Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Paula's Prompts: A Writer and Her Muse

On August 1, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving medicine, a grumpy human, and an abandoned road.

This story was the result...

“You need your medicine.” A transparent hand gestured toward the bottle of pills sticking out from her backpack.”

“I’m going to need a lot more than that.” The writer glanced at the abandoned road, surrounded by trees. “What’s the point in bringing me out to the middle of nowhere? Or me bringing myself since you’re just a blasted figment of my imagination?”

“Quiet. Solitude. Moving out of your usual space.” The muse gave her writer a critical look up and down. “This is one place where you can’t hear all of the voices of your social media, distracting you from your stories.”

“Wonderful. Another one of your stupid plans to stimulate my non-existent creativity. You know, the only thing I had going for me was I around. Consistently.” The writer considered her muse, whom wore a willowy androgynous form with a cloudy skirt and tunic which billowed around her, making her more of a creature of air and wind than anything solid. 

Quite appropriate. 

“Trollish Tart will be ready to spew some poison about me to anyone who’ll listen.” She closed her hand into a fist. “He’ll tell anyone who’ll listen about how I cracked under pressure.” 
“Don’t crack.” Her muse shook her head in disapproval. “Don’t listen to Trollish Tart.”

“I’ll listen to whoever I feel like listening to, no matter how toxic they are!” The writer glared at her muse. “Who are you to tell me who I can talk to? You’re not real. You’re just the result of my pathetic attempt to spill my guts about how lousy my work really is.”

“Pathetic attempt or not, blasted figment or not, I’m on your side.” The muse slung her arm around her grumpy writer. “You understand this or else why would you listen to me? Why would you be here now?”

The writer leaned back, doing her best to pretend the imaginary arm was warm and comforting. 

When she didn’t have anyone on her side, she’d reach for anyone she could create. Figments of her imagination were still better than Trollish Tart. 

“Anything could happen on this road.” She glanced ahead at it, winding through the trees. “Perhaps a ghost has made this place her private haunt for centuries.”

The muse nodded, offering encouragment, while her author started plotting her next story. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Map

A short dwarf faces a woman who’s a little taller, but not much more. The two of them glower at each other, bringing together a set of equally bushy eyebrows. 

Map: You’re short. 

Quartz: Look who’s talking. 

Map: I’m still taller than you. 

Quartz: Much taller if one’s taken a peek at The Hand and the Eye of the Tower while it’s being revised. 

Map: Hush! No spoilers. 

Quartz: Are you the only Map in Tales of the Navel/The Shadow Forest? Or are there other Maps out there?

Map: I’ve got my secrets. It doesn’t do to dwell on them, young man.

Quartz: Who are you calling young, let alone a man? First, I’m a dwarf! Not a short human! I’m one of the stone born!

Map: While I was born of tree and branch. Or perhaps one could say I was reborn, once I understood the poetry of tree and branch. 

Quartz: What’s that supposed to mean?

Map: Not telling. 

Quartz: Why is your cottage called the Old Cottage?

Map: It’s the oldest dwelling in the Valley of Omphalos. The sole survivor of the lost village by the same name. 

Quartz: What happened to the village?

Map: Not telling.

Quartz: The scribbler’s made some vague noises about your stories being inspired by Tarot imagery. That Omphalos is part of the mythology she’s created around the Tower card for your world, isn’t it? You’ve got a ruined tower overlooking your cottage on the hill, don’t you? Care to comment on any of this?

Map: No, nor waste a single thought upon it. The tower is nothing but a pile of rocks. That’s what I keep trying to tell my boys. (mutters) Not that Leiwell ever listened to me, nor Danyel and Tayel. Curse that mouldering pile of stone!

Quartz: Why are you so angry with that tower if it’s just a pile of rocks?

Map: Who says I’m angry? (glowers)

Quartz: You sound angry! (glowers back)

Map: Ashleigh left me to raise our three boys all by myself, whom are all fixated on that bloody tower! I’ve got reason to be angry!

Quartz: Don’t see why you’re angry with the tower. It can’t all be that cursed pile of rocks’ fault. (mutters) Now I’m getting annoyed…

Map: You see? I try to ignore the heap of worthless stone, only to find it creeping into my head. 

Quartz: Huh, Sounds like it’s more than a tower. 

Map: It’s not!

Quartz: Right. 

(The two of them glare at each other in silence for a long moment. )

Quartz: Fine. You don’t want to talk about the tower. Let’s talk about Ashleigh instead. You say she left you to raise your sons alone. 

Map: Not exactly. She disappeared, sent Leiwell to me, I found her, took the twins back home and waited for her. I’m still waiting. 

Quartz: Huh?
Map: It’s complicated. 

Quartz: Isn’t it always? At least she didn’t give you a poisoned apple.

Map: Huh?

Quartz: It’s complicated.

Map: Right.

Quartz: That’s my line. 

Map: Right. 

(The two of them glower at each other some more.)

Quartz: Fine. It’s complicated. It’s always too complicated to talk about. You could write an entire book about it and you still wouldn’t be able to explain.

Map: That’s what the scribbler is for. Assuming she ever gets around to finishing our stories. 

Quartz: You’re telling me. Now go tell her. 

Me: I’m working on it.

(Both characters glower at me.)


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Gnome's Warning

On July 11, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted as her Wednesday Words prompt the statement, "For once it wasn't the gnomes were not the problem..."

To which Garnet shrieked in my imagination, "What?! The gnomes are always the problem!"

Not this time, Garnet. This gnome is trying to warn you and tell you something important...

For once it wasn’t the gnomes that were the problem. 

Yes, they often leered at him when no one else was looking, showing their fangs, sneaking up behind the trees and clusters of flowers within the Forest of Tears…Garnet didn’t like taking long walks where there were patches of grass dotted with color.

Such an area was where the crystal coffin was. 

This gnome was lunging at him or baring its fangs. It actually crooked its finger at him in a beckoning way. 

“Psst, Ginger Shreds!” It attempted to hide its jagged teeth beneath a thick lipped smile. “Can we talk?”

“What do you want?” Garnet backed up a space, putting a little more distance between himself and the gnome. The cottage felt entirely too far away, even if its walls only offered dubious safety. 

None of his brothers were around. Gnomes never showed their true faces around Garnet’s brothers. Sometimes Garnet wondered if he was the only one who could see them. 

“Look, I’m speaking to you because you’re the only dwarf who can see us.” The gnome tugged at one long earlobe. “I’m not sure if I should be, considering the way you keep stepping on our grass.”

“It’s not your grass!” Garnet snapped, glanced down at the blades under his feet. “Is it?”

In truth, he wasn’t sure whom the grass belonged to. The Forest of Tears belonged to itself in all likelihood. All the seven dwarves owned was the cottage and Garnet wasn’t sure about that either. 

Quartz had led his brothers out of the mines in the main mountain range as far from the goblin menace and dwarven infighting as he could. Treasure wasn’t worth all the fuss, especially since the fools were all fighting over the same rocks and metals; gold, diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Many a handsome stone was overlooked in the squabble over what humans valued. The more fool everyone else had been Quartz’s attitude. There were plenty of rocks to bewitch the eye and commune with in silence, while harvesting just enough to get by. 

Living in a cottage had felt odd at first. So human. Over time, Garnet and his brothers had come to enjoy it, even if was amidst a witchy wood filled with who knows what. Most of the time, the creatures of the wood didn’t bother the dwarves within their four walls, although gnomes had taken to stalking Garnet outside.

Outside had always felt less safe. Inside offered a barrier against whatever neighbors they’d acquired which might wish them well. Or did it?

That barrier hadn’t saved Blanche, their Fairest from her enemy. 

Whom did the cottage belong to? According to Quartz, it had been part of a trade. He’d been reluctant to discuss the details. 

Did the cottage belong to the six surviving brothers? Or were they just the tenants of some overlord…or lady.

“The grass and flowers belong to us as much as you.” The gnome tapped a gnarled finger against his nose. “Like you, we were refugees, fleeing from the mad alcemist who created us from the earth.”

“That’s not like us,” Garnet muttered, feeling pity’s stab in spite of himself. “You mean a human alchemist?” 

Human sorcerers were nothing but trouble. They brought misery upon themselves and everyone else around them withn they meddled with the hidden forces of the world. 

“I’m surprised you managed to escape.” Garnet considered the one human sorcerer he’d met…Oriana. Although she considered herself to be a witch. Garnet couldn’t really tell the difference. They were all humans poking around with magic. 

“Well, we had some help from the same kobold who helped you.” The gnome hunched down into own thick collar, hidden beneath a mane of thick russet hair. “Never trust a kobold. They’re too closely related to goblins.”

“Right,” Garnet echoed his deceased brother’s cynical retort in the face of dubious statements. Sure, he didn’t trust goblins. Once a dwarf dug up a treasure, a goblin often showed up to steal it. This was one of the reasons Garnet and his brothers had left the more densely rich mountains filled potential treasure. Too many goblins, along with other dwarves there. 

Kobolds weren’t the same as goblins. Garnet refused to believe this unless he saw more goblinish behavior on the part of kobolds. Garnet wasn’t sure if he’d ever met a kobold or if he’d recognize one if he did. Those sprites were creatures of legend. Sure, they lived in the mountains, near the earth or its fires, but all thee tales how they appeared when someone spoke their true name, kept company with dragons…kobolds seemed a bit far fetched. 

“Yes, we were fool ebough to make a deal with this kobold. Now we’re trapped.” The gnome reached up to tug at his whiskers with knobby fingers. “We’re doomed to assume these ruddy cheeked, bearded faces for the world.”

“Stop that!” Garnet reached out to swat at hands engaged in an activity his own were too often involved with. “You’ll ruin a perfectly good beard. Believe me, I know.”

“Perfectly good?” The gnome wrinkled his wide red nose in disgust. “There’s nothing good about this shape. I miss our true beauty.” He sighed. “You’re the only one who’se been able to view it.”

“True beauty?”” Garnet squawked, staring at the drooping earlobes and the sharp teeth. “You mean-“

“Tragic, I know.” The creature dropped its head. “We’re cursed to lurk in gardens, forced to function as human decorations, unable to move half of the time.”

“Err, I’m sorry.” This did sound tragic. Garnet wasn’t so what to say. The true visages of these creatures terrified them. 

They weren’t hiding those faces to trick, trap, or terrorize anyone. Gnomes had no choice but to wear them. 

“This is why I’m warning you.” The creature bared its jagged yellow teeth. “Don’t trust the kobold.”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” Garnet glanced at the trees, the tear shaped flowers drooping from them. “Not that I’ve met any kobolds to my knowledge.”

“One will come to you, offering to revive your brother.” The gnome pointed a finger at Garnet. “Don’t believe his promises. You’re more than capable of reviving Quartz yourself.”

“I wasn’t about to believe…wait!” The meaning of the creature’s words sank in. “You’re saying Quartz can be revived?”

“Well, of course. Your brother isn’t dead to begin with.” The kobold wagged his finger at the coffin. “He’s just sleeping off the effects of that muffed healing spell he tried to work on the girl.”

“Dwarves can’t really cast healing spells.” All right, this was almost a lie. Dwarves still work with stones, invoking them to help heal other living creatures. They were limited to working with stones, but they were much better with rocks than most other living creatures. 

No one had resonated with his name stone quite like Quartz. The crystal coffin he lay in, which had once been Princess Blanche, their Fairest’s resting place had been the result of him coordinating his brothers’s energies with their stones. 

Doing so had melded the coffin together which they’d placed their girl within. 

“They most certainly can’t.” The gnome wrinkled his nose. “Not judging from what happened to your brother. You should be able to wake him up.” The creature tapped a finger against his temple. “Don’t believe that kobold when he comes up, smiling, offering to fix Quartz for you, since he’s a very important person in his magic book.” The gnome snorted. “If you care for your brother, do it yourselves.”

“My brothers and I aren’t in the habit of accepting help from strangers.” Garnet drew himself up with some dignity. “For that matter, I’m not sure if I should believe you either.”

“Don’t believe me if you’d rather not.” The gnome shrugged and wagged his head. “Just keep an eye on that cuckoo clock in the cottage. All gifts from that kobold come with a price.”

“The cuckoo clock?” Garnet turned to glance up the path leading back to the cottage. 

The strange time keeping piece, which had a small wooden bird leap out to chirp the hour, yes, this time Garnet knew what the gnome was talking about. It had been waiting in the cottage from the day the dwarves moved in. It never failed to annoy Quartz.

“Why? What does that clock have to do with this kobold or my brother?” He whirtled to face his tiny tormentor…

…only to face a circle of toadstools surrounded by grass and red flowers. 

“Ridiculous!” Garnet huffed, not entirely sure if it was. 

Acquiring the cottage had been a curious matter which Quartz never had explained. He’d been leery of the cuckoo clock, too. 

Quartz might not be dead. That possibility was worth a few kobolds, cuckoo clocks, or gnomes. 
“Thank you for the hope.” Garnet ducked his head, not sure if anyone was still listening. “Although if you’re lying to me, I’ll tear out your beard myself. No matter how fearsome you are.”

Nothing answered. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Let's Just Talk, Part 4

On June 27, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at involving a blood splatter, a dust bunny, and a heat wave.

This swelled into a large story involving a reluctant medium and a ghost on her porch. Here's the last part, picking up where we left off last Wednesday...

“How did you know what I was thinking?” Suspicion curled within her. “Did you know Minae and I before you died?”

The ghost hung her head in a very human gesture. “I was aware of very little until I saw you, felt you. Even now, I’m not sure which thoughts are mine and which are yours.” 

Minae shimmered in the heat, as if she were part of the sticky air, clinging the dust bunnies, the blood splatter, and to Caitlin herself. “I hit my head when I fell.”

“You’re claiming head trauma after death?” This wasn’t the strangest notion Caitlin had ever heard. Ghosts tended to cling to the sensations they remembered from life. Literal phantom limb syndrom, how very punny. 

“There must have been something you wanted to resolve or you wouldn’t be here.” Caitlin decided to focus on the here and now, what she could do something about. “You said you wanted to talk to me, but I’m not good at talking.”

“No, you’re not. You just smile and laugh that artificial laugh of yours.” Minae scowled at Caitlin, pupils glowing with a cold, obsidian gleam. “You have no idea how much I hated the sound of it.”

“Well, it wasn’t like I enjoyed it either…wait, you knew me?” This was something of a surprise. Perhaps it shouldn’t be. “No, I couldn’t have. No one I spent time with in high school had such good taste in anime, or even knew what it was.”

“That’s what you assumed.” Tiny pinpricks of yellow green flame appeared in Minae’s pupils. “You never bothered to find out the truth.”

“I can’t believe it. You’re saying we used to hang out back in high school?” Caitlin rubbed temples sticky with the heat. “I definitely would have remembered.”

“I never said you hung out with me.” The unearthy light in Minae’s eyes spread through the irises into the whites. All the illusions of lost appearances which ghosts clung to. “You never noticed me. You or Micki, even though I was standing right behind you when that vapid idiot pointed her out to you.”

Uh oh, things were getting dangerous. 

“Of course you were.” Caitlin did her best to make her voice sound soothing. “Don’t be upset. You look quite, err, different than you did back then.”

“Yes, I’m heavier!” The sickly greenish hue was spreading across Minae’s face. “Not that anyone has ever noticed that!”

She raised her luminous arms to see the putrid glow creeping up them. 

“This is what happens when you get angry.” Caitlin crossed her arms and took a step back. “Are you really enjoying it?”

“No.” Minae dropped her arms to her sides, slumping. The greenish light retreated back up her wrists. “Wonderful. You’re finally paying attention to me because of this.”

Saying “I’m sorry” seemed a little weak at this point. 

“Err, well, I didn’t notice much of anybody back then.” Caitlin fumbled for the right words, only to end up telling the truth. “Not even my friends. To be honest, none of us were all that intelligent. Myself included. At least I didn’t act as if I was.” 

Nothing like taking refuge in an obvious put down. 

“You’re telling me.” Minae smiled a little, scuffing a sneaked foot across the ground. It slid through a dust bunny, making it tremble a tiny bit. “You I just disliked, but most of the people you spent time with I hated.” 
“Why are you trying to talk to me if you disliked me?” Caitlin felt a bit defensive on the part of her old high school crowd. Sure, they had been airheads. This didn’t merit hate. 

“For the same reason you spent time with them.” A lock of hair slipped down across Minae’s forehead to hang over her eye. “Protection.” 

She pushed back the hair from her forehead, only to pause, fingers frozen, wondering. “How did I do that?”

“Still feel your body even though it’s no longer there? For the same reason you’re suffering from head trauma, even though you’re no longer anywhere near your head.” Caitlin waved a hand at her. “All of this is an echo, Minae. Just an echo.”

“An echo.” Minae let out a sigh and looked down at the blood splatter. “To think of all the doorsteps I could have died on, it was yours.” 

“I haven’t lived in this house for very long.” Caitlin raised a hand to brush one of her own curls out of her face. “I’m guessing it was yours first.”

“My parents must have sold it after I died.” Minae crossed her arms. “They must have been sad.” Once more, a light entered her pupil. This time it was clear, sparkling gleam, like a crystal or a tear. “I never thought about that.” 

“They’ll be more than sad if your spirit isn’t able to move on.” Caitlin glanced down at the blood stain. “They’ll be haunted. They probably already are by this.”

“Move on.” Minae sighed. “If only I’d spoken to you or Micki. I feel like I wasted the time I had.”

“What did you want to say to us?” Caitlin swallowed a lump growing in her throat. “I haven’t seen Micki in years.”

“I think that may be it.” Minae frowned, cocking her head. The crystalline gleam spread throughout her eye. “Go talk to her, Caitlin. Don’t let time or distance stop you. You don’t know how much you have left.” The light grew brighter, enveloping the ghost’s face. “Something might happen at any minute. Look at me.”

Caitlin tried, but the glow was so bright, radiating out of Minae, a welcoming warmth that felt like home, completion, a serene contentment…

…only the next moment, the ghost was gone. Along with the blood stain. 

Only the dust bunnies remained. 

“Just when I was starting to enjoy our conversation,” Caitlin muttered, only now it was to herself. 
It was better that way. She didn’t need anyone other than herself. 

Only she missed talking. Not to people in general, but to the right person, conversation could be oddly satisfying. 

Like with Micki. 

“Go talk to her, huh?” Caitlin smiled a little, scuffing her foot in the dust bunny Minae had tried to move. It scattered when Caitlin’s shoe impacted with it. “Maybe I will.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Let's Just Talk, Part 3

On June 27, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a prompt involving a dust bunny, a blood splatter, and a heat wave.

I've finally managed to finish this, but wow! Quite the large story it's turned into! There's two more parts, including this one. (wry grin)

Caitlin returns from her stroll down memory lane to the hot porch covered with dust bunnies and the ghost responsible for the blood stain...

Thus had begun one of the most unusual relationships in Caitlin’s life. 

“I can see Micki in your mind.” The ghost spoke in a soft, hushed voice, filled with an almost desperate hunger. “I’ve never had a conversation like that with anyone.”

“You’re spying on my thoughts.” Caitlin backed up a bit. 

“I’m sorry. It’s just I’m Minae and she’s Micki.” Minae wrapped insubstantial arms around herself, an imitation of how Micki had once hugged herself. “The image of her sitting on that bench next to me, yes, I feel like it’s me, not you. It should have me!”

“Calm down!” Caitlin snapped, nearly tripping over a flower pot. “You can’t have my memories.”

“Why not? Why can’t I have them and shape them into something with me in them?” Minae rocked herself. “Picture the two of us together. Micki and Minae, just like the Disney mice. We’d finish each other’s sentences, complete each sentences. We might even voice each other’s thoughts before we could say them!”

Caitlin hunched down, trying to protect herself from the barrage of images invading her memories. “Stop it.”

“She’d draw out ideas I’d kept close to my chest, encouraging me to think whenever I spoke.” Minae released herself. “It was intoxicating. Nothing has ever been like that.”

“Stop that!” Caitlin clasped my hands to my face, trying to organize her jumbled thoughts. She could see herself, only she was no longer Caitlin. She had Minae’s round arms and big hands. One of them clasped Micki’s in hers. 

Micki smiled up at Minae. 

Minae smiled back, proud to wear matching mouse ears to hers.

“I’ve never worn mouse ears in my life,” Caitlin said between clenched teeth. “Stop playing with my memories!”

“Sorry.” The images settled returned to what they’d been. “It so easy, getting drawn into the fantasy. Drawing you into the fantasy.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

#QueerBlogWed: Let's Just Talk

On June 27, 2018, P.T. Wyant posted a Wednesday Words prompt at involving a blood splatter, a dust bunny, and a heat wave.

The story inspired swelled into something huge. I posted the first story last Wednesday for #QueerBlogWed.

Here's the second part, which relives Caitlin's memories, beyond the setting where the dust bunny, heat wave, and blood splatter are happening, along with the ghost connected to all of them...

Smiling and talking was easy, so easy it was almost natural. Nothing she said mattered. 

“Look at the peace sign.” Someone nudged her, grinning a bit. What was her name again? “Along with the crucifix, the jade hat, and the mouse ears!”

Caitlin glanced at the girl with the purple streak in her short dark hair, wearing all of those things.

“Some people will do anything for attention,” she muttered under her breath, turning her back on the spectacle. Caitlin walked in the opposite direction, while the rest of the ground smirked and giggled over Purple Hair. 

Whatever. She was already bored. 

By the middle of the day, she’d forgotten about it. This was her time alone, to stride across the park at high noon. 

Yes, it was hot. Spirits tended to be sleepy and dormant. It was the one time of the day Caitlin dared to be alone. She didn’t need a crowd of people around her, she could walk alone, listening to the wind in the trees, smelling the flowers. 

Plants were so much more pleasant than people. Prettier, too. 

Caitlin strode at a brisk pace until she came to the garden. At which point, she slowed down, strolled past lillies, snapdragons, plum trees, Japanese maples, breathing in the air. 

If only she could be like this all the time. 

She stopped at the bench which offered a great view of a cluster of purple flowers she didn’t know the name of. At first, she didn’t even notice the person who dropped onto the bench next to her. 

After all, this person gave her plenty of space. 

“I can never make up my mind.” Her voice was soft, inobtrusive, mingling with the winds and smells. 

“What?” Caitlin turned to look at the speaker, only to see the purple haired girl who’d been mocked at school. 

“Do I feel spiritual? In what way?” The stranger didn’t turn or look at Caitlin. She kept her gaze fixed upon a distant group of rose bushes. “Do I want to wear jade or my pentacle? Am I Christian? Am I pagan? I myself am not sure.” Gray green eyes, slightly slanted darted in Caitlin’s direction, direct and serene. “Sorry if I bothered you with my confusion.” She fingered with each symbol around her neck, eyeing it. “It’s my normal state of being.”

“One you have to express? It seemed like you were trying to make an impression.” Caitlin leaned back against the bench, arms spread out behind her. “You certainly caught the eye of the people with me.”

“Completely unitentional. An unfortunate side affect of being myself.” The girl smiled, giving Caitlin a sideways glance. “We can’t all blend it.”

“Can’t you?” Caitlin asked, putting an unintentional edge in your voice. She herself blended in, every day, making an art of not standing out. 

“Not in a way which wouldn’t drive me completely mad.” The girl smiled, transforming her rounded cheeks and snubbed nose into something unique. Almost sagelike. “Doing what you do every day looks exhausting.” 

“You’ve been watching me?” Caitlin raised an eyebrow, wondering if she shouldn’t feel uneasy. Wondering even more why she didn’t. “Why?”

“I’m curious.” The girl brushed a lock of purple hair off her brow. “Why spend time with people you don’t really care for?”

“I don’t dislike them,” Caitlin protested. “They’re all right.”

“Are they?” The stranger withdrew her arms from the bench to hug herself. “They’re not your friends. Not really.”

“Why do you care?” Caitlin asked, getting a little irritated. This girl was pushy. What’s more, she was intruding on Caitlin’s alone time. “Why don’t you stop analyzing me and tell me what you want?” 

“To talk to you.” The girl dropped her arms, stretching them out in front of her. “I’m Micki, by the way. Like the mouse.” She pointed to the hat she wore. “What’s your name?”

“Caitlin.” She wondered if she should have given her name so readily. She wasn’t sure if this stranger should have it. “Why do you want to talk to me?”

“I’ve seen you visit this garden, noon after noon.” Micki gestured to the purple flowers ahead of her. “You seem like a very different person when you’re here. Someone worth talking to.”

“Picky about whom you converse with, aren’t you?” Once more, Caitlin surrounded herself with a barrier of old fashioned words. Anyone who was frightened off by them wasn’t worth the time of day. “Why me?”

“I’m not sure.” Micki smiled, once again transforming her face into a human landscape of curiousity, pain, intelligence, and serenity. “Perhaps if we converse, I’ll find out.”