beauty, fairy stories, love, romance, short fiction, women

The Smell Of Wildflowers (The Wild Man 6)

Mirabelle went to the garden often. When she was not there, she would think of it, visiting in her mind whilst her body went through the rituals of court and education. She had been sewing when a cascade of sparkling, golden light fell upon her, a shower of stars at the height of the day. She stood up and walked to the chamber window, watched the man kneeling on the ground. The tan planes of his back glowed like soft, golden fruit beneath the sunlight. His hat was in one hand, and from his head, flowed a mane of tousled, spun gold, glistening and sparkling in the light.

He raised up, looked around him

‘Boy, bring me a bouquet.’ she said.

He raised up and slipped the hat back on, tucking his hair away with a practiced sweep of his fingers before he reached to a crop of wildflowers, cut them with a clasp knife and tied them with a length of cord.

On the winding stone stairs to her chamber. Eilhu met the head gardener who pursed his lips and shook his head at the bunch of wildflowers.

‘Where are you taking those?’ he said.

Eilhu told him and he whistled, under his breath and went to take them from Eilhu. He stepped back.

‘The wild ones smell stronger. She will like them better.’ Eilhu said

He continued on, the head gardener watched him leave, amused by the boy and his certain manner.

Eilhu knocked on her chamber door. She called for him to enter.

She sat in a chair, facing the chamber window. Her auburn hair fell down between her shoulder blades and her long green robe shimmered, inset with garnets and flakes of gold. Her blue eyes fell to the flowers in his hand and she took in their scent.

Eilhu fought the stirring in his chest at the sight of her, the rich, sweet perfume of the flowers filling the room.

‘Who are you?’ she said.

Eilhu passed her the bouquet and bowed from the waist. Mirabelle chuckled at the formal gesture and held them to her nose, inhaled until her head swam from the scent.

‘I work here now, your highness.’ he said.

Mirabelle tittered and covered her mouth with her hand.

‘Aren’t you hot with the hat on?’ she said.

He frowned, touched the brim of his cap and lowered his eyes.

‘No your highness. My scalp, there’s a sore place upon it. It shames me.’ he said.

Mirabelle tilted her head to one side.

‘Take it off.’ she said

Eilhu shook his head.

‘I cannot, your highness.’ he said.

She was quick, motivated by amusement as she pulled the cap from his head. His golden hair rolled down, magnificent and fulfilling. He pulled away, eyes wide with fright but she took his arm and reaching into the purse at her belt, fed a handful of ducats into the pocket of his shirt.

He backed away. Mirabelle’s heart pounded, fierce and loud in her ears.

On his way down, he met the head gardener. Eilhu gave the ducats to him who took them with disbelief.

‘You could buy a lot with these, boy.’ he said.

Eilhu shook his head.

‘I have no interest in gold. Give them to your children.’ he said.

The next day, Mirabelle called for another bouquet and he took one to her. She did not wait for the door to close before she snatched the cap off. Eilhu caught it with both hands as the bouquet fell to the floor. She reached into her purse and gave him a handful of ducats. He walked away, putting his cap back on as he descended the stairs.

The gardener’s children enjoyed his gifts.

On the third day, she called him. They wrestled over his cap, but he smiled and snatched it from her grasp. They stood, inches apart from one another. She narrowed her eyes against the gleam of his hair, the warm determination in his eyes continued to hold her in place.

Her hand rose, fingertips brushing against the curve of his cheekbone before he stepped backwards, turned and left.

On the fourth day, she called and he did not answer. She looked down into the garden, and saw the head gardener, with his children assisting him in simple playful tasks. One of them gazed up at her, and she smiled at the ducats clutched in his hands.

It would be time before she saw him again.

 

 

 

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beauty, love, music, romance, women

Bass Vibrations

The people carrier sat on the kerb outside. The two men moved shining refuse sacks, reusable carrier bags and boxes inside, but for the oversized guitar case, the taller of the two insisted on taking it inside. His head gleamed with perspiration as he kept an even pace of removal until he invited his friend inside. I had watched them whilst the washing machine ran through a rinse cycle. The apartments here were pauses not new beginnings.

I thought about the man on the commute, making up stories why and how he came to be here.

The twilight beat me home. I poured a glass of wine, switched on the oven and wandered into the living room, slipping my shoes off with a sigh of relief.

His windows were open. I saw the magnolia walls, their expanse broken by the monochrome poster he had put up. He sat on a stool, guitar on his knee with black headphones over his ears, a lead trailing off to a speaker about the size of a mini refrigerator; I opened the window and sipped my wine.

He turned the pegs with his left hand whilst strumming the strings, nodding and adjusting them until he gave a short nod. He curled his fingers around the neck of the guitar slow and cautious as he plucked with his right hand. He had tan skin, a shaved head and lean, strong arms. He wore a white shirt, with the sleeves rolled to the elbows and his forearms were vascular from the effort of playing. He lifted his head, smiling to show his white teeth, caramel eyes gleaming with delight. I liked the dimple in his chin when he smiled and how his eyelids had fallen, heavy with some quiet brand of ecstasy as he played. His feet were bare as he tapped them against the floor, keeping time to some internal rhythm.

His lips were parted and he tilted his head back as his thick, long fingers gained boldness. My heart was pounding in my chest, frustrated to not hear anything but enthralled by the fierce, boyish purpose he took to as he played.

I stopped watching only when the smoke alarm went off. By the time I came back, he had finished. I sighed and fought a twist of disappointment which stuck in my chest, hurting with each breath.

He practiced each day. I would get home from work, grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and watch him play. He played like he were taking flight, an act of purposeful liberation which became the quiet highlight of my day.

I had needed milk, gone to the shop across the road and had a carton in my hand when he walked in, slipping behind me in the queue and saying hello with a gruff, low voice vibrating with warmth.

‘Hi. You’ve just moved in around here, haven’t you?’ I said.

He nodded, gave a quick, pained smile and looked at me with amused interest.

‘You play guitar.’ I said.

My voice sounded tight as he raised an eyebrow.

‘Bass. I use headphones though.’ he said.

I shook my head.

‘I’ve seen you play. I mean, I see you. I live opposite you.’ I said.

His smile softened. I paid for my milk and left, wishing I had idled in the shop. He called as I left and I turned, steeling myself for a confrontation or a laugh at my expense.

He gazed into my eyes, asked if I wanted to come over.

‘You’d enjoy it more if you could listen.’ he said.

His smile made it an agreeable decision.

‘If I could hear you over watching you.’ I said.

I had work to do for the office, half a bottle of wine and something for dinner. An ordered, comfortable existence but here was a stranger, prone to flights of pleasure when alone, and I wondered if it would be as sweet to listen as it was to watch him.

‘Yes, I think I will.’ I said.

He said his name was Mark.

Later that night, feet bare and with my hands cupped over the headphones, enraptured by the womb-dark sea of sound and vibration as he played as I was by his expression. I felt myself soften, and when he touched my shoulder, I put my hand over it, enjoying the warm strength of his fingers on my skin.

I carried the bass vibration along with the touch of his hand, let it move me towards him and took flight in my own way.

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beauty, love, romance, short fiction, women

Advice From Mrs Lang

Henry muscled the last box up the stairs, damp and aching from the effort. Adrenaline and effort mingled as he walked down the corridor and into his new apartment.

The last time he had moved, it had been an anguished, tearful affair, shoving items into black bags and his eyes stinging with tears from the deep crack in his chest. He fled not moved, but this had been a different experience for him. The first place had been both cradle and coffin for him and had given him a melancholy fondness for it. Work had become his focus, revisiting his physiognomy textbooks and taking on extra shifts at the clinic to improve his skills and save more money.

The last box laid down in the hallway and he looked at the full length mirror. Comfort had put a few pounds on but grief and a gym membership had carved him into something taut and focused.

The apartment had belonged to an elderly lady. She had keeled over in the frozen section of the local supermarket a week ago and Henry had snapped it up. There was a cardboard box in the corner of her things but Henry had enough to be getting on with.

It was dark by the time he had finished. Books and clothes plus his work materials, essential oils, towels and a padded massage table that folded in two. The place resembled home and he congratulated himself on his work.

Dinner was a take away and he sat at the small table, reading and eating whilst he listened to Pearl Jam to ward off the silence.

He had finished in the shower when he heard the knock at the door. He threw a towel around his middle and found his glasses.

A pair of bright, green eyes framed by ash-blonde hair with a flip in the fringe. Her smile showed a dimple in her cheek and Henry moved as much of his body behind the door as he could.

‘Hi’ he said.

‘Oh god I’m sorry, I caught you at a bad time.’ she said.

He shook his head and raised an eyebrow.

‘No, just not expecting any visitors.’

She gestured to her right.

‘I live at 36. There’s supposed to be a box of Beth’s things she said I could have.’ she said.

He cocked his head to one side.

‘Well, let’s start from the top. I’m Henry and you are?’ he said.

‘Vicky.’ she said.

A flush of colour rose in her cheeks and she twirled a lock of hair in her index finger.

‘I should go, it’s your first night, you’ve spent all day moving.’ she said.

Henry chuckled at her effervescence. It sent up a slow spreading ball of warmth in his chest.

‘No, it’s okay. Would you like to come in?’

Vicky bit her bottom lip and nodded.

Henry threw on jeans and a t-shirt and made coffee. He found the box and brought it over to the couch.

He breathed her in, a perfume as floral and green as a spring garden lingered around her. They drank their coffee, Vicky spoke about Mrs Lang with a sadness which made Henry nod in the right places, slow and solemn. They had been friends, Vicky said. Vicky would use the costume jewellery to make art, paste jewels and false gold on canvas was her concept. Henry sat back on the couch and appraised her.

‘I think it’s cool.’ he said.

Her cheeks reddened and she waved him off. He liked her self-effacement, and when she grabbed the box into her arms, he struggled with a drop of sadness caught at the back of his throat.

‘Thanks for answering the door, Henry. I’ll see you soon.’

She stood in the doorway and glanced around.

‘There was a lot of love in this place.’ she said

Henry enjoyed watching her leave. His throat was tight with emotion but he said goodbye with a casual stoicism and inhaled her as she left.

He washed the cups and French press, drying them whilst he recollected the encounter with Vicky. His bed was clean and warm as he laid down, happy in ways which resisted contemplation.

The shift of weight in the bed woke him. It was at the foot of the bed and he could not move to raise himself up.

‘You in ache the see I.’

Her voice was molten silver, a chiming song that made the hairs go up on his arms.

She sat in profile to him. White hair pinned tight to the nape. A willowy build but with the soft fringe of flesh along her jaw and on the underside of her chin.

‘Mrs Lang?’

She acknowledged him with a wave of her translucent hand.

‘You from it keep to here love much too was there.’ she said.

Henry’s lack of fear did not shield him from the sting of his sadness.

‘I wish it was that easy.’ he said.

Her silver eyes glowed as she stared at him.

‘Started already it’s. Happen it let.’

Henry shivered beneath the duvet as Mrs Lang loomed over him. Her smile was full and poignant. The white light exuded from her eyes, her mouth and her pores, washing over him and sending him down into deep sleep.

Vicky answered the door, her hair wound in a rough top knot. A smear of ochre marked her left cheek and she grinned when she saw the bottle of wine in Henry’s hand. Despite his nerves, Henry mustered a genuine grin back at her.

‘I thought we could raise a toast?’ he said.

She frowned, her nose wrinkling with delighted confusion.

‘To Mrs Lang.’ he said.

She opened the door and he walked inside. The silver light made him narrow his eyes, but he bore it well.

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beauty, love, romance, short fiction, women

Safety

Grumble took his time. The sun was setting, taking the last of the day’s warmth with it. I was still in a t-shirt and jeans, from having been in the garden all afternoon. Grumble had sat at the front door and barked until I had grabbed the lead and the plastic bags I used to clear up after him.

The sky had turned into a canvas of burnt orange and royal purple as Grumble sniffed along the pavement, eager to be off the leash once we got to the park.

I tugged at his lead and he panted, his pink tongue flapping free between his teeth.

I called him to heel and unclipped the lead from his collar. He scampered around, revelling in his freedom. We both took pleasure from the time in different ways. Grumble and the house were all I had after Sam left. The latter held too many memories for me to stay in too often, but Grumble loved me with clumsy ferocity, enough to chase away the fears and doubts.

Grumble yipped and drew my attention back to the present. He was on his haunches, growling at a large, muscular bull terrier who remained sat at his owner’s heel. I hurried over to retrieve him and looked at the man stood next to his dog. He had on a black leather jacket over a brown t-shirt and blue jeans with boots. His jet black hair hung to his shoulders in glossy waves and a scrub of stubble glittered on his cheeks and chin as he grinned at me. His clear blue eyes peered at me from underneath his thick dark eyebrows.

‘Tough little dude, you’ve got there.’ he said.

I hissed at Grumble and he returned. The man chuckled and scratched his dog behind its ears, told it what a good girl she was.

‘I’m sorry, he wouldn’t have bit your dog.’

He chuckled and nodded.

‘It’s all right. These things happen. Enjoy your evening.’ he said.

Grumble barked and the man walked away. I watched him leave, enjoyed how his jeans clung to his backside and legs as he strode away, the bull terrier matching his pace and staying close to his heels. I wrestled Grumble’s lead back onto his collar and carried on with the dog, annoyed and embarrassed to the point of giving up and going home.

‘Nice tits.’

The shout came from my right. Three men, in their teens and swaddled in oversized coats and caps over jeans that hung from their skinny legs. My stomach turned with distaste and I gritted my teeth.

‘Piss off, you twat.’ I said.

One of them lurched forwards. Grumble leapt towards him and nipped at his left ankle. He jolted backwards, crying out and staring at me.

‘Ah, you fucking bitch.’ he said.

His friends chuckled with a bleak amusement. They helped him to his feet and looked at me, smiling as though my actions had given them warrant to act on their mischievous impulses.

The growling from our right made us all turn and look.

She was on her paws, growling and her thick shoulders rolling forwards. Her bark was low and percussive which made the three men flinch with discomfort.

‘Now that I’ve got your attention.’ he said.

He stood there with his arms down by his side, the leather jacket shining like armour.

‘That little nip you got stung a bit but if you keep on at this woman -‘

On cue, the dog barked, explosive sounds broken up by low, sensual growls of threat.

The three lads looked at each other, trying to scrounge up some courage but finding themselves unable to do it without fear of reprisal.

They scampered away, unable to look at either of us.

He walked around to my side, gave a slow whistle which made his dog sit down with its paws in front, restored to a state of contented calm.

‘I didn’t get your name.’ I said.

John. He offered to walk me home.

He did not overwhelm me with questions and when my relief abated into tears, he put his arm around me, and I nestled against his shoulder until I finished. His dog walked close to his heel and Grumble stayed on the lead, chastened by our adventure.

We stood at my gate. He gave me a confident, careful stare.

‘You’re going to be alright.’ he said.

I wiped my eyes and chuckled, thanking him for everything.

I looked deep into his eyes, fighting the impulse to run into the house. His look was deep, ancient and despite his silence, his actions had made me feel protected.

Leaning forward, I pressed my lips against his.

They tasted of safety.

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beauty, love, poetry, romance, women

Let Failure Sleep

Despite your exhaustion
Your skin holds its blush
I approach without caution
Certain without rush
I see the damage
That others have left
Despite that, you manage
How you bear the heft

My arms come around you
So you can take rest
Here nothing can harm you
With your head on my chest
Tell me how you fail
I listen with my heart
Set free from what jailed you
For that is my art

My love is in actions
My strength is so gentle
Chasing distractions
To make this bed a temple
Let my eyes meet with yours
Let my touch sink so deep
Lets lock all the doors
Put your worries to sleep

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beauty, love, romance, short fiction, women

A Little Levity

Each time he came in, he dressed well and his cheeks were ruddy, glowing from a good shave. There was a cleft in his chin that made me wonder what it would be like to touch it.

He came to the counter and placed the hardback on the counter. I picked the book up and scanned the bar code.

‘Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale?’ I said.

The fight to keep my voice even came out as a draw.

This was my fifth conversation with him. Pensive, halting comments at first and wily, candid anecdotes to date.

His eyes lit up in recognition.

‘Yes. A friend gave me a copy, said it was science fiction. I don’t think it is, but I loved it.’

His voice was soft, a generous enthusiasm bubbled underneath. He had asked me for recommendations, and I gave him Colleen Hoover to test him. He had come back and raved about it, not in the studied way that other men had with me, but a genuine joy in the work. I had used my employee discount to give consideration to his recommendation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and stayed up all night reading it through a film of tears.

‘Most science fiction isn’t about the future. It’s a way to talk about what you’re afraid of in the present.’ I said.

I glanced at his unadorned left hand where it rested on the counter. The queue had grown behind him, but I wanted to keep him talking, and to have him want to keep talking. I offered a bag, but he smiled and shook his head.

Recrimination flared in my chest as I handed over his receipt.

‘Thank you.’ he said.

He walked away. I took a quiet pleasure in his wide back and shoulders. He was polite without being cold. He turned back into the shop and looked over his shoulder at me. His eyes were light roasted coffee, languid and gentle to look into. He gave me a hopeful smile and moved to the new releases.

Nate came to cover me for my break. It was a cigarette and an energy drink before we had to check off delivery and cover the shop floor. The break could wait.

He had a copy of the new King in hardback. He scanned the synopsis on the back before he looked up at me.

‘We should stop meeting like this, people will talk.’

I giggled with nerves, sensitive and not wanting to embarrass myself.

‘Well, I was going on my break, and it’s quicker this way.’

He nodded and set the book down.

‘Well I should let get you on.’ he said.

My heart seized with disappointment. Was it the comment about Atwood?

‘No, our manager is out today, so we get a little levity on things like breaks.’ I said.

I willed him to hear the hook in that comment. He grinned and stared at me.

‘I’m going next door for a coffee. Does the levity cover that?’ he said.

Yes, I decided. It did.

He held the door open for me without comment or expression. The import of it sent a wry warmth through my stomach and I fought to keep the smile from my face.

I knew his surname from his card details. He knew my first name from my badge. Incidental details afloat an ocean of tastes. Different to mine, and he did not pander, nor did he refuse any of my recommendations. He had not liked everything, but he had read them.

We took our coffees back to the table. I had a caramel and coconut latte. He had his, black without sugar, with a dash of cinnamon.

‘How long have you worked there?’ he sad.

I blew across the surface of my coffee and watched the line in his forehead as he waited for my answer.

‘Three years.’

His hands were large and dark with clean short nails. I had picked up books he had touched, imagined trace of the warmth remained with a silly excitement.

I asked him what he did.

‘I work in public relations.’ he said.

He drank from his cup, eyes closed for a second of pleasure.
I smiled and leaned forward, eager to be playful with him.

‘Are you any good?’ I said.

He chuckled and shook his head.

‘I love it too much to care if I suck at it. I’m the same with people.’ he said.

I asked him what he meant when my phone hummed with a notification.

JO IS BACK

I spluttered and got to my feet. He frowned and asked what was wrong.

‘My boss is back I’ll get it in the neck for being on my break this long.’

He got up and smiled.

‘I have an idea.’

Jo believed him. He put on a slight air of amiable idiocy but he was gracious with it in a way that drew attention from me. A lost wallet. He cast me as the determined protagonist, the princess who saved the prince and I stood there, too relieved to enjoy it in the moment.

Jo smiled, thanked me in front of him and walked away.

‘Jesus.’ I said.

‘No, Mark.’

He wrote down his number on the receipt and handed it to me. I watched him leave the shop and saw the queue that had built up. I was light with promise, strong enough to get through today and from there, to see him again.

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