The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 21

As a baby, she remembered a younger, gaunter Reisseck setting her on the grass by the lake she frequented as an adult. He stood before her with his wand out and began to do a little jig. As he danced, an eerie glow seeped out of his wand like ribbon and flowed to her as he sang, “Tonight, tonight, my plans I make./ Tomorrow, tomorrow, your freedom I’ll take./ You will freeze when you go too far,/ and to remember this, I’ll give thee a star./ The rule will always stay the same/ until, three times, you say my name… Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!” He laughed manically as the star appeared on her infant hand.

Slowly, Cally became aware of her body in the present. Her chest emitted a great pain, and her eyes felt so heavy that she couldn’t open them. Sound was muffled for her, but she could sense an intense amount of anger in the cacophony made. Little by little, the noise became clearer and clearer, and she realized people were shouting. She recognized a male’s voice, it was her father’s. Henrick shouted, “… high treason!”

“You fools! No dungeon will hold me!” She knew that voice too, Reisseck. She corrected herself, his real name was Rumpelstiltskin. She remembered her mission and summoned all of her strength to tell the others, but her body would not budge.

“We’re not going to let you get away with this!”her mother raged. Cally could hear in her parents’ voice just how devastated they got to see her so gravely injured, and she so dearly wanted to tell them what she discovered! She could make her lips move, but she couldn’t talk or open her eyes at that point.

“Stand back!” Cally could hear Rumpelstiltskin brandish his wand threateningly. Her spirits buoyed a bit when she managed to lift her eyelids and see a bit.

“Your powers must be almost gone after killing another innocent person!” She saw Galena point her wand at him.

“Rump… Rump…el…” Cally’s words were hardly audible.

Rumpelstiltskin scoffed, “Actually, they’re…” He had a sudden realization, and he glanced towards Cally. His eyes didn’t linger though. Instead, he began backing away towards the exit. “I may have lost some of my ability, but I can still out match you! Do you really want to take that risk?”

“Rump… el… stilt… rump… el…” Cally’s voice grew stronger, but everyone had followed him, so no one could hear her.

“He’s bluffing!” Cally’s heart soared to hear Derrick alive and well. “Let’s cuff him and-.”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Rumpelstiltskin roared. “If I have to take the throne in another way, so be it!” Cally watched as Rumpelstiltskin pointed his wand at Derrick, and her blood boiled! Derrick moved his hand out of the way, but he struggled against his brute force to keep the wand away from being able to aim at him. Rumpelstiltskin shot off a spell that nicked Derrick in the shoulder…

Seeing blood trickle down Derrick’s body revitalized her senses, and her adrenaline gave her the strength she needed. She stood up, and her voice shook the entire room as she bellowed, “Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!”

A wind flew out of her body, racing up the walls and out of the room. When it blew past everyone near the foyer, Rumpelstiltskin cried out, “No!”

Cally could hardly believe it herself! She felt a s though it were over, but such a joyous feat felt more like a dream than a reality. She needed confirmation, and with her hands trembling, she looked to her left palm. The star had vanished! She quickly put her palm in the air so that Rumpelstiltskin could see it. His eyes widened, and he made a noise as if he were choking. Cally boldly exclaimed, “It’s over! You hear me? You don’t own me anymore! I’m free! I’m FREE!”

Rumpelstiltskin’s shock paralyzed him. Taking advantage of his astonishment, Galena pointed her wand at him, which caused him to freeze and fall down backwards. Nearby knights immediately put shackles around his wrists and ankles. Galena jumped onto his chest and looked him dead in the eyes. “I out matched you after all!” Rumpelstiltskin groaned. She happily hopped off as the knights took him away.

Avalyn, Henrick, and Derrick turned to Cally with totally stunned expressions on their faces. They stayed silent as if acknowledging this miraculous phenomenon would disturb the delicate balance that kept her standing. Avalyn timidly stepped forward. “Caliana? You’re alive?” Cally nodded, and when it really sunk into their heads, Avalyn and Henrick rapturously ran to her. They instantly wrapped their arms around her and squeezed her tightly, and all three of them were in tears. Derrick, Duke Ferrin, and Galena watched them with warm smiles on their faces.

After a moment, it dawned on Cally that she was holding her parents! She had gone her whole life with no family, and now they were here, right in front of her! It seemed incredible to her that they immediately accepted her and that she actually belonged somewhere! Rumpelstiltskin always had so much venom for the king and queen, but Cally thought that anyone that he he harbored that much hate for must be opposite of him and there fore a good person, so she secretly admired them this whole time. Still, it amazed her that she came from them! She broke apart from them so that she could make eye contact and verify this information. “Father?” Henrick nodded. “Mother?” Avalyn nodded. “Wow, I…” She wanted to express her appreciation for them entering into her life, but she got overwhelmed with emotion. Henrick and Avalyn seemed to have understood what she meant to say and gave her another hug.

Galena went up to them and commented, “Wow, you held on to my elixir all of these years?”

“Are you kidding? We couldn’t let it go after all it did for us!” Avalyn picked Galena up and gave her a hug.

Henrick addressed Galena, “We can’t thank you enough! Your role in this whole thing has been instrumental! I’d like to appoint you for a special task force to create new laws and procedures regarding magical crimes.”

“I accept!” Galena beamed with a sparkle in her eye.

“I’d like to help,” Duke Ferrin stated. “After fighting against a sorcerer, I have some ideas.”

“Of course!” Galena purred.

He told Cally, “I’d like to consult our new princess as well! After all, you did survive a powerful curse!”

Galena remarked, “That’s right! You sure did! Obviously, the healing elixir helped, but how did you survive the sword to the heart?”

Cally pulled out a blood-stained book with a huge gash down the middle out of her chest and turned to Derrick, who had watched them from a distance. “I guess your novel absorbed some of the impact! Sorry for returning it in such shape!”

Derrick tittered, but his mind fixated on another thought. “You brought my book with you on your wedding day? Why?”

“I wanted to keep you close to my heart,” Cally replied with more tears forming in her eyes. “You… I …!” Once again, Cally lost the right words to convey the passionate emotions she felt, but Derrick seemed to grasp the concept anyways. They ran to each other and wrapped their arms around one another. Their faces were close, and although Cally never kissed anyone in her life, her instincts guided her body on what to do. Their lips met, and Cally couldn’t remember feeling lighter or more peaceful than she did right then with him! A blissful excitement coursed through her body, and she never wanted to let him go!

Henrick, Avalyn, Galena, and Duke Ferrin gazed at them fondly until Cloris gave the knights a hard time as they tried to put shackles on her. “Let me go! You had no right to come here! We had every right to defend ourselves!”

Avalyn asked Cally, “Caliana, what do you think is the proper punishment for her?”

Cloris looked at Cally in horror. “You’re going to kill me as revenge for everything, aren’t you?”

Cally chuckled, “Why, is that what you would do? I wouldn’t. There’s been enough blood shed already! Take her to the dungeons for a while, and when she’s done, send her back to Dregs Hollow. I think having me rule over her is punishment enough!” Cloris glowered at her, which signaled to Cally that she had the correct line of thinking. “But living here shouldn’t be a punishment! I’d like to have a merit system to help the innocent citizens of this town!” Henrick and Avalyn looked to each other and nodded in agreement. Now that everything had wrapped up, Cally suddenly felt awkward still standing in the ceremony room of this town. She never felt like she belonged there, and she inwardly celebrated the fact that she no longer had to stay there! She recommended to them all, “Let’s go home!” For the first time in her life, home was somewhere she actually wanted to be! With a feverish glee, they all made their way out of there.

As they walked through the streets of Dregs Hollow, Cally gazed at the buildings with a certain fondness. She had survived so much in this village that being able to walk through it as a free woman felt like gazing upon a battle scar. She appreciated the fact that she had overcome such struggle, and it felt unreal that this part of her life was over. She would never forget where she came from, and although she was miserable in Dregs Hollow, she felt almost sad to say goodbye. Almost. She walked hand in hand with Derrick while Avalyn and Henrick strolled by their sides, and while she didn’t know what to expect in her new home, she would savor every bit of it, good times and bad, just remembering where she got started.

They came to a hitching post in the center of town, and Cally hadn’t realized until now that it even existed. Avalyn and Henrick each mounted their own horses, and Duke Ferrin put Galena into his saddlebag before he climbed onto his steed. Cally expected to ride behind Derrick, but instead, Derrick asserted, “I think you should learn to steer, my lady!” Cally felt stunned at his offer to teach her, but she gladly accepted it. After a quick lesson, they galloped off!

Cally’s heart skipped a beat as they raced through the gates of Dregs Hollow, but the reality of the situation still didn’t feel real to her since she was still on familiar grounds. They passed by Camellia’s Circus, and Cally felt eternally grateful that she never had to set foot in there again! She relished in the fact her new line of work had so much more meaning to it! When they got to the fork in the road by Bohemma, Cally almost felt as though she would freeze up again, and when she didn’t, the concept really cemented in her head- she was free!

Several years later, sitting below a painting of Derrick in a handsome tuxedo and Cally in a simple yet elegant wedding gown, Derrick and Cally held hands as they each read a book. A servant entered and bowed to them. “Your royal majesties of Lacoriandor-.”

“I told you,” Cally reminded him, “You don’t need to formally address me every time we speak! You can call me Cally!”

The servant looked quite nervous about the idea. “Uh, no, I don’t think I can! Lady Joanne and Lady Sasha are here. Your parents have already joined them.”

Derrick regarded him, “Thank you, Andel!” Andel half bowed as he exited the room. “He needs to loosen up!”

Cally laughed, and then she offered her arm. “Shall we?” He linked his arm with hers as they left the room.

The End

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 15

Stacy went up to the door and rang the bell. She felt a little nervous to meet his father, especially since Nick described him as grouchy. She also felt pretty sore from working the last two days, and she took note that under normal circumstances, two days of work would have been an easy week! The time at Emporia seemed to last longer, and she was grateful she had a couple of days to recover from it. Except, she had volunteered herself to do more hard work somewhere else! It certainly would have been easier to go to the library and jot down the name of every record company in Nashville, but she motivated herself to push through the pain because she was dying to see what Nick said about her in his new song!

Nick answered the door and gave her a dashing smile. Stacy tried not to swoon after seeing him in his jeans and a tight tee shirt! He looked good in his work uniform too, but this definitely suited him more. Evidently, he had been checking out her outfit too because he questioned, “Are you okay with getting these clothes dirty?”

“Oh, my ex gave me these,” Stacy told him. “I’m not sure why I brought them to Makawee at all! I’d love an excuse to throw them away and replace them!”

Nick chuckled and invited her inside. Stacy saw an older man whom she could only assume was Nick’s father watching television. She remembered that Nick had mentioned that he was legally blind, so she figured he listened to the television like a radio show instead of actually watching it, but his head still craned in that direction as if he were watching like normal. Nick introduced her, “Dad, this is Stacy.”

“How are you, sir?” She took his hand so he could shake it.

“Sir?” he echoed. “It’s been a long time since anyone called me sir!”

“I could call you Mister Rolland if you prefer,” Stacy offered.

Mister Rolland laughed heartily. “I like this one! What happened to Janet? Did she run off with some millionaire?”

Nick had a pronounced frown at that comment. “She’s at home. She’s fine.”

Even though Stacy secretly enjoyed the fact that his dad didn’t seem to like Janet, but she didn’t like the tension between Nick and his dad, so she cleared her throat and asked, “So, what are we working on today?”

“We’re going to work in the backyard first. Come on.” Nick motioned for her to follow him outside.

Stacy addressed Mister Rolland, “It was nice to meet you, sir!” before she followed him out.

The backyard mostly had overgrown grass in it, but she also saw dandelions sprinkled around the area as well as an old riding lawn mower parked under a shade tree. Nick explained, “Before we mow the lawn, we gotta fix the mower.”

“Okay,” Stacy complied. “What’s wrong with it?”

Nick replied, “It just needs a tune up.” He went to a cabinet by the door and pulled out a toolbox. He then went to the riding lawn mower and popped open the hood. He handed her a flashlight and requested, “Can you shine this where I work?”

“Sounds easy enough,” Stacy responded.

Nick grinned. “Don’t think your whole day will be a cake walk like this!” Stacy laughed, and then Nick began to work. As he began repairing the mower, he brought up, “You know, this reminds me of the song I wrote.”

Stacy felt thrilled that he decided to divulge this information, but she was confused as to what any of this had to do with a song about a girl. “Why is that?”

“It’s called Motor Run,” Nick reported. “Do you wanna hear it?”

“Of course!” Stacy eagerly anticipated this, though she didn’t totally understand how ‘Motor Run’ could describe anything romantic.

When Nick started singing, it all became very clear! The song described a car that thought it worked fine until a woman came along and juiced it up so it ran like a racing machine. She could easily see the symbolism of a man who thought he had a good life until someone came along to add excitement and ignited his passions. She had expected to hear something with that kind of a theme, but she got a jolt of surprise at the sexual innuendos interlaced throughout the lyrics! Combining that with his sheer talent for music created quite the spell on her!

When he finished, he turned to her and inquired, “So, what do you think?”

Stacy couldn’t speak because of how much the song had seduced her! Just looking into his eyes, she got the sense she hadn’t imagined an attraction between them after all! The temptation to wrap her arms around him overwhelmed her, and she was nearly shaking just trying to hold herself back. Just inches from him, she momentarily forgot why she hesitated at all, but suddenly, Janet’s face flashed in front of her and she couldn’t do it. She pulled herself away and sighed happily, “Wow!”

“You liked it?” Nick sought confirmation from her.

Stacy couldn’t possibly say how she actually felt about his song! She felt ninety percent sure he wanted her romantically as well as physically, but until he said it out loud, she didn’t want to voice her own feelings and embarrass herself. Plus, he still had a commitment to Janet, and she couldn’t live with herself if she became the other woman. She began to doubt her theory a little more since he always went home to her. If he had deep feelings for her, Stacy thought, she wondered why he didn’t break up with Janet. In her opinion, she was a much better match for him than her, but it didn’t seem like he had any intent on leaving Janet. That sobered her up enough to give him a more elaborate account on his song, “You have another hit on your hands! It’s catchy, another chart topper for sure! Though, I don’t think you could pair it with Charlie’s song!”

Nick joked, “So, it’s good I didn’t sing it the other day in front of his memorial?”

“Uh, yes!” Stacy agreed. “I love it though! When you play in front of an audience, people will really eat it up!”

“Where do you think I should play this time?” Nick pondered.

“I’ll have to think.” Stacy didn’t want to admit that his song made it hard for her to think in a wonderful way!

Nick closed the hood on the riding lawn mower. “Do you wanna take the reins?”

“I’ve never used one of these! Maybe you can teach me when there isn’t a bunch more chores to do. I can get started on something else while you mow the lawn,” Stacy suggested.

“Okay, could you get started in the bathroom then?” Nick requested.

“Sure! I bet I’ll get it done before you finish the lawn!” Stacy dared him.

“Challenge accepted!” Nick competitively hopped onto the riding lawn mower while she ran in the house.

Stacy found the bathroom, which already appeared fairly clean to her. She stared at it for a while as if it would somehow tell her how to begin, but she didn’t have any clue what to do until she noticed a puff of cat fur. She asked Mister Rolland, “Excuse me, where do you keep your broom?”

“It’s in the kitchen closet,” he answered. “Wait, are you gonna sweep the bathroom?”

“Well, yeah…” She had found the broom and felt pretty confident about her plan until he said that.

“You gotta clean the tub, toilet, and sink before you sweep and mop,” Mister Rolland advised her, “Unless you wanna end up doing it twice!”

“Oh, sorry!” Stacy apologized. “For the last five years, my ex-husband had a maid come in once a month to do all this. I didn’t realize just how long it’s been since I cleaned anything for myself! I guess I kind of forgot how!”

“Let me help.” He got off the couch, and she scampered over to the bathroom. He directed, “Reach into the cabinet under the sink and look for the powdered cleanser.” Mister Rolland continued to give her instructions throughout the process. Stacy didn’t mind because she needed the help. Mister Rolland seemed to enjoy himself too. While she was scrubbing the toilet, Nick came inside and peered at them curiously. Mister Rolland addressed him, “We got this under control. Why don’t you get lunch ready?”

“Sure!” Nick seemed a little surprised at his father’s demeanor but he didn’t question it.

Stacy commented, “Thanks for this cleaning tutorial!”

Mister Rolland responded, “No, thank you for the help! Besides, it’s nice to feel useful.”

“I know how that feels!” Stacy related. She understood why he may have been grumpy previously. It’s not easy to ask for help after living independently for so long! She struggled with that herself, actually. She didn’t want to get too personal with someone she hardly knew though, so she changed the subject, “So, did you grow up in Makawee?”

As Mister Rolland talked about where he grew up, she kept cleaning as she listened. She could tell his mood had totally gotten elevated by this, and when she glanced over to Nick, she saw him smiling appreciatively. She knew at that point that while she didn’t get a chance to look for a new job or earn money to pay for her divorce, she had found something meaningful that made her feel really good about herself, a feeling she hadn’t had in a very long time!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 13

Oh hi, Janet!” Stacy chirped. Outwardly, she did everything she could to convey friendliness, but inwardly, she was writhing. Despite Nick’s claim of her nice personality, she couldn’t help but dislike her. She felt as though she controlled him and kept him from pursuing his dream of music, something he had a deep passion for. Plus, she obviously had romantic feelings for Nick and envied the fact that Janet had him. Suddenly, it occurred to her what section they were in, and she worried about why Janet would need to shop for baby…”What are you doing here?”

Janet explained, “Oh, we’re having a baby shower at work, so I’m using my lunch break to shop for it.”

“Oh, won’t you be hungry?” Stacy hardly noticed what she had said to Janet; in her head, she had taken a huge sigh of relief.

Janet shrugged. “I’ll just eat my desk. Oh, just so you know, I think you did a great job on those dresses! Usually, the racks are a total mess and you can’t find anything. I don’t know why she’s complaining.”

“Maybe because she would have to start putting things back in the right spot instead of wherever she feels like,” Stacy half-joked.

Janet laughed, “Probably! People hate it when the new guy comes in and makes them look bad.” She paused and told her seriously, “Don’t let people like that push you around too much. If you’re following the rules and still get yelled at, there’s something wrong with them, not you. Don’t let them take advantage of you.”

“That’s, uh… thanks! That’s good advice.” Stacy secretly hated to admit that. She didn’t want to see evidence of Janet being a good person, but she had been very thoughtful and kind to her. She actually seemed like the kind of person she could become friends with, but she didn’t want to do that, not while she was Nick.

Janet picked up a blue onesie from the pile Stacy had worked on. “This’ll work. Would a rattle be in the toy section or the baby stuff?”

“No idea!” Stacy replied. “Apparently, they don’t tell you anything around here.”

“Not until you’ve already messed up! Well, I’m sure I’ll find it before my lunch break is over. Good luck!” Janet waved as she headed towards the infant section.

“Thanks!” Stacy watched her disappear among the racks. Janet did seem very empathetic, and she seemed to have a flair for making people feel good about themselves, so she felt puzzled as to why she would hold Nick back from his musical ambitions…

Her thought train got interrupted by a tall and very slender young man with an Emporia badge. “Hey! I’m Claude. I’m supposed to train you.” He saw her progress on refolding the onesie table and got confused. “Are you new?”

“Oh, I worked here back in sixty-nine,” Stacy clarified.

Claude remarked, “Oh, wow! I was two years old in sixty-nine!”

“Wonderful!” Stacy suddenly felt old, and it just really cemented how much time had passed between now and then. And yet, she still ended up in the same spot!

“Well, I’m gonna start folding at the other end,” he informed her. “Just find me when you’re ready to go on your fifteen.”

“Fifteen?” Stacy questioned. “I thought we got thirty minutes for lunch.”

“Nope,” Claude listlessly replied. “You have to work six and a half hours to get a lunch break.” He shuffled over to the other end of the children’s section, and Stacy groaned at the long day she faced.

Barbara and Frank watched television on the couch when Stacy burst into the house. She immediately removed her dress flats and moaned from relief. “I don’t know how I did it in high school! I wore the same kind of shoe back then, and I don’t remember it hurting so much back then!”

“Maybe next time you can wear sneakers,” Barbara suggested.

As Stacy went into the kitchen, she grumped, “We’re not allowed to wear sneakers! We have to dress business casual to maintain the store image. Like, who cares if we’re on our feet walking around the store all day!” She held her bowl of stew and circled around the kitchen before she remembered that her parents didn’t have it. “My first check, I’m buying you a microwave!”

Frank replied, “Don’t waste your money! A microwave only saves you a few minutes!”

“A significant amount of minutes!” Stacy differed as she sat down at the table to eat. “Like reheating this would take a couple of minutes versus like ten on the stove! Did you know, in a microwave, it only takes a few minutes to make a baked potato?”

“Five minutes?” Barbara reacted incredulously. “Oh, Frank, five minutes! It takes me an hour and a half sometimes!”

“That sounds so unnatural! It probably tastes way better cooked naturally in the oven!”

“Ovens are man-made,” Barbara playfully teased him. “How old fashioned do you wanna get? Do you wanna go back to cooking everything over a wood fire?”

“I would be totally comfortable with that!” Frank opinionated. “If it were up to me, we’d retire in a cabin on a distant mountain top! So quiet and peaceful!” Barbara shook her head as if he proposed a ridiculous idea. Frank chuckled and then changed the subject, “So, Stacy, once you’re done eating…” He glanced over and saw her slurping the last bit of what remained in her bowl. “Wow, that was fast!”

Stacy finished her meal and explained, “We only get fifteen minute breaks if we’re scheduled less than six and a half hours. I didn’t get to finish the lunch I brought!”

“Oh, hmm…” Frank didn’t seem to know how to react to that. “Well, I got off work early today and I wanna show you what I did.” He and Barbara led her to her old bedroom, and she saw that some of the gym equipment got pushed to one side of the room. She felt pleasantly surprised to see her old childhood bed stood in there once again! “We kept the parts in the attic, so I thought since you’ll probably be with use for a while, you should have a room to sleep in. On the weekend, I’ll move the rest of the equipment out.”

Stacy had gotten so used to sleeping on the couch that she hadn’t thought about sleeping in an actual bedroom in a long while. She felt touched by her father’s thoughtfulness, but it also made her feel a little dispirited by it. Couch surfing made her feel like she would only stay at her parents’ house temporarily, but, to her dismay, she now felt like a permanent resident. She despised working for Emporia for a pittance, and seeing this sign of it being long term thoroughly depressed her. Living with her parents, working at her old job, and sleeping in her old bed made her feel like a child. She knew that leaving Hadeon would mean she would be starting over, but she had no idea she would have to go back that far! She wondered if it would take another fifteen years to get another shot of independence!

Barbara almost seemed as though she could read Stacy’s mind because she tried to cheer her up by saying, “Don’t put too many decorations up! Soon, you’ll get a fancy new job, and when you leave, we’re turning it into a guest bedroom.”

Frank kidded, “At least this time you don’t have to hide your rock and roll records! We’ll even let you bring booze in here now!”

Stacy laughed, “Thanks! And thanks for the room it’s very nice.” Frank and Barbara gave her a smile and left the room. Stacy sat on her bed and just contemplated it all.

The next day, when Nick came out of work, he walked out and saw Stacy holding up a poster board. “You trying to start a protest against this place? I won’t stop you!”

“You wish!” Stacy retorted. Nick agreed, and they both giggled. Stacy turned the sign around, and it read, “Pay Attention by Nick Rolland, a tribute to a fallen war hero.” Stacy told him, “Just a visual way to get you noticed.”

“Is that glitter?” Nick asked, and Stacy nodded. As they walked to his truck, he remarked, “I didn’t think you’d have the time since you had to work yesterday.” They got into his truck and buckled up. “Janet told me she ran into you.”

Nick began driving, and Stacy had been so focused on all of the other drama from work that she forgot about that encounter. Now that he had brought it up, she grew curious about what Janet may have said about her. “Yeah, she was real nice to me, I was surprised!”

“Why?” Nick inquired. “Do you think I would date someone who wasn’t nice?”

Stacy’s heart lurched when she got reminded of the fact that Nick had a girlfriend that wasn’t her, but she didn’t let it show. She had to think of a valid reason of why she found Janet’s friendliness surprising. “Customers weren’t very nice to me there. They kept asking where stuff was, and they got irritated when I said I didn’t know. Then, at one point, I guess the lines where long, so they expected me to come open up another register to save them time, but I’m not trained on the registers, so I couldn’t. They did not like to hear that! ‘Course, they weren’t nearly as mean as the people I work with, whew!”

Nick chuckled, but then he told her seriously, “Thanks for not ratting me out! I know you said I should tell her about my music, but I appreciate you not telling on me when you saw her!”

The thought of telling Janet about Nick’s secret practice never even occurred to Stacy until he mentioned it just now. She assured him, “I would never do that you!”

“Thank you! It means a lot!” Nick stopped the truck as they arrived downtown. He stared at her appreciatively, and when Stacy met his gaze, the world stood still for a moment. Stacy couldn’t help but admire just how beautiful his deep, blue eyes looked! She had a strong desire to kiss him, but she broke eye contact in order to make sure that didn’t happen. She actually had no idea if Nick had that intention, but she decided to act responsibly just in case she hadn’t imagined it. She thought it was wishful thinking on her part, but she actually thought he sounded a little disappointed when he spoke, “Charlie’s memorial is a little small…”

“Maybe we can change that!” Stacy exclaimed as they got out of the truck and headed to the spot where he’d sing.

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 4

Stacy knew that she didn’t have to dress up just to drop off resumes, but she did so anyways in case she got an on-the-spot interview. Both of her parents were at work, but they left her some change so she could take the bus. She walked to the bus stop sort of excited and a little nervous about her potential job prospects. When she came to the bus stop, she noticed that it didn’t have a bench, but she didn’t mind standing while she waited for a while. After waiting for about twenty minutes, she started to get hot and her feet were getting a little sore already. She peered at the schedule and saw that the bus was late. She had no idea how long it would take to finally arrive, which frustrated her, but her mood lifted when she finally saw the bus arrive.

She didn’t have much room on her seat, and she almost fell into the aisle when the bus made a turn. No one else seemed to move as much as she did, which embarrassed her a little. With an expensive divorce that she had to pay for coming up, she knew she wouldn’t be able to get a car for a while, so she figured that she would have to get used to it just as the others had. She didn’t think she could get used to the odor though, a mix of sweat and fuel that she sincerely hoped didn’t rub off on her. She used to take the bus downtown all the time as a kid, but she didn’t have any memory of the nuisances she endured that day! She tried not to focus on the negative aspects of it so she could keep up a pleasant demeanor as she applied for work.

Stacy felt grateful when they finally arrived at her stop, but as soon as she stepped out, she got met by the sweeping humidity that plagued her earlier. As she walked, she really regretted her choice in shoes. It took extra effort to harness her attention to the scene in front of her, but she felt determined to make a good impression that day!

She had always loved the original architecture that the nineteenth century buildings had, and the streets were always teeming with people exploring mom-and-pop shops and unique restaurants. She didn’t know where in this town the prestigious office buildings of Makawee were located, but if she wanted to find a well paying job in the field she had the most experience in, the odds were in her favor of finding it here. She took a deep breath and hoped for the best as she began her search.

After walking for a while, she finally came across a law office. Feeling optimistic, she steeled herself before she entered. The secretary, who had previously been filing her nails, looked startled when Stacy entered. She greeted her, “Can I help you?”

“I just wanted to drop off my resume!” When she handed it to her, she made a point to smile big.

“Oh. We’re not hiring right now.” The secretary went back to filing her nails.

“Oh. Okay.” Trying not to look disappointed, Stacy walked out.

Later, she found an insurance agency, and a man in a suit told her, “Alright, we’ll keep your resume on file and contact you if anything opens up.”

Quite a bit later, she finally found a small accounting agency, but as the secretary took her resume, she saw the secretary look at her disdainfully. When Stacy glanced down at herself, she realized how sweaty she had gotten and tried not to cringe. The secretary told her, “We’ll call you,” but Stacy didn’t feel confident that she had meant that.

After she had combed pretty much all of downtwon Makawee, her feet were killing her. She stopped to rest at a park bench, and while her body felt relieved, her mind certainly was not. She gazed at the pile of resumes she still had with a surge of disappointment. There weren’t a lot of offices out here, and that’s where she had the most experience. She didn’t want to accept that she would have to find work at the bottom in another industry. Entry level jobs didn’t bother her, but she hoped for something that paid higher so she could break free from Hadeon. She sighed sadly.

At that moment, from a small stage on the other side of the park, a jazzy band began to play a song. Stacy turned to see a small crowd had come to enjoy the music. They were gathered there prior to their performance, so she reasoned that the park must have amateur musicians play there pretty regularly. She found herself swaying her body a bit and tapping her foot, and she surprised herself when she discovered that she was actually enjoying herself! The more she thought about it though, the less shocking it became because music had always had a strong hold over her. It was a nice way to end a hard day, and Stacy supposed that if her next downtown job hunt gave her the same sort of results, she would at least have something to look forward to.

That night, Stacy read through the classifieds, and she saw a posting that interested her, but when she checked the bus route map, she saw that, unfortunately, she didn’t have a way to get there. She saw that a bank was accepting resumes and decided she may as well apply there. The next day, it took her about an hour and a half to get there, but she had hoped to get interviewed right away. Instead, they simply took her application and told her they would call her to schedule an interview. Stacy couldn’t believe she had put in so much work for such a short transaction! She wished that this bank had accepted mailed in resumes, which seemed practical for both the bank and the applicants in her mind. Still, since there was nothing she could do about their hiring process, she turned around and headed home.

On Wednesday, she took the bus downtown again, but she felt more confident this time since she wore much more sensible shoes and clothes. She went through the shops and offered to drop off her resume, but the ones who were hiring didn’t want a resume, just an application form. She found it strange but still willingly filled them out. After filling out enough applications, her hand started to cramp from writing so much. Despite her discomfort, she still felt fairly accomplished after applying to almost half of the places that existed downtown! The other half were at the mall, and that was another day’s work in itself. She had some time before her bus was set to arrive, so she finished the day by sitting at that park bench to listen to the live music playing. They played some country songs, a staple of Nashville and its surrounding areas that gave the locals a feeling of home. She took a moment to savor it before she headed to her actual home.

On Thursday, she took the bus to a popular strip mall on the other side of town. When she cut out the restaurants that were there, she only had a few stores to apply to. The manager of a drug store came out to meet her, but his introduction was very brief and returned to his office pretty quickly. As she left and started to head home, it started pouring down rain, so she ran for the cover of the bus stop awning. She felt relieved until a car zoomed by and splashed her! The rain stopped as soon as the bus came, and she became very annoyed with the timing of it all!

On Friday, she entered the mall along with a bustling crowd of shoppers. She had purposely avoided this place because she worked at this mall before in a department store called Emporia during high school and had a horrendous experience. She visited every store but that one and applied to each store that accepted applications. None of the managers met with her, and she filled out so many applications that she pretty much memorized all of the information from her resume, which made her fill out these forms very quickly. Before she knew it, she had come full circle, and the only store left was Emporia. She still had plenty of time before her bus would leave, so with no excuses left, she felt she had no choice but to apply there again.

She filled out an application at the women’s clothing counter, and when she handed her clipboard to the cashier, she instructed, “Wait right here.” Stacy had been through this so many times that she had no expectations that anything of significance would occur when the cashier returned, but to her surprise, the girl invited her, “Come on back!”

Stacy could hardly believe that she had actually landed an interview! She straightened out her outfit and did her best to concentrate on her relevant skills for this job. She had forgotten how small the manager’s office was, and for a moment, she thought the cashier had walked her to a closet. The manager’s desk took up most of the space, and the desk itself had piles of unfiled papers on it. She didn’t recognize the person who sat there, so she assumed the sweet, bubbly woman that made it tolerable to work there before got promoted out. This skinny, weedy man seemed like he didn’t see sunshine much, and his big, thick glasses concentrated hard on the computer screen in front of him. He had a bald spot, but he didn’t seem very old. He finally looked away from the screen and gave her a smile stiff enough to suggest that he didn’t do it regularly. “Miss All-ee-sown?”

“It’s Alyson,” she corrected him. He looked a little affronted, and she inwardly winced. Less than thirty seconds in and she had already screwed up! She didn’t have a good feeling about the rest of the interview!

Dreams in Makawee, Chapter 3

Stacy woke up in a haze, and for a moment, she forgot where she had left Nashville. It all came back to her like a tidal wave of dread, and she felt surprised she had fallen asleep at all! For a moment, she sat on the couch and stared blankly ahead. Normally, she had an agenda set for each day, but everything she had planned vanished when she did. Actually, her entire life had become a blank slate! She had no idea what to do with herself, so she turned on the television. The cartoon that came on didn’t interest her, so she began flipping through the rest of the channels. When she cycled back to the cartoon, she turned off the television and sighed. After a moment, she realized she was still wearing the cocktail dress from last night, and since that disgusted her with the fresh memories it brought, she got up to get dressed.

When she wandered into the kitchen, she saw that her mother had left her a plate of cinnamon rolls for her on the table. It felt awkward to eat alone in silence, so she turned on the radio. She half expected to hear a melancholy tune to match her mood, but instead, she heard a song with a catchy beat. That almost made her more depressed since the story line of the song conveyed a happy tone, which felt hard to relate to at the moment. As she ate, the music did manage to seep through her guard and elevated her attitude a bit.

After she finished breakfast, she became aware of the fact that, once again, she ran out of tasks to fill her time. She saw the Sunday paper by her father’s seat and decided to read it. For a minute, it somewhat interested her, but after a while, she realized she could care less about the going-ons of the people making headlines that day. She flipped through each section until she came across the classifieds. She knew eventually she would need to find work again, so she figured she may as well start searching now.

Frank and Barbara entered the house, and they saw Stacy sitting at the kitchen table. Barbara greeted her, “Oh, hello Stacy! I hope you didn’t mind that we went to church without you. We just thought you’d rather sleep in…”

“It’s okay,” Stacy assured her. “I wouldn’t wanna face the congregation praying for me, I don’t need the attention right now.”

“Oh, today would have been perfect for you to go then!” Frank half joked. “Today is Easter, so their attention laid elsewhere.” He sat down at the table with her while Barbara made coffee. He noticed what she had in front of her, and remarked, “Don’t tell me you’re looking for a job already!”

“What else am I supposed to do every day?” Stacy responded.

Barbara put a cup of coffee in front of Stacy and Frank before sitting down with a cup of her own. She asked Stacy, “Well, what did you do with your free time before?”

Stacy hollowly laughed, “Free time? We didn’t have free time! Our whole life was devoted to growing the business! We developed our team, acquired new clients, trained new people…coordinating it all took up my time! Our only fun was the mandatory happy hours we went to twice a week.” Frank and Barbara didn’t know what to say after that, so they drank their coffee while Stacy searched through the postings. When she came to the end of the job section, she frowned. “That’s it?”

“Makawee is a lot smaller than Nashville,” Barbara pointed out. “But it’s supposed to be growing!”

Stacy groaned, and Frank told her, “You’ll find something you like, I’m sure!”

“Yeah, right…” Stacy tried to hide her disappointment, but she knew that her parents could probably see right through her. She tried to think of a different subject but couldn’t. Luckily for her, the phone rang, so she volunteered, “I’ll get it!” She ran to the living room and picked up the receiver. “Hello, Alyson residence!”

“Stacy! We missed you at the picnic!” To her horror, the person on the other side was Hadeon! She immediately hung up and went back to the kitchen. The phone rang again, but this time, Stacy let it go to the answering machine. Hadeon’s voice rang out, “Stacy, you made your point, now it’s time to come home…Stacy, you can’t avoid me forever! We’re still married, you know!” Stacy inwardly acknowledged that he had a point about one thing, went back to the phone, and picked up the receiver. “There you are! Now, we’re way behind on planning for the week and-.”

“I want a divorce,” she stated firmly.

Hadeon paused for a moment before he responded, “Okay, you’re still mad. I’ll give you a few more days to cool down, but I expect you home by Wednesday!”

“I’m not going back!” Stacy said to him emphatically. “You don’t get it! I’ve been unhappy for a while now, but I put up with it to make you happy. Last night, you did something that I won’t put up with! You crossed the line, and now there’s no going back! I want a divorce!”

“Really?” Hadeon scoffed. “You’re going to give up everything to be all alone?”

“I’d rather be alone than miserable!” Stacy argued. “First thing tomorrow, I’m going to the courthouse and filing for the divorce myself!”

Hadeon laughed sardonically. “No, you’re not.”

“To hell I’m not!” Stacy fumed. “You don’t get to tell me what to do anymore! If I wanna do it, I’ll-!”

Hadeon smugly informed her, “You’ll march down to the courthouse and come home empty handed ’cause divorces aren’t free! Even self filing costs money! Your parents would probably loan you the money for that, except you can’t self file ’cause I’ll fight it in court. That’d cost you at least two grand! That’s minimum. How are you gonna pay for that when you’re broke?”

Stacy’s heart dropped at this revelation. She really thought that she could wipe her hands and be done with him, and now it seemed really impossible! She had no idea that what she wanted would end up costing so much money! She felt a huge weight on her shoulder, and it started to overwhelm her. However, when she noted how arrogant his voice sounded, she grew nettled. He was still trying to control her, and this was his attempt at getting his way and having her still married to him! She refused to buckle, and she expressed this to him, “I’m going to get a job and pay for it myself!”

“Oh really?” He clearly sounded like he didn’t believe her. “You think you can afford to save up while you pay for rent and bills?”

“My parents won’t charge me rent!” she spat.

Hadeon snickered, “You’re thirty two years old and you’re going to live with your parents? Yeah, that’ll show me!”

Stacy reminded him, “Yes, it’ll show you that I’m serious about getting those divorce papers signed!”

“Alright, you go ahead and try that! You’ll see how tedious and low paying jobs outside of BMC are and you’ll come running back to me! Take as long as you want, and when you’re ready to give up, come find me. I’ll be waiting!” He cackled, and Stacy hung up.

Frank and Barbara had expected her to come back to the kitchen and emote, but instead, she circled around as if she were on a hunt. “Where’s your computer?”

“We moved it to the gym, I mean, your old room,” Barbara let her know. When she she marched towards the computer, Barbara and Frank followed her. Barbara asked her, “What are you doing?”

“I’m typing up my resume,” Stacy answered while she got the computer started. “I highly doubt Hadeon would send me my resume even if I wanted to ask that slime ball for a favor! And I wouldn’t wanna wait for it to come in the mail anyways. This way, I can start job hunting right away. It shouldn’t take me long to find something, and then Hadeon will be out of my life forever!”

“You don’t have to do this, Stacy,” Frank remarked. “Your mother and I can take out a second mortgage if we need to.”

“No!” Stacy became aware of how harsh her tone had been, and she felt guilty. “I’m sorry. If I don’t find a job in like a month, then maybe we can look into it. I really wanna do this on my own though. If I have someone else taking care of me, he could use that against me. I just wanna prove that I can make it on my own!”

“Alright, sweetie!” Frank pat her shoulders reassuringly, and her parents left the room to let her work. As Stacy typed out her information, she realized that she had typed out “Stacy Bancroft.” She went back and changed it to “Stacy Alyson.”

The Blood Warrior Rebellion, Chapter 1

Mac stared out of the window at a small, medieval cottage, but all he can see is the flurry of white sheet that makes up a big snow storm. He could see his reflection and sees signs of stress-his normally neat black hair had gotten frayed and hinted of gray, his pale skin looked sallow, and his gray eyes were clouded with red. He turned around and saw the maiden, Amberline, combing her glossy blonde hair and admiring her red lips, strong cheekbones, and winking green eyes. He turned to the other side of the room to see her cousin, Sir Anthony, doing similar poses with his hand mirror. He rolled his eyes and turned away to a small sitting area where his wife, Holly, was nursing their young baby, Preston. In his opinion, his wife was the most beautiful woman in the world. He loved the way her red hair always seemed to bounce, and her freckled cheeks had a dimple when she smiled. However, taking care of Preston was a full time job, and now he felt sad that no one was really contributing to the cause. He sighed.

Mac knelt by the window and prayed, ” Oh Lord, is the Rebellion against the Blood Warriors going to work? It seemed like a brilliant cause, but now our hopes are as bleak as the weather! Should we keep on with the resistance? Send me a sign!”

At that moment, as if on cue, the door flew open, letting in the cold wind as well as a mysterious figure. Everyone in the cottage stopped what they were doing and either prepared to fight or run for their lives. They found that it was a young, peasant woman whose brunette hair was laced in snow, golden brown eyes covered in frozen tears, and thin clothes apparently failed to keep her warm. She would’ve been beautiful if she wasn’t so obviously miserable. Holly put her baby down in its crib and instinctively wrapped a warm blanket around the visitor. Anthony shut the door while Amberline poured her some freshly made tea. Mac stood up and greeted her, “Welcome, weary traveler!”

She replied, “My name is Kasmira. I believe in your cause, but I’ve hesitated coming here. I didn’t want you to share my family’s curse.”

“Family curse?” Holly responded, “What do you mean?”

Kasmira explained, “My grandmother, Rosalynn, grew up in a wealthy merchant’s home. She was mostly raised by her nurse since her parents were too involved with their own affairs to pay attention to her. It wasn’t an ideal family, but she was content. When she was around sixteen, her parents had told her they had been coerced into giving her away in marriage to the foreboding wizard, Garlord. Rosalynn argued against the idea, but her parents wouldn’t be swayed. When Garlord doesn’t get his way, those who caused his rage would feel a terrible wrath. They were perfectly willing to sacrifice their daughter’s happiness to keep Garlord appeased. My grandmother was stunned; she knew they were too busy to really care for her, but to condemn her life like this was too much for her to bear. In the middle of the night, while her parents slept, Rosalynn ran away from that place and hid so they couldn’t find her. That morning, Garlord came to collect his bride, and my great grandparents fearfully informed him that their daughter was nowhere to be found. Garlord was enraged because he needed a male heir so he could finally enter the Spirit World. He then put a curse of misfortune on all females in my family in punishment for what my grandmother did.”

“That’s awful!” Amberline replied.

Anthony inquired, “What happened to your grandmother?”

Kasmira continued, “After Garlord left, they immediately feared my mother’s curse. They coveted most their wealth, so they took all of their assets into their home and kept it all in a trunk under their bed to keep an eye on it. After a year of hiding among peasants, the nurse found Rosalynn and informed her that some thieves had heard about her parent’s hidden fortune, sneaked into house, slit their throats, and made off with their goods. Worst of all, Garlord still sought Rosalynn as his bride. Rosalynn tried to flee the country, but Garlord found her and forced her to marry him!”

“Oh no!” Holly reacted.

Kasmira went on, “It was horrible. He always treated her like a disobedient servant and forced her to fornicate every night until they conceived a child. When they finally had a baby, Rosalynn hoped for a boy so the nightmare could be over, and she was heartbroken to see she had given birth to a girl. Garlord was angry but he promised he would spare the baby’s life if they would continue to try for his heir as long as she lived. Rosalynn was grateful that her daughter, whom she named Bernadette, would get to live, but she now hated the idea of bearing the next generation of evil. So, once again, she ran away, only this time Garlord could never retrieve her. She ran into a lake and never came out!”

“What happened to Bernadette?” Amberline asked.

Kasmira narrated, “My mother was raised by Garlord, who was cruel and abusive to her. She spent day and night doing the wizard’s bidding. She would be beaten if she got it wrong. She only got enough food to barely survive. Bernadette knew that she didn’t have a choice since she was legally his property, but she longed for a better life. One day, when she saw a wedding procession go by, it dawned on her-if she got married, she would belong to another man and Garlord couldn’t do a thing about it. When she ran errands in town, she stole conversations with local men. Finally, a young page named Donovan took interest in her. She dropped everything and eloped with him. When Garlord found out, he was extremely angry and sought revenge. When he found Donovan, they fought hard. Somehow, my father managed to banish Garlord to the Spirit World.”

“So, your father broke the curse, right?” Anthony asked Kasmira.

Kasmira shook her head. “Defeating Garlord was the only noble thing Donovan managed to do. The fight shook up his senses, and he couldn’t handle it anymore. He became addicted to alcohol and would beat my mother whenever he was drunk. I was born in the middle of this chaos. He never beat me, but he certainly didn’t give a damn that I was around. I tried to convince my mother that what he was doing wasn’t right, but she wouldn’t listen. She always thought of him like a tragic little hero and was alright when he was sober. She made feeble attempts to keep him from the mead, but things stayed exactly the same. I grew up making vain attempts to have a normal life, but the curse haunted me. Every time I came close to happiness, some misfortune thwarted me. I knew there must be some way to get a better life, but I grew less and less optimistic. I didn’t think it could get worse, but then the Blood Warriors formed. I watched them hunt down people with traces of magical lineage, and I always wondered if they’d find out about our relation to Garlord. I never wanted us to be like those poor souls who were enslaved, tortured, executed…Then one day, while my father was at a pub, his drunken violence got him into a fight, and he ended up killing a Blood Warrior. King Davidson decreed that since he took one of their own’s life, he now owed them his life. He became a Blood Warrior. My mother and I went into hiding. Recently, while I was out gathering firewood, I saw that they found my mother and turned her in.”

Kasmira began to weep. Holly gave her a comforting pat on the back. Kasmira talked through her tears, “I heard about this small group of rogues that want to end King Davidson’s reign of terror, but I was so afraid of my family’s curse ruining things for you. But as time goes on, the horrors get worse. Tonight, I decided it was worth the risk. At least, if I die here, I would die like a hero. That is, if you’ll let me.”

Everyone looked at Mac. Mac kneeled down so he could look her in the eye. “I formed this group because we believe not only that we could rid the world of a terrible evil but that we deserve to live a happy life. If you want to fight, you have to believe that you are capable of such an existence. Do you think you could?”

Kasmira felt a little bewildered. “Be happy? I read fairy tales where the damsel in distress finds her prince and lives happily ever after. I once faniced that I could lead such a life, but now I doubt a prince would even talk to me!”

“Well, a prince will talk to you, technically, since we have Prince Orlando as a mole,” Mac said to her, “However, I see a brave young lady willing to fight for what she believes in. You may not believe in yourself, but I see a lot of potential.” Kasmira was pleasantly surprised. Mac smiled warmly and stood up. “As leader of this brigade, I bid you welcome! Kasmira smiled.