i could tell you the wildest of tales.

 |Soundtrack |

While I drive to work, I think of ways I can lie to my daughter.

It’s hard not to look back at her in the rear view mirror in the mornings during my arduous commute, watching her eyes drift off to places I wish I could go instead of driving through barren plains and highways. When she’s awake, from the opposite side of the car, we watch the dawn together – rays permeating up from low tree tops and misty hills. The sky is half midnight, half cotton candy. A gentle wave borders the cloud bank, rippled as if stopped by glass. Lightning etches the bottoms of the nimbostratus, whispering its arrival.

“Dragons,” I whisper, practicing my answers for the inevitable questions I hope she asks in the years to come. “In lands that mirror ours but don’t quite break through, there are dragons that fly freely. They hunt, they love, they play, they fight. When two young dragons play, their fire comes out in quick, thin bursts so bright, it lights up the sky in our world. When you hear loud thunder, the playing has turned sour.”

She stirs in the back, eyes dozing, her lips puckering as if to make the words she has yet to learn. She is beginning to slip into dreams.

“They come out for battles in the summer, flapping their giant wings and creating gusts so large they topple trees. They play and fight so much, there is not much life left. And when they leave, they take the warmth of the summer with them.”

At this point, I’m feeding my own ideas and talking to the air conditioning and squeaky brake pads. She’s asleep now, another 45 minutes still ahead on the drive. The best ideas come when my hands are holding steering wheels or baby appendages, never when I have a pen in hand. I make a mental note but will often forget – a hint, perhaps, that some of these stories are reserved for just us and the road and the sunrise. I continue to talk about the lesser known winter dragons, mermaids in pink lagoons, the fairy dust of stars and where the fairies go on cloudy nights (pester the dragons while they are trying to sleep, of course).

She’ll eventually know the right answers. When she is able to sit and speak on her own, speak to her friends more than her mother, speak with a voice I’ve heard echo in the back of my own mind, I hope she still remembers the summer dragons and their lightning storms. I hope she carries a bit of magic behind her eyes. Selfishly, I hope she becomes a liar of her own – a creator of worlds and fictions that would rival the greats.

I continue to drive. The cloud cover has passed now, sprinkles drying up on my windshield as the sun meets the periwinkle of the sky. I drop her off and think of a story for the afternoon. On the road, there is no word count to be met, no reviews, no red marks on paper. There is just asphalt and dreams and lightning in the distance.

 

 

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one foot in front of the other – news on the publishing front

Like everything else, this post – as rambling as this one is – has its own soundtrack. 

“We’ll have the days we break,
And we’ll have the scars to prove it,
We’ll have the bonds that we save,
But we’ll have the heart not to lose it.”

-/-

I’ve been twiddling my fingers for weeks now, trying to come to terms with all that has happened, to tell you all without shame or embarrassment, bracing myself for the judgments and silent “I told you so’s.” A large part of me knows I will never get to that point, not until I have closure which may or may not come. I have been going back and forth about how to approach this and move on but if I don’t do it now, I don’t think I ever will.

Long story short: The publishing company that I had signed with is no more. Due to creative differences, the owner decided to dissolve the entire company, leaving myself and many other talented writers in the lurch. A Deathly Compromise is now, once again, without a home.

I’m profoundly heartbroken about this. It’s been ages since I’ve written anything. I go through cycles of depression, anticipation, hopelessness, confidence in the future, hiding under a blanket. Rinse and repeat. So what needs to happen when you’re stuck in a loop? You need a direction to get out. I haven’t quite found my path yet but these are the answers I do have.

Will the current edition of ADC still be available to purchase?
-Yes. It is still available via E-book and I’m working out a solution to still have hard copies.

Will ADC be re-released if/when it finds a new home?
-Hopefully, yes. At this moment in time, it’s hard for me to stomach a third release of the same book. I don’t want to come across as a one-trick pony. I have a lot of ideas in the works that I want to put out in the world but at the same time, I believe that ADC should get the release and attention it rightfully deserves.

Is this the end of ADC forever? Don’t leave us hanging, you jerk.
-No way. Dee (and ADC) is as much a part of me as my heart or lungs. It’s my first baby and one that I never intend on giving up. I’m slowly, but surely, working on the sequel and hope to have it out in the near future. I’ve already started the playlist and once that happens, there’s no stopping it. 🙂

What’s next?
-Well, I’m taking a break to gather my wits and figure out how to move forward. I’m working on a collab project with a bomb ass talented friend of mine and I have an idea or two that I’m fleshing out for a next book, as well as ADC2. For right now, I’m just getting organized and enjoying time with my newborn daughter while trying not to drown in spit up.

What can I do to help?
– Spread the word! Get people to buy ADC – lend it out, listen to the soundtrack, make fanart, share my other stories/writings, help me schmooze agents and publishing houses, buy me a pizza, give or send a hug, take me to Europe! Well, maybe not the last one but you get it. Every little bit helps and is so incredibly appreciated.

Some people to thank that have helped make the last few weeks bearable:

Jaime Lynn Dill – you are a BEAST, truly one of the most hardworking women I know and have done so much to not only help me become a better author, but a better friend.

The Resistance – you know who you are. I love every single one of you. While we’re scattered about every which way, we have managed to find a little corner of the web and have made it a home, a family, a place where we are all safe and appreciated. [insert appropriate gif here]

The Spoobie Squad – Your endless confidence in me makes me cry. I love you three so much it hurts. Come April, *Liam Neeson voice* I will find you and I will hug you.

Lately, I have questioned my decisions and my talent as a writer. I have contemplated quitting a thousand times but I can’t. Even if it’s just for me, I can’t. There are too many worlds swimming around, unexplored. There are too many people wishing to be made real. I will soon rise up and get cracking on the keys again so please bear with me. This experience has left a bitter taste in my mouth but it’s been a learning experience and one that I will keep with me. It will make an eventual win that much sweeter. I will keep moving forward.

This is me, marching on.

xoxo
C

I’d like to clip your wings so you can’t fly.

A little short story about love – because I have a thing for turning mythos on its head 😉

-/-

The tales, the paintings, the bullshit Valentine’s Day cards we got in grade school – they were wrong, so they told me.

My hands trembled with the box, its contents heavy and unsteady. The voice inside of it haunted me and would continue to do so. I walked into the dock house, the sunlight streaming in through the dilapidated roof. Cobwebs and old bird nests decorated the rafters, the smell of seawater and old oil permeated through the space. Boxes and furniture tarps protected whatever contents remained hidden away, the curse of being unwanted.

Certainly no place for someone of her stature.

“Hello?” I managed to ask, the timbre sounding more shaky than I had meant it to. Confusion and shame started settling in. I looked down as I walked my way across the creaky floorboards. Feathers littered the floor, the familiar tufts of gulls and pigeons. In the space between boxes, a large feather lingered. I paused in my trek, bending down to inspect. It was larger than any eagle’s I had seen, thicker and whiter than any vulture’s. 

A loud creaking from across the room caused my hand to retract. I clutched the box to my chest, a thrumming heartbeat accompanying it.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve had visitors,” her voice loose and curious in the strangled space.

I looked up to find another place entirely. Where boxes had been were now pillars of marble and quartz. Where the sun had trickled in now streamed ribbons of dusk light. And in the place of back of the dock house stood a throne of cushions – square, round, and oval shaped – made of silk in different shades of red, rose and gold.

She sat on a large white cushion wearing a floor length gossamer gown to match, strings of pearls adorning her shoulders as cap sleeves. Her hair was pulled back, two curled strands framing her face. Her eyes were honey, welcoming, but in the way that predators fool their prey in making them comfortable before eating them whole.

“Are you–?”

“What gave it away, darling?”She gave me a pitying look. The box continued to beat against my chest – a constant reminder. “What? Were you expecting a little, fat cherub?”

“Maybe,” was all I could reply with. She stood up and walked towards me, her bare feet silent on the marble floor.

“All children grow up. Have a little imagination,” she cooed. Her eyes searched mine, her head angled to the side inspecting all of my insecurities. “It’s annoying, isn’t it?”

“Wh-what is?”

“The constant aching of love.” She smiled, snatching the box out of my hands. She turned around to walk back to her throne. “My payment, I’m assuming?” I heard her open the box, the squeaks of the hinges yelling loudly in the open room. She paused and looked over her shoulder. “Quite impressive.”

I nodded to her, unsure of where to go, what to do. “His name is Patrick.” 

“Of course it is,” she stated matter-of-factly, slamming the box shut. She set it down on a cushion, a blend of smoke and light now emanating from her hands. The wisps of cloud condensed and thickened, materializing into a long shape. When it settled, the smoke revealed a small arrow, the size of a bowie knife, covered in a layer of gold. She gripped it in her hand, light peeking through the spaces in between her fingers. She walked toward me, motioning for me to take it.

It was still warm, and even more surprising, contained my name  engraved along its shaft. “I thought this part was your job.”

She laughed, a tone of wickedness coming up from her throat. “Your desires, your actions, your consequences, love. I merely provide the tools.”

“What do I do?”

Her eyes flickered over to the box, licking her lips impatiently. She dusted off imaginary dirt from her dress. “How do you think it works?” When I didn’t answer, she rolled her eyes and gripped my hand in hers, the arrow now singing in the center of it all. “You find him, you look him in the eyes and you put it through his heart.”

A small gasp left my lips. I stumbled over my words.

“Love is nothing to be trifled with, darling. If his heart is open to your love, it will absorb the arrow. If not, well, I just recommend doing this in a private place.” She winked.

My body sagged. Tears rimmed my eyes at the prospect of Patrick on the ground, his heart lost to me in the way I didn’t want. “But what I’ve done already…I don’t think I can do this.”

She tsked me. “You knew the price when you decided you were desperate enough to seek me out. What’s done is done. Now, finish it.” She pushed my hands close to my chest, her own letting go. “You have 72 hours. If you don’t use it, it will disappear, along with your own heart.” I swallowed, the guilt settling into every muscle. “I suggest you use the time wisely.”

I clutched the arrow tightly, my name cutting into my palm. I looked up to find her sitting on the cushion again, the box given in her lap. She opened it, grasping the contents with one hand. Blood began seeping down her arm in dancing rivulets as her fingers clutched the dead heart, the tissue already tinged with gray. She smiled down at it, reveling in the scent and aura. My own ached in my chest. With every beat now, the room began disappearing, the mask of the dock house returning like water washing away paint. It crept closer to her throne, framing her in a halo of the ordinary. “72 hours, dear. Good luck.” She winked as the mask closed in, then took a deep bite into the heart, blood seeping into the fabric of her gown. For a moment, I could see her veins glow with a pulsing joy before disappearing in a swirl of marble and wood.

-/-

I looked over at Patrick as we walked down the street, the glow of the lampposts illuminating his smile. The arrow was a weight in my coat pocket, the gold burning a hole in the wool. The night was almost over, the end of the third day almost done. The rest of the evening was revolving around small talk and potential plans. We stopped in front of my brownstone, his fingertips lingering on mine. The minutes began to wind down, the voice of the rules, now a lament, still playing in my ears:

An eye for an eye,
A heart for a heart
For an arrow of love
For death ‘til you part.

I blinked away the memory of the heart I cut and gave away, fear and self-loathing making room for hope. “Hey, would you like to come up?”

Short Story: Shift

This tidbit started off as a response to a writing prompt, then turned into a possible idea for a novel or series. As most things go, nothing really came of it, but I’m still digging the possibility of continuing (after a much needed polish).


bekkabrax

It had been a long afternoon but Bekka continued to wait. She enjoyed the shade of the forest, the sound of the other animals amongst her, the wet air threading through the canopy of the trees. Birds darted back and forth and immediately fleeted when they realized her presence. With the exception of her relaxed breathing, she was stone. When all was said and done, she loved the silent strength of the forest the most. She had missed it dearly. She was beginning to doze off when she had heard fast footsteps hitting hard in the sand.

Bekka squinted her eyes and watched as the bandit stopped his sprint right in front of the tree she was sitting in. A branch blocked her camouflaged appearance, the leaves brushing against her face in the shadows. She rose her head as the bandit caught his breath, a satchel of prizes clenched in his fist. Bekka smirked and relished in the surprise she was about to unleash upon him. Terrified blood always tasted the sweetest. She silently stepped from one branch to a lower one, quieter than the wind. The bandit was breathing heavily but his grip on the satchel did not loosen.

Bekka smiled and wet her lips, leaning forward to catch his scent. “Hello, darling,” she growled. The bandit whipped his head around and was met with the dangerous weapon that was Bekka Brax. Bekka jumped and slashed at him, his blood splattering like rain on the brush around them. His leg now immobile, he drug himself toward the brush looking for any possible means of escape. Bekka stood there, watching him closely, enjoying the foolishness of men. She raised her paw to her face and licked it clean. “Go on, leave then. If you think you can outrun me, I’d gladly accept the challenge.” She put her foot back down, the taste of metal fresh in her mouth.

“Please, have mercy on me, creature!” the bandit screamed, his face now covered with dirt and sand. His hand still gripped the satchel but it was weighing him down now and he needed any unnecessary pounds lifted from him.

“Mercy? I’m not one for merciful acts but I will arrange a trade.”

“Trade?”

“Your life…for those jewels you stole.”

The bandit looked at the bag and gulped down the stone in his throat. He closed his eyes and winced at the pain. There was more to these jewels than a thief’s agenda. “I…I can’t. I have to try, my family–”

Bekka rolled her eyes dramatically, her paws fidgeting with the anticipation. “Your life…for the jewels. I’m sure your family would rather appreciate you coming home alive and poor, then dead. Save your bravery for a different day.” She cocked her head at him and a low growl emanated from her chest. She watched as a thousand thoughts and coincidences flashed across his eyes before he resigned. His grip loosened from the satchel and he threw it across the ground toward Bekka. The bag opened just slightly, the sparkle of diamonds reflecting in her feline eyes. “Good boy,” she responded.

A moonstone ring hanging from a chain around her neck began to glimmer before a wisp of smoke surrounded her, transforming her from the panther in the clearing to a young woman. She cracked her neck and stretched her arms, her hair a bit disheveled from the fight. She picked up the bag on the ground, counted the jewels inside and stuck it in her own hanging off her hip. The bandit, now clutching his chest in shock, stammered in her presence. “W-witch!”

“Don’t call me that,” she replied between her teeth. “It’s unbecoming. And false.”

“You tricked me.”

“So I have.” Her eyes were the last to change, the slitted pupils becoming small circles, encompassing the gold of her irises. Her left eye had a large spot of blue on the outer rim. “What did you expect from a large, talking black cat?” The man began to stand, leaning his weight and good leg on the side of the tree. “Now, I would estimate that you have about a five minute head start if you want to beat the palace guards.”

“Hard to do that with a broken leg.”

“Easier than if you were dead…or would you rather me remedy that?”

The bandit shook his head and began moving, an awful limp slowing him down. Bekka watched as he hobbled away. The small part of human left inside her felt regretful for hurting him but sparing him was the easiest way. He would not be able to partake in a thief’s life with that injury but at the very least he had more time with his family. That was more than she could say for herself. A bandit had to appreciate another bandit for what they did have. Another growl from the animal started back up but she swallowed it down.

She heard yells and footfalls from horses in the distance. The palace guards had wasted only a little bit of time. She leaned against the tree waiting for their arrival, making sure that the bandit was a reasonable distance away. The lot of guards stopped suddenly at the sight of her, a sarcastic smile on her face. Her hand protected the bag at her side. “Hello, gentlemen. Such steadfast ambition. You nearly had him!”

The captain of the guard looked past her and the stains of blood clumping the wrestled sand in front of them. “Witch, what have you done with him?”

She was staring at her nails, flicking out dried blood from underneath the beds. If she had her cat tongue, it’d be a lot easier. It would be a lot easier to do a lot of things, like break the captain’s neck. “Can you blame me for getting a little hungry waiting for you lot to show up? Anyway, I got what you came for.” She tapped the bag at her side. “All missing jewels accounted for.” Murmurs threaded through the space from the other guards and Bekka listened intently. “Now, now boys, that’s no way to talk about a lady.”

“Lady?” the captain scoffed. “You are nothing but the King’s witch. Be grateful he has a need for you, otherwise I’d rip that blasphemous head from your body.”

Bekka raised a finger in the air. “Careful now, Captain. You wouldn’t want me to change into something a little bit more comfortable, now would you?”

The captain narrowed his gaze on her. “If you don’t report back to the palace by nightfall, I will be sure to find you. And you won’t like that.”

Bekka laughed under her breath, fidgeting with the moonstone around her neck. She rubbed the side of it. Warmth began seeping from underneath the metal and radiated back into her skin. She felt her organs tremble and her blood pump faster, stretching the tissue underneath her shell. Something fast, she ordered herself. She turned, facing her back to him, eyeing the path into the woods. “Please,” she dismissed loudly as she stepped a foot into the clearing. The smoke had already started to form around her. “As if you could catch me.”

An ADC snippet in the works for Endever’s launch week!

Avid readers, fans of A Deathly Compromise, and my fellow Endeverites – in celebration of Endever’s official launch week and to keep this momentum/motivation/inspiration going while I have it, I’ve decided to write up a passage from ADC, a “deleted scene” if you will, but told from another character’s perspective. My question to you is – WHO is telling this short story?

Which character do you want to hear from the most?

Some options are:

  • Jones
  • Aria
  • Karma
  • Lux
  • The Duke
  • Evelyn

Or anyone else that I may not have thought of! Give me a challenge. 😉 Most votes win!

ADC 2 Teaser Snippet!

Yar, there be major spoilers ahead if you haven’t read A Deathly Compromise. 

A little snippet I wrote some time ago and just polished up. Some changes will undoubtedly occur before the first draft is compiled, but this is just a taste of what’s to come. Enjoy!

-/-/-/-/-

Summer. Heat.
Blech.

I downed another Scotch, watching fragments of human beings through the bottom of the glass and clouded windows walk to their homes, or at the very least, to distractions.  From left to right, they became long, ghastly figures, then scrunched stumps of flesh before becoming themselves again. If only it was so easy to change.

“Another?”

I exhaled, the heat from the liquor pleasantly burning my throat as I set the glass down with a thumb on the oak bar. I should really stop. “This time on the rocks, Bex. It’s too damn hot today.”

“I’ll say. It’s the 9th circle of hell out there,” the bartender replied.

I tapped a knuckle on the wood. “It’s cold.”

“Hmm?” He poured the Scotch in generously, sliding the tumbler back into my hands. My palms were actually sweaty.

“The 9th circle of hell- it’s not warm. It’s frozen in ice.” I should know.

Bex seemed annoyed at the correction but took it in anyway. “Well, then I’d happily welcome it on a day like today.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I whispered under a smile, gleaming teeth reflecting in the sides of the glass as I put it up to my lips and kissed the ice cubes amongst the gold elixir. The condensation from the glass trickled through my fingertips, dripping on the oak. I thought of copper and crimson and it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I looked over at Bex as he attended to another customer. Rare to have more than one messed up person in a bar this early. Between the smell of draft beers and darkened rum, Bex’s smell came through, tinged with decay. Soon for him, but not now.

A blast of wind erupted by my side, sending locks of hair into my eyes. I smelled him before I saw him. It took every ounce for me not to turn my head. Instead, I tapped my fingers on the glass, waiting for Bex’s acknowledging nod. “What do you want?”

“You can look at me for one,” Lux uttered, his hands folding together on the bar.

“You assume that I’d want to look at you.”

“Dee,” he began.

“No, stop it. Just…stop. I,” I let out a scoff. “I don’t think I can.”

He slowly reached out his hand towards me, gently touching my jaw. It burned, but not in the same way it used to. I closed my eyes, listening to the sound of Scotch and glass clinking once again. “Dee, you have a friend that needs you.”

“She doesn’t need me. She needs you. The less she sees of me, the better.”

“Things are not like they were before. You can do both, you can be both.” I finally dared to look up. His eyes were just as vibrant as they were when he was alive, not even I could change that. “There she is,” he whispered. He searched my eyes as if he could bring back what he left behind.

I shook my head. “Lest you forget, the last time I chose to be both, shit got real. All over. I’m not making the same mistake.” I grabbed the glass and downed it, the liquid nearly evaporating before it went down my esophagus. “If you know what’s good for you, Lux, you’ll stay out of my way.”

I slid off the stool, leaving some cash for Bex and turned to leave. Lux’s hand slipped on my waist, his thumb and index finger gently squeezing. “Dee, do you want to know why I came back?”

A low grumble came from my throat. “If I wanted to know, I would ask. It doesn’t matter now.” I motioned for my feet to step back from his hold but they didn’t move. Instead he stood, coming closer. I took a deep breath and exhaled. His hand went back up to my jaw, his fingertips holding my chin up. “Lux, I swear, I’m going to punch you if…”

His eyebrows furrowed then, his attention wavering to some unseen noise. His eyes darted back and forth and he backed away, listening. “Something’s wrong.”

“Lux…?”

“Get out of here, find your sisters.” In a blink, he was gone, the feeling of his hands still scorching my skin.

And then I heard it.
The screaming.
The gurgle of blood clotting in a throat.
A laugh, one that I knew but had hoped to never hear from for a long time.
It was too soon.

Then a whisper, soft but sharp as a knife, “Sweet, sweet girl, oh how I’ve missed you.”

Updates from an exhausted author PLUS a holiday ADC short!

I feel terrible, truly.

I normally write whenever possible but some rather important and time consuming changes all seemed to happen at the same time as a release of A Deathly Compromise. While I’m eagerly waiting for print copies to be available before the next run of promotions, I figured I could take some time to finally update you all and flex my writing fingers.

In terms of big changes, my husband and I have a baby on the way (due in April) and we just purchased-and moved into!-our first house. Between those two huge things on their own and prepping for the holidays, I feel a bit like this cat:

tiredcat

(So when I say I feel terrible, know that it is not just emotional sentiment.)

Nevertheless, to quote the great Walt Disney, we keep moving forward. While we’re still technically living out of cardboard boxes, we managed to decorate for Christmas and are in joyous disbelief that the place is ours (we’ll just ignore the fact that it’s really the bank’s). And while 2016 was nothing short of tumultuous, 2017 will undoubtedly bring some much needed joy and I look forward to it. I promise to not be so neglectful to this little corner of the universe.

So now that things are settling down and I can finally scratch that author itch, I spewed out this quick little A Deathly Compromise short, just for the holidays. It’s not spoiler-free and will most likely not be included in the sequel, so let this just serve as the in-between snack of the holiday meals. Enjoy and hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday!

-/-

Although it’s been said, many times, many ways.

I watched the television as if it were an animal documentary. George Michael and his fantastic hair frolicked across the screen, belting out his infamous tune over his lost Christmas love. I pulled the fur-lined rim of the Santa hat over my eyes.

“Oh, Georgie, who were you trying to fool?” I remarked out loud, catching a nasty glimpse from a waiting visitor. I ignored her, draping my legs over one side of the armchair while resting my head on the other. A shadow loomed over my body and without completely looking up, a small smile escaped the corner of my lips. I would know his presence anywhere. His soul stirred up flurries in my stomach. “Is that a candy cane in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

He laughed. He began searching for something in his pocket and for a moment, I questioned the seriousness of my proposition. Before I could stand, a green, red and white candy cane, with a split in the curve, landed on my chest.

“Tease,” I called him as my fingers worked to unwrap the unruly plastic.

“Bum,” he replied, gently removing the hat from my head.

A hiss erupted from my mouth. “The light…it burns us.”

“Get up, I want to show you something.”

“Fool me once, Lux…”

“There are cookies involved.”

I swung my legs and my boots planted themselves on the ground, my body sitting up at full attention, the candy cane between my index and middle finger like a 1920’s cigarette. “Next time, just go with that, darling. No need for foreplay.”

Lux rolled his eyes and turned, the glimmer from his clothes made annoyingly bright from the hospital lighting. I caught up to his pace, now smooth and effortless, not a hint of flawed life among the steps. “Nice outfit,” he remarked, noticing the rather jolly and lightly stained seasonal nurse scrubs I had been recently adorning.

“One must learn how to blend in with the peasant folk when one loses their cover. Didn’t you learn anything from James Bond?” I asked.

“Favorite?”

“Connery, of course. So cheeky, great in bed.” He glared. “Kidding!” I was definitely not kidding.

“I liked Roger Moore.”

I groaned as we turned the corner to the main lobby. “Ugh, you would.”

He grabbed my hand and pulled me into the nearby janitor’s closet, his body providing the only illumination in the confined room. He held my arm and hand up, his other hand resting on the small of my back. “Close your eyes,” he whispered.

The moment felt fearfully similar to one of his last when he was alive. I obliged, my body leaning into his. The familiar warp of transporting sent shivers up my spine before it ended in an eerie calm. The frost of the night greeted me, soft flakes kissing my cheeks. The smell of hot chocolate wafted around us. My hips adjusted to the environmental shift before my body completely betrayed me and I fell to the floor. My head met ice. I looked up, Lux’s face holding back a laugh. He held out his hand but I smacked it away.

“Skates, it had to be skates!” I wobbled up, my hands bracing the ground between my legs while I straightened up.

“You just made Bambi look like he could do the moonwalk.”

“You….shut your mouth. Goddess of death here, not of grace.” My torso came up next, then my head, my hands rubbing up against legs for warmth. “Now, then…” I began to slip again but caught my balance with an arm spinwheel before I could fall back down the dreadful frozen earth. I huffed, the echo of fire from my eyes transparent in Lux’s. “You said…there were…cookies.”

He opened up the crook of his arm to allow mine to lace through it. “In a bit. They’re on the other side of the rink and we got a ways to go.”

“You couldn’t have just landed us on solid ground?”

“It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

“Have you been reading the verse of Jones lately? I feel like I’m talking to his parrot.”

He ignored my comments, the smile on his face never wavering. He guided me halfway down the frozen pond, looking around and stopping abruptly, about 20 yards from warmth and chocolate. His free hand reached for mine, turning me to face him. I was still in disbelief. It had been weeks now, yet my mind couldn’t fathom it. His fingers reached up to my face, pushing a loose lock of hair behind my ear. Fingertips trailed down the length of my jaw, his thumb landing on my chin. “Merry Christmas, Dee,” he whispered.

Before I could reply or fill in the space between us, he moved away, revealing the scene in front of me like a curtain. Disappointment turned into confusion before the faces and figures in the background sharpened. Amongst the bulk of snow jackets and dark colors, a familiar head with a lavender-colored knit cap erupted like a pleasant streak of lightning in the night.

Oh, what a year could do. She had grown like a weed in summer, perhaps a foot or more. Her smile was free of chains, loose breaths now residing between small bursts of laughter. Her mother and father were there, holding her hands, lifting her up and sending chips of ice into the air. My hands found themselves rubbing my arms up and down, recollecting her last embrace. Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown score came out on the speakers, the vocals of the children’s choir and soft piano keys settling softly in the air. “She’s…so happy,” I said under my breath.

“You did that,” Lux said, his voice suddenly joining in the reverie.

I shook my head. “No. No, she was always happy, in a way. Now she’s…”

“Joyous.”

“Yes, that. She’s, she’s certainly something.” I swallowed down a happy sob, determined not to make myself look like a fool in the middle of a crowd of children and agile adults. “Is she…?”

“She’s doing great, Dee. Perfectly healthy.”

“Good, that’s good,” I said quickly, my voice cracking. I let out a long exhale. “We better go before she sees me.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded emphatically, turning away and bracing myself for the last few feet between me and snow covered grass. He took my arm again and guided the way. We stood in line for hot chocolate and cookies, but I no longer had the urge. My eyes strayed toward Aria’s direction every couple of minutes, following the spot of lavender across the pond. I memorized her one more time, her muscles and limbs moving without restraint. When she was lifted into the air, the hem of her jeans rode up, revealing new rainbow socks. I laughed, silently wishing I could go back to being invisible. I could watch her all day. Lux handed me a mug of hot chocolate – cider for him – and placed his free hand back on my cheek, melting the snow on my face. I smiled at him, taking a bite of the cookie already in my grasp.

“Thank you,” I told him in sincerity, swallowing down the treat. He shrugged in the most Lux way possible, the remnants of cider now on his lips. I licked my own, trying to ignore the temptation. He was off limits now. I looped my arm through his once again and led the way back to the hospital grounds. A walk would do us both some good. Nevertheless, the warmth and joy from Aria’s laugh echoed in between us, melting away the cold of the evening. Some things were worth waiting for, worth sacrificing for. My cup toasted his as our steps found their synchronicity. “Merry Christmas, Lux.”