Short Stories: Apple Orchard

From my upcoming novel, Tranquil.

Lysan had saved her from obscurity. He had whisked her away from a life inside of a tower, protected her, watched over her when her brother could not. He was good to her, but this life never truly felt like hers. She was constantly being painted and plucked and shown off to the public.

“Did you see?” The news often said, “The Lord’s son is dating an elven woman. The Windsor family cannot possibly be as racist as everyone claims.”

Every time the media claimed that it made her chest ache, her inside squirm. She was nothing more than a prop for Lysan’s father Leonard Windsor to win the upcoming minister election.

“Lady Avalon?” Lysan’s bodyguard, Faron says, rapping on her doorframe. Avalon sucked in a sharp breath.

The man was so gorgeous he was almost hard to look at. He wasn’t conventionally handsome, or so she thought. He was sort of hulking, muscular with short brown hair that sat atop his head in a mess of curls if he let it grow too long. His body was covered in scars, including several deep ones on his neck and face. Avalon was head of heels in love with him.

Lysan had his place. She was grateful to him for saving her. Or for at least thinking he saved her. But Faron actually saw her. She was more than a prop to him and maybe that’s how it started with Lysan too, but that isn’t the way it is now.

“Faron,” she said, her whole body softening as he looks at her. She could live in those brown eyes forever. “Are you here to take me to the apple orchard?” She asked.

He quirks a smile at this, making the scar on his upper lip more noticeable.

“Apple Orchard” had become sort of a code between the two of them. There was no apple orchard on the grounds of the Windsor mansion, not really. There were a few apple trees and the first time she had seen them, she’d thought they were an orchard. Lysan and his father had gotten a good laugh out of this, but she had spent her entire life in a tower with other magically inclined people, what was she supposed to think?

This was the first place she had actually spoken to Faron. After living in that tower for so long, she spent a lot of time outside. She was an elf after all, it was sort of their thing to commune with nature (and unfortunately, be magical). He’d been picking some apples from the tree, a soft smile on his face. When he turned and looked at her, his face open and soft she knew she was done for.

The “apple orchard” was the first place she had ever spoken about the tower. Where she talked about all of her resentment for her mother, for her brother, and how she’d felt so caged her whole life. She even felt caged now. He felt caged too.

It was the first place he had touched her hand, ran his fingers all the way from her wrist to her shoulder. Where he cupped her face, their voices lowering to whispers, eyes half-lidded. Where he kissed her.

He offered her his arm, that same coy smile still on his lips. “Let’s go to the apple orchard.”

Short Stories: Moon Cycles

From mine and 13’s Asylum wolves werewolf-verse. 

Faizeel had never been so acutely aware of the moon before. He couldn’t stop staring at it, watching as it cycled through from full, to waning, to quarter, crescent, new. Each day he felt anticipation and excitement welling up inside of him. The closer he got to the next full moon, the more excitement he felt.

He stood by his bedroom window, leaning out into the pale moonlight where the waxing moon lit the dying grass of his uncle’s back garden. He felt exhilarated, a wave of excitement bubbling up inside of him and escaping as laughter.

On the day of the actual full moon, he felt euphoric; manic. He imagined his tan skin glittering in the sun and on more than one occasion he could have sworn his brown eyes flashed golden in the mirror. He felt stronger than he could ever remember feeling and more awake, more alert.

Faizeel had never really thought of himself as all that charming or attractive. He mostly kept to himself and he preferred to observe rather than socialize. Now he felt like he could do anything, talk to anyone. People smiled at him on the street, sometimes even blushing and looking away when he winked at them. He couldn’t remember any days ever being like this.

As the sun slipped down over the horizon, though, his alertness turned to something else. His skin felt tight, almost suffocating. His eyesight blurred and burned. The darker it got, the more visible the moon, the worse his symptoms became. He felt like he had waited an eternity for this moon, but now it was too much.

He withdrew into himself again, busying himself at work until his shift ended. It was still light outside when he walked out of the store and followed the familiar path home. He didn’t live far, a short trek through the woods. The path was illuminated by the moon, which hung fat and round in the sky. The sight of it was almost agony, the moonlight washing over him so brightly he could taste it.

He had barely stumbled into the woods, his skin on fire when he heard voices. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but they sounded close.

He was hunched over a boulder sticking out from the ground, low groaning noises escaping his mouth. A long thick line of bloody spittle dripped from his mouth.

“The first one is always the worst.” a feminine voice said from somewhere beside him.

“It’ll be over soon,” a different voice said, she sounded louder, closer to his ear. He flinched.

Beneath his skin, his bones shifted and broke and he cried out in alarm.

“We would have been here sooner,” the first voice said, “but we had a hard time finding you, after…” He focussed on her words, trying to keep himself tethered to it. There was something about her that seemed so important.

“Also some nosy vampires we needed to evade,” the other voice said. Her tone was harsh, barking.

He had no idea what she was talking about. There was no such thing as vampires.

Fai bit his tongue to keep from screaming when his bones shifted again and he felt like he was growing. At some point he did start screaming, he thinks. Though it came out as more of a snarl, a growl, and eventually a loud eerie howl.

“Good,” the important feminine voice said, “you did good.”

Fai panted, tilting his head back and looking at the moon. He howled again, the same euphoria from earlier prickling on his skin, the fur on the back of his neck standing straight up.

This time two more howls joined his.

Book Reviews: Stupid Small Things by Agatha Zaza

Agatha Zaza captures the essence of what it’s like to slowly fall out of love with someone. Zaza’s prose is incredible and it kept my eyes glued to the page as I read.

Olivia absolutely thought she would spend the rest of her life with Elias, but there is so much that can change over the period of a life. Olivia’s story is powerful and interesting from start to finish. There were all of these small ways in which Olivia and Elias began to differ and as they slowly grew apart. Olivia’s struggles with Elias and with her cultural upbringing, as well as sexism and racism living and working in Singapore, were incredibly poignant.

The way Olivia referred to herself as an “other” among all of these people who belonged there in Singapore really resonated with me. This story is incredible. The writing is so well done and every word belongs to the page.

More Information on Agatha Zaza and Stupid Small Things Here.