Flash: Pairs

Image courtesy of vvadyab at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Hey, the girls are back,” yelled my jackass boyfriend over the noise at the club to his equally ignorant wingman. Mateo and Eric were hitting on some clubsluts at another table, just to dance since they shared Cynthia. Our introverted housemate opted out of the clubhopping night, instead taking advantage of the quiet back home for her idea of a perfect Friday, curled up in a bunch of pillows reading.

I guess wingman isn’t the correct term for Swami anymore since Viola walked up to him at a convention last week and claimed him. Now that was a scene. Swami looking slightly out of place as always in the predominately white sci-fi gathering and up comes this Hispanic-African American woman dressed as Storm, pulling it off way better than Hallie Berry. People turned to stare at her as she passed, her sheer presence godlike. She grabbed Swami by his pointed Tuvok ears, growled “Mine”, lifted him on his tip-toes, and kissed him until his eyes crossed.

Honestly, the woman should not be left alone. Very, very direct – six foot three, not counting the leather boots she had been wearing, and intimidating as hell. The rest of the pack closed rank and pulled over to the side of the hall – my boyfriend, Ethan, scanned the crowd for her crew. No one followed.

Viola was a lone wolf. She still hasn’t told us her story, but unless Swami is holding her, the crazy gleam lives in her ice-blue eyes.

I slapped Ethan on the bicep while Viola circled the table to lean into Swami’s back, her head, thanks to the six-inch spikes, resting on top of his. “Not a girl,” I snarled.

“Okay,” he laughed, raising his hands then nodding at the table. “Got you a drink, not-a-girl.”

Honestly if Ethan wasn’t so damn cute I would dump him.

That and he knows my drink preferences. A pink hurricane sat on the sticky surface. I nicked it and took a long sip out of the straw. Shifting my shoulders, I prepared to forgive him when he opened up his mouth again.

“You and Viola have a good time?” He yelled. “Really, why do you girls need to go in pairs anyway?”

I shouldn’t. Pack leader, alpha male. Nope. Just nope. Annnnd lost the argument with myself.

I returned the glass to the table, tilted my head so my black hair slid like a waterfall over my shoulder, put out my left hand, and crocked a finger on my right hand to invite him to come with me. My flirty smile sealed the deal. The club being too crowded for him to smell me.

The idiot put his hand in mind. I dragged him through the crowd to a side door opening onto a much less noisy balcony. Dragged being a relative term – he and Viola shared a height class and he had about half again on her for muscle mass. I have my mom’s slight Asian build with just enough height from my pop to reach Ethan’s shoulders if I wore spikes, which I don’t, and Ethan didn’t wear motorcycle boots, which he does.

Finding a dark corner on the balcony was easy, finding one unoccupied took a little more work. Once successful Ethan lifted me onto the wrought iron table, placed his hands either side of me and leaned in – to find my hand in the middle of his chest pushing back. “I thought you wanted to know why ‘girls’ go to the bathroom in pairs.” My tone chilled the area enough to frost his beer goggles.

“Um, yeah, I guess.” He stood up and scratched the back of his head.

“So we don’t get assaulted.”

His cocky perpetual half-smile shifting into a frown. “What?”

I stared at him hard. My black eyes unblinking. And waited for the brain to override his party hormones. Eventually, his blond eyebrows drew together until a little crinkle indicating he was actually thinking appeared between them. His stern thinking expression made my heart skip and my lips plump out until I bit them.

His eyes dropped to my lips. We have the damnest time completing arguments because him thinking turns me on, and unlike most werewolves, let alone human males, he thinks when angry instead of blowing up. Unlike me. Now in our third year together he is able to push past it, making him that much hotter to my very screwed up emotional wiring. His nostrils flared as he smelled me getting wet.

“Assaulted?”

I nodded, trying to renew my anger from the club. I am not a girl. I am twenty-two. I am not a girl. “Yes, assaulted.”

His half-smile made a weak return. “Not so you can have a conversation while standing in line?”

“No, you mutt.” I jammed a finger into his chest.

His face twitched, falling into his thinking expression. “You always said that.”

“Yeah. That is one of the lines we women have agreed to tell men about the bathroom thing.”

“Ah, so you are breaking the woman secrecy barrier.” He raised his eyebrows.

“I thought it was time.” Part of me wanted to laugh, but the rest of me realized the conversation was one of the most serious we ever had. Because I really was breaking secret barriers. Women just don’t talk about this stuff. We say we go in pairs because of the long lines. And the long lines are because it takes longer to move all the stuff around – pantyhose takes ten times longer to get back into place than whipping it out and stuffing it back in after shaking. So we are telling the truth, but not the real truth. Not the truth we avoid telling ourselves most days. “I am walking through a club with a bunch of slightly drunk males and going to go down a darkened hallway. I am not stupid enough to do that alone.”

Ethan shuddered a moment. His eyes flashed left to right as he processed the danger. The innate danger every woman faces in a simple trip to a public bathroom. Pulling me forward on the table he kissed the top of my head and rested his forehead on mine. “Thank you.”

I snuggled into him. I guess I will keep the jackass a little longer.

*****

We fell into bed that night exhausted, Mateo finally pulling us away from the noise, scents, and dancing to get home to his woman. Alcoholism runs on the American Indian side of his family, so he never drinks and is our designated driver making clubbing only somewhat fun for him. Being the babysitter for a werewolf pack out for a good time during new moon week has severe downsides. Better than the weeks closer to full moon; at least the boys didn’t punch anyone this time.

Viola hasn’t been around long enough, but I bet she is a puncher too.

Cynthia, Mateo, and Eric woke us around dawn. We really need to soundproof their room. A thump shook some dust off the ceiling.

And pad it. Their room needed padding.

Ethan and I were wrapped around each other, and he petted my back and waist-length hair while we tried to ignore our exuberant packmates.

“I was wondering.” His bass voice rumbled through his deep chest tickling my ear.

“ummm” I responded, debating whether to move and start petting him back, a bit lower than acceptable in polite company. The moving was the biggest impediment, though Mr. Happy was working on becoming bigger.

“Why would you fear being assaulted?” Ethan kissed the top of my head.

I rolled to the side a little to rest mostly on the bed so I could look him in the eye, leg drawing across a very happy Mr. Happy. Well, good morning to you too. My leg and womanly bits decided not to join the rest of me on the bed.

Sorry, woman bits, serious conversation first. Annnd, woman bits get even more moist as my eyes focus on his stern thinking expression.

I bite my lip, swallow, and then force words out before morning sex or coffee. “Habit, I guess.”

I then shook my head, thinking harder. Yes it hurts without my caffeine fix. Let this be a lesson to women everywhere, do not hook up with guys who do not need caffeine. Morning people and night people do not mix. Or all day people. Ethan never turns off. Part of why he is the alpha of our group. He was alpha even before the attack.

I reminded myself not to lie to him or to me and started again. “And reality as well.”

“What? You are a werewolf for crying out loud!” The whisper shout could have been heard by werewolf ears outside the house, but not by anyone else. As an extra precaution, the house we bought last year was on five acres. We are a noisy lot and neighbors did not need to know about the adjustment to our human DNA we had experienced.

“How much do you press?” I stroked my hand across his muscular chest, making Mr. Happy twitch and jump against my leg.

“Now? Oh, I guess about 600 pounds, more during a full moon.” He shrugged. “I haven’t really bothered since … well, since. I was doing about 200 in school before.”

“So three times stronger than before” I looked up into his green-gray eyes.

“About,” he agreed.

“Well, I lifted too.”

He laughed, shaking the bed. “Because the high school required it as part of gym class.”

I poked his check with a finger, and his laughter stopped instantly. Oh god, don’t look at my breasts. Don’t look.

His serious eyes dropped to where my small breasts provided just enough lift from my body to make the erect nipples really stand out. I prevented my hand from moving into a caress, reminding it and other body parts, we are still having a serious discussion here.

I inhaled deeply. “I pressed about fifty pounds. And unlike you I’ve tested it at a gym since just for giggles. Also three times stronger, one hundred fifty pounds, more than I weigh.”

“Umm, congratulations?”

“I still can’t lift you.” I pointed out. “I still can’t bench press what a healthy high school male can unless it is the full moon.”

The crinkle appeared between his eyes.

“So, yeah, a human male your size can still assault me even though I am three times stronger than he expects.”

“Damn.”

“Yeah.” My turn to shrug, and my eyes may sprung a small leak. “The Old Man said we continue to get stronger slowly, so maybe someday. But I don’t think I am ever going to stop being cautious.”

Ethan lifted a hand, his thumb caressing my cheek and lips. “Anita.” He kissed me gently.

I had dated Eric, back before, and then Mateo immediately following the attack before the first full moon and shift when the mating heat reshuffled our allegiances and linked the beta crowd as a single unit. Some days I wished Ethan and I could experience the mating heat, I’ve been thinking about it more since Swami found Viola.

On the other hand, good old-fashion love, respect, and understanding is pretty awesome too.

So is wild monkey sex. When we start padding the bedrooms, ours will need to be on the list.

(words 1,892; first published 10/29/2017)

Flash: Waves Against the Pier

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following post was written June 5, 2013.

ConCarolinas 2013 – On Sunday I attended a writer’s workshop. The panelists were:

Moderator – Joe Naff (http://www.moonwingmedia.com/) – Writes fantasy and supernatural thriller with strong female lead characters. (Eternal Forest; The Chronicles of Shyra (Series); The Gospel of the Font)

Panelist – Catherine McLean (http://www.catherineemclean.com/) – Write space opera. (Karma and Mayhem; Jewels of the Sky)

Panelist – Winfield Strock III (http://adventures-above-the-aether.blogspot.com/) – Writes steampunk. (Adventures Above the Aether, Aether Legion)

With this eclectic group of speculative fiction authors overseeing the workshop, we were instructed to write “A scene where the scene expresses the emotion of what is happening.” for fifteen minutes. Okay, I can do that. Below is what was written word for word; no time for editing.

***

Waves crashed around the pier, throwing a fog of salt water around Clyde. Angry tears trickled down his face, leaving tracks in the sea-mist sweat. Life wasn’t fair, he thought.

A scream escaped his wounded heart and was torn away by the unforgiving wind. Soon he would need to leave. The blood-red sunset promised a storm, no matter what the weatherman had said. He looked forward to spending the night in the creaky beachcomber shack he rented, fighting leaks and rattling panes.

She shouldn’t have left him. He had done everything right. From the first spell of summon to the last spell of binding, his high school sweetheart should have stayed with him until death parted them.

What had gone wrong?

An incoming wave driven by tide and storm pushed him back a step. His sopping jeans cling to his skinning legs like lichen. His bare feet slipped a bit on the slimy mold.

He couldn’t even summon her back. The last binding spell made her immune to hearing siren energy. She should have held steady.

(Words 176)

 

We did a round robin with the participants reading their pieces and giving feedback. Then we got the kicker for the second hour of the workshop. Write the same scene but with an opposite or strongly different emotion. Characters may be changed, but the location/scene needed to remain the same. Oh, boy. … I think I can do that. …. Ummm, okay …

***

Waves dashed in ahead of the storm, hurtling towards safety in the sand. Clyde remained on the mossy pier, digging his bare feet through the slimy green coating for firmer footing. He waited impatiently through the ruby sunset for full dark. The storm promised big ones to curl, dare and ride. Wind ripped at his pony-tail, lashing at his back and check.

Should he do this without backup? His partner had left him, refusing to even set foot in the rickety shack they rented each year, after they fought all the way from the city. Hell, Clyde didn’t even know how he was going to get back after the weekend. His high school buddy had left in a spray of sand and gravel.

An incoming wave rushed the aging pier, diving him back a step with its force. His wetsuit prevented him from felling the icy touch, but salt clung to his lips, wetting his appetite for adventure.

Soon, soon. The midnight ride through white crests and driving water would be his world. Centering him as nothing else did. Only in the blue, with water under and over him, when Neptune tried to bury him and he could laugh at the gods did he feel alive.

Unable to wait longer, he checked the tie on his ankle. He picked up the board and ran screaming off the end of the pier and started paddling into the failing light.

(words 238)

 

I really like the parallel I was able to pull. The screaming by the main character and the loss of a special friend. The timing of the second wave pushing him back. The mold/slime on the ancient pier and the existence of the shack to live in. The exercise was fun, and also showed I really need to work on adding more description to my writing. Flash needs most of it stripped, and my long-form writing has suffered because of my concentration on flash writing. I am really glad I attended the workshop.

(post initially published 6/5/2013; republished in new blog format on 7/2/2017)

Flash: I am Not the Crazy One

Image acquired from the Internet Hive Mind

Many people complain about morning people – us “perky” people who get up during daylight hours and function like it’s something humans have been made to do through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. Truly the weird people are the night ones.

True life story:

*ring, ring*

“hhhello?” I ask, my throat scratchy.

“Let’s go to the Beach,” the perky person on the other end states.

“Beach?” not really understanding the word. I peer at the glowing red numbers on my nightstand, squinting. “It’s 11:45 … at night.”

“Yes, we can get there in an hour. No traffic. It will be great – the boardwalk is open, lots to do.”

…. Real conversation … what I remember of it.

And I did go to the beach that night. When the dawn came in, I woke up enough to drive us home. *stupid night owl friends* – love you guys, but sometimes it is really, really hard.

(words 157, first published 6/25/2017)

Flash: Political Suicide

Corridor stock art

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The staffer ran after the Republican state senator as she approached the legislature floor still arguing his case in urgent whispered tones. “Please don’t do this ma’am, it’s political suicide.”

“Brett, shhh.” Grabbing his arm, Senator Evans stepped into one of the many side room surrounding the main floor and pulled her chief of staff after her, a man who represented her entire staff located in the capital office. She had two other loyal people operating out of her offices in the county seat and the largest city within her district.

Brett, Margaret, and Corrine had been with her since she first ran for office after her husband died. Twenty-one years later they still were with her; their careers and hers were indistinguishable. What she was about to do might mean they were all unemployed in three years. She hoped the window was enough to prove her right, but some members of the party would never forgive her for crossing the line. It was practically guaranteed someone would run against her in the primary if she did move forward with presenting the bill; just how big a someone and how much they are supported by “grass-roots” and backed by money would depend on how angry the state party was.

“We’ve been over this.” Rebecca hissed quietly adjusting her briefcase strap.

Brett raked his hand through his thinning blonde hair. “We talked about it Friday in general terms, but now you are going full steam with it.”

“I talked to a lot of people this weekend Brett, when I went home.” Rebecca gripped Brett’s shoulders. “It needs to be done.”

“Were the constituents for or against it?” Brett asked, knowing Rebecca didn’t always talk to the same people he did.

Rebecca shook her head then met his eyes. “I didn’t talk to any of the constituents, per say. I did my research. It’s what people pay their representative to do; research things they don’t have time to investigate.”

He deflated and dropped his eyes, knowing nothing would change her mind. “We need to explain to people, get the word out, before you support the bill with Senator Wilson.”

“It’s more important to stand united with the world now than to wait for the news to trickle to our people.”

“Even if it means going against the stated policy of our President?” Brett lifted his eyes a moment, bringing the Big Elephant into the room.

“Yes, yes it does,” she dropped her hands.

Brett repeated, “It’s political suicide.”

The senator gave a half-smile. “Good thing I am not a politician then.”

Brett blinked. “Ma’am, you’ve been in politics for over two decades.”

“Let me let you in on a secret, Brett.” Rebecca leaned forward for a moment. “I may be in politics, but I am not a politician.”

Brett ran his hand through his hair again. He had been an intern helping with her first campaign, just a freshman in college trying to grab some extra credit working for an old lady of twenty-five burning for justice after her husband died in combat. He had watched her raise three children alone while serving in the State Senate. He supported her, fought with her, cried with her; he knew her. He waited for the other shoe to drop.

“You see a politician worries about his job first, being elected the next time and the time after that. To me politics is only a tool.” She shrugged. “If I lose the tool, I will be disappointed, because I can do a lot with the tool but in the end what is being built with the tool is more important than the tool itself. This …” she patted her briefcase “… needs to be built.”

She continued, “What is the point of all this if I am too scared to act?”

The man nodded his capitulation. This is why he had followed her for twenty years instead of breaking off for his own political career. He watched her rush out of the room because of the delay he caused, hurrying to make the session before it started.

He followed a statesman, not a politician, and that terrified him as much as made him proud.

(words 699, first published 6/18/2017)

Blog: Made Me Look

I have several vloggers I follow on youtube – Acapella Science (the science singer), Action Movie Kid (family fun and special effects), Jill Bearup (on writing and fandom with her lovely accent), and, most recently, the Pop Culture Detective. His posting for today was especially insidious. (Fair Warning – Watching today’s episode, linked below, may wreck some of your favorite movies. It did not for me, since I had long ago realized these issues. I never saw the Bladerunner scene for anything other than what is described in the video; I saw it as an college-age female after … well, we don’t discuss such things in mixed companies, it might hurt our male friends to know. They’re fragile.)

You know, never mind. I watched Bladerunner after I had two experiences of being thrown against a wall by a male – once in college from a guy I had been friends with for over a year and once by a random guy in high school. The high school guy put his hands either side of me against the wall to hem me in and waited for a reaction. My friend, FRIEND, tried to strangle me because he was angry – I had been ragging him about school as teenagers are wont to do for a while and he exploded. Guys are stronger. The friend was actually shorter and younger than me, and I couldn’t break his grip. To this day, I still can’t have a massage on both sides of my neck at the same time. In any situation where a woman is alone with a man she is offering a trust beyond anything a person used to being in a position of strength can ever understand.

And, here is the truly crazy part, I blame myself for the friend one. I had been the one teasing him and I “should have known better”. Why?

Because our culture says it is the female’s job to avoid getting herself hurt. I won’t walk out a door unless my keys are in my hands so I can get either in the house quickly or in the car, and they, as I have been taught, double as a weapon. A piss-poor weapon because we are to throw them at the bad guy’s face, and then how are we to get away? I won’t go on about the rape culture; if you are on social media, you are aware of the issues. Thanks to social media, it’s an open secret.

Anyway, like I said, the vlog didn’t show me anything new. What it did make me do is look at my writings. I love romance and I love sci-fi. Both of these formats heavily lean on the predator-prey dynamic of the “woman doth protest too much”. Have I done this unconsciously, just like I absorbed it was me who is to blame about the friend getting angry? I had to look.

It’s so easy to fall into the classic “woman saying no but meaning yes”. I have consciously tried to avoid such scenarios. Just like avoiding my pet peeve of the couple not saying they love each other, or making assumptions without talking to each other, just so the author can keep them apart as a tension device. I endeavor to make my characters be mature adults. Even Dewayne in Honestly didn’t strike out physically, but left when asked to (and if I ever write the next story of that family unit, we will even see him mature a little, not a lot, but some). One of my readers mentioned expecting to see a physical altercation between Dewayne and Troy, and even during my initial writing I was thinking I needed to do that to prove Troy was the Alpha Male so often seen in romances. But as I wrote the story, the characters revealed themselves to be beyond the caveman-must-pound-chests … not by much admittedly with the screaming matches Kassandra and Dewayne regularly participate in, but they were real people.

So I reviewed my novella. In each scene Troy and Kassandra asked permission before closing, before touching. They respected boundaries and did nothing to weaken each other, such as playing games with the prosthesis. Each exchange was as honest and complete as they emotionally could handle at the time. (wipe sweat from brow) I had done what I had set out to do, write an erotica where both people were sexual, healthy beings.

Now the rest of my writings. Looking over the blog, the closest one is The Bleue Toscano Eggs of Power. In this one I was trying for the predator-prey vibe, since the couple about to become sexual were both super-power villains. But I also wanted it to show each was giving the other permission to move forward. They circled, touched, backed off, and bartered. Even with two forces of evil(ish), I managed to avoid coercion through mundane or magical literary devices. Meaning it can be done. American culture has it so women cannot wholeheartedly act sexually and this is unhealthy. It’s one of the reasons why I find erotica so freeing when done right.

We need to do it “right” more often, allowing the free and open “Yes” of women and men. Allowing tender touches and secret smiles, the sizzles and spanks. The only way to do that is “normalize” healthy behavior and phase out the unhealthy.

I promise to continue to write about Alpha Males who stand equal to their Alpha Females, if you promise to continue to tell me and other writers this is what you want to see.