to talk to someone.”

The despair was back in her eyes and they brimmed with tears. She turned her head away from him, but not before he saw those tears begin to fall. “It was my own damn fault.”

His heart broke for her. He was sure he could feel it tearing in half. “No,” he said, with more force than he intended. “It was Cheney’s fault.” She had to stop blaming herself or she’d never heal. “Maybe you made a mistake in not contacting Aldsworth, but you said yourself you checked out the security staff. He was in a trustworthy position and there was nothing in his background to cause suspicion. Stop blaming yourself. Stop punishing yourself.”

#

Zane had given Elle a lot to think about and, over the next few days, she worked on forgiving herself.

Her last week flew by. Elle spent every afternoon at the beach, secretly reading one of Zane’s novels. She’d heard of him, but had never actually read his work. The evenings she spent with Zane, talking about everything under the sun. He was so easy to talk to and, even better, he seemed to understand her. Now she was down to her last night, and she still hadn’t made a decision on what to do with her life.

She took a last barefoot stroll down the beach with Zane under a full moon, the sand soft and cool between her toes.

“Do you still want to be a cop?” Zane asked.

“Yeah. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do and I’m good at it, but I still don’t feel like I can face going back to my squad. I don’t know that that will ever change.” It had helped considerably to talk to Zane about the op. She knew she’d have to see a therapist and that she still had a lot of work to do, but she wasn’t as afraid of doing that as she had been a week ago. Still, going back to work didn’t feel right. The job she loved was slipping from her grasp with her dilemma.

“Why did you come here to get away?” Zane asked. “Here specifically?”

Elle slowed to a stop, breathed in the sea air, and took a moment to enjoy the soft, warm breeze on her face. “I’ve always found the sea so tranquil, so relaxing. So when I’m stressed, it’s where I tend to go.”

“Why don’t you transfer to the police department here?”

“What?” Her eyes flew up to meet his.

“You love the beach. You still want to be a cop, but not where you were working. Stay. Make this your permanent home.”

She had to admit that she was dreading leaving this place. She’d found a sense of peace here, with the sea air, warm breezes, the sounds of the waves rolling up on shore, even in the easy companionship she’d found with Zane. Starting fresh with a department that didn’t know all of the details of her ordeal had quite a bit of appeal now that she thought about it. She’d miss her old squad, but she couldn’t see herself working with them again. Here, she could start fresh and still do the job she loved.

It was like a weight had suddenly been lifted from her shoulders, like she could finally breathe again. “Why do you want me to stay?”

“For the obvious reasons,” he said. “I feel safer with a cop living next door.”

“Yeah, right.” Elle laughed. “You just want someone to fix your speeding tickets. I’ve seen that little sports car you drive.”

Zane took her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. It was the first time he’d made any move on her. She felt the tingling sizzle all the way up her arm.

“Stay,” he whispered.

Elle looked up into his eyes, seeing the desire in them and something else that she couldn’t quite identify. If you’d asked her a week ago if she was interested in getting involved with a man, she would have answered, “Hell, no!” But, she felt comfortable with Zane. More, she trusted him. She slid her palm over his until their fingers interlocked. “Okay,” she whispered and he grinned. A slow smile spread across her face as they began to walk again. She drew in another deep breath of sea air, breathing so much easier now. “How can I resist a man who falls at my feet?”

The sound of their laughter drifted on the breeze.


The above story was my final assignment in my Creative Writing Course. I am now the proud owner of a Diploma in Creative Writing with High Honours. I hope you enjoyed the story!

Sep 122016
 

I think I’ve just found my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Once again it began as one of my creative writing assignments.


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“You have reached your destination in fifty meters.”

“Oh, thank God!” Aileen MacEwan said to the GPS on her dash. After forty-eight hours of traveling, she couldn’t wait for a nice hot shower and then a good twelve hours in the sack. She turned right off the A87 through a small opening in a short stone fence and got her first view of the small cottage that her paternal grandmother, Moira MacEwan, had left to her. She’d never even met the woman. Her father left the Isle of Skye in his late teens and never went back. She’d given herself a month to stay here and decide whether she wanted to sell the cottage, convert it into a rental for the hikers and climbers that visited the area to conquer the Cuillin Hills, or move here permanently. She sure as hell didn’t want to go back to Toronto.

Her first glimpse of the cottage put a smile on her face. She’d been picturing a dilapidated ruin that may not even be livable. But her grandmother had obviously kept the place well maintained. The windows looked new and the front door featured a beautiful inlaid stained glass work of art. The cream walls were clean, as if freshly painted, and the sloped roof looked newly shingled. Flowers bloomed wildly along the front of the house and dripped out of window boxes. A large deck peeked around the side of the house and offered a lovely view of Loch Sligachan.

Aileen stepped out of the car and stretched her long, lean body as she turned to take in the view of the Loch. The dark, rolling clouds were so low in the sky she thought she may be able to touch them as she stretched. She took a deep breath of sea air and relaxed her tense shoulders as she breathed out. Why had her father been so hell bent on leaving such a beautiful place? Maybe that was something she could figure out while she was here. But, for now, she just wanted to get settled in and sleep. She pulled her two suitcases out of the trunk and dragged them to the front door then fished around in her purse for the key that the solicitor had sent her. She stuck the key in the lock, turned it to the left, but didn’t feel the dead bolt slide over. The door was unlocked.

Frowning, Aileen turned the door handle, eased the door open, and got an earful of an excited sports caster with a thick Scottish brogue. She took a few tentative steps into the foyer and peered into the room on her left. A soccer match was in full swing on a large screened TV and cheering one of the teams on was a dark haired male sitting on a leather sofa with a beer in one hand and a sloppy sandwich in the other.

Aileen looked back at the front door then down at the key in her hand. It had to be the right cottage as the key had fit in the lock. “Excuse me,” she called out. When she got no answer, she raised her voice. “Hello!”

The man popped his head around, a surprised expression on his face. “Who the bloody hell are you?”

Aileen perched her fists on her hips. “I’m Aileen MacEwan.”

One dark eyebrow lifted. He took a long swig of beer and said, “Well, what the bloody hell are ye doing here then?”

“This is my cottage, so what the bloody hell are you doing here?” The man stood and Aileen guessed he had to be at least six foot four of solid muscle. There was no way she could muscle him out the door, although she’d give it a damn good try.

“I’m buying the cottage, so I didna see any reason not to move in.”

She had to pick her jaw up off the floor. “Well, you can just move out. The cottage isn’t for sale.” And he better do it quick. She needed to rest.

He laughed. Literally stood there and laughed at her. “I’ll no be moving oot, lass. I live here. De ye ken?”

“Do I what?” She shook her head and held up a hand. “Never mind. You have no right to be here. I own this cottage. Moira MacEwan left it to me in her will.”

“Oh, aye, I’ve a right to it. Moira MacEwan was my gran. I’ve been living here since she passed and I’m staying.” A thick, ropey vein pulsed in his neck, his face flushed to a bright red.

This wasn’t a good situation. He was as angry as she was and God knew what he would do. She couldn’t leave and go to a hotel or she might never get the cottage back from him. Was he planning to contest the will? “How could Moira be your gran? My Dad told me we were the only family she had left. Who are you?”

He pursed his lips together and his ice blue eyes flashed to the mantle over the stone fireplace for a brief moment. Aileen looked over at the mantle which was lined with framed photographs. She went to move closer to it and he stepped in front of her. “Me name’s Brodie. Look, if ye want to have a wee rest, there’s a spare room at the top of the stairs. If ye like, ye can stay here until the sale of the cottage is through and ye go back to Canada.”

She was sure her face was as red as his now. She glared up at him with eyes the same ice blue as his. “It’s. Not. For. Sale.” Damn him. Her eyes burned and she forced back hot tears. She didn’t come all this way to be bullied into selling the cottage.

Brodie grinned down at her. “Oh, aye, yer a feisty wee lass, aren’t ye?”

Feisty wee lass? She was five foot nine, albeit a little on the lean side, but that was beyond her control at the moment. No one had ever called her wee. Feisty maybe, but not wee. “Ugh!” she growled then stomped back outside, dragged her suitcases in, and slammed the door closed, cringing when she realized she could have broken the beautiful stained glass insert. When Brodie reached for one of her suitcases, she ordered him not to touch them and heaved them both up the narrow staircase herself and into the tiny room at the top of the stairs. How was she supposed to sleep now that he’d riled her up? God, she could use a drink!

Aileen tossed and turned on the lumpy mattress. Who the heck moved into a house before they bought it? How dare he? She punched the pillow a couple of times, but it didn’t help. The hot tears that threatened earlier flooded back. How was she supposed to deal with this all alone in a strange country and stay sober? She swiped the tears away and started doing the deep breathing exercises they taught her in rehab. By the fifth breath she was starting to feel a little calmer, but she still wanted a drink. She wondered if they had AA meetings on the Isle of Skye. She should probably check that out. Right after she went to see the solicitor that had contacted her about inheriting her grandmother’s cottage and a half decent chunk of change along with it. She needed to find out who Brodie was and why he thought he had a claim to her grandmother’s place. She couldn’t have been his blood grandmother because her father had told her they were the only family she had left. She’d asked her dad why they never visited her, but he always waved her off. It was nearly ten years ago that her dad died and left her with a bitch of a step-mother to deal with. She still hadn’t forgiven him, but she was working on it – part of the whole twelve step thing. She hoped she didn’t have to forgive Brodie. The bastard!

Okay, so first thing in the morning, she’d visit the solicitor and find out what she had to do to get him out of her cottage. She could do this. By this time tomorrow she would be snuggled up in the big comfy bed she’d seen in the master bedroom and Brodie would be sleeping on a park bench for all she cared.

Aileen was so grateful that Brodie wasn’t around when she woke up in the morning. She was able to shower and get dressed at her leisure. The only complaint she’d had was that there was no coffee in the kitchen that she could find. At least she’d found a little café on her way to the solicitor’s office, which was in a stone building that looked like it had been around for hundreds of years. Probably had, Aileen thought. A young woman with a mass of red hair sat at an antique desk in the reception area. The floors were old plank floorboards that had been buffed and polished to a high shine. Aileen gathered her long dark hair and pulled it over her shoulder. “Hello,” she said. The young woman looked up and smiled. She had bright green eyes, a sprinkling of freckles across her nose, and a lovely smile.

“Hello?”

“My name is Aileen MacEwan. I would like to see Mr. Browning.”

“Oh, aye. You’re from Canada. Welcome to Sconser. Did you find your way okay?”

“Yes, thank you, but there was someone living in the cottage when I arrived. I need to speak to Mr. Browning about having him removed.”

The smile dropped from her face. “Oh, de ye mean Brodie?”

“Yes, Brodie.”

The woman picked up her phone, dialed a number and turned around, giving Aileen her back. She whispered into the phone then turned around again, smile back in place, and hung up the phone. “Mr. Browning will be right oot. Can I get ye a cup of tea?”

She would have preferred another coffee, but she was in Scotland after all. “Sure, why not?”

She never got the cup of tea because Mr. Browning came out of his office with Brodie on his heels. “Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said. “Why don’t you come in and we’ll see if we can work this matter out?” He waved his hand towards the door he’d just come out of.

“What’s he doing here?” Aileen asked, her fury from the night before surfacing again.

“Please, come inside. Let me explain.” He had a bit of a Scottish accent, but it was faint.

Was the solicitor in on this, too? Were they trying to rip her off? Oust her from her own damn cottage? “I’d like you to explain to Brodie that he has to move out of my cottage.”

Browning winced. “Are you not planning on selling it then?”

“No, I’m not.” She hadn’t decided yet, but she damn well wouldn’t tell them that. “I’m moving into it myself and I want him out.” She stabbed her finger in Brodie’s direction.

Browning and Brodie’s eyes met and Browning said, “Well, we do have a problem then, don’t we?”

“There’s no problem,” Aileen huffed. “The cottage belongs to me. Brodie will just have to find somewhere else to live.”

Brodie rolled his eyes and spoke to Mr. Browning. “Ye see. She’s no being vera nice aboot it.”

“Come in to the office, please. The two of you,” Browning said with an exasperated sigh and walked back to his office.

Aileen glared at Brodie and followed Browning. His office boasted the same high-sheened floors as the reception area. He lowered himself into his leather chair behind a monstrous antique desk with flamboyant flourishes while Aileen perched on the edge of one of the chairs facing him. “This is ridiculous, Mr. Browning. You sent me all of the paperwork. I own the cottage. Brodie has no right to it.”

“Aye, Ms. MacEwan, but he is your brother and throwing him out on the street isn’t the best solution.”

Aileen coughed, choked. Her hands went to her throat. “Brother?” Jesus! Was that really her voice? It sounded far too high. She turned around when she heard a laugh and stared at Brodie, leaning against the doorjamb. God, now that she looked at him, he did resemble her father. In fact, he was the spit of him. Is this why Dad had left Skye? Had he knocked Brodie’s mother up and taken off?

“Did he no tell ye aboot us then?” Brodie asked. “No, I dinna think he did, aye? He couldna risk it.”

“Us?” Aileen squeaked. Were there more kids that he left behind?

Brodie took a step into the office. “Aye, ma and I. He stole ye away from yer own mother.”

Aileen rubbed her temples, a sudden headache pounding there. “No, that can’t be. My mother died when I was very young.” This was getting overwhelming. She really needed a drink, even knowing she only wanted it to drown the pain and it would just make things worse. It always did. Why would her father steal her away from her mother and lie to her about it? It didn’t make any sense. She looked up at Brodie. How did it make him feel when his father took off with her and left him behind? Was he left with an abusive bitch like her step-mother? “I don’t understand.”

“Yer da was aboot to go to gael for a vera long time. He ran, with you, instead of doing his duty.” Brodie shrugged. “A coward was our da. He may have taken me as well, but I was at school and he dinna have time te wait. Ye were on a plane and away before the coppers knew he was gone. Poor Mr. Browning here spent a fortune on a private investigator to track ye doon. It took months and we were all vera surprised he dinna change yer name.”

“Wh-what was he going to jail for?” Aileen wasn’t sure she wanted the answer.

Brodie’s eyes were cold and hard. “Murder.”

Oh, God! “Who d-did he kill?” No wonder he wouldn’t come back to visit his mother. Aileen wrapped her arms around herself. She felt like she was sitting in a bucket of ice. She was shivering and couldn’t stop.

“That’s enough, for now,” Browning said. “I think Ms. MacEwan needs to go home and rest, Brodie. This is a lot to take in.”

“Ye willna kick me oot the cottage, will ye then, Ailey?”

Ailey. That was what her father called her. She looked up at Brodie again. Why had their grandmother left the cottage to her instead of Brodie anyway? Now she felt horrible about the whole thing. “No, I won’t kick you out. In fact, I’ll get my things and move to a hotel until I can get a flight back home.” She started to get to her feet and was hit with a dizzy spell. She fell back into the chair, grasping her spinning head. When had she eaten last? She couldn’t remember. She’d picked at the meals they’d served on the plane, but that was the day before yesterday.

“Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said from directly in front of her and she realized he was crouched down at her knees. “Are you okay? Do you need a doctor?”

“No, no, I’ll be fine in a minute.” Add embarrassment to her growing list of emotions. Her face probably looked like a beetroot. She took a few deep breaths then slowly got to her feet. “You’re right, of course. I need to rest. It’s been a long few days.” So much for taking a month to explore Skye and decide what to do with the cottage. She’d come back to see Mr. Browning tomorrow and sign it over to Brodie.


Good one, aye? Definitely another novel in the making.

Wendy-signature

Aug 282016
 

Here’s a short story that was another one of my writing assignments. I was a bit worried about this one; not too confident in it. But, the instructor seemed to love it. So, here it is …

 

PolarBearDipKarina stared down at her local paper, acknowledging that the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival’s Polar Bear Dip would count as facing her fear of being trapped under the ice, unable to break through. Selena’s words echoed through her head – the only way to overcome your fears is to face them. Then the psychotherapist assigned Karina the homework of doing just that – picking one of her fears and facing it.

Karina folded the paper and shoved it across her breakfast table. It was crazy to even contemplate it. Who in their right mind would jump into freezing cold water on purpose? She had a long list of fears she could choose from. She didn’t need to start with one that had been a recurring nightmare for years despite the fact that she didn’t have a rational reason for that particular fear.

No matter how many times she tried to convince herself it was stupid, she couldn’t help thinking about the damn Polar Bear Dip. She logged onto the Winter Carnival’s website and investigated the event further. There was a consent form that had to be signed stating that you wouldn’t hold the town of Gravenhurst responsible if you were hurt or died. Yeah, totally crazy idea. Although, they had a scuba diver in the water and a medical team on standby. If her heart stopped from the shock of the water temperature, they could get it going again, couldn’t they?

***

            On Saturday afternoon, Karina found herself on the chilly shore of Gull Lake with her consent form in hand. Her trembling breaths turned to mist as soon as they hit the frigid air. She couldn’t believe how many idiots were lining up to register for the dip. She should have brought a stack of Selena’s business cards to hand out because all of these people, herself included, had to be certifiable.

Once registered, Karina went to the changing area and stripped down to her long underwear, a long sleeved t-shirt, and water shoes. Then she walked out to where a large crowd was gathering around a six foot by ten foot rectangle cut out of the ice. The water was as black as oil and the ice at its edges was so thick she couldn’t see its depth as it disappeared into the inky pool. If she somehow ended up under that ice, she’d never be able to break through it.

It was as if she drifted into her recurring nightmare, her lungs burning for air as she pounded her fists against the ice above her, scratching at it until her nails ripped off. Her energy sapped with each passing second.

“Miss?” The sound of a pleasant female voice and the pressure of a cold hand on her forearm eased Karina back to the present. “Are you okay, love?” A stocky, grey haired woman with kind blue eyes edged in wrinkles stared into Karina’s eyes. How long had she been stuck in that dream?

“Yes, fine.” How was she supposed to answer that question? She wasn’t fine. She was about to do the craziest thing she’d ever done despite the fact that it could kill her.

Movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention and she watched a man wearing black swimming trunks leap off the edge of the ice, shouting out what sounded like a war cry. He hit the water with a kerplunk and disappeared under the dark ripples. Milliseconds passed before he rose up with another war cry, water splashing up around him as he dove for the ladder. He was swearing as he climbed out then dashed towards the warming tent, muttering expletives as he went.

Karina made her way to the edge, her entire body shaking, but she didn’t know if it was from the cold or from her fear. From this angle, the ice looked far too close. One wrong move and she could be under it. She began to slip back into the dream, picturing herself trapped with her lungs screaming for air. The sound of the crowd behind her, cheering her on, jarred her back. They began to chant, “Jump, jump, jump.”

Their words filled her until she was chanting along with them. Sabrina’s words echoed through the chant – to overcome your fears, you must face them. God, she didn’t want to live in fear anymore. This first step, this freezing cold step, was the first step in getting to a point in her life where she wasn’t paralyzed by fear. She could do this. “Jump, jump, jump,” she whispered and, blocking everything else out, she leapt into the air.

Hitting the water was like being hit by a Mack truck. Every cell in her body screamed in protest. Her body numbed except for the ice cream headache piercing her skull. She wasn’t sure she could move her arms and legs to get her back to the surface.

It was at that moment a memory flooded her mind. Her ex-husband had come home late and the dinner that she’d carefully prepared for him had gone cold. To teach her a lesson, he filled the bath tub with ice water and forced her into it, holding her under until her lungs were on fire. He let her up and she got in half a breath before he pushed her back under and she inhaled icy water into her lungs. Oh, God. This was it. He was going to kill her this time.

Karina fought against the arm that encircled her waist. The next thing she knew, she was breaking the surface of the water and gasping for air. She tried to fight the man holding her, waiting for him to shove her under again. But he led her to the ladder instead and helped her out. Coming out of the water into the wind was almost worse than hitting the water. She sobbed as two people surrounded her and led her into the warming tent. The grey haired woman helped her strip out of her wet clothes then wrapped her in warm towels. Bones, muscles, tendons – every part of her – seized. She sat in front of a heater, shivering from head to toe, trying not to think about her ex-husband. Damn him. Then a thought entered her mind. She’d survived. That thought began to thaw her body and a warmth spread through her.

***

            Karina sat waiting for her Selena’s response after she’d told her all about the Polar Bear Dip. She knew exactly what she was going to say and she wasn’t wrong.

“How did you feel after the experience?”

Karina smiled, an expression that felt foreign to her. “I felt … triumphant. Despite everything he did to me, he didn’t kill me. I survived and no one is ever going to treat me like that again. For the first time in years, I felt empowered and proud of myself for jumping into that damn cold water.” Karina bent over, pulled a sheet of paper out of her purse and unfolded it. “I made a list of my fears and I’m going to face every one of them. I already have four checked off the list.” Karina’s face lit up as she handed the list to Selena. “I feel free.” And she did. Free of his control, of his judgement, of his abuse. She felt free to live her life without the constant fears that had plagued her for so long.

 

Hope you enjoyed it! Feel free to leave a comment below. 😉

Thanks for reading!

Wendy-signature

Dec 022015
 

Here’s another writing assignment that I wanted to share with you. It could be the beginnings of a new novel or even a new series. Enjoy.

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imageThe CN Tower stood tall and proud, a sentry watching over the city, its spire lost in the grip of dark, ominous clouds. The alternating colours of its decorative lights reflected off clouds, sleek skyscrapers, and the dome of the Rogers Centre at its base. Far below the Tower’s Observation Deck, traffic whizzed over wet roads as an ear-piercing siren echoed off buildings like the metal ball in a pinball machine.

No matter how majestic, the Tower didn’t protect against the evil lurking in its midst. That was a fact that Detective Frankie Gallagher knew all too well as she crouched in the dim side street, red and blue squad car lights dousing the white tarp covering the victim’s abused body. Rain pitter pattered on the protective tent above Frankie which did little to keep out the cold.

With gloved hands, Frankie peeled back the white tarp and shuddered as the scent of death merged with the damp air. She recognized the work – the young, innocent face with its eyes sewn shut, the road rash from being dumped here out of a moving vehicle, long blonde hair that was now wet and matted. This young woman made victim number three in a matter of weeks.

Frankie replaced the tarp, flicked her long chestnut ponytail over her shoulder and closed her eyes for a moment. Just a moment, to tamp down the woman and bring back the cynical, dark eyes of the cop. She released the former on a long, slow breath that turned to steam the moment it met the cold night air. Wet leather and spice drifted over death’s fetor and Frankie opened her eyes to find Jaysen Bennett – all biker bad boy with his five o’clock shadow, faded blue jeans and beaten up leather jacket – staring at her over the body. She hadn’t seen those deep blue eyes, that silky black hair, that sculpted face, hadn’t felt the rasp of that shadow against her skin for five long years. She’d thought he was about to propose as he took her hand over a candle-lit table. Instead he’d explained that he was too young for a committed relationship. He wanted to travel, experience life. And then he’d literally disappeared from her life.

“Sixteen year old Kaylee Dunn,” he said. “Parents reported her missing three days ago.”

Frankie gave him a scowl in greeting. No hello, no how are you? No apology for mashing her heart into a pulp? If he hadn’t left her all alone … She couldn’t let herself think about it. Not now. Not here. She swallowed the lump clawing its way up her throat. “What are you doing at my crime scene, Bennett?”

Jaysen pulled out his ID and held his badge up for her to examine. “Detective Bennett. It’s my crime scene, too.”

She pushed to her feet, turned and walked away, approaching the closest uniform. “Who was first on scene?”

Jaysen inserted himself between Frankie and the constable, flipping through his notebook. He wasn’t afraid of her, despite being warned of her reputation as the department’s fire-breathing dragon. He knew Frankie Gallagher too well. She was no dragon. “Already talked to her. Witnesses report –” He stopped talking when Frankie stomped off again. His jaw dropped open. “Hey,” he yelled and stormed after her. He stepped in front of her so that if she took another step she’d end up in his arms. She stopped abruptly.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” He watched her eyebrows rise, her eyes widen and damn if that didn’t draw him into those deep brown eyes. He was’t sure if she’d grown even more beautiful than the last time he’d seen her or if he’d just forgotten how beautiful she was. That had him wondering if her long, lean body and ample bosom were as he remembered. Powerless to stop himself, his eyes travelled down the long length of her and then slithered back up to linger at her chest. The loud smack and burning sting on his left cheek caught him off guard. It was then, with the street light shining down on her at just the right angle, that he noticed the faint white scar slashing through her brow, over her eye, right down to her sharp cheek bone.

“If you want to talk to me, you can damn well look me in the eye.” She darted around him, searching for a familiar face. She made it about two steps before he gripped her arm and flung her around.

“You need to get over your issues with me so we can get on with doing the job.”

Frankie’s nostrils flared, her chest tightened around her pounding heart. She yanked her arm out of his grasp, freeing herself, and pushed her face up to his. “Have you even worked a homicide before?” Her fists clenched tightly at her sides, every muscle in her body taut.

“I know what I’m doing, Detective.”

“Do you have a problem answering questions, Detective?”

“Yes, I’ve worked homicides. I didn’t realize I needed your approval before working a case.”

Pointing back to the road, she growled, “Do you see the body of that poor girl lying in the street? That’s on me. Because the last time this bastard dumped a body, I didn’t find him. So back the hell off and let me do my job without having to babysit.”

Jaysen let her go. This wasn’t the same Frankie that he remembered. She used to be such a bright, shining presence. Her smile could light up the entire city. Her laugh, deep and throaty, surrounded you like a blanket, like a warm hug. What had happened to Frankie that had snuffed out her light?

Frankie approached a uniformed officer with sandy blonde hair tucked up under her cap, its mirrored patten leather bill decorated with dewey drops. “You were first on scene, Constable Sloan?”

“Detective Gallagher.” Sloan rolled her eyes with an exaggerated sigh.

“Give me your report, Constable.”

“I just gave it to your partner over there.” Sloan nodded her head behind Frankie. “Detective Hottie over there. Don’t you guys communicate?”

Frankie glanced over her shoulder to see Jaysen standing where she’d left him with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at her. She frowned and turned her attention back to Sloan. “No. Your report?”
Sloane huffed and pulled her notebook out of a pocket in her vest, but she didn’t open it. “911 call came in at twenty-three eleven. We were on scene at twenty-three thirteen. My partner and I secured the scene and then located two witnesses. We separated the witnesses. The first, Sheila O’Hare, was the 911 caller. All she saw was the body lying in the street.

“Second witness is your golden boy. Eli Kramer was walking his dog just after twenty-three hundred. He stated he noticed the car because the door opened and the car didn’t even attempt to slow down. Kramer was on the opposite side of the car, so he didn’t see the body right away. He described the vehicle as a high end black sedan with dark tinted windows. A Mercedes or BMW perhaps. Just as the body came into view, the sedan sped off.”

“Why is he my golden boy?”

Sloane grinned. “He memorized the license plate number.”

Frankie couldn’t stop the edge of her mouth from curling up. “Where’s Eli? I’d like to speak with him.”

“Yeah, thought you might.”

Sloane released Eli Kramer and his fluffy little white dog from the back of her squad car. Kramer straightened and gently placed the dog at his feet. Frankie would run Eli Kramer through the system, but he looked like a reliable sort. Short white hair peaked out from under a black knit toque that looked like his wife had made it for him. The deep lines mapping his face gave him character, as did the rubber slip ons that covered his black dress shoes to make them waterproof. “Mr. Kramer, I’m Detective Gallagher.”

“When can I go home? Am I being detained for some reason?” Frankie had to bend in closer to Kramer to hear him over the traffic on the cross street cutting through wet pavement.

“No sir, you can leave in a few minutes. I would appreciate it if you could give me your story again.”

Kramer was flamboyant in the manner he used his hands when he spoke, but he looked Frankie in the eye and spoke confidently in a nasal tone. He was so specific with the details that Frankie could only think of a couple of questions to ask him.

“Which door opened, Mr. Kramer?”

“Oh, it was the driver’s door.”

“The front driver’s door?”

“Yes.”

Frankie tried to play it out in her mind. The best she could come up with was driving with the vic bent over in his lap, her butt to the door. Open the door and the weight distribution of her body might have her sliding out on her own.

“Did you get a look at the driver?”

“No, I’m sorry. The windows were tinted black and it was dark.”

Frankie gave Kramer her card. The back of her neck prickled with heat, goosebumps trailed down her back. Getting the licence plate number could be the break Frankie had been searching for. The car or the plates could be stolen, but Frankie didn’t think so. Not with the buzz she was getting.

______

What do you think? Is this the beginning of a new novel or series? Do you want to read the rest of Frankie and Jaysen’s story? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Wendy-signature

 

 

Copyright © Wendy Hewlett – December 2015

Sep 012015
 

Here’s a short, short story that I wrote for my creative writing course. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Wendy-signature

 

1798200166_a4f70df418_oShe loved her job, but getting called when you were so nicely cocooned in a warm, comfy duvet really sucked. She dressed quickly, pulling on as many layers as she could without losing mobility. On the way out the door she double checked her equipment – weapons, cuffs, flashlight, notebook, and a pencil because pens were useless in subzero temps.

The drive to the crime scene only took fifteen minutes and five of those were spent going through the Timmies drive thru. Still, the scene was in the middle of nowhere – a little-used dirt road surrounded by farmer’s fields.

Raven parked on the shoulder behind two OPP squad cars with their lights flashing, like anyone was going to see them out here. With her coffee in hand, she bravely exited her vehicle. The wind sliced in from the north, cutting deep into every inch of exposed skin. Ducking her head against it, Raven made her way to the closest squad. Bastard! He rolled down the window instead of getting out to speak with her.

“Evening, Detective Bowen,” he said. “Nice bed head.”

“Closer to morning,Tate” she growled back, absently running a hand through her short black hair. Probably should have looked in the mirror before running out the door. “Want to show me where the body is?”

He pointed toward the ditch on the other side of the road. “Snowmobilers found her. Guy stopped to take a piss and nearly shit his pants instead.” Constable Tate’s head rolled back with laughter.

Constable Warren, who sat in the passenger seat, no doubt enjoying the heat blasting out of the vents, leaned over Tate. “Sorry to hear about your mom, Detective Bowen.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Raven didn’t know how to respond to that. She wasn’t close to her mom. Losing her, making the funeral arrangements, and surviving the horrid day of the funeral hadn’t bothered her nearly as much as what her mother had said to her from her death bed. And how she said it because Raven hadn’t been anywhere near her death bed.

Raven’s mom was Wiccan, which is how Raven ended up with the embarrassing name Raven Sage Bowen. She was also psychic. A psychic Wiccan. It was bad enough having to live her life as Raven Sage never mind the whole town knowing what her mother claimed to be. Raven had been rebelling against all of that hokey crap since she was in her early teens. And now she couldn’t get her mother’s last words to her out of her head. You have the gift, Rave. You’ve only to open yourself to it.

“Yeah, right,” she said to herself as she crouched down at the edge of the ditch, her flashlight pointed at the form below. No footprints around or near the body, which was half buried in snow. This girl had been here for some time, preserved by the icy temperatures. She was face down, left arm extended up over her head. Long, red hair fanned out around her, tangled and knotted.

At the sound of crunching snow behind her, Raven glanced over her shoulder, surprised to see Warren approaching. She was relatively new with less than a year on the force. Probably her first murder scene. She crouched next to Raven.

“No outstanding missing persons reported in Huntsville or the surrounding area in the past six months.”

Raven smiled ever so slightly then sipped her coffee. It was the first thing she would have checked. “Tell me what you see here,” she asked, intrigued by the rookie now.

“Appears to be naked and frozen solid.”

A low rumble of laughter quickly blew away in the arctic wind. “That’s it?”

“Ligature marks on the left wrist.”

“You’re only telling me what you see with your eyes.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Raven thought again of her mother’s words. Was the old bitch right? Had she been using her gift all along?

“She’s been there for a long time. Is that what you mean?” Constable Warren looked to Raven for confirmation and then continued. “This was just the dump site. She wasn’t murdered here. But, we need to see what’s beneath her, what’s buried in the snow.”

Raven looked over her shoulder again as a set of headlights approached. Here came their forensic unit which consisted solely of Constable Mark Mainguy. “It’s time to find out just what is under there,” she said as she rose to her full height. “Are you up for some digging or are you going to keep your ass warm in your squad like Tate over there?”

Warren was grinning from ear to ear as she stood. Raven wondered how she wasn’t giving herself one of those ice cream headaches. “I’m up for it, Detective. I’m no pussy, like Tate over there.”

For the second time in the span of a few minutes, Raven laughed a deep, throaty laugh. Damn, she kind of liked this kid.

* * *

After hours spent under a makeshift tent, delicately extricating the body of the young woman from her frozen grave and collecting what little evidence had been secured under the snow and the body, Raven had felt an unexplainable need to go to her mom’s house. She hadn’t been inside the house for years, yet it was just like it had been the last time she’d been there. Dried flowers, plants, and herbs hung above windows and down from the ceiling all over the kitchen giving it a spicy aroma. The way the morning light speared into the room brought back a flood of before school memories. Breakfasts gobbled down at the huge kitchen island that was now covered in books, pestles, bottles, and pots as if her mom was in the middle of cooking a meal. Except it wasn’t meals her mom cooked here. It was spells and potions and God knew what.

What was she going to do with this place? To get it ready to put up for sale was going to take a lot of work. And time, which she didn’t have a lot of.

It’s yours now, Rave. Please, don’t sell it.

Raven looked around the room, expecting to see her mother. Was her mother talking to her from beyond the grave now? That was just too creepy. She turned towards the door, fully intending to leave, but her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to find out what her mother had done with her room. She headed up the creaking wooden steps that had made it impossible for her to sneak in late back in the day.

The door was open when she thought her mother would have at least closed it off, sealing the bad memories away. She got a shock when she peeked around the door jamb and found her room exactly as she’d left it some twelve years ago.

Oh, sweet babe! I’ve always loved you.

“Will you stop doing that?” Raven yelled, spinning around, looking up, down. She waited in the hall for a few minutes and when she didn’t hear any more, she convinced herself she’d imagined it. People didn’t talk to you after they died. She stepped into her childhood room with its pink walls and white canopy bed. It was like walking into a fairy tale. Raven had hated it. She wasn’t the pink, princess type. Sports were her thing back then, not tea parties and pretty dresses. She still hated dresses.

Dragging a finger across her dresser, she was surprised to find there wasn’t a speck of dust on it. Why would her mother still be cleaning this room?

Because I always hoped you’d come back.

“Stop that!” Raven covered her ears like a spoiled brat.

You asked.

“I also asked you to stop that!” She’d gone stark raving mad. She was talking to a ghost! She quick stepped to the stairs and fled down them. Before she could get out the door, she heard her mother’s voice one more time.

Check Orillia for missing persons. That’s where you’ll find your frozen girl.

* * *

Raven sat down at her desk to wait for her computer to boot up. Sleep. That was the problem. She’d put a few hours in at the office and then try to get a couple of hours of shut eye. She was just about to lean back in her chair and pop her boots up on her desk when Constable Warren’s head appeared in the doorway. “Got a minute?”

“Didn’t your shift end hours ago?”

“I wouldn’t have been able to sleep, so I figured I’d just keep checking missing persons.” She held up a file folder. “Seventeen year old Emily Kathryn McMurtrie. Reported missing last November. Out of Orillia.”

Told ya!

Oh, sweet Jesus! Her mother wasn’t going to wait for her to open herself to the gift.

 

Copyright © Wendy Hewlett – September 2015

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