Turning Tales Week 9: Conflict

Welcome to the ninth week of Turning Tales!

This week’s writing topic: expressions of hostility :crossed_swords:


What are you looking at!?

A character’s reaction to conflict tells us a lot about their personality. What irks them reveals their values and vulnerabilities.

What makes your character angry? What do they do when they’re angry? Do they clench their jaw and keep quiet? Argue their point with sparkling fervor? Do they burn everything down?

Engage your character in conflict and develop the action from there.

A storm is brewing …


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There’s something so serene about a crisp Autumn evening. The Sun has begun its slow descent earlier and earlier with each passing day giving way to a cool, clear night sky. You snuggle up next to your loved ones as you sit watching the fire burn, giving off waves of warmth that heat you to your core. The sound of the wood crackling, as a distant siren springs to life in the distance. You spot the subtle reds, oranges, and blues as the chemical composition of the wood is turned to dust and ash. The dance of the flames reflected in your eyes as you sit in the darkness and admire a job well done; a strong and hardy fire that will burn well into the night. That smell! The scents of the burning wood and crushed leaves filling your nose with Autumnal bliss. It fills you with such heavenly joy.

Plus, there’s the satisfaction of knowing that the neighbor won’t let his dog shit in your yard again. Hopefully he’s learned his lesson.


Ms 5, dressed in new school uniform :
“I’m going to school first, because I’m older than you.
I’m going to college first, because I’m older than you.
I’m going to get married first, because I’m older than you.”
Ms 3:
“And you’ll be dead first, because you’re older than me!”

The Cave

Today I learnt what the fight or flight instinct truly meant…

As I dropped my sword and called out for aid, I wondered why the only soul I’d seen in days still darted away into a further cavern.

It was then that I saw the long, thin tail wrench the gangly figure up into the darkness above. I understood why locals called this the ‘Cave of the Angler’ as I turned to run… but it was too late.

Surprise, surprise

The boss raised his glas and nearly everyone around the table in the room stopped eating.
“And for the success of the company, ladies and gentlemen, first and foremost we have to thank Henri.”
He nodded towards Henri and rousing applause burst out. Once again glasses were refilled and the boss revealed that within the next few days Henri would be moving office with his team up to the tenth floor, an unbelievable upgrade. The team applauded loudly and hooted with pleasure. Henri felt as if he was seated in the middle of a football stadium.
„The tenth, terrific,“ exclaimed the blonde trainee.
“Splendid!” Henri said taking a sip of his red wine and finding it difficult to hide his own enthusiasm.
The boss then turned his bearded face towards Henri.
“This news is for you, in particular, my dear Henri. It actually has to do with an innovation. You surely agree with me that for this large new project you could do with some support.”
Henri nodded silently and slid another spoonful of chocolate mousse into his mouth. He felt great.
“There’ll be a great deal of work coming our way.”
Henri nodded once more, barely noticeably. He was probably going to have to postpone his holiday again. Well, that was ok now. He would be working in the tenth.
“With this new commission of this big dimension,” the boss continued, “…perfect coordination, exact timing and, above all, quick and client-orientated work are the order of the day. Mademoiselle Girard, sitting at your left today, has a great deal of experience in this direction and will be supporting you.”
Henri could hardly hide his astonishment. The boss had actually been giving the situation some thought. At long last he would have an assistant at his side. He now regarded Mademoiselle Girard with more interest. It had indeed been a very satisfying evening, Henri decided contentedly and smiled.
At that moment the boss continued speaking:
“My dear Henri, as of today Mademoiselle Girard is your new boss.”
Henri’s smile froze. He sat there as if turned into stone and felt like a goal-keeper after missing a penalty kick. No, this couldn’t be right. He felt humiliated to the core. Farewell office in the tenth with terrace view.
A deathly silence filled the room. The kind of silence that made everything else forgotten at a single blow, subduing the atmosphere and leaving all those at the table with an extremely nasty feeling – except the boss.
The latter bent over the chair next to him and smiled exaggeratingly charming at the young, pale-faced Mademoiselle Girard. The waft of her heavy perfume hung over Henri, which he would associate with this dreadful evening his life long. Except for the noise of a chair grating over the parquet flooring, there wasn’t a sound to be heard.
“What a cheek!” the trainee hissed, scarcely audible. Despite the haze surrounding his thoughts, Henri cleared his throat and all eyes were on him. He slowly stood up and felt how a wave of indignation spread over him. A wave of injustice pervaded his whole body like a tsunami. The situation was intolerable. No, he would not put up with it. He jauntily slung his scarf around his neck and slowly and deliberately put on his jacket. He then calmly refilled his wineglass and then emptied it in one go.
“And now I also have some news for you,” Henri said, looking stiff at the boss.
Uneasy silence prevailed around the table. The little blonde trainee kept pressing her hands together and shifting her astonished gaze alternately from Henri to the boss. Henri focussed his eyes on the latter:
“As of now, I am afraid you will have to do without me. I hereby give my notice.”
Bowing gallantly, with the suggestion of a kiss on the hand in the direction of his now ex-lady-boss, on whose face reds blotches of embarrassment had started to appear, and with a curt nod of his head, Henri took his leave of the whole group around the table and made for the door, already making plans for a time-out somewhere far away where he could, relax, recharge his batteries and make plans for his future.
As he was leaving the place of his humiliation, the trainee beamed at him. She had spontaneously raised her hands – and most probably would have loved to have clapped.


My office chair creaked dangerously as I leaned back, trying to stretch out the kinks. By now I didn’t know if the kinks were in the chair or my back. Or both. I looked around my pathetic excuse of an “office”.

“Join the firm!” They said. “It will be a stepping stone to your future!” They said. I had thought ridiculously that “We offer individual, private work space” meant I would have a door. If I stood up I knew what I would see. Before me would be a lake, no, an ocean of cubicles, all made up of depressing orange moveable “walls”. The only perk was if I looked way down the row to the glassed in office of my boss, I could look through her office and see the sky. It was only a perk if I didn’t have to see her first.

I leaned forward over my keyboard again, feeling every vertebrae snap back into work position. It was then I heard it. Again. Every. Damn. Day IHEAR IT!!! It wasn’t enough having to sit under the fluorescent lights that made me look like I was forever trying on bathing suits in a cheap store, I had to listen to the idiot next door TALKING under his breath.

Anthony, his name was. I called him Agony. My first day, I had thought perhaps he was a ray of sunshine in this prison, but NOOOOOOOO. The tall blonde Adonis had introduced himself, smiled with teeth that were some dentist’s idea of perfection, and started TALKING! His voice was like a cheese grater….working on my brain. I thought things could not get worse. They got worse. When he started working, it took me a moment to identify the drone I was hearing. It was low, under his breath. As he moved through his columns of numbers for his clients, he talked out EVERY. F-ING. KEY STROKE!

My jaw was so clenched I could feel my teeth turning to dust. My head ached, my neck was locked in agony and I had had it. I looked at my watch. It was the final straw. I had been at work for forty minutes.

My eye caught the only bright spot in my “office”. The week before, my grandson had painted me a large plant pot. Bright pink with orange dots. It went great with the orange walls. The artificial plant in the pot was more alive than I was. Could I? I loved it, of course, because of who had made it. Then I had a thought. I COULD make my day brighter!

When he had proudly presented his gift, the offspring of my offspring had said, “This is to make your days brighter at work Gran! Dad told mom you were miserable!” My son had given him a look that could kill, but here to pot sat. Not for long.

I stood up, promising my back it would rest soon. I looked over the top of my wall and saw what I was hoping for. Agony was tapping away, whining whining whining under his breath. I picked up the pot, gave it a kiss for luck and an apology to said Grandson, raised my arms, and dropped the pot. It gave a satisfying ‘thump’ and then all was quiet. The tapping of keys stopped. I expected to hear the sound of eighty people calling the police.

The only sound on that fateful morning was the sound of a standing ovation.

Killing a stranger

Killing a stranger doesn’t make it easy. You see his face through your rifle sight, and your brain starts playing tricks with the finger that touches the trigger. Your mind sees the face of the man who sat opposite you in the trench. You think of your brother. or ever your father. That split second of delay is the critical difference between life and death. His death or even yours. When you depress that trigger, his image is embedded in the memory file of your brain. You quickly learn to blank out those images.

“What are you looking at?!” She screamed at him, taking him by surprise.

“Vis, what-”

“Don’t you ‘Vis’ me, scum!” Vistera’s breathing was ragged, and her face had gone an angry shade of red. "You know what you did out there! You purposefully made us fail that round, the pivotal round for us to pass into the next trial. How am I supposed to face my family?! You can’t just turn to the King of Conek and say, “Oh well, sorry father, the man I trusted to have my back in these trials and to be by my side through the match just because some woman showed interest and now I’ve brought eternal shame on the family, but it’s all fine’, because guess what, it’s not”.

Prolius’ face dropped with each word. By the time Vistera had finished her sentence, the young man was pale, the weight of her words crushing him almost physically.

“Vistera, I didn’t-”. She held her hand up to silence him.

“Don’t you dare tell me you didn’t know. You knew what this trial means to the royal family, and yet you threw it back in my face. My father wanted me to pick Aeterus, or Flantesor, but I insisted on having you by my side. I’ll never forgive you for this, Prolius. For as long as I shall live.”

With one last glare at the young man who cowered before her, murder blazing in her golden eyes, Vistera turned on her heel and stalked out of the cell, leaving Prolius to deal with his own guilt. She didn’t feel bad for him in the slightest, after all, she was the one who had to go and face her father.

Fed up

“What are you looking at?” She asked.
“Not exactly sure.” He replied.
“Well, what does it look like?” she asked.
“You ask too many questions.” He said.
“How am I supposed to know if I dont ask questions?” she asked
“You also talk too much. Just sit there and shut up.” He said.
“I was just curious what you were loo…” “I said shut up you stupid F–K!” he injected.
She sat there in silence. She had no clue as to why he was so angry. It didn’t make sense. She didn’t say anything that should have evoked such a response and now she felt terrible as if she had done something terribly wrong.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.” she said after a few moments.
“I don’t give a f–k!, What the F–k is your problem anyway, you stupid F-----G B—H!” He yelled.

Totally confused and frustrated, she crossed her arms in front of her and lowered her head as if her father had just chastised her for doing something wrong when she was six years old.
She had had enough. Fed up with his constant belittlement, she reached into her purse and removed the Glock she had bought the week before and using her left hand raised it up and pointed it straight at his head and said: “I’ve had enough, Motherfu–er.” in a calm and deliberate voice. He turned his head and his eyes opened wide in shock and suddenly realized that perhaps he went too far. He started to say; “Wai…”

Too late, his brains were splattered all over the drivers side window of the old beat up truck. You know, the one he spent so much time on instead of her. Carefully she placed the gun in his right hand then calmly got out out of the truck with the binoculars he was holding, looking in the direction he had been looking, she saw it. A bird. Nothing more than a stupid bird. A raven in fact. “Nevermore.” she quipped, tossing the binoculars back in the truck, and walked back towards town on the empty dirt road, alone at last.

This is an excerpt from my WIP. To set the scene: my main character, Olivia, fell in love with a Swiss opera singer while on vacation in Austria. She has been accompanying him on a recital tour of Europe when she is told a disturbing secret about her lover.

I’d never felt dissociated before, but that’s exactly how I’d describe sitting there listening to Max tell me that Erich had been married for three months when he came to Chicago. I was in a sudden daze, and I felt as though I was across the room watching him fidget as he told me the whole story.

The lady in question was someone who worked in Opernhaus Zurich, and that’s how they’d met. I didn’t ask questions, and I only gave him robotic, one-word responses. He apologized, handed me his room card and left quietly, knowing that Erich would be on his way back at any moment.

I didn’t cry when the door closed. I simply went into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. My brain couldn’t process what had been said to me.

He’s married… they’d known each other for a few years… I was the witness at their ceremony…

I felt my chest tighten, like it had on the plane ride from Innsbruck to Berlin. I didn’t know what to do. Then I heard Erich come back and call for me.

“Olivia? Schatzi?” He looked around the living room before coming into the bedroom. He stopped suddenly when he saw me sitting there.

“Wie heißt sie?” I asked quietly.


I stood up. “What’s your wife’s name?”

He looked as though he wanted to cry and throw up at the same time. He reached out his hand. “Olivia, please, let me–”

I moved away from him. “Don’t you dare touch me. All those times you said you loved me, you were saying that to get me back in bed.”

“Olivia, no! Ich liebe dich, nur dich. I love only you.” He stood close to me. “Please, don’t–don’t do this.”

Before I realized it, I slapped his face as hard as I could. “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have lied to me!” I grabbed my suitcase, which luckily hadn’t been unpacked yet.

Erich reached for the handle. “What are you doing? Please don’t leave. Just let me explain everything.”

“What’s to explain? You had one last fling before you went back home and got married, and now you want a little extra while you’re on tour. I will not be your mistress.”

“Just let me tell you why I got married. She said she was pregnant–”

Oh, the whole mess got infinitely better. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I said as I laughed. “Do you really think that’s going to help you in any way?” I took the suitcase and walked to the door.

“Where are you going?” he asked. “We’re booked in here together.”

“Max’s room is empty now,” I said as I showed him the room card, “so I think I’ll take that. In fact, I’ll take his room in Vienna too.” I stopped before opening the door. “So, what’s her name?”

Erich didn’t say a word. He couldn’t even look at me.

“I hope the two of you are happy. And I hope you never treat her the way you’ve treated me.”

The room was two doors down from his. That short walk felt like a walk of shame, and it didn’t help that he ran after me as I was unlocking the door.

“Olivia… Liebchen… please. Just–just talk to me.”

The sadness in his eyes would’ve broken my heart, had he not broken it already. He looked utterly lost. That was his fault, not mine.

“I’ll be there at rehearsal tomorrow, and I’ll take care of your things during intermission. But that’s the extent of it. Starting tomorrow, I’m simply an assistant. Oh, and all those plans we made for Zurich? Fuck that. I’ll book a room for myself when we get there.”

I closed the door behind me, put my suitcase aside and burst into tears.

The Snow Don’t Care

“I thought it would be good for you to talk to your dad…” Nate tries to explain.

“Who do you think you are to decide what’s good for me?!” Maggie shouts, interrupting him mid-sentence. She stares into his eyes with flaming gaze, and tears start to fill in the wells. But she doesn’t cry anymore, no, she’s stronger than that now, she thinks to herself. So she wipes her eyes, smudging her eyeliners, but she does not care. she turns and storms away from Nate. “We are done talking.”

“Maggie! You know better to run away from this, you can’t just leave him there!” Nate chases after her, grabbing her arm to make her turn and face him.

Maggie smirks, “oh, really? Then why don’t you ask him to be the better man and not run away from his family all this time? I don’t have a father. He can drop dead for all I care.”


“Let go of me.” Maggie hisses between her teeth. But his hold is clenching on her arm. She squints as if she is in pain, and he loosens his grip, but still doesn’t let go. Her anger subsides with his gaze, there is so much care in there that her chest hurts a little. She knows he was only trying to do the right thing, but she needs more time before facing her father, after so many years of betrayal. She shifts her eyes and purses her lips toward the direction behind Nate. “There is a crow coming at us.”

“What?” Nate immediately turns back and lets go of her arm. But there is nothing there. Maggie knows his fear well, and when he turns back, she is already sprinting towards her house.

Just a little blurb from my WIP :slight_smile: hope you find it enjoyable to read.


She sped to New Seabury with Sympathy for the Devil blaring from the speakers, thinking I got to get my shit together. She whipped into a parking space at the reception center and grabbed her bag, rummaging through it for her office keys, hoping she could pass unnoticed when she went in. But deep down she knew that was futile. There were always snipers in the trees who were all too eager to try to pass news of her lateness up the ladder, surreptitiously of course. Today she would definitely not be able to slip in under the radar.

She happened to catch movement up on the knoll in front of her Jeep. She focused. She wasn’t drunk or even hung over thanks to her extra hours of sleep. ‘What the fuck!’ There were four little Indians gathered on the knoll looking at her and the one with the Mohawk was pointing at her! One pulled out a long slicing knife and began running towards her Jeep. ‘Fuck!’ She reached in her bag and found what she was looking for in the special sleeve designed for something like this. Massot was at the driver’s side front bumper, still on the run with Mrs. Finch’s slicing knife upraised and not slowing. As he reared back his arm for a thrust to the heart, he was confronted with a fine continuous spray into his eyes which immediately blinded him and caused intense pain. This was followed by a shod foot to the face which sent him reeling back into an adjacent beast (what Pukwudgees’ believe vehicles are) and then to the ground.

Colleen wasted no time hopping out of the Jeep and slamming her heel in Massot’s groin for good measure. She made a beeline for the Reception Center as Massot screamed out, “Katou! Katou! Crit fatou skamen siek! E fatum!

The three braves stood in momentary confusion by Massot’s words “Witch! Witch! She has the magic! I’m blind!” Pomarat broke the confusion ordering Sarkem and Hysko to retrieve Massot. He simultaneously knocked an arrow and let it fly at the fleeing red head.

Colleen heard the ‘whizz’ of the passing arrow as it lodged in the column of the portico very near her head. She did not slow but burst into the Reception lobby. “CALL THE POLICE! SOME FUCKING DWARF TRIED TO KILL ME IN THE PARKING LOT!”

“Huh?” said the lone front desk clerk in the lobby who had been playing solitaire on the computer. Colleen looked around. Everybody must be in the back offices.

“CALL THE POLICE! NOWWWW! TELL THEM THERE’S AN ATTEMPTED MURDER AT THE RECEPTION CENTER AT NEW SEABURY! HURRY!” she ordered as she returned to the glass plate door and slammed the deadbolt. The young clerk was frazzled. She fumbled the phone and wondered what the number was, then saw it taped to the counter with the Fire Department, hospital, and local clergy. Colleen looked to the knoll and her eyes met with the little shit with the Mohawk. The other two were dragging the comrade up the knoll. He stared at her long and hard trying to find some clue as to why he could not hit redheaded people with his arrows. Colleen gave him the finger and went to the back office to assemble the masses, so much for sneaking under the radar.

You Shouldn’t Disrespect Girls

Lucas was leaving the campus when he heard a group of guys out by the building that was furthest away from all the other buildings. He started to ignore it until he heard a distinct voice of a girl coming from the same direction. Unable to keep ignoring the commotion that was going on he turned in its direction and headed towards the building as he heard Mike’s voice.
“You’re going to be mine; you already are no use in avoiding it” Mikes voice was vile, and the words made him uncomfortable. He wanted to know who he was talking to and who he would even say that to.
“Just leave me alone” the girl’s voice was filled with distress and obvious panic. Lucas picked up his pace and when he got to the group he pulled and pushed the three guys out of the way, revealing Mike holding a girl that he had told him that he didn’t know.
“What are you doing?” Mike’s voice was filled with frustration with Lucas.
“Lucas, we’re just having a conversation, isn’t that, right?” Mike said, looking from Lucas to the girl he had pinned against the building.
“Some conversation, let her go” Lucas growled as he gritted his teeth trying to stay in control. Mike gave a chuckle as he pulled the girl from the wall and continued to hold onto her. Lucas looked at the girl, her eyes were filled with a kind of fear that he wished he could unsee.
“And what if I don’t what are you going to do? You really going to get in a fight for some slut” Mike’s words filled the already tense air between them. Without a second thought Lucas grabbed at Mike and took hold of his wrist that still held tightly around the girl’s arm. Mike’s grip loosened on the girl, and she backed away from the two boys. “I suggest you leave her alone” he said, and Mike looked at him then to the girl standing behind him.
“No, she’s mine” Mike said taking a swing at Lucas and getting him in the jaw. He stumbled backwards and the girl tried to run in the opposite direction but was stopped by two of the other guys. Lucas turned around and grabbed Mike pulling him back and decking him in the face. Mike stumbled back, falling on his butt as he looked up at Lucas who was standing again between him and the girl.
“You shouldn’t disrespect girls or women” Lucas said his voice was laced with a threatening tone and Mike looked at him with a rage that he had never felt before.
“You will regret this I promise you that” Mike said looking back at the girl who was still cowering behind Lucas.

“What are you looking at?”

Those words barely registered as to who had said them, her thoughts somewhere else. They couldn’t possibly be talking to her and she was making a point to ingore them.

“What are you stupid.” The voice said, bringing her out of her thoughts and back to reality. Her eyes searching for who called who stupid and landing on the person in front of her.

‘I’m not stupid.’ A voice said in her mind. Her face redden as her jaw clenched, eyes darken as she glared at the person who called her stupid. Tongue held back as she pushed down the urge to make a scene. Exploding into a fit of anger would give them what they want and bring unnecessary attention to the situation. Getting herself under control she turned her gaze to the cashier behind them.

“Your next.” She said coldly and went back to ignoring them.

We meet again

Her expression changed to something Owen couldn’t quite name. He wasn’t sure if she was angry or sad or disappointed or all of that at the same time. He sighed and lowered his eyes for a moment to the floor before meeting her relentless stare again. “I’m sorry. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Well, it wasn’t”, she stated. She bit her tongue, trying very much not to be mean to him. Lashing out at him probably wouldn’t make things better right now.
Blake and Faris watched this dialogue silently. Blake felt a sense of deceit in the air, not sure what was happening between Manley and Owen. It was clear to him that, just as with Faris, this wasn’t a clean, distanced work relationship. There was something else, but he wasn’t really sure that he wanted to get into this too deeply. It seemed that this woman had a way of captivating men in more ways than just the obvious.
Faris knew what Manley and Owen and the others had gone through together and what they had lost in those few months together. He knew why Manley felt betrayed. She had found her personal vendetta mingled in with Owen’s mission, and then he had seemingly died on her. Now that she knew he hadn’t, Faris thought that she had every right to be mad at him. They could have taken on some of the things together that she had had to take care of on her own after Owen and Darra seemingly died on her.
Manley, in the meantime, was wishing for a blaster or two, or at least the physical ability to hit Owen hard. But he was too far away, and she wasn’t going to jump out of her bed and towards him before he noticed. She wanted to call him names, and fire unfair accusations. But she knew better than to say any of the things that went through her head. Finally, Manley found the strength to say what was going through her mind in a very civilised manner. Her tone, though, betrayed her. Her voice sounded disappointed, aggressive, even dangerous. “I thought we were friends, Owen. You kept your plan from me. You kept secrets. Friends don’t keep secrets. And then you ran away, letting me believe you were dead.”
Owen looked as if he was being hit by a round of old-fashioned bullets. Blake wondered how that fierce fighter could look so defeated within a few seconds. Something really serious must have happened between them. Owen broke eye contact with Manley for a moment, then looked back up at her again. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Silence hung in the air. Blake wondered what these two had shared before Owen had decided to fake his death. And how did Darra come into this? Surely Manley and Owen didn’t have what he and Manley had. Someone would have voiced a hint about that. Haylen would have told him. So what was it between these two?
“Don’t you ever do that again”, Manley whispered with a determined, almost threatening voice.

A Ghost Story

“They blamed the heels in the coroner’s report,” Ethan said, rounding on Adam. “That they could have caused her to trip. But that’s not what happened, is it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Adam clenched his teeth. “It was an accident. How would you even know that her shoes broke?”
“Oh god, Adam, don’t you get it already?” Amelia exclaimed. “He knows because Elle told him, because he can see her, because she’s—still—here!”
“That’s impossible!” Adam protested even as he turned his wide-eyed gaze to the staircase, apprehension on his face.
“He was here,” Elle said. “He threw them.” She didn’t look at Ethan as she spoke the simple words, her eyes still fixed on her ex.
Ethan’s throat tightened at the confirmation. It wasn’t hard to guess what happened next. He’d already suspected Adam’s involvement, but suspicion was one thing, confronting the man at the scene of the crime was more than he’d bargained for.
He edged around Adam until he stood by Amelia’s side. “He lied to you,” he told her in a quiet but firm voice.
Adam’s gaze swung wildly between the two of them. Anger distorted his visage as he glared at Ethan, and a kind of desperation overcame him when he looked at Amelia.
“Okay, so what if I was here when she came home? She was drunk, she kicked me out before…” His face blanched as a shiver seemed to overtake him. He rubbed his arms briskly as he glared at Ethan. His fast breathing took on a rasping note.
Ethan just shook his head. He didn’t need to look at Elle again to know Adam still lied. He’d heard Elle’s replay of voices arguing on the landing, heard the scream.
“You were here that night.” He drew himself up as straight as he could and forced himself to hold the other man’s gaze. “And you were still here when she fell down the stairs.”

The Turning Point
A few days after getting paired up for a project and things weren’t getting any easier for Ed Marsh and Catherine Williams. Given the fact that those two were ex lovers and Ed was casually seeing a girl in his hometown it was understandable. The initial awkwardness had lasted a day or two. Now it was replaced with frustration over scheduling work time.
Catherine wanted them to work on the project during the weekend. Her grades had been slipping ever since mid terms. If she couldn’t pull them back up with the finals she risked academic probation.
Ed didn’t want to be stuck working on their project on the weekend. He wanted to go back home. To spend time with his family. Not to mention his special friend Kennedy Lane.
It was another working lunch on campus for them. Catherine had a bad habit of working through meals. Ed used to multi task too. Until he saw what too much of that can do to a person.
“ Give me one good reason why you want to black out every weekend. That’s all I ask.”
“ We’ve been over this. You used to understand how important time with family is.”
“ If that was your only reason for wanting to go back then I’d understand. It’s not is it?”
Catherine didn’t need to mention Kennedy. She already knew about her. Had known since the day Catherine and Ed had been paired up for the project. Kennedy had sent her a message about the situation before Ed had a chance to tell Catherine himself. Being told that your ex had moved on a month later by his latest hadn’t been the best way to find that out.
Ed tried not to get too irritated with Catherine. Back when they’d been together she’d never had a problem with him heading home when he could. His hometown wasn’t that far from the city. Kennedy might have been right about Catherine trying to get between them. She was making it seem unreasonable for him to want to spend time with Kennedy. “So what if it’s not the only reason? I’m allowed to have a life!”
Catherine was shocked. Not just because Ed had shouted at her either. It was what he’d shouted. She didn’t think that asking Ed to take their project seriously was too much to ask. Or that requesting that he at least set aside time for working on it was controlling.” The time with your family isn’t the problem. The problem is you’re being unreasonable. What’s with blacking out late Friday night and all of Sunday night?”
Ed scowled at Catherine. Kennedy had been right about her. Those nights weren’t just any nights. They were dates. The only times they had together all week. “ Got to set time aside for my sweet heart. Kennedy deserves a few hours after having me gone all week.”
Catherine tried not to show how much that stung. Two months ago she’d been his Angel. The one Ed always set aside time for. But somethings were more important than that. “ Isn’t she going to college too? You’d think someone working and going to school would understand about finals!”
“ We still want to spend time together! Unlike the way some people treat the person they’re with.”
Catherine hoped she wasn’t one of the people Ed was talking about. She couldn’t handle this conversation. Not now. Not with her academic future in danger.” If you mean me. If this is about mid terms. About that weekend.”
This was Ed’s chance. The chance to let Catherine know what he thought of her now. How things could have been so different if she hadn’t made a big mistake. “ Yes, it’s about that. I could have stayed on campus. You and Adrian convinced me to go home. Was that the plan? Get me out of the way first? Was I supposed to catch you or did I just get lucky? If I hadn’t walked in on you and Adrian I wouldn’t have ended it that night!”
That stung. The accusation was too much. Catherine had spent the last few months trying to forget that night. That entire weekend. Now Ed was almost throwing it in her face.” We wanted you to head home then because of Sam’s concert and time with Nan. Why don’t you ask him about what happened? I know you boys are still best friends!”
“ I did ask him! He said it was your idea! Two faced cheat! After what you did it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve moved on!”
Now he’d done it. Ed had confirmed Catherine’s worst fear. After what she’d done? He was the one who’d ended things. Catherine hadn’t done anything wrong the night Ed had broken up with her. She would never have cheated on him. The heartbreak she felt about what happened was almost forgotten in that moment. Replaced by the anger she felt. “I can’t believe this! You still think I cheated?! Believing that a few weeks I understand. But two months? He never told you the truth?”
“ I know what I saw that night. The threesome excuse was pathetic! You really thought I’d fall for that?”
Calling Catherine’s attempt at an explanation a pathetic excuse was too much. Especially considering what Adrian had told Catherine about that plan. She’d thought it was what Ed wanted that night. That he’d been the one to think of it.” It wasn’t an excuse! It’s what he told me! I thought that was your idea!”
Ed hadn’t expected an apology, but he also hadn’t expected that. Catherine had to be careful about what she said next. She couldn’t just accuse Adrian for no reason. The boys had been best friends since Middle school. Adrian had known better than to try getting between Catherine and Ed. Especially after Ed had gotten close to ending their friendship because he’d found out that Adrian had been flirting with her when they’d still been friends with benefits.
Ed glared across the table. Catherine had crossed the line now. Either she was shifting blame, or accusing Adrian. “CAREFUL. FALLEN ANGEL.” He warned.
It took all Catherine’s strength not to back down. The death glare. She’d only gotten that look from Ed twice in the years she’d known him. The other time had been that night. He’d also thrown a reminder of what had happened in her face. Fallen Angel was what Ed had called Catherine that night. The last thing he’d ever said to her.
Catherine was glad she was finished with lunch. She had a chance to get away now. This also offered an opportunity. To see whether or not Ed wanted to know the truth. The dark secret that Adrian and been keeping from him. She packed up her backpack and grabbed her tray before getting up from the lunch table.” There’s a lot you don’t know about that night. That entire weekend. If you want the truth proof come with me! I’ve got something for you anyway!”
Ed was still furious at Catherine but he was willing to at least hear her out. Even though he doubted her side of the story would change his mind about that night. Catherine had always been a bit of a tease. She’d flirted with both him and Adrian a couple of years ago. “ Okay. Let’s Go.”
Catherine lead the way out or the dining hall. She kept her head down. Trying not to say what she wanted to. That Ed was completely wrong about that night. About what he’d walked in on. She was so angry at him at that moment. Almost hated him even. Like she’d been hating Adrian ever since what happened. What he’d done to her had been terrible. The fact that Ed had ended things based on how he’d interpreted that night made it even worse.
Ed would have a choice after today. Either to stay friends with a backstabbing traitor and keep fighting with her; or at least consider the evidence against Adrian. Catherine hoped Ed would at least ask Adrian about the account she had for him. It would change everything Ed thought he knew about that night. At least Catherine hoped it would.

A Time to Hate

Jesí watched the car pull around from a large window on the second story. The driver stepped out and handed the keys over. He carried himself like a stranger to the estate, but she knew him well.

As though he felt her icy glare wash over him, he looked up to the window, but Jesí had already gone. She would find a reason to delay receiving him, until she was ready.

She sat in front of a vanity mirror and pulled out a brush. Count to 100 and back again, she told herself, syncing each brushstroke to a count. Has it been ten years? Ten days?

For them, it was the same thing. She glanced at the small, crystal clock on the vanity and smiled in a wry amusement. How do you measure time when you bend it to your will?

Sometime ago, in the past, she remembered seeing the letter. He was being reassigned fo Tokyo, where he would be investigating and detaining a high profile mastermind in the MUFG Heist.

Reassigned. Without her. They had been partners for so many years, she never considered the possibility of him going without her. But they insisted she sit this one out due to being “indisposed”. She accepted it, embraced it even, in full support of all his achievements.

But he failed to share the fine print either her. The moment he stepped onto the train, the hands on the clock flew in reverse. He knew it, but she was unaware. He watched the world spin backwards while she slept peacefully. It took him ten years to sort out the mess with the heist, but he returned home to her in ten days.

And within those ten days, she changed. On the second day, she woke up, knowing something wasn’t right. She did not struggle to sit up and get out of bed, because her stomach no longer carried a miniature passenger. She swayed, gripping the bed frame tightly. A call into the doctor secured her a spot for the next day.

On the third day, she experienced a wave of emotions. She had expected a miscarriage, but could not account for the sudden change in her shape or lack of bloodloss. But when the doctor provided the paperwork showing the child never existed, now that was something else entirely. She choked on the grief and swallowed the questions. For now, anyway.

On the fourth day, she marched to HQ and demanded answers. She met with Agent Morgan, a kind soul who ushered her into a small, cold room. As the door closed, Jesí realized the answer she received would not bring her comfort.

“The train was connected to an experiment. We were not sure if it will work, and the MUFG Heist is the perfect scenario to test it. With its success, Brandon will set himself, and you, up for a promotion of a lifetime.” Morgan smiled, as if pleased with herself for offering such an opportunity."

“Did Brandon know what would change?” Jesí asked, not caring about how easy their lives would be with the new promotion.

“We went over all of the scenarios in great detail. He knew it was a possibility. But the implications were worth-”

“Our child’s life?” Her words stung, and Morgan could not finish her sentence. She fumbled for moment.

“Actually, there is one thing we cannot explain. Those outside of the experiment should experience the new reality and forget the old reality. It still possible that when he returns next week, you will not have to grieve.”

When she returned home, she canceled all of her plans and waited in the silence. Either his mission would fail and all would return to normal, or he would come home and never be the same.

And so she waited in the silence until today, the tenth day. Watching him approach the steps made her nauseous. She still had her memories, but nothing had changed the nightmare he put her in.

“Jesí, I’m home,”

She walked down the stairs, in her finest clothes and met him at the bottom of the stairs. He embraced her, and she returned it, slipping a gift inside his pocket.

“Come, I’ve prepared a meal for you.” He followed her, delighted by the candlelit dinner. She poured him wine, lingering near him, this lover, this stranger.

She did not ask him about his trip, or his promotion, she didn’t care. But she asked him about his plans for his future and smiled like she was fascinated. She kept her facade until the toxins in the wine took affect, and he clutched his heart as he slid to the floor. A pair of blue baby booties fell from his pocket and his eyes widened in surprise.

“Time is a funny thing,” she said, tapping a train ticket on the table as she spoke. “It turns strangers into friends and lovers into strangers. But I’m going to put everything back where it belongs.”

The Orchid

She saw him…

Dark brown hair, hazel eyes, incredible smile. He was wearing khaki shorts and a button-down black shirt. She watched as he made his way towards her. As he sat down, she said hello. That was how it began. He smiled.

“Are y’all ready to order?” The waitress snapped them out of the trance they were in, bringing them back to reality. They had decided to meet for lunch on a whim after meeting in a group chat on Twitter. He asked and she accepted. That was yesterday.

“I’m sorry, we haven’t even had a chance to look at the menu, but we will take two waters please,” she said as she let her gaze drift back to the handsome gentleman that sat across the table from her. “Thank you for asking me to lunch.”

“Thank you for saying yes,” he said as he shifted nervously in his seat.

Their conversation continued on for the next few hours and seemed to flow smoothly.

After lunch they walked through the park hand in hand. She could feel the butterflies building up in her stomach when he asked if she had dinner plans. She told him that she planned on making spaghetti with garlic toast and asked if he would like to join her. He obliged.

“No funny business I promise.” He squeezed her hand.

“It never even crossed my mind.” She squeezed back and giggled. She almost couldn’t believe that the date was going this well.

As they walked past a flower shop she mentioned how she loved to buy flowers. She mentioned that this shop had the best orchids. He said that every potted plant he had ever purchased had died. She laughed and squeezed his hand tight.

They walked that way all the way back to her quaint little cottage that sat back from the road a bit. He noted how beautiful and serene the lot was. She mentioned that she had purchased the cottage for that very reason. The privacy.

She pulled her keys out of her purse, unlocked the door, and opened it. She let him walk in first, watched him closely as he looked around and then quietly locked the door behind them as they entered the spacious living room. The cottage was professionally decorated and immaculate. Filled with only fine pieces handpicked and shipped in from around the world. The pink elephant riding a bike was her favorite and was a gift from her first love, Andrew. He had bought it for her on their first date at the coffee shop.

“Sit wherever you like. Make yourself at home and I can grab us something to drink. Wine or a beer?” She asked as she headed for the kitchen.

“Red wine if you have it,” he said as he took a seat in the chair that Ben had purchased for her while they were backpacking through Europe. Ben was her longest relationship, one that she almost married, but the wedding ended up getting postponed after Ben became ill.

She headed into the kitchen and pulled the special bottle of red down from the shelf, poured him a glass, and smiled. She poured herself a glass of white and carried the two drinks out to the living room, handing him the glass as she passed by.

“That painting is amazing,” he said pointing to the mural that hung above the couch. It had two red bicycles in the center, both had a basket, and a bell. Nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t her favourite piece, Cal had it made specifically for her after finding out that she loved bicycle art. Cal was her third love, which only spanned a week, but she fell in love hard with him and even cried a bit when she had to let him go.

“This wine is making me sleepy,” he said with a yawn. He closed his eyes.

She began to count as his chest rose and fell. It wouldn’t take long for the poison to take hold. She smiled at the thought. David had no idea that this would be his last date. She knew that this one wouldn’t last long because he didn’t buy her an orchid.

“…and you’ll be dead first!”

She hid behind the curtain, remembering her mentor’s words. “Never point a gun at someone unless you intend to shoot them”. “Never keep your finger on the trigger, the gun may go off by accident and warn your victim that you are there and armed”. “Always clear your gun before putting it away”. She was a good pupil and took safety precautions seriously. She ran through her checklist again - yup, locked and loaded, both barrels. She cradled her shotgun softly, she’d get her own back for all the torment she had endured. Remembering another rule, she suppressed her anger; revenge is a dish best served cold. She stilled, hearing the quiet footsteps of her victim, then swore under her breath when she heard heavier footsteps as well. The curtain was pulled back with one jerk and her gun was yanked from her grasp.
“No, that’s naughty!” her mum snipped the cords holding the bits of cork in the muzzles of her double-barrelled shotgun, which she had got for her fourth birthday. Mum gave the gun back, but kept the ammunition. “You are not allowed to shoot people!”

I ran off, towards the kitchen, ducking into the larder and shutting the door. Carefully, I carved about twenty plugs out of the potatoes, which were sitting in the sack on the floor. Yup, they fitted well. With a gleeful grin, I set off in search of my sister again. A few moments later, a scream echoed through the house… “MUUUUMMMMM!”