Sun and all the words

Baby Steps

You might have noticed how not on socials I have been this week. That’s because I am on my first writing retreat since Pandora’s box was knocked over. 

I am spending all my time unplugged from anything that isn’t writing, relaxing, and generally not staring at the same walls that have been my constant companions for over a year. 

One Big Leap

From the moment this started, I have been scared for the immunocompromised people in my life. 

I don’t know if you have someone in your life who deals with health concerns, but for me there is more than one person I love dearly and am not ready to say goodbye to. 

Not my elderly Grandmother with COPD, and not my father who recently was lucky enough to receive an organ transplant. But since making myself safe for them by getting the vaccine, I have been able to give hugs. 

Hugs guys. 

The kind where you don’t want to let go, because now you know exactly how it feels to be without them.

And right now, for the first time in over a year, I am a plane ride away from home with friends who are members of my extended chosen family. 

I am a writer and I don’t have the words to explain how great this week has been.

Next week

But don’t worry, next week the plan is to be back home and back to giving the updates and the fun info you’re used to seeing on my socials. 


And now for the next Chapter of our story…

The Voice in the forest chapter

Chapter 13

Arabella

“That little dead girl was your first friend?” he asked, his voice low and tinged in a sadness so profound it made her heart weep just to hear it. 

More than that, it made her memories come rushing back of that time, without the careful walls she had constructed around them to protect her from the judgement of the doctors and her mother. 

For years she had buried the grief of moving, she buried the loss of the only friend she had. She buried herself.

Under his sympathetic gaze that seemed to tell her he felt some of her paid for her, it all flooded through her like the wound was new and raw. Because in hiding it, in pretending it didn’t exist, the wound had never healed. 

“Yes,” she said, her voice cracking and tears threatening the back of her eyes. “I never…”

She squeezed her eyes shut, swallowed, and took a deep, shuddering breath. 

“Part of me wonders, has always wondered, what happened to her and if she was ever able to move on, but I never went back after Mother moved us.” 

“It isn’t just me. You can see ghosts,” he said.

His face, so solemn and serious in most of the moments she saw him, managed to be both incandescent with joy and heartbroken.

“Why do you look equal parts happy and sad?” At least in analyzing him, she could focus on something other than her own past and the things she it was too late to change. 

“Because, I am both. Happy you have affirmed for me that I am, in fact, no longer alive, and that this is not some strange thing, there are others like me and you have a truly amazing ability. And sad that it has cost you so greatly.” His face didn’t seem to be able to pick a side of his feelings, and she chose to focus on the one that didn’t make her want to lay her head down and weep.

“You did not know you were…”

It didn’t matter that she knew he was a ghost. It didn’t matter that she had met so many others before him.

He looked so alive, so whole and healthy that she couldn’t reconcile the word in her mind with him in front of her. And she couldn’t bring herself to say it out loud.

“No. For a long time, I didn’t even suspect. I was so lost.” He shook his head and settled back against the bench, looking out at the water, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth.

“But now, it’s as if I’m alive again.”

A stabbing sensation shot through her heart.

How was she going to live up to that?

She couldn’t bring him back from the dead.

“Is — I mean…” She couldn’t find the words. How did she ask someone dead what they thought they needed from her to make them go away?

He looked at her, but she chewed on her lower lip and focused out at the trees where they brushed the sky.

She waited until the silence grew between them, not bothering to finish her statement and hoping he wouldn’t ask.

The day was strange enough, he had been dead for ninety years. He could probably stand to wait for her to keep thinking about it before she blurted something that didn’t make any sense.

“Do you think there is a reason for your unique gift?” he asked, making her jump with how close he came to what she was thinking.

“Often, I have wondered. In the moments when I was trying not to hate myself and believe that it wasn’t what they said it was.”

Which was true, but he didn’t need to know that she had also begged whatever power existed in the universe to take it away.

The look on his face and the straightening of his spine, with his fingers curling into a tight fist, made her wonder if he was as accepting of people the world deemed crazy when he was alive.

“No matter what they told you about yourself, tried to make you believe, please know that to me, you are a miracle. Your gift, is a miracle.”

Looking into his eyes, falling into the depths of them, discovering the small bits of violet among the dark browns and slivers of gold, one of the many cracks in her soul started to heal.

“You really believe that I’m not someone who should be thrown away and forgotten,” she said, her voice little more than the breeze floating through the trees, ephemeral and insubstantial. 

“Arabella, I have not been able to speak with another person for almost one hundred years. I have not left the grounds in that time. And I am certain, that even before I became this,” he gestured at himself, “I would have been amazed by your ability to even survive the way the people around you have treated you.”

With his words, one more crack was stitched closed. She still didn’t feel whole or healed, but she didn’t feel like she was slowly bleeding out anymore either.

“Okay,” she said.

He looked around the clearing like he was expecting someone else to join them.

“Okay, what?”

“Blackwell,” saying her own last name as his name felt odd on her tongue, and she wanted to call him anything else, but there wasn’t another option, “Do you think that there would be a way that I could help you not be a ghost anymore?”

“I don’t think there is anyway to bring me back from the dead. I don’t even know where my body is buried and I would imagine it would have reached a skeletal stage by now.”

The way he spoke about his own earthly remains, so dispassionate and distanced, as if they had nothing to do with him, while his face remained open, inviting, and he still stared at her with obvious care and appreciation shining from his face, made her suck in breath.

She had to look away from him, to star down at her hands, resting in her lap, to gather her thoughts.

“Don’t worry about that, I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to do that in the first place. What I mean is, do you think there is something after this and you’re stuck here because we need to help you move to that other place?” There, she thought that conveyed the belief that had grown inside her in the moments she could afford to contemplate it at all.

“If you’re asking me if I believe in a heaven, you would understand that I have a hard time with that concept after what I have been through. But, I will admit that, yes, I think maybe that is why you have been given the gift you have.”

No pressure, she thought, her throat growing dry and a cold sweat forming in the small of her back. 

“Blackwell, I don’t want to let you down, but I have no idea how to go about doing that.”

Her hands shook, even as she clutched them together tighter.

“Well, you have already done so much for me, just by being you. If you can send me to… whatever comes after this, I would be forever grateful from that next place. But if you cannot, I am already far better off now, than before you came to the manor. If you do manage to send me to the next place, I will tell her how you fought to make it through, and tried to fight for your new home.”
I hope everyone has their copy of the trilogy, and I hope you all approve of where Zellendine and Troylus’s story takes them. 

As always, thanks for reading!– Everly

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