Silly Stories

The stories here are written in response to writing prompts. You'll find a bit of silliness, and I hope you might even laugh a bit when you read them. These impromptu stories are always fun to write. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tuesday's Tales -- Spider

I wasn't going to join in on Tuesday's Tales this week. When I saw the prompt -- spider -- I didn't think it would fit in any of the projects I currently have in the works. Then I looked back at the last scene I'd written and realized I had a perfect place to hide an itsy-bitsy spider.

This is a brief excerpt from "Summertime" -- the historical romance I'm getting ready to send off to the publisher. I've kept it very short, not wanting to give away too much in this scene...just enough to hide an itsy-bitsy spider and maybe make you curious about what Linn and Ed find.

Dangling the key from her fingers, Linn returned to the parlor. "Why would anyone lock an armoire? Did she think somebody might steal her clothes? For that matter, why did she have the armoire here in the parlor?"
"Tabitha Ann wasn't quite like anyone else, remember."
Linn laughed. "How true." In a perverse way it seemed perfectly logical that the cantankerous old woman would leave her jewelry lying about in open boxes yet keep her clothing under lock and key.
"Nothing Tabitha did should surprise me," she said, as she slipped the key into the lock. She smiled as the key turned. "Yes, it works." She swung the doors open and peered inside.  “What a musty mess!” She brushed at a spider’s web, jumping as its displaced owner scurried away. “But, what is this? I don’t understand.”
Ed came to stand close beside her. He too peered into the armoire.  "It's empty."
Linn nodded. "An armoire in the parlor. No clothes, yet she kept the doors locked. That's odd, don't you think? No, wait! There’s something there." She quickly reached inside.

That's all folks! As I said, I don't want to give away too much here. I'll leave you guessing about exactly what Ed and Linn found in that musty, dusty armoire.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Once a Toad...

A story? In 300 words or less? What a challenge. I've never been good at "flash fiction", but this week's picture prompt was so lovely, I couldn't resist. Fortunately, the moment I saw the picture, I heard a voice speaking in my head. So, I listened, took it, ran with it, and here's the result. Enjoy!

“Now you see it, now you don’t.”  Michael held out a tiny box wrapped in red paper. Before I could grab it, his hands went behind his back. When they re-appeared, the box was gone. One of the frustrations of loving a stage magician. Michael was always playing tricks.

My heart skipped a beat. I knew what the box held.  An engagement ring!  

“Not fair!” I protested, running my hands over his body in hopes of finding his hiding place. The ring had not disappeared into thin air. Magic was illusion, not real.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” He grinned. The box re-appeared in his outstretched hands. “Be forewarned,” he said, his voice low. “It’s not what you think.”

My breath caught. Not the ring I expected for Valentine’s Day? The man had been leaving hints for weeks!

Seeing my confusion, Michael laughed again. Another gesture, a few more magic words, and the little box was gone again.

“Forget it. I’m not playing games.” Disappointed -- and frustrated -- I turned away. “You’re lucky I don’t know magic,” I called over my shoulder. “If I did, you’d be a toad about now.”

He hopped across the room toward me, making r-r-r-ivet noises. Not only a magician, but a clown too. How could I not love him?

“Sorry, honey. Yeah, I’m a toad. Can I have a kiss?”

I held out my hand. “Not yet.”

He pulled the red box from nowhere and handed it to me.

I tore the paper off, opened the box, and stared -- at nothing.

“It’s empty!”

“My love is too big to fit in a little red box.” He grinned and reached out. “What’s this behind your ear?”

He handed me the diamond of my dreams.

“Still a toad?”

I kissed him. “Always."

~ ~ ~

I hope you enjoyed this short short story!
For more Tuesday's Tales, click HERE!

Monday, February 4, 2013

More from Love Spells

Welcome to Tuesday's Tales...and to another excerpt from "Love Spells".

About the story:

Ellie was devastated when David betrayed her. After finding a book of spells, she decided to learn magic in hopes of bringing David back. With the help of Stefan, owner of a New Age shop, she's discovering who she is -- and continuing to cast her "love spells" each night.

~ ~ ~ ~

David called on Monday morning. Ellie’s hands shook so bad when she heard his voice, the phone fell from her grasp. While Miranda and the other girls in the office stared, she rummaged through the trash can where it had landed.

“What? Say that again?” she mumbled as she retrieved the fallen phone. “I’m sorry, David, I didn’t hear what you said.”

At the mention of his name, Miranda huffed out a breath and gestured toward the trash can. “How fitting."  She mouthed the words. "That’s exactly where he belongs.”

Ellie turned away. Yes, her friend had a good point. David’s past behavior qualified him for the rubbish heap.  Men who lied, cheated, and broke the hearts of the women they professed to love deserved a dumping of their own. They deserved to wallow in soured milk, rotting vegetables, and moldy cheese. Figuratively speaking, that is.

But what David had done was in the past, and the past was no longer relevant.

Ellie’s new-found magic could erase all the pain; it could obliterate the anguished  memories and take away those crippling feelings of inadequacy and inferiority she’d suffered at his betrayal. David had hurt her badly, yet she’d grown from it. Maybe he didn’t exactly deserve forgiveness, but at the very least, Ellie owed him a small debt of gratitude. She was enjoying this process of discovery, this mystical journey upon which she’d embarked. For the first time, Ellie truly liked who she was -- and who she was becoming.

“Your silver lighter?” She nodded in response to David’s question. “The one I bought you for your birthday?” Ellie winced, remembering how much she’d paid for the gift. It hurt to think he’d carelessly misplaced it. Obviously it hadn’t meant too much to him.

“I think maybe I left it at your place. Would you look around and let me know?”

“Sure. If I find it-- ”

“I really need it. He cut her off. “I know you’ve got it. I remember leaving it in the drawer of the night stand. When you get off work, will you run home and pick it up? I’ll be at the gallery tonight.”

“You want me to bring it to you?”

“Yeah. I won’t have time to come get it. We’re opening a new exhibit, so I’ll be busy.” He paused. When he spoke again, his voice held a softer note.  “Contemporary photography. Black and white. You might enjoy it.”

“Why, yes, I think I might like that.”

“So, you’ll do it?”

“Yes, I’ll be there.”

A smile spread across Ellie’s face. Any lingering doubts about the power of magic quickly  disappeared. Her love spells were working.

David had called. He wanted to see her. He might claim it was only because he’d left behind a silver lighter, but Ellie knew better. The lighter was only an excuse, and a flimsy one at that. David wanted her back. 

~ ~ ~ ~

Monday, January 21, 2013

Tuesday's Tales - From Love Spells

I've come back to Love Spells after an absence of several months, so let me give a quick recap of the story.

Ellie was devastated when the man she loved dumped her for someone else. She found a book of spells and set about learning magic -- with a bit of help from Stefan Blackwell, owner of a mystical, New Age shop. In the previous chapter, Ellie's friend, Miranda came for Sunday brunch. When Stefan dropped by unexpectedly and gave Ellie a deck of Tarot cards, Miranda warned her that the cards were of the devil. As soon as she was alone, Ellie unwrapped the deck and drew a card. It was The Devil.

From: Love Spells 

Ellie dropped the deck of cards.

Could Miranda be right about Stefan? The magic he possessed was too strong to be denied, but was it a power for good? Or was his magic dark -- and dangerous?

She knelt down and peered at the colorful cards scattered across the floor. No more than pasteboard pictures. Where had The Devil gone? Ellie searched through the mess. While The Devil remained hidden, other images appeared, some frightening, some beautiful, some haunting.

The Sun. The Moon. The Stars.

Ellie picked each up and studied the odd symbols upon them. In some strange way, simply looking at the cards calmed her.  Even the images of Death and the devastating scene of The Falling Tower somehow brought a sense of peace to her soul.

These cards are speaking to me. They have things to tell me, secrets to share.

She locked the door, shut off her phone, and for the next few hours she sat cross-legged before her altar, laying out cards, poring over the tiny instruction booklet, and making notes of all she saw -- and felt -- within this mystical deck.  Ellie couldn’t be sure how it happened, but suddenly her life made sense. She felt her own power awakening, uncoiling from deep within. She didn’t have all the answers, but she didn’t need them.

For the first time, Ellie knew who she was. No matter that she couldn’t define it, could never put it into words, she felt it flowing through her blood. Although she may be small and insignificant, she was, indeed, part of something grand, something purposeful, something planned and ordered, something borne of love.

Love! Her heart seemed to take flight on wings of imagination. She soared through distant realms of consciousness, rising from the floor to twirl around in crazy circles, dancing to a rhythm only she could hear.

Stefan would be pleased.

The thought brought a smile to her face, along with a sudden desire to see him. At once! She dashed toward the door, ready to run out into the late afternoon, and then reality crashed down on her. She had no way to find Stefan. His shop was closed on Sunday. She knew nothing about him, where he lived, what places he might visit.

Feeling a bit foolish, Ellie gathered the Tarot cards, returned them to their package, and put them away in a drawer. She would use them again, and she would learn more from them.

Ask the cards about David. Ask if he will come back. Ask if --

Ellie closed her eyes, shutting out the voices in her head. She had no need to inquire about David or the future they would share. She had magic; she had power. She could create her own reality now.

As she prepared her altar for her nightly ritual, Ellie smiled. Only a few nights more, and David would be hers again, hers forever. 

~ ~ ~
For more Tuesday's Tales, click HERE

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pirates, Parrots, and Pumpkins

Pirates, Parrots, and Pumpkins

October sunlight streamed through the grove of tall trees, its golden fingers reaching in to touch the quiet clearing in the woods. Already the leaves had put on their most brilliant scarlet and orange hues. Now, the glorious autumn colors shimmered in the warmth of the early afternoon. Although the day had dawned crisp and cool, the weather had turned perfect -- perfect for pumpkin-carving, face-painting, hayrides, and the rest of the child-oriented activities the community center had planned for the annual Halloween festival.

Natasha gripped the knife in her hand and forced a cheerful smile to her face. “How do I look?” She nudged her best friend, Pamela. The motion jarred her witch’s hat, nearly knocking it from her head.

“Ridiculous.” Pamela -- serene and lovely in a princess costume complete with magic wand -- grinned. “I’m joking. You look great. For a witch.”

“Thanks.” Natasha sighed. “I feel ridiculous.” She gripped the knife tighter. “Guess I’d better get started on the pumpkins.”

“They aren’t going to carve themselves.” Princess Pamela waved her wand toward a bale of hay surrounded by fat, round, jack-o-lanterns-to-be. “Have fun.”

Natasha took a step, stopped, and whirled around. “Wait a minute. Isn’t Ashley supposed to help me? Is she here yet?”

Working at the festival was a volunteer project for the bank where Natasha, Pamela, and Ashley worked. A way of strengthening ties with the community, the bank manager explained. A chance to meet people in the town and establish friendly relationships. Taking part in the service project also meant a day off with pay, which, in Natasha’s opinion, would have made it worth every minute -- had she known anything about carving pumpkins.

Unfortuntely, she didn’t.

“Ashley?” Pamela looked down at the toes of her satin slippers. “Uh, well, she called early this morning. Didn’t she call you, too?”

“Don’t tell me she bailed! She can’t do that.”  Ashley had a reputation for being slightly irresponsible. No, not true. She was totally irresponsible outside of work.

“Don't worry, Tasha. She’ll be here...later.”

“How much later?”

“Just go ahead and get started,” Pamela urged. “She’ll be here as soon as she can.” She pointed her wand toward the pumpkins again. “Looks like you’ve got your first customer...and he sure is a cutie.”

She’d do her best, Natasha, decided. That’s all she could do, really. How hard could carving pumpkins be?

Turning around, she expected to see a young boy standing beside the bale of hay, probably dressed in a Star Wars costume complete with light saber. She’d noticed several of those as she’d walked through the tree-filled park. She did not expect to see a swashbuckling pirate, complete with a parrot on his shoulder. A very grown-up -- and very handsome -- pirate, at that.

“Oh, my! That parrot--”

“Stuffed.” His voice was deep and mellow -- and enticingly familiar. He patted the bird’s fake green plumage.

Natasha looked closer. At the bird. And at the pirate.

“Quinn? Is that you?” The smudges on his cheek, the bandana tied around his head, and the silver hoop dangling from his earlobe made it hard to be sure. “You work in Bank Operations, right?”

A blush heated Natasha’s cheeks. She barely knew Quinn Marston. He’d only come to work at the bank a few weeks earlier. Plus, he worked in a different department. On a different floor. Now, he’d probably think she’d been stalking him. She hoped he hadn’t noticed the way she started drooling every time she’d seen him.

“Do I know you?” he asked.

Natasha licked her lips.  “Natasha Turnbull. Human Resources. Our offices are in the same building.” She stuck out her hand, knife and all, then jerked it back. “Sorry, I’m not trying to draw blood.”

Quinn laughed. “You’re a witch, not a vampire.”

“Yeah, right.” She glanced down at his outstretched hand, carefully tucked the knife into her belt, and reached out. His touch felt as warm and comforting as the sunlight pouring down around them. “I didn’t know you’d signed up for the project.” She’d checked the list yesterday before leaving work. Surely Quinn Marston’s name would have jumped out at her.

“I didn’t sign up. I just got hired at the first of the month. The sheet for volunteers had already been passed around. I just happened to hear about it a couple of days ago. Thought I’d stop by and see if I could help out.”

“Do you know anything about carving pumpkins? Anything at all?” Natasha held her breath.

Quinn’s face lit up like a smiling jack o’lantern. “I’ve carved a few. Actually, more than a few. I grew up on a farm. We raised pumpkins.”  His grin broadened. “Would you like a little help?”

She pulled the knife from her belt and held it out to him, but he shook his head.

“I brought a few of my own.” He tapped his own belt where a collection of knives glistened in the sunlight. “Tools of the pumpkin-carving trade.”  Quinn nodded toward the hay. “Why don’t you have a seat, give the kids a bit of a fright, then send them my way?”

A fright. She probably looked a fright, all right.

Instinctively she patted her hair, knocking the witch’s hat askew again. Quinn laughed, straightened the hat, then placed a hand at her waist and guided her to her seat on the hay.

Children were already heading down the path to the clearing, their excited voices ringing through the air. Despite Natasha’s earlier misgivings, the children’s laughter proved contagious. She loved making scary sounds and wicked faces...and she loved watching Quinn work. 

The hours passed pleasantly. Natasha felt as though she sat in an enchanted forest. She could almost feel magic in the air. Maybe even a little more than magic, she thought, as Quinn glanced at her and smiled from time to time. It had turned out to be a perfect day, all in all.

Even without the irresponsible Ashley’s help.

No sooner had the thought crossed Natasha’s mind than she heard the squealing, high-pitched voice coming at her. She jerked her head around to see Ashley prancing through the grove of trees, her long, blonde hair blowing in the breeze.

“I’m sorry I’m so late, Tasha. I tried to get here on time but--”

“Where’s your costume?”

“Something came up. Sorry. This is the best I can do.” She was speaking to Natasha, but she wasn’t looking at her. Her pretty green eyes were fixed on Quinn. “I’m here now.” She turned her full attention to the knife-wielding pirate. “I’m ready.”

“Hmm? For what?” He cast a quick glance over his shoulder then turned back to the snaggle-toothed mouth he was carving.

“Ready to help. What do you want me to do?”

“You know how to carve jack o-lanterns?”

Ashley shrugged. “Well, yeah, sure. I guess so.”

A broad grin spread across Quinn’s face. He got to his feet and turned toward Natasha. “Let me see that knife of yours.”

Suddenly the air seemed uncomfortably chill. The enchantment faded, and Natasha wasn’t having quite so much fun now. She should have known that once Ashley showed up, any chance of getting to know Quinn better would disappear like a coin in a magician’s palm. His eager expression said it all. He couldn’t wait to get Ashley carving pumpkins at his side. Oh, what a great time the two of them would have. Meanwhile, Witch Natasha could sit on her bale of hay making frightful faces at the youngsters in town.

“Boo!” she said, waggling her long fingers. Nice that she’d taken so much time to add the long, pointed, blood-red nails. She wished she could run them down Ashley’s fair-skinned cheeks.

No, not really. She wasn’t vicious. Just a little jealous. A little disappointed.

But, why? It’s not like she had any claim on Quinn. They hardly knew each other.

She glanced over at the pair, surprised that Ashley was actually showing a little skill as a pumpkin-carver. Well, of course. She had a good instructor. No doubt, Ashley wanted to please.

Quinn happened to look up. His storm-gray eyes met Natasha's gaze, and he smiled. Embarrassed that he’d caught her staring, Natasha turned away.

“I think you’ve got the hang of it, Ashley,” Quinn said, approval reeking in his deep voice. “You’re doing an excellent job.”

Natasha could easily envision the beaming smiles passing between the pair. She sighed, waggled her fingers again, and wondered if she might be witchy enough -- or bitchy enough -- to cast an evil spell. Should she curse Ashley? Or Quinn?

Neither, of course. She wasn’t the vindictive sort.

But she felt very out-of-place now sitting on her stump of hay, sort of like an unwanted bump on a log, or a wart on a witch’s nose. Maybe the best thing would be to gracefully bow out, hobble around the festival a bit, see if anyone else needed help.

Stiff from sitting, she groaned just a bit as she got to her feet.

“Natasha?” Quinn held up a finger. “Hold on, all right?”

She nodded. At least he had the courtesy to bid her a fond farewell. She waited, tapping the toe of her heavy, pointed boots. She tried not to watch as Quinn bent down and said something to Ashley, his voice low.

“You’re doing what?” Ashley’s screech would have made a banshee proud.

“We’ll be back in about an hour, right?” He looked at Natasha. “Maybe two hours. Depends on how long it takes us to get through the lunch lines.”  He slipped beside Natasha and placed his hand at her waist again. Tingles coursed through her just as before. “She was about two hours late, wasn’t she?” he whispered.

Natasha hesitated. It seemed a tiny bit wrong to leave poor Ashley on her own. 

The hesitation passed quickly.

“Want us to bring you a sandwich back?” she asked.

Ashley didn’t reply.

“I’m really glad she showed up,” Quinn said as they strolled together through the clearing. “I was hoping we might have a chance to get better acquainted. I’ve seen you around the bank, you know.”

His face reddened slightly. Probably from the wind, Natasha guessed, although she knew better. She smiled.

“I look a little different when I’m at work.” Natasha laughed. “A little less frightful, I hope.”

“Even with your somber black dress, your pointy boots, and that crazy witch’s hat, you can’t disguise those beautiful blue eyes.”

“Quinn Marston! Are you flirting with me?”

“Aye, m’lady.”

 “You’re teasing now.”

“Do you like it?”

“Very much,” Natasha admitted. “I like the parrot, too.” With a smile she brushed her fingers over the stuffed creature’s bright feathers. Quinn’s hands came up to catch hold of hers.

“Shiver me timbers, but it’s an enchanting witch ye be, casting a spell on this sea-faring fellow.”

Natasha leaned her head on his shoulder. “Let’s have lunch. You can tell me all about a pirate’s life.” She closed her eyes, dreaming of the treasures they might find together. 

- The End -

I hope you've enjoyed this short story about Pirates, Parrots, and Pumpkins. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Birthday Gift

Welcome to this week's "Tuesday Tales" post. I hope you enjoy this short, short story. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts. And don't forget to check-out the other stories and excerpts included in this week's edition.

The Birthday Gift

Matt McFarland grinned when he saw Katie Sloan coming through the wheatfield toward him.  In her arms she held a squirming ball of fur with big brown eyes and a wagging tail.  Matt had given her the puppy as a special gift for her birthday. Katie had turned thirteen just yesterday.  Matt remembered when he turned thirteen last year. It was a special event, turning from twelve to thirteen. He wanted to make Katie's birthday special, too.

But his grin faded when he saw the glum expression on her face.

"You've got to take him back."  She held out the wriggling pup.

"You don't want him?"  Matt's shoulders slumped.

"Course I want him, but Mama says I've got to give him back. Dogs are too much trouble, she says."

"It's not a dog. Just a little puppy."   He reached out to take the animal from Katie, and when his hands brushed against her, he actually felt a little giddy.

"Yeah, but I can't keep him, Matt.  Thanks, anyway. It was nice of you to remember my birthday."  She turned and trudged back across the field toward home, stopping just long enough to smile and wave.
Matt watched until Katie disappeared from view. With the whimpering little ball of fur in his arms, he headed home, too.

"Looks like you get to go back with your brothers and sisters, little fellow."  He scratched the pup's soft ears and let out a long breath.

He left another gift on Katie's porch a couple days later, after he'd gotten his allowance for doing his chores and had made a trip into town.  Just thinking about how surprised Katie would be when she found it brought a big smile to Matt's face. He could hardly wait for evening, and once he'd finished supper, he hurried out to the wheatfield, hoping Katie would soon be there.

When he saw her already waiting by the old fallen oak at the edge of the field, Matt stood a little taller and put a little more swagger into his step.

"You found my gift, I suppose."

She planted her hands on her hips and frowned.  "Matthew McFarland, you know you shouldn't --"

"I wanted to buy it, Katie.  Your thirteenth birthday is a special time."

Still frowning, she fumbled in her shirt pocket and pulled out the small golden ring with the heart-shaped stone.  "It's too expensive, Mama says.  She won't let me keep it.  If you go to the store right away, maybe you can get your money back."  She held out the ring.  "Go on, Matt, take it.  If you don't, I'll drop it, I swear, and then you'll never find it."

"All right, Katie."  The tiny ring felt heavy in his hands.  Keen disappointment settled over him as he stood watching Katie trot back across the field toward home.

He would have to find another gift for her.

"Do you like the book, Katie?" he asked a few evenings later when they next met at the fallen oak.  He'd been pleased to see her reading it when he'd spotted her sitting on the tree's broad trunk.

She slammed the book shut and glared up at him.  "You know I can't accept this. Mama says it's not decent."

The warm evening breeze ruffled Katie's white-blonde hair. Matt thought at once of the corn husks he'd shucked for dinner that evening.  He wondered if Katie's hair would feel as soft as the silken tassels.  He wanted to reach out and touch it.

"I don't know what's not decent about it," he said, unable to keep a slight touch of hurt from his voice.  He wanted so much to make Katie happy, to give her a special birthday gift she'd always remember.  "It's a classic.  That's what Artie down at the bookstore told me.  Shakespeare's Sonnets."

"Have you read some of these?" Katie whispered, a delicate blush of rose coloring her fair cheeks.  "Mama says it's not suitable for a girl my age."  She held out the book.  "You've got to take it back, Matt. If Mama catches me with it again, she'll have one of her hissy fits."

He nodded, tucked the book beneath his arm, and plodded off toward home.

For two long days and nights, Matt McFarland pondered his predicament. Katie's birthday had long since come and gone, and he'd still not given her a suitable gift
Then, he smiled.  He had the perfect present in mind.


He didn't see Katie again for another two long days and nights, but when he finally spotted her coming across the wheatfield, his heart beat with anticipation.

"I've got a gift for you," he said when they stood beside the old oak.

"Matt, not again! You know how Mama is --"

He silenced her with a tender kiss.  "Happy birthday, Katie."  Surprised to find that kissing her felt even better than he'd thought it would, he drew back, wanting to look at her, to see if maybe she'd liked it, too.

Her blue-gray eyes went wide with wonder.  "You know Mama won't let me accept a gift like that," she said, and her voice sounded a little odd.  And then Katie grinned.  "I have to give it back," she whispered.

Closing her eyes, she leaned forward and returned his kiss he'd given.

- The End- 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Gift - Prologue

Hello, readers! Sorry I've been away from the blog for such a long time. A lot has been going on in my life over the last few months. Now, things are settling down a bit, and I'm eager to return to my writing desk.
Due to conflicts with my time, I've had to temporarily put "Love Spells" aside, although I hope to get back to it soon and have it submitted to a publisher.

Meanwhile, I'm excited about the new line coming from No Boundaries Press. It's called Bayou Heat. This prologue is the opening of my story "The Gift", targeted specifically for that line.

Enjoy! Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think of this prologue. Would it entice you to read on?

The Gift - Prologue

Bayou Bay, Louisiana 1835


The feeble voice whispered her name. Marissa shuddered as she cast a glance over the cold, stone floor of the asylum toward the shabby bed. Guilt and fright washed over her.

“Yes, I’m here.”

But not by choice. She’d come to Bayou Bay only because Dr. Benjamin had summoned her, and she’d come to see her grandmother only out of obligation. Not that she didn’t love the frail old woman. She did. But her shame and fear were stronger.

“Come closer, dear.”

Marissa forced her feet to move, edging nearer to the filthy cot tucked in the shadowed corner of the room. With the high, barred windows, little light entered the dingy cell. As she reluctantly stepped forward, she trembled.

Was this the fate that awaited her?

For years, the question had haunted her.

Insanity, some said, ran in families. Madness could be handed down from one generation to another. If it were true, Marissa had little chance of escaping. On her father’s side, she had Granny Swann who’d spent the last twenty years  -- almost all of Marissa’s lifetime -- shut away in the dank, dirty confines of Bayou Bay Rest Hospital. Her mother, too, had gone mad, ending her life in the swampy, alligator-infested waters of the Louisiana bayous.

But not without reason.

Marissa blamed her father. His drinking and gambling, his lies and infidelities would have destroyed even the strongest woman.

As she reached the bedside, a bony hand slipped from beneath the rumpled covers. Thin, gnarled fingers tightened around her wrist, tugging her closer still. The force of her grandmother’s grip startled her. How could a dying woman possess such strength?

“Your father came to see me last night.” An eerie light burned in Jemma’s pale blue eyes.

“Father’s dead. You know that.” Marrisa turned away. Her whispered words would not bring the old woman back to reality. Granny Swann believed in the voices she heard, the visions she saw. She deemed herself an oracle for divine wisdom and claimed to possess the power of the touch. That’s what she called it.

Marissa called it a shameful sickness.

Her grandmother’s cold hands pressed against hers.

“He came for me. It’s time for me to join him.” Her eyelids fluttered, and her thin, cracked lips parted.  A long, slow breath slipped from her throat. “Before I leave this wretched world, dear, there is one thing I must do.”

Bending closer, Marissa pushed tangled strands of white hair away from the woman’s cheeks. Her grandmother’s death would be an act of mercy. No longer would Jemma be forced to endure the harsh treatments Dr. Benjamin prescribed; never again would she suffer the stigma and ridicule that had followed her through the years.  No more tasteless gruel for breakfast, no more vermin-ridden bedding, no more dark, dungeon-like cell to call home.

And once she’s gone, I’ll never have to come here again.

Guilt stabbed at Marissa’s heart. Despite the pain, she couldn’t deny the welcome sense of liberation that lay just beyond the moment. When she walked away from Bayou Bay this time, Marissa would be free. She would never again have to set foot in that squalid asylum. She would never again breathe the fetid air of her grandmother’s cell, never again feel the bone-chilling dampness that reeked from its stark stone walls. And never again would she fear for her own sanity. The madness would die with Jemma Swann; its fearful curse would pass from the earth.

Marissa marveled at the blissful smile upon her grandmother’s aged face. Already the woman had found peace. Jemma’s bosom rose and fell in shallow breaths.

“I have to go now.”

Marissa blinked, unsure whether her grandmother had actually spoken the words or if she’d only imagined them.

Bony arms reached upward . With her eyes now closed, Jemma used her hands to study her grand-daughter’s face. Her fingertips danced lightly over the skin, exploring the high cheekbones, the delicate arch of eyebrows, the smoothness of supple, young lips.

“Soon I will be young again, too.” Jemma dropped her hands to her sides. “I have so little strength. And I have so little to show for my time in this world.”

“Rest now,” Marissa urged.

The skeletal hands shot upward again and grabbed for Marissa’s shoulders. “I have only one thing to give, one precious gift.”

Gooseflesh rose on Marissa’s forearms.

“Granny, no, you needn’t think of --”

“I will the gift to you, Marissa, dear.”

With a last gasp, a strange rattle echoed in Jemma’s throat. Her body stiffened, and a jolt of energy coursed through Marissa’s veins, as if a bolt of lightning had come down from the sky and struck her body. Her raven-black hair stood on end. Prickling sensations assaulted her shaking limbs as fire surged from her head to her toes.

“No! I will not accept it!” She wanted no part of Jemma Swann’s strange powers.

Eerie laughter echoed from the dark corners of the room. Marissa swiveled her head around, shocked to see Grandma Swann lurking in the shadows. She looked young again, beautiful again. Long, dark hair swirled around her ageless face. A chill wind blew across Marissa’s skin.

“Use the gift wisely, Marissa. Use it well.”

The apparition vanished.


I hope you've enjoyed this opening excerpt from "The Gift". 
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