Category Archives: Short story

Persuasion Meets Groundhog Day – A short story

Hey folks! I posted this story earlier this month on AustenAuthors. It turned into a fun, angsty look into Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Read on!

***

Time Loops

It’s not quite Groundhog’s Day yet, but I usually see the movie pop up sometime in January and I always have to watch at least five minutes of it. Definitely one of my Top 5 Movies of All Time.

In December I usually watch “12 Dates of Christmas” which is a festive romantic comedy with the same idea, and my husband and I both really enjoy “Edge of Tomorrow” with Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt where they’re trapped in a day fighting aliens.

Twelve Dates of Christmas

I am a SUCKER for the time loop trope. I love everything about it. The confusion, the despair, the hope, the growth, the incremental learning, and the uncertain romance!

All this to say, this is my (early) Groundhog Day post! There are some great Pride and Prejudice time loop stories, but I haven’t seen one done with Persuasion. (If you know of one, let me know in the comments!) I doubt I’ll turn this into a novel, but it is so delicious to explore the idea of Anne learning and growing and changing her fate with a time loop. She can be active instead of waiting for others, as the poor woman too often had to do. Can you guess what day she’ll have to get right?

Hands Tucked In, Part 1

Anne woke at the hotel in Lyme with a sense that some impending doom had been averted. The quiet sounds of the hotel were tranquil, and she lay with her hands tucked under the pillow, not quite awake enough to question her sense of relief.

There was a murmur from the hotel man putting the gentlemen’s polished shoes back in place as one of the guests stepped into the hall to ask him about the weather. There was the nearby chink of china as one of the serving maids set the table in their private dining room for breakfast. The smell of roast beef and fish and the ocean made even Anne’s appetite awaken with a low rumble.

How happy she was to be in Lyme—how long since she had felt so happy to be anywhere! Certainly she was glad not to be returning to Uppercross with the terrible news of Louisa’s fall—

Louisa!

With a start, Anne sat straight up in the small bed, catching the wool blanket against her chest. Louisa had fallen onto the pavement of the Cobb and been severely injured. They feared for her life and Anne had been packed off in the coach with Captain Wentworth to tell the poor girl’s parents.

But now—a bell below tokened another guest’s arrival at the inn and the merry bellow of a ship’s horn indicated that she was certainly still at the hotel, in the harbor city of Lyme.

Had they returned with Louisa’s parents yesterday? Had Anne fainted from the anxiety and care? Why did she not remember?

Anne threw off her night things with trembling hands. She’d left the previous day’s dark blue walking dress hanging on the hook by her bed. She’d soiled it the yesterday kneeling on the wet, gritty pavement of the sea wall, but what did a thing like that matter when she was so confused? She pulled it on over her head and did up the buttons.

Though her anxiety did not lessen, she paused long enough to pull her hair into a simple knot at the back of her head. If she had fainted or otherwise been taken ill yesterday—which she more and more thought she must have done—she ought to present a decent appearance to the others or they would insist on coddling her all day when they ought to be focused on poor Louisa.

When she was neat enough, she jerked the hall door open.

The gentleman across the passage was just coming out as well—now wearing the boots he’d just gotten from the hotel man. He looked at her inquiringly, for her countenance must show agitation.

Anne blinked at him. “Mr… Mr. Elliot?” She had nearly forgotten the handsome man she briefly met yesterday during their walk. He had admired her, and she had noted it, only to be very surprised to learn after his departure that he was their estranged cousin. Louisa’s fall had put it all out of her head. “Have you come back to Lyme? I thought you were headed to Bath.”

Only her confusion and disorientation excused such a direct question to a veritable stranger.

He paused, wrinkling an intelligent brow. “Why, yes, I have not been here in some years, and I am headed to Bath later today. I am afraid you have the advantage of me, Miss…?”

One of the hotel maids exited the dining room and Anne turned to her, too intent to attend him any longer. “Excuse me, has there been word of Miss Louisa Musgrove this morning? Has my sister sent word?”

The maid jerked her head toward the dining room. “I believe Miss Louisa is still asleep, Miss Elliot, but Miss Henrietta is just in here having a cup o’ chocolate.”

“Miss Henrietta is drinking chocolate?” The last Anne had seen of Henrietta, she was prostrate with fear for her sister and had been given a composer and put to bed.

Mr. Elliot was looking bemused, and Anne recollected him with effort. “Excuse me,” she curtseyed slightly. “I—I mustn’t detain you.” At any other time, she would be quite interested to meet her cousin and see what manner of man would inherit her father’s land and titles, but not this morning.

“But I declare that you must detain me,” he said, half-joking, half-affronted. “If you are indeed a Miss Elliot. Dare I believe that you are Miss Elliot of Kellynch Hall?”

“No,” said Anne, moving towards the dining room. “That is my older sister. I am Miss Anne Elliot.”

He fell into step next to her, smiling. “I have yet to learn that Miss Anne Elliot has less claim on the name than her sister. I suppose you must already be aware of my identity, but I am quite taken aback. Please allow me—”

“I’m sorry, sir,” said Anne, “I can attend to you presently, but I simply must ascertain the health of my sister-in-law before I do anything else.”

He had followed her into the private parlor where the Musgrove family was to be served and indeed, Henrietta was there alone. She was looking quite cheerfully out of the window and sprang up on seeing Anne. “There you are! The beach looks so lovely this morning and it is still an hour until breakfast. Do come walking with me, Anne! I feel I shall quiver myself to death with delight if I sit here any longer.”

“But—Louisa,” poor Anne protested. “How is she? Have you heard from Captain Harville and his wife? Has Louisa regained consciousness?”

Henrietta’s pretty brow furrowed. “Louisa left our room before I did. She is out walking with Captain Wentworth, and she is perfectly fine.” She smiled ruefully and a little self-consciously. “Perfectly fine except that she preferred to walk alone with the Captain and thus I was waiting for you.” Henrietta took in Mr. Elliot and blushed a little. She rose from the table and curtseyed a schoolgirl’s dip. “How do you do, sir? Are you a friend of my dear Miss Elliot?”

“I am in fact, a cousin of your dear Miss Elliot.” He bowed. “However, I am afraid perhaps that she isn’t well.”

Anne was not well. She sank down on one of the spindle legged stools against the wall and put a hand to her head. “Henrietta. Please tell me plainly, did Louisa fall and hit her head yesterday?”

“Why, no.” Henrietta looked questioningly between the two of them. “You were with us the whole time, Anne.”

“I suppose I was.” Had Anne dreamt it? Had she indulged in a perfectly frightful and realistic nightmare? On occasion, she dreamed of her mother in quite life-like moments. But then—Anne had known Mr. Elliot’s identity. She closed her eyes and pressed her hand over them.

Mr. Elliot’s gentlemanly voice was heard to request that Henrietta ring for some tea. “I think Miss Elliot has had some fright this morning.”

“To be sure,” Henrietta agreed.

When Anne had drunk some hot tea, scalding her tongue a little but not minding, for at least it was real, she felt more composed. It was inexplicable and strange, but then… she was old enough to know that all of life was inexplicable and strange and she could not put too many demands on it.

Besides which, she was distracted by Mr. Elliot, who—without being at all flippant or condescending—was blending humor and concern in such a way as to make her smile.

“Now, Miss Henrietta—do I have your name correctly? Ah, good—I believe we have chased the ghost out of her eyes. Now I believe is the perfect moment for you to renew your request for a walk. And I, being at hand and also desiring a walk in the fresh breeze I see whipping the Union Jacks along the wharf, will offer to escort you.”

Anne agreed that the sea air would help clear her head and soon she and Henrietta were on the high Cobb on either side of Mr. Elliot.

The Cobb overlooked the sparkling gray ocean, and a fine cool breeze reddened their cheeks. At intervals there were stairs leading from the highwalk to the lower one nearer the ocean and rock. The stairs made Anne uncomfortable, for she could still picture Louisa jumping a moment to soon. She could hear the horrible sound as Louisa’s head bounced off the stone stair and her body crumpled limply to the ground.

Mr. Elliot must’ve felt her tension, for he looked at her a little searchingly. He was too well-bred to demand further explanation for her confusion this morning, which she appreciated.

Anne knew, of course, that Mr. Elliot had had a falling out with her father. He had been painted as quite a black sheep, in fact. She saw nothing of it now. In fact, based on one morning’s acquaintance, she was quite encouraged to know that a man of intelligence, information, and kindness was to inherit Kellynch. The good people of Kellynch, the tenants and the village folk, would be in better hands than she had hoped.

That Mr. Elliot was equally pleased with her was clear. He seemed genuinely delighted to make an acquaintance of Sir Walter’s daughter. His eye often caught hers, and she thought that perhaps—in her dream? Premonition? Nightmare?—at least she had not been wrong that he admired her.

It made her color up a little, for she was no longer used to a man’s eyes on her face with that sort of admiration.

Henrietta was perhaps not quite oblivious to it, and when they stopped to admire the view at the end of the Cobb, where the wharf and warehouses left off and the ocean stretched away, she moved off on her own a short way.

It left Mr. Elliot and Anne in a surprisingly intimate moment. Anne sighed gently. She would not allow herself to think of how much rather she would have the moment with Captain Wentworth. He was off walking with Louisa, whom he would marry, and whom she must and would be happy for.

“This morning—” Mr. Elliot started again. “I hope that you—I was quite—”

“Please forget my confusion,” Anne said. “I cannot explain it.”

“I was not asking for an explanation,” he said, “and I could readily forgive far more, if there was anything to forgive!”

“You must think I was very silly.”

“On the contrary, I suspect that you are not at all silly.” He looked at her keenly. “I suspect, in fact, that your life has not been easy. I see in you something I recognize.”

Despite his good looks and manner, Anne did not know him. She swayed a half step away. “My life has had no great difficulty. I cannot complain.” Though even as she said it, she thought of her grief over Captain Wentworth, her grief at her mother’s passing, her grief at leaving Kellynch to strangers.

“That is exactly what I would expect you to say,” he said smiling, as if he knew her quite well. “Not at all easy, I gather, and you have the stamp of someone who has found their way despite mourning. I felt an immediate jolt of recognition when I saw you this morning—though I doubt I would’ve realized the source if you had not spoken to me. I feel as if—and I only take such a liberty on the basis of cousinship!—that you and I are something akin.”

Anne knew that his life had been difficult. He had taken a low-born wife for her fortune and been—by report—very unhappy and still more so when she died untimely.

“Perhaps there is some small similarity,” she said.

He smiled at her again, pressing her hand which was tucked around his arm. Whether he would have continued this interesting conversation, she did not know, for Henrietta returned to them. “Look, here is Louisa and Captain Wentworth coming toward us. We can walk back with them.”

Captain Wentworth’s eyes had found them out already, and he was taking in the tableau. Anne’s hand was tucked around Mr. Elliot’s arm, and he had placed his other hand over hers. His eyes were bright, and he had just been murmuring something in her ear.

Captain Wentworth’s eyes fixed on Anne’s for a moment, and there was a flash of recognition, as he suddenly saw the quiet beauty he’d fallen in love with twelve years ago.

And saw that she was being squired, appreciated, and admired by another man.

It was only a moment, and then there were introductions. That Mr. Elliot was her cousin seemed to strike Captain Wentworth between the eyes. His mouth opened slightly, and he clamped it shut, doffing his hat.

“We must walk back along the lower Cobb,” Louisa declared in her self-assured way, “where it is not quite so windy and we can test the delightful crunch of the shingle under our feet!”

Anne’s hand tightened compulsively on Mr. Elliot’s arm. The stone stairs led down the wall at an angle, with no railing and very little depth. They were slick with spray and salt and worn into softer shapes by years of wind and waves.

“Surely up here is better,” Anne said. Her words fell on deaf ears, for already Captain Wentworth was descending.

“Be careful!” Anne said. “Louisa—take care!”

Louisa laughed. “I am careful enough for my small part, and the Captain is careful enough for the rest of it. Do hop me down, Captain Wentworth!”

Anne dropped Mr. Elliot’s arm. Henrietta was on the point of following her sister, and Anne darted in front of her and onto the steps.

“Catch me!” Louisa cried happily.

Captain Wentworth was at the bottom. Perhaps he had been distracted by Mr. Elliot’s arrival and had not properly heard Louisa’s request. “Sorry, what was that?” he said, turning.

But Louisa was throwing herself toward him, expecting to be caught under the arms. Anne grabbed for her wrist or her shoulder… Surely it could not happen again!

Anne’s lunge did not save Louisa. In fact, it knocked her own neat boots loose from the precarious friction offered by the limestone steps.

They both fell and Anne saw Captain Wentworth’s horrified face before her head struck something and she knew no more.

***

Anne woke at the hotel in Lyme with her hands tucked under the pillow, and to the murmur of voices as the gentlemen’s boots were delivered first thing in the morning.

Her head did not hurt, thankfully, but she didn’t feel the same sense of relief as she had the last time.

What was happening to her?

<End of Part 1>

That’s it for now! Let me know if you also are a fan of time loops! If you enjoyed this, you can find Part 2 here!

Corrie

A Nautilus Escape Room! and Other Book News

Recently I celebrated my 38th birthday and my 17th wedding anniversary (2 days apart) so my husband and I celebrated by doing an escape room! We live in Los Angeles, so there are a variety around. (I highly recommend the 60out locations if you live around here.)

So anyway, we were browsing the different options–we wanted medium difficulty, not horror, etc.–and we found one based on Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Having recently participated in an anthology commemorating the book, I had to do it.

And it was really cool! Very steampunk aesthetic. We started in a small dark room–really dark–and eventually felt around and found flashlights (lanterns?) in a cabinet. With the flashlights we were able to see to fix the piping and repressurize the rest of the “ship.” There were several other tasks–cranks to turn, valves to get to certain numbers, electrical cables to rewire.

Once we did those the door opened to Captain Nemo’s study. We had to find his journal, then pass a series of tests to open the engine room and activate the life boat. There were knicknacks to align in a certain order. We had to use a list of completed books in his journal to rearrange the books in his personal library.

Then there was a map of the world to figure out, a piano (pianoforte?) to play, and a few other puzzles I can’t even remember. The final engine room had a periscope which showed the giant squid! That part was a little hokey, but it was still really fun. One person had to figure out depth and distance while another person physically loaded torpedos and adjusted power and angle. After three “shots” the squid was defeated and the lifeboat was activated.

We needed a few hints from our minder, but she did a good job of only helping us if it was clear that we’d completely not seen a key detail. Or once when we thought we actually broke something and were embarrassed and trying to fix it, lol

Anyway, it was a fun outing and such a clever use of theme! I wish more of these companies would make literary based escape rooms–such a great idea!!

In other book news, I am working furiously on From London with Loyalty and it is taking shape.

Onward!

Interview over at Poseidon’s Scribe

Thanks to Steven Southard for hosting me for a guest interview over at his blog! He had some good questions that made me think and some that made me laugh. Go check it out!

Meanwhile, I’m getting closer on publishing Best Martian Playlist, coming December 1, and working on an untitled Emma/Pride and Prejudice mashup. Good times!

Good short stories

I don’t know exactly what makes me love a short story, but it has something to do with humor, surprise, and a “real” ending. I wish I could write them that way! Humor especially seems to escape me, and all too often my short stories turn into first chapters (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but sometimes they don’t have the ending feel that I want.

Anyway, that being said, I finally got to read the stories in 20,000 Leagues Remembered! And just in time for the Facebook launch party for the paperback.

There’s too many to write about every one, but here are my favorites, in no particular order:

At Strange Depths by Jason J. McCuiston – so clearly written, forgot I was reading. An eerie extension of the book just after Professor Arronax escapes.

The Maelstrom by Maya Chhabra – fantastic character study, dark and moody and richly textured. It braids Nemo’s former life with the present and has a satisfying end emotionally, possibly the best of the bunch for me!

The Silent Agenda by Mike Adamson – ha! A curiously engrossing fireside chat between a publisher and a translator as they plan to edit Verne’s work to oblivion. Great dialogue, makes a writer and book lover and historian just cringe! In a good way.

Fools Rush In by Allison Tebo – Cracked me up. The would-be thieves have great chemistry as a group. I wanted more! Juliette with her single-minded balloonist goals, Lopez depressed and fatalistic, Casper making glorious speeches at inopportune moments… probably the funniest of the lot.

Homework Help From No One by Demetri Capetanopoulos – Okay, wait, maybe this was the best of the bunch for me! I really tasted the ingenuity, danger, and wonder of the original with this one, and a great ending!

I enjoyed others as well, Raise the Nautilus by Eric Choi is great, particularly for hard sci-fi readers, Leviathan by Michael Winkle went all in from a sperm whale (cachalot’s) perspective which was super creative…

Short story appreciation is definitely a matter of personal preference, but it seems like there’s something here for most to enjoy.

Cheers!

Corrie Garrett

Free day for Manipulate, and a Jules Verne anthology

Manipulate SMALL slap a spaceship on it

The first ebook in my Alien Cadet series is free today (ends at midnight!) so grab a copy if you haven’t read it yet!

Also, I am excited to have a story included in an anthology celebrating 150 years since Jules Verne published his famous novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That book was published June 20, 1870, and it has inspired countless scientists, engineers, and explorers. And Captain Nemo, with his tragic past, murky motivations, and terrorist tendencies, is a conflicted (anti?) hero who honestly fits right in to our world in 2020!

20KLeagues_Front CoverThis anthology is full of stories that pay tribute to Nemo and/or his ship the Nautilus, and it’ll be available June 20, exactly 150 years to the day! You can pre-order now on Amazon.

In other news, I hope everybody is hanging in there with lockdowns and quarantine. In the US, it seems like a lot of places are opening up and I hope that will mean more jobs will return, and hopefully we have learned enough to control any major Covid-19 spikes! Here in Los Angeles, things are a little slower to open, so I will continue to sit tight with my four kids while we make mazes, sketch pretty doodles, or watch the Holderness channel and laugh.

Don’t forget to pre-order soon! Happy reading, everyone!

Corrie Garrett

 

Nine Ankle Fractures, or A Modern Fairy Story

My sister found this link to an old short story of mine, but it wasn’t working anymore, so here is the story! She wants a novel out of it, but I don’t know… would this be paranormal romance or what? Also, I think I gave away hundreds of copies of this story on Instafreebie a long time ago, so if it looks familiar to my readers, that’s probably where you saw it! I also flirted with starting a romance penname, but ultimately decided that was way too much to keep organized. Enjoy! -Corrie Garrett (a.k.a. Ann Lanmon)

FairyShoescoverflat

Nine Ankle Fractures

The worst day of my life started with a Christmas dress. I was only thirteen, and my mom had gotten me a new dress to wear to school, and to the ballroom dance lesson I had afterward. It was the last lesson of the year, and she wanted me to go ahead and enjoy the dress. If only I’d been the kind of kid who took up knitting or crossword puzzles instead of ballroom dance (with parents who weren’t living kindly and vicariously through my activities), I could have just worn my pretty dress to school and avoided a whole world of unpleasantness. Unfortunately, I wasn’t and I didn’t, and now here I am nine years later going to another lesson. It’s table tennis this time. I have no life.

My roommate grunted when my alarm went off and flipped her hair over her face so the light wouldn’t get in her eyes. My lesson is at eight a.m. which, on a Monday, is like waking in the middle of the night. Especially as a senior. I am so done with early morning classes.

I’d taken table tennis this semester purely to get my physical education credit so I can graduate in the spring, and because archery was canceled. (I like sports where you keep your feet still.) Now the semester is almost over, and I’ve got three finals to prepare for, plus my table tennis final. (Yes, I am wicked prepared for adult life.)

The athletics building is usually overheated, so I slipped on shorts under my sweats before I go out. It hasn’t snowed yet, but it’s still too cold, particularly when I come straight outside from my warm bed. The campus is gray and foggy this morning, though the mist will burn off by mid-morning. It’s vaguely shocking how many people are already up this early – jogging or going to breakfast before class. Do people still do that? I’ve been here too long.

After about six weeks in this P.E. class, one of the assistant coaches offered to give me a few one-on-one lessons to help me find a work around for my disability.

Usually when a coach or gym teacher gets to this point I politely decline their help, letting them off the hook. Most of them are busy anyway, and don’t need the bother of helping one more moderately disabled student achieve subpar results. And usually they give me an ‘A’ for effort and leave it at that.  But this assistant coach who was teaching my class…. Well, he’s hot, okay? He’s not dating anybody, as I’d discretely ascertained, only a few years older than me, and funny. I’d been having a great time in his class, despite being bad at it.

In short, I was not opposed to a few extra lessons. We’d met once a week for the last month or two (the only reason I was willing to get up this early as a senior). Sadly, Phil hadn’t shown the least interest in me. He was friendly, we had a great time… and then he always said, “Have a great week, Kara. See you later.” Huzzah.

I know I should be more bold if I’m interested in somebody… but that didn’t work out for me so well the one time I tried it.

Phil was already waiting for me this morning. Well, waiting sounds passive and he was actually bouncing a ping pong ball against the far wall. What do you call it when someone can’t sit still and starts playing a game with a wall? Sparring? Volleying? (Seriously, what is it with sports people? They’re always in motion.)

I watched him bounce the tiny ball one more time before he caught it. Although he was good at it, you could tell table tennis was one of the least active things he did – you didn’t get built like that by fiddling with a paddle.

He grinned at me. “Five minutes early, that’s the spirit.”

“Am I? My clock might be fast.”

He handed me a paddle and reminded me of the pointers we’d learned in class on returning a serve. “Pretend you’re clearing the table, see? Swipe it across and imagine you’re knocking every last thing on the floor. Or this way… yes, harder, push the air out of your way like water… okay!

“Now for your feet… Let’s have you keep your feet planted today, to limit your ankle movement, but if you’re feeling firm, you can shift carefully. Normally that’s not… well, the way to compensate for limited footwork is to play further back. Let the ball come to you; you don’t lunge for it. It’s a more conservative game, but you can work it.”

I planted my feet as he indicated, and he went to the other side of the table, starting with a nice, slow serve.

We volleyed comfortable three or four times before the ball spun towards my left edge. I was so focused on the ball, I stutter-stepped left and went down on one knee.

“Woah, you okay? That’s what I’m talking about. You could let that one go, keep your feet planted.” He came around to check my ankle.

I pulled myself up with a hand on the table, “Right, I forgot, sorry.”

He stared at my legs, not (sadly) in an admiring way, but the way everybody with any knowledge of physical therapy stares at my legs – with frustration and doubt. The problem was that they could almost identify what was wrong, it lingered intuitively on the edge of their understanding, but it didn’t make any rational sense, so they never quite got there.

Which brings me to the worst day of my life: That rainy day in December with the dress.

I was at my ballroom dance class with about ten other kids from school, and I was dancing with Robert, the teacher’s son. He was fifteen and a good sport about filling in as his mother’s assistant sometimes. He was a fantastic dancer (possibly gay, we suspected), and whenever I danced with him I was suddenly ten times better than normal. When you’re thirteen that is some heady stuff.

Well, we were talking and I was sort of flirting with him that day (also heady) and his mother kept shooting me odd looks. She was an extremely elegant and polished woman. The kind whose exquisitely tight top knot gives them a temporary facelift. Robert ignored her looks and I mostly did until the end of class. I was putting my warm snow shoes back on for the walk home when I realized Robert and his mom were arguing.

I was the last student left. Robert was leaning against the piano, but his body language said he was mad, and their voices were getting louder. Awkward.

I walked as inconspicuously as possible toward the door, but suddenly she turned to me and pointed.

“May your feet be cased in iron!” she said in a ringing voice. “And may you never dance again.”

“No!” Robert said. “She’s perfect.”

“It’s done,” his mother said. Her face was pearly white beneath her black hair and Robert’s face was as gray as the clouds outside.

I stared at them. “Um. Okay. Sorry.” When in doubt, apologize. That’s always been my standard response, but in retrospect I sure wish I could take that one back.

I stumbled out the door, not quite processing the fact that my feet were not working right. I was on the sidewalk trudging home before I could think through what she said. I think when you see a fairy lose control it sends you into shock.

Anyway, when I came out of the mental fog, I realized that I could barely walk. My calf muscles were burning and my feet were dragging. I stopped on the sidewalk, breathing heavily. I was outside of a laundromat, and the short winter day had already turned dark. I looked at my reflection in the lit window of the store, and that’s when I saw them.

Iron shoes. Under my black velvet skirt, my feet seemed to be incased in clunky, old-fashioned ladies’ shoes (with lots of buttons) made of metal. I reached my hand down gingerly to touch them, but felt only my thick athletic socks and snow boots. But my reflected fingers were touching the top of heavy, iron shoes.

Well.

Two near drownings, seven ankle fractures, and nine years later – I’m standing at the ping pong table and watching Phil frown at my feet.  I shifted back into place and he looked up at me, forcing his frown away. My ‘disability’ makes no sense to people, because they can’t see what’s weighing my feet down. My legs are strong and toned (lifelong resistance training, woo!), but it makes my clumsiness look that much more odd.

I’ve learned to compensate for my ‘disability’ quite well, for the most part. (I don’t swim, for instance.) But quick, small moves of my feet can still trip me up, particularly if I’m concentrating on something else, like slapping a tiny ball with a paddle.

Large motions are actually easier. A step is easier than a slide, and a lunge is easier than a shift. Tiptoeing is out of the question. I obviously never danced again. Robert and his mother disappeared that same week with no explanation.

Phil smiled. “Right. Let’s try again.”

After half an hour my serve was actually improving, and I was getting better at gauging which balls to let go, and which to swing at. I hadn’t moved my feet much, which was always a plus.

“You’ve made some great progress this semester,” Phil said finally. “We want to stop while you’re ahead, or else you’ll get tired and start engraving mistakes.” In class he was always talking about ‘engraving’ perfect moves and ‘deep practice’ and ‘focused reps.’ I found his enthusiasm endearing, though usually I’m a rather cynical person. (I can’t imagine why.)

“Since it’s our last lesson, want to go grab breakfast?” he asked. “I didn’t really eat yet and I was going over to Moody’s.” Moody’s was a campus café, a popular alternative to the cafeteria.

I subdued a high-pitched squeal. “Sure. That’d be great. What do you like there?”

He held the door from the rec room open for me. “If Marie is working she’ll throw together a great Reuben sandwich. Sauer kraut is good for you.”

“Eh, but for breakfast?”

“You can have eggs any time of day. A good Reuben is a thing of beauty.”

I grimaced as we skirted a basketball court where two guys played. “Sauer kraut isn’t my favorite, gives you such bad breath.  I mean, not you, personally– ”

“Hey, heads up!” one of the guys yelled.

From the corner of my eye I saw a basketball flying toward my head. I instinctively raised my hands, which was good, but I also instinctively tried to pivot towards the ball, which was not. My weighted feet moved badly, tangled – and I fell to the ground with a grinding pain in my left ankle. And the ball still hit me in the head. Typical.

Phil squatted next to me. “You alright?”

I winced. “Mostly.” He gave me a hand up, and I awkwardly got to my feet, putting most of my weight on my right foot. I tried to step and… “Shoot.”

“Your left ankle?” Phil lifted my foot up gently and I put a hand on the wall to keep my balance. He twisted it carefully one way and then the other. “Tell me when it hurts too much.”

“It’s – ouch, right there. Another sprain,” I told him. “I’m used to it.”

The basketball guy stood hesitantly nearby. “Really sorry,” he said. “Bad luck.”

I tried to shrug it off. “Not your fault, I have bad ankles.” And bad feet. Stupid, jealous fairies.

Phil’s hands felt cool against my ankle as he set my foot down. “Let’s go to the clinic. They store all the athletic gear there and I can get a wrap for your ankle.”

“Right.” I started to hop in that direction, but Phil laughed. He unceremoniously picked me up, under my knees and behind my back, and started carrying me back the way we’d come.

“Oh, hey, it’s okay, I can hobble in there.” Not that being carried wasn’t everything I wanted it to be… because it totally lived up to its reputation. Nothing makes you feel small and feminine like being carried, and Phil carried me really well.

“It’s no problem. I helped carry Marcus off the field during our last football game, you know, and you’re a lot lighter than him. Anyway, it’s just around the corner.” He smiled and I admired his chin which was most of what I could see of his face from this angle.

He backed through the clinic door, to avoid banging my head on the doorjamb, and set me carefully on a bench. For a moment we made eye contact, our faces only inches away. The silence in the room rang like a tuning fork, and I felt a tingle in my back.

Then Phil blinked and straightened up, looking bemused. He turned his back to me and started rummaging through a drawer.

“There’s, uh, some ace bandages or… an ankle brace might be better. But these are too big…” He muttered disjointedly, sorting through the supplies.

Eventually he turned back to me, his smile and composure back in place. “Sorry, you’d think I’d never dealt with a sprained ankle before. Here we go.”

I slipped my sock and tennis shoe off and he gave me an ace bandage and a couple butterfly clips.

“You should get this checked with your doctor this week,” he said. He looked up after helping me secure the end. I swear, the silent-tuning-fork thing happened again, and we both vibrated in the stillness. And then he leaned forward and kissed me.

Only for a moment, seriously half a second, and then he jerked back. “Wow. Sorry. I shouldn’t – we probably shouldn’t even be alone in here. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

He sort of blindly shoved some crutches in my direction. “I’ll just be in the hall if you need help.”

I sat still for a second, savoring the moment, even the tension in my stomach. This wasn’t my first kiss, but it was the first time I’d been kissed as an adult, by another adult… who I really, really liked.

I shortened the crutches and got to my feet. I was very good at these. In fact, I had my own crutches stored under my bed, so I could return these before I left for Christmas. Maybe I could still go to breakfast with Phil, and then maybe… I planted the crutches and swung forward with my good foot.

I almost fell over. Oh. My. Goodness. I strangled a yell of excitement.

Was it possible…?

I flopped back down on the bench and stared at my feet. I pointed my toes. It still hurt, but who cared? I lifted my good foot and then my hurt one. They were so light. I’d forgotten what it felt like not to have invisible weights pulling me down. I felt like I could fly, like I could float, like I could dance…

A boy appeared next to me. Like, right out of thin air, teleportation. He was handsome and pale and I would have recognized him anywhere. I’d replayed that scene so often in my head.

“Robert?” I gasped.

He took in my crutches and my expression and a smile lit his too beautiful face. (I hadn’t exaggerated that in my adolescent mind, as I’d sometimes wondered.)

“I made a note to find you, when you were free.” He took my hand. “Will you dance with me?”

“Will I dance – ?” I stuttered.

“With me?”

“With you?” I seemed to be afflicted with repetition.

Phil pushed the swinging door open, “Are you okay? Did you say something?”

He looked right at me, his eyes didn’t even flicker in Robert’s direction. I looked between the two of them and he still didn’t look. Phil clearly didn’t see him.

“I – Just a second.”

The door swung shut and Robert pursed his lips together.

“I see,” he said. “How predictable of Mother.”

He touched my lips with his fingers and I jerked my head away. “Don’t touch me.”

“You’ve been marked.” He sighed. “You would have been perfect. Goodbye, Kara.”

He disappeared as fast as he’d come, and I came as near as I’ve ever come to fainting. Fairies are freaking overwhelming, they sort of suck the oxygen out of the room.

When I finally pulled myself together and came out, Phil was still waiting in the hall.

“Look, I apologize. I was really out of line. I could lose my job for this. Not that I’m telling you not to report me – I mean, if you feel you need to, I understand. But I don’t want you to think… I mean, I’m not some grabby coach that harasses students. I really didn’t mean to take advantage of you.”

I stopped him with a hand to his arm. “It’s fine. It’s – let’s just forget about it, and go get breakfast. What do you say?”

He looked uncomfortable. “Thanks, but I… I should go get some work done. See you later.”

He walked away, calling back over his shoulder, “Don’t forget to go see your doctor.”

Well. Our university had had some issues with coaches a few years ago. Nothing like the horror stories you read sometimes, but I guess Phil had suddenly gotten cautious.

I did go see my local doctor, and he gave me some pain killers for my ankle. It was a little anti-climactic, as apparently the life-changing transformation I’d experienced wasn’t immediately obvious to him. I tried to explain that I really thought something was different, but he just urged me to be cautious. Whatever. I knew I was free and I knew why.

I went to my table tennis final the next Wednesday and Phil gave me a vague smile, without meeting my eyes. He took roll while the actual teacher paired us up and told us to start playing. He would observe and give us a final grade based on our effort, improvement, blah, blah, blah. He didn’t match me up with anyone.

Phil also wandered through the tables as he usually did, though he didn’t give pointers, since everyone was supposed to show what they’d learned. Eventually he got to me, where I was leaning against the wall with my crutches.

“You don’t have to stay for this,” he said. “I marked you present, but there’s really no point since you can’t play. I explained to Coach Burnett about your sprain.”

“I know. I thought I’d just hang around and watch. Someday I’m going to be good at this game.”

He looked at me quizzically. I’d never shown any incredible enthusiasm for table tennis, and my confidence probably seemed nuts considering his knowledge of my ‘handicap.’

“Um… well, can’t fault that attitude.” He gave me a slightly less awkward smile. “When you’re off the crutches, we’ll see what you can do.”

I grinned at him and he grinned back, briefly, before he remembered that he was flirting with me and walked away.

I leaned against the wall, smiling like a fool, and feeling the freedom in my feet. It was the feeling of a broken curse. And if I knew anything about fairy tales, this meant one thing for sure:

Phil was totally my man, he just didn’t know it yet.

After an hour, when everybody was slipping sweats and coats back on, I crutched my way over to the door. He was saying goodbye to a couple students and I waited until he was done.

“Hey, I have a favor to ask. I need to move a few things to my car before I take off this afternoon. Would you mind giving me a hand?”

Yes, I was totally playing the injured, helpless girl card. Go ahead and judge me. But if he was at all interested in me, he wouldn’t mind…

“Oh. Sure. I do have some time now. Is your stuff packed up?”

Ha. Take that. “Yeah, that’d be great.”

I can’t say I pushed my crutching skills hard during that walk. It was starting to snow, so I did need to be careful, but I may have gone slower than I needed. It usually took me about six minutes to walk to my dorm and we took at least a quarter of an hour. Phil was talkative and friendly as ever, but he kept glancing off to his right, as if something was bothering him.

“Everything okay?”

“Um, yeah. Fine.”

In my room, he hoisted the box I needed and grabbed the handle of my suitcase. “So, where are you headed for Christmas?” he asked.

“Back to Maine, my parents live in Augusta.”

“Nice. There’s great skiing up there. I went with some friends a couple years ago. Oh. But I guess skiing’s not your favorite activity.” He smiled apologetically. Then he glanced behind him again.

Seriously, what was that about? “No, not really. Too cold anyway. I’d like to learn to scuba-dive, actually. Sort of the opposite.”

“I don’t know, I think the opposite of skiing is hiking. Scuba-diving is the opposite of… parasailing?”

“That works. But what’s the opposite of table tennis?”

He laughed. “That’s a hard one. Maybe bowling?” He put the box on the hood of my car while I unlocked it. “I’m teaching a bowling class next semester at the local alley, should be fun.”

“Yeah.” I clicked the trunk open and he moved my things into it, slamming it shut.

“You going anywhere for Christmas?” I asked.

“My sister’s place,” he answered shortly, glancing behind him. “Um… I couldn’t help but notice that guy watching us. All the way from the gym. Is he… is that why you asked for my help?”

I searched behind him in surprise. “What guy?”

“Right there. Black hair. Twilight-y.”

I snickered though it wasn’t entirely funny. That guy had ruined my life. Up to now.

“Oh, him. No, that’s not why I asked for your help… but, it doesn’t hurt either.”

I smiled at Phil and he looked at me, still concerned I could tell. What a good guy. If I was every going to be bold, this would be a great moment for it. “Um. If you wanted to make sure he knows to back off, that’d be really awesome.”

I saw it click, and he smiled. “I could probably do that.”

He kissed me again, and when I briefly looked over his shoulder, Robert was gone.

***

The second best day of my life began the day after we got married, when Phil gave me my first scuba-diving lesson on our honeymoon. Fairy tales are not what they’re cracked up to be, but personal training totally is.

THE END…

Still Waters Release!

unnamedPhew, time to move on from Kindle Scout to other news! I’m so happy to have my Little Mermaid retelling included in the most recent anthology by C.J. Brightley. If you love J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and other uplifting fantasy writers, this anthology is for you.

“Noblebright fantasy is fantasy with a thread of hope even in the darkest hour, with characters who strive to do the right thing, even when it costs them everything.

In this exciting collection of noblebright fantasy, fresh new fantasy voices and award-winning authors explore grief and hope, sacrifice and heroism. Rediscover the best aspect of classic fantasy – the noblebright ideals that made heroes heroic, even when the world grew dark around them.”

My fairy-tale adaptation is called “The Ice of Heaven” and was actually inspired by my nine-year-old daughter. She wrote a fun little story about Galileo traveling to one of the moons he discovered and finding life. (She totally has the heart of a historical fantasy writer, if I do say so myself!)

Check out the anthology, you’ll love it. Links for all retailers below:

Amazon B&N/Nook Kobo | iBooksGoogle PlaySmashwords

facebook for stillwaters

 

The Officer – coming June 28

Summer is here! Do you have a good book to read?

Well, I’ve got one for you! The Officer is almost here. Eleven science fiction stories examining the duties, challenges, and downright chaos of authority in strange places. It’s available for pre-order now, and drops on June 28.

From the back cover:

“Being an officer means balancing many conflicting demands. Making the wrong decision can have serious consequences. It takes a special kind of person to cope with the responsibility.

The stories are:

Duty by Alasdair Shaw
Patchworker 2.0 by M Pax
Totaled by Benjamin Douglas
Lucky Star by A R Knight
There Comes a Time by J J Green
Red Fortitude by Eddie R Hicks
Pithos by Mark Gardner
A Step on the Path by Tom Germann
Rituals by Rick Partlow
First Generation by Adrien Walker
The Grape Thieves by Corrie Garrett ** That’s me! 🙂

Instafreebie promotion!

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There’s a great little site called Instafreebie where you can try out new authors for free. It’s similar to finding free ebooks on Amazon, but it’s more helpful to the author, besides offering Nook, Kobo, etc. I’m part of a big science fiction and fantasy promotion where you can pick just one book or all of them! I submitted a new Christmas fantasy romance called That Christmas You Remember. Enjoy!