3 August – Later that evening (Unholy Confessions Series)

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I opened my eyes. It was dark and I felt uneasy. I couldn’t remember at first, but then slowly Carter’s opinion floated back to me.  What if I ruin the band by being here? I should avoid upsetting Carter in the future.

I made up my mind then and there to listen to whatever Mike told me. I wondered if he was still sleeping above me in the bunk. I listened for any sounds outside the bunk to alert me to anyone’s presence, but I couldn’t hear voices either. I couldn’t hear anything. It was very quiet. What had woken me up then?

I couldn’t feel the vibrations of the bus anymore so assumed we had stopped moving. I decided bravely to go have a look outside the bunk, but when I turned my head to the left to get out of the bunk, I saw Sean’s head floating next to me.

“Mr. Masters!” I exclaimed in shock.

He laughed. “Peek-a-boo”.

I propped myself up on my elbows. “What is it-sir?”

He smiled. “You don’t have to call me that when Mike’s not around”.

I giggled nervously. “I’d rather not take any chances”.

“We’ve stopped for dinner”, he informed me. “Come on”.

“I should stay here”, I cringed. “Let people cool down”.

“People are cooled down”. He winked. “If by people, you mean Carter”.

I slipped out of the bunk bed, reluctantly to follow him. There was no one on the bus, but Sean and me. I noted the bus driver, Matt was gone to as I followed Sean out of the bus. Once we were outside, I could immediately smell the sea.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Folkestone”, he replied. “We thought we’d have dinner before retiring as we’re crossing to Calais very early tomorrow morning”.

“Okay, Mr. Masters”.

He sighed, audibly.

“Look, it’s in the agreement”, I complained. “I can’t make everyone happy at the same time”.

We crossed over the parking lot next to the docks and walked towards a restaurant with a patio that overlooked the dark sea. The moon was reflecting on the black, still depths. I followed him through the restaurant to the patio. It was still just warm enough to sit outside.

Walking through the restaurant, I noticed that a couple of people were pointing and whispering. I supposed it would be something I’d have to get used to on the tour.

The rest of the band, Billy and Matt were sitting around a wooden table. There was another man I hadn’t met before, but I knew who he was. He had thinning brown hair, weary brown eyes and was nearing his mid-sixties. The band’s manager, Andrew Stevens.  

Sean sat down at the very right end of the table. The earlier tension I felt was no longer there or they were better actors than I gave them credit for. Billy winked at me when I sat down between him and Sean. Andrew Stevens sat across from me with Mike on his left and Carter on his right. On Carter’s right was Jason with Noah across from him on Billy’s left.

“I’m Andrew”, Andrew Stevens said and held out his hand to me.

I shook it. “Victoria”.

“Nice to meet you”.  

“Andrew’s the tour manager”, Billy informed me unnecessarily.

I nodded. “Yes, I know…I, uh-” I’ve heard every single interview you’ve ever done. “I know”. Fantastic first impression. Well done, me.

Andrew laughed. He was friendly enough unlike Carter who was glaring at me from under his black fringe. I tried to ignore him while the rest of them discussed tour plans.

After a while the waiter brought the menus and Andrew turned the conversation to the previous night’s show.

“Congrats on last night”, he said. “It was a fair show”.

FAIR?! It was the most amazing show I’d ever seen in my life!

“You were at the gig last night, right, Victoria?” Andrew asked me suddenly.

After a beat, I nodded. The way he said it I was sure he knew I was there, but he was merely being polite.

“What did you think?”

“Um—what did I think of—what?” I asked awkwardly. Sean and Jason were sniggering.

“You’re a musician, right?” Andrew continued.

“Yes”, I said, searching for appropriate words, or just words that made sense. “I-”I looked around at the band whose eyes were all on me, waiting expectantly. Even Billy was watching me.

“It was fine”. I looked down at my hands on the table.

Andrew raised his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Yeah”, I said, nervously.

“How about the sound?” he continued relentlessly.

“Uh-”I glanced nervously at Mike. “I’m not really the right person to ask”.

“Sure, you are”, Andrew grinned. “You must have seen a lot of shows and performed them as well”.

“Yeah, but-”

“I won’t hold what you say against you”, Mike assured me, “you can be honest”.

I watched him for a while to make sure he was sincere. It didn’t help much. His face had taken on the cool mask, and I couldn’t interpret an emotion.

“Honestly, the sound was good from where we were standing”, I said, suppressing the actual genuine rush I felt because of how brilliant it was. Indescribable, really. “But I purposefully choose to stand in the middle and slightly to the back at big shows because I know I have the sound from all sides there, and the bass isn’t overpowering”.  I was desperately trying to change the subject and get the attention away from me. “Where are Mike and James Miller?” I asked, quickly.

Most of them just shrugged which I found rather peculiar.

Andrew frowned, looking around. “Somewhere”.

“What are the chances that they are doing something illegal?” I asked as the thought occurred to me.

“Rather high”, Sean laughed.

“Oh, dear”.

Everyone laughed at my innocent choice of words.

The waiter arrived to take our order.

“So, what’s everyone having?” Andrew asked, bored. 

Every single head at the table turned to me. Of course, they’re letting me order first when I haven’t as much as glanced at the menu.

“I would like a-“ Panic, panic. I flipped the menu open and scanned it hurriedly.

“Yes, Victoria?” Andrew prompted. “You were saying-?”

“I would like a Chicken Tramazini”. I chose the first thing my eyes landed on.

“And to drink?” the waiter asked me.

“Um…a glass of white wine, please?”

“Just bring a bottle, please”, Mike told the waiter.

I frowned at him but didn’t say anything.

Everyone else ordered their food while I silently tried to interpret Mike’s expression.

Finally, the waiter left after the long order.

“A bottle?” I asked Mike. “I wouldn’t take you for a wine-drinker”.

“It’s for you”, he replied simply.

I looked at Sean for clarification, but he just smiled.

“Are you trying to get me drunk, Mike?” Once the words had left my mouth, I suddenly wondered if it was an appropriate line of questioning in front of the management.

“No”, Mike replied, locking his eyes with mine. “I wouldn’t need it”.

I blushed unintentionally.

Someone whistled. Sean chuckled next to me, and I was vaguely aware of Jason sniggering as I crossed my arms silently.

“Andrew”, Mike said, not taking his eyes off me. “Are we staying on the bus tonight, or-?”

Andrew shook his head. “No, we’re staying in a bed and breakfast across the road”, he replied. “Nice and close so we can leave right after breakfast…it would take five hours to get to Paris…so if we left by eight-we’d make it to Paris by one”.

“Are the rooms near each other?” he enquired further.

“They’re separate cabins”, Andrew told him.  “Any particular reason you’re asking?”

“Yeah”. Mike’s eyes flicked to mine, but he didn’t elaborate.

I wondered whether Andrew knew the ins and outs of why I was on tour, but he answered my question shortly after.

“I didn’t book any extra accommodation for Victoria”, he told Mike, “I assumed she’d be staying with you”.

“She’ll stay with me”, Mike confirmed.

I kept my eyes fixed on my hands as to not catch anyone’s eyes, but I could feel all the pairs of eyes on me.

“Really got this one eating out of the palm of your hand, don’t ya?” Andrew smiled.

I caught Carter’s eye by mistake, and he glared at me.

The waiter brought the wine and I poured myself a glass, glad for something to do.

After my first couple of sips, Mike spoke. “You’re very quiet tonight”.

I took a couple more sips to stop myself swearing at him and when I composed myself, answered: “I don’t have anything to say”.

“Mike told me you’re a teacher”, Andrew said.

What a dick move, Mike!

“Yes, but I’m mainly a musician and writer”, I said, drinking more wine.

“Aren’t those type of people normally extroverts?”

“Victoria’s just under pressure, I think”, Noah came to my aid.

I smiled at him.

“You’re a brave girl”, Andrew said over the guys’ laughter. “I find it hard to survive them sometimes”. Then he laughed at his own joke.

“Does anyone want some wine?” I offered the table.

“I’ll have some”, Andrew said.

I poured him a glass.

“Do you have any siblings?” Andrew asked, accepting the glass from me. “Thank you”.

“I have two younger brothers”.

“Hey!” Sean said, suddenly. “How’s Olivia?”

“She’s great”, I said. “How did you know she’s a friend of mine?”

“Besides that, she spoke about you-I assumed you knew the person you shared your prize with”.

“Oh, of course”. I blushed deeply.

“She’s a cool chick”.

I laughed. “She’ll be glad to hear that”.

The food arrived and we started eating. I was glad to be able to concentrate on eating and not expected to think of something impressive to say. Instead, I listened with interest to the band discussing their new album. It was information not known to the public yet so I tried to catch as much of it as I could without making it obvious that I was listening.  

I looked up when it went strangely silent. Everyone’s eyes were once again on me.

“What?” I asked, looking around at them, shyly.

“You were singing,” Jason enlightened me. “One of our songs”.

“Oh, no!” I said, loudly. “Was I singing that aloud? Dammit”.  

There was a general chuckle.

“You’ve got a good voice, Victoria”, Jason smiled. “I’ll give you that”.

“Thank you”.

“Are we your favourite band?” Noah teased.

 “Oh, hilarious”, I said and rolled my eyes. “I think it’s quite obvious”.

“What is it you like about us?” Sean asked.

“Ah…come on!”

“It’s not that hard”, Mike said. “Just answer the question”.

The arrogance.

I sighed. “Everything”.

“How descriptive”, Mike breathed.

All right! That’s enough out of you!

“You’re really going to make me do this?” I asked, looking around at them all.

Mike nodded.

I sighed. “The amazing technical skill…guitar solos…the lyrics are some of the most intelligent things I’ve ever heard-very poetic-but my favourite instrument is drums-even though I don’t play them. And the band has the most creative drums”.

“How did you first hear of us?” Jason asked. “I like asking fans that”.

I stared at him for a while, thinking how to answer his question.

“So, what’s the story?” he pushed.

“Actually, it was ages ago”, I admitted. I poured a new glass of wine and took a couple of sips. “Just after the release of your third album-my brother introduced me to the music”.

I paused too long, and Mike prompted, “is that it?”

“Patience, please-“ I smiled. “My brother called me over and said, look at this band-it was on Scuzz on the tv…He said, I think you’d think their hot”.

There were some murmurs and chuckles around the table.

I blushed, angry at myself for not filtering properly.

“So, you think we’re hot?” Jason smirked.

I cleared my throat. “Yeah, but it was the music! That’s it. Not an incredible story”.

“What’s your favourite song?” Sean asked.

I started listing some of the songs I liked the most, a lot of them written by Jason. It’s not very common for drummers to write that many songs.

“Jay, you are a genius”, I told him when I’d finished rambling about how great they were.

Jason chuckled appreciatively.

“I wonder why women like those songs so much”, Noah commented. “It should be too grotesque for the female appeal”.

“Who’ve you been dating?” Jason asked Noah with raised eyebrows, making me laugh a little too loudly.

I tried to draw attention away from it by adding: “Women are way more into the things you think we dislike-like sex for example, it’s scientifically proven that women think about it more than men do”.

“Right”, Andrew said, probably uncomfortable with where the conversation was going. “Six-thirty sharp for breakfast”, he told the band. “Don’t stay up too late. I’m going to bed”.

“Me, too”, Billy said.

When it was just the band and I, I assumed the game continued.

“By the way, Victoria”, Mike said. “Your dad called while you were asleep”.

“What?” I demanded. “Did YOU answer it?” I completely forgot about the game.

“Yeah”, he said with half a smile. Some of the other band members were chuckling.

“I told him your mouth was busy and incapable of speaking”, he answered, confidently.

Before I could start to scream at him, Noah said : “Mike’s joking, Victoria”.

“Oh, well haha”, I said, still a little annoyed.

“What does it matter?” Mike smiled infuriatingly. “You’re thirty-two”.

“You do realise fathers, no matter their daughters’ age, don’t want anything put in their daughters’ mouths besides food and the blessed words of Jesus Christ”.

They all burst out laughing so intensely that I was unable to stop myself laughing along with them.

“So, wait, my dad didn’t phone?” I asked once everyone had calmed down.

“Your Dad phoned, but nobody answered”, Sean told me. “We just saw the caller ID”.

“Well, you scared me”. I picked up the tomato-ketchup and mock squeezed it in Mike’s direction, not realising the cap was open ,and it squirted across his face and down his shirt.

I gasped and jumped up from the table like a reflex. I didn’t notice anyone else around me anymore. My eyes were fixed on Mike who was examining the damage.

“I’m so sorry, Sir!” I stuttered, frantically. “It just—I didn’t realise it was open—I—“

He fixed me with a stare, and I fell instantly silent.

It was silent while Mike wiped his face with the serviette except for Sean and Jason who were sniggering softly from opposite sides of the table.

He stood up, watching me intently. “I expect you in the cabin in twenty minutes”. Then he calmly turned and left.

I stood staring after him until he disappeared into the darkness as he crossed the road.

I unfroze and sat back down slowly in my seat. Every one of the four remaining band members were still chuckling.

“Well done”, Noah said and leaned over, holding his hand up to high-five me. 

I just stared at him, immobilised so he high-fived Jason across the table instead.

I stared at my wine glass in silence.

“Hey”, Sean said, nudging me. “You okay?”

“No”, I said, softly. “I’m going to be in so much trouble”.

That time every single person at and around the table burst out laughing loudly.

I stared flabbergasted at them. “Well, thanks—I’m glad you find humour in my demise”.

They laughed even louder.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Sean asked smiling, “you signed up for this kind of thing?”

“I know, it’s just normally I don’t get in trouble this quickly”, I explained. “He’s going to kill me”.  

“Don’t be stupid”, Jason chuckled.  

Sean agreed. “Mike, won’t kill you…He might paralyse you though”.

They laughed at some internal joke while I pursed my lips in frustration.

Carter even seemed to be enjoying himself then, or maybe he was just tipsy.

I breathed a deep sigh and stood up.

“Hey, where you going?” Jason mumbled.

“I’m supposed to go to the cabin-“

“I’d have some more wine before I go if I were you”, Sean said and as I turned to him, he winked.

“What?”

“You know—“ He spoke in Jason’s direction. “It can act as an anaesthetic”.

“You guys are not comforting me at all”.

“We’re just playing with you”, Noah smiled. “Fuck, why are you so terrified anyway?”

There was a loud gasp from Carter, and he snapped his fingers in the air. “You’re a virgin, aren’t you?”

“I’m thirty-two, dude”.

He sat back in his seat and assumed his sour expression.

“I’m just—I don’t know—it’s just nerves”.

“So if it was anyone—it would be the same?” Noah asked, trying to understand.

“Not anyone”, I replied, “but any of you, yes”.

The band decided it would be best to walk to the cabins with me considering I had no idea where I was going. I greeted Jason and Carter as they drifted off towards their cabin.

Noah and Sean’s cabin were just next to Mike’s. Outside of their cabin, we paused for a moment.

“Goodnight, guys”, I said.

“Night”, Sean said, leaning against the door of the cabin with a grin on his face.

“What?” I asked, uncomfortably.

“Nothing”, he said, still grinning. “Night”. He went into the cabin, but Noah stayed.

I frowned at him, curiously.

He stood silently watching me for a while.

I treaded around in the dirt, waiting and wondering if I should just walk away or say goodnight again or something.

“Are you going to be okay?” he finally asked and I almost sighed out loud with relief.

“Of course”, I said and nodded frantically too many times.

“It’s just a game, remember”, Noah assured me. “He won’t do anything you don’t want to do”.

“Sure”.

Noah laughed as if he knew what I was thinking. “I promise you. I’ve known him my whole life”.

I nodded. “Thank you”.

“Can I ask you something?”

I nodded again.

“Don’t worry—it’ll be confidential”.

“Are you going to ask me if I’m a virgin again…’cause it’s really ridiculous”.

He laughed. “No…Do you want to be here?”

I frowned. “Is that the confidential question?”

“Yeah”.

“Of course”, I assured him. “As I said, it’s just first time with a new person nerves”.

“Gotcha”, he smiled. “Night. I’ll see you in the morning”.

I would’ve (A letter)

Dear Jimmy,

I wonder if I would’ve called you ‘The Rev’. No, nothing but Jimmy would’ve felt right. I’m sure wherever you are, you’re doing something super cool. You were always the life of the party. I would’ve liked to party with you. With our energy combined, I’m sure we would’ve been absolutely terrifying to most people, and you know, extremely loud, always screaming. Inside voices wouldn’t exist. I hate that expression. People are always telling me to use my ‘inside voice’. You wouldn’t have done that. It would’ve been hypocritical if you did, and you were brutally authentic.

Man, the conversations we would’ve had. I know we would’ve talked about music endlessly. But not only, probably also the fate of the world, following our dreams, human emotions, the difficulty of being alive. We would’ve had many opinions about all of that. I’m always trying to change the world by myself, but you actually had the influence, and you did change so many people’s worlds. Mine included.

A lot has changed since you left. I got married. He’s a drummer too. He’s funny, intelligent and compassionate too. I think you guys would’ve gotten along. You would’ve probably played Nintendo a lot. But I think you would’ve only partied together in small doses, you’re a bit too wild. Playing music and touring together would’ve been more fun. I think you would’ve liked my singing. No, I know you would’ve liked my singing because you never had a bad word to say about anyone’s art. Thank you for that hard lesson, by the way. It took me a lot of years to recognise that my judging of other musicians came from a place of jealousy. Letting go of that bitterness was the first step to returning to my true self.

It’s been twelve years and though every twenty-eighth of December, it hurts all over again as it did when we got the news in 2009, this year it feels more intense. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because Avenged is working on a third album without you, which is super exciting by the way. The album, not that it’s without you. I’m sure you would be so proud of them. But honestly, it’s probably because I turned thirty-three this year, and I’m so scared. I feel like I haven’t achieved my dreams, and I’m running out of time. You would laugh and say, Nicole—your life isn’t over. You’ve been such an inspiration to me for so long, I really want to be that inspiration, that light for other people but I’m so anchored down by my feelings most of the time and recently all that’s coming out is pain. Whether it’s sadness or happiness, it’s always so intense. I’m always so dramatic. I wish I didn’t have to feel this much. You would say—Your sensitivity is your superpower and what is music, but a bunch of feelings strung together to tell a story.

I want your drive and willpower. No, that’s not it. I want to be fearless like you were. No, wrong again. Everyone’s afraid. I want to be brave enough to take incredible risks to achieve my dreams. I want to be wild enough to ignore society’s expectations. I want to love everyone as fiercely as you did, even when they do not understand me. Few people understood you, some even hated what they didn’t understand and yet you were never threatened. You always stayed true to yourself.

I know it wasn’t always easy, especially nearing the end of your life. But you lived, really lived, in your short twenty-eight years. I just realised it was the twenty-eighth and you were twenty-eight. But that’s what I will strive to do for myself, live with that sort of balls-to-the-wall energy. When things don’t go my way, say—ah new adventure, on to the next thing as you would’ve. Choose to love radically in a world where it’s easier not to. Choose to feel deeply in a world where it’s easier not to. Choose to live fully in a world where it’s easier not to.

I’m sorry I never got to meet you. I would’ve made a fool of myself, but you would’ve been patient and forgiving, given me a hug and said—thank you for being you. Well, maybe you wouldn’t have said it but it would’ve been heavily implied.

I’m sorry this conversation is thirteen years late, and therefore very one-sided. Anyway, dude, thank you for your music, for your inspiration, for your energy, for your life.

I think we would’ve been good friends. No, I know we would’ve been great friends. I hope you’re at peace. At this point, it almost seems unnecessary to say, because you know, but just in case you were in doubt, I love you, man.

3 August (Unholy Confessions Series)

Free photos from Pexels.com by Fabrizio Verrecchia

Disclaimer: This story is not recommended for under eighteens. It contains mature themes, sex, explicit sexual language, strong language, drug references and infrequent violence.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

I was up at eight the next morning, overthinking too much to sleep. I dressed in jeans and a green shirt and put on minimal make-up. Before Olivia left for work, over breakfast, we discussed how bizarre and dream-like the previous night had been before saying goodbye to each other.  I promised to call her if by some outrageous chance I was actually contacted and went on tour with the band; something I assured her was damn near impossible.  

I had a flight back to France the next day, but I had yet to pack my bag. I was definitely putting it off for as long as possible due to my extreme dislike of packing and complete disorganisation as a human-being. Instead, I checked my e-mails and my Facebook page. I updated my status to how amazing the previous night had been, minus some of the details. When the phone call from Mike still hadn’t come by lunchtime, I gave up hope. I knew it was too good to be true though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. I was watching television late that afternoon when I received a text. My heart skipped a beat as I saw an American number I didn’t recognise.

Hey Victoria,

If you haven’t changed your mind,

meet me at Watford station at 18:00.

I’ll explain and you can decide what

you want to do.

The text came with no name, but it could only be from one person, or someone was pulling a well-thought-out prank on me. I panicked when I saw the time on my mobile. It was already three o’clock. Of course, the guy couldn’t have given me a heads-up that morning. I raced upstairs to pack, considering the possibility that I had hallucinated receiving the text.  I put my suitcase on the bed and started chucking my clothes into it at random. I knew I had to reply to the text, but I had no idea what to say. Finally, I responded: “Okay”.

Genius. I am a mastermind of communication.

It was a forty-minute train ride to Watford from Olivia’s flat so, I really needed to shake a tail-feather. The last thing I did before leaving the flat was to scribble Olivia a completely unbelievable note and stick it to her fridge. I hauled the bag down the road to the train station where I took the train, admittedly a little late due to my last-minute packing. It didn’t calm my nerves that the train was delayed and kept waiting longer than necessary between stations. I had no idea what was going to happen when I got to Watford. Was he just going to be standing in the street next to the train station, surrounded by screaming fans? That seemed completely ridiculous.

When I finally exited the train station, my pulse went berserk as Billy, the bodyguard from the previous evening climbed out of a black Mercedes. I watched him walk over to me where I stood frozen outside the station doorway. When he arrived in front of me, and I realised how real it was starting to feel, I grinned. My smile was apparently infectious as Billy who was frowning before, smiled too. “Evening, Victoria”.

“Good evening, Sir”. The fact that he was wearing a suit jacket made me feel compelled to call him Sir. I was completely out of my comfort-zone.

He laughed. “The name’s Billy”.

“Billy, you’re not from Orange County”, I noted, “I can’t place your accent”.

“Lafayette, Louisiana”, he responded rapidly, “is this all your stuff?”

“I didn’t know what to pack”, I admitted, “so yeah, this is it”.

“We need to go”, he told me, “You’re already ten minutes late”.

“I’m sorry”, I cringed, “I expected a phone call and then the train. I mean…I thought it was all bull-shit to be honest”.

Billy nodded. “It’s all very last minute”, he agreed, “we’re on a pretty tight schedule. We need to be in Paris tomorrow”. He glanced at his wristwatch.

I got into the black Mercedes with Billy, and we drove a few minutes away from the train station. He stopped the car behind a huge, black, and silver tour bus idling in a wider road. Carter Townsend, the band’s rhythm guitarist stood next to the bus. He lit a cigarette as Billy got out of the car. I got out of the car as well but hung back nervously, staring at Carter. I couldn’t hear what Billy said to Carter, but he threw his arms in the air impatiently as Billy most probably told him I arrived late at the train station. Carter glanced in my direction as Billy walked back to where I was standing next to the car and the butterflies danced in my stomach.

“Go on”, Billy told me when I didn’t move.

“Shouldn’t I get my bag?” I asked him, confused.

“You better have a chat with the band first”, he told me, “I may still need to take you back to the train station-“ The situation was very confusing to me. Billy smiled. “See you later”.

“What?” I asked, panicking. “You’re not coming with me?”

“Absolutely not”, he responded, “I try not to get too involved with the band’s private life”, he paused, “but sometimes it’s inevitable”.

“I didn’t realise bodyguards also picked up fangirls”, I frowned.

He chuckled. “This is a first”.

“So, if-“

“Victoria, you need to go now”, he said seriously. “We’re already very late”.

“Sorry”, I said quickly. I already liked Billy. I felt more at ease with him around.

I made my way over to the bus, noticing that there was a small crowd gathering on the opposite pavement. I fought not to gape as I arrived in front of Carter. My pulse was out of control. He stepped on his half-finished cigarette and entered the bus without a word to me.

I swallowed uncomfortably. I wasn’t sure if he was unhappy with my tardiness, or he was trying to escape the attention from the public. Probably the former. My nerves were making me overthink more than normal. With Carter gone, I contemplated whether to get on the bus, or not while watching the number of curious-onlookers on the pavement increasing.

Mike hurriedly climbed down the few bus stairs to the door, seconds later. “You’re late”.

“I’m sorry”, I told him, “The trains were difficult, and I didn’t have a lot of warning, so-“

“I told you yesterday that we were leaving today-“ he reminded me, “You could’ve easily prepared-“

“I didn’t believe this would actually happen-“

He sighed. “Well, I wanted a good amount of time to explain everything to you, now we only have ten minutes, or we’ll throw the schedule”.

“You could’ve called me”.

He cast an impatient look at me. “We’re working. I put this half an hour aside to have this conversation. Now we have even less-“

“Hey, you’re Mike Lowe, right?” A girl suddenly asked Mike. She and three of her friends made their way over from the other side of the pavement.

Mike’s face instantly changed, and he smiled kindly at them. “Yeah, how are you all doing?”

“I told you it was the band’s bus!” one of the others insisted.

“Could we have your autograph, please?” another asked, “maybe a photo?”

Mike didn’t tell them that the band needed to leave or that he didn’t have time for any of the favours they asked for, but instead signed the autographs generously and posed for their photos.

“You can get on the bus, Victoria”, he told me.

I wasn’t incredibly comfortable getting on the bus by myself, but I did so anyway.

The bus driver was a man in his late forties. He had tousled blonde hair and a thin moustache. He wore jeans and a red-check shirt, but no shoes.

“Hey”, he smiled at me. “I’m Matt”. He held his hand out to me confidently.

“Hey, Matt”, I said, shaking his hand. “Victoria. Nice to meet you”.

“Pleasure’s all mine, babe”, he informed me. “The boys are just down this hallway. I’m sure you can hear them”.

Sure enough, loud voices were coming from where he gestured down the bus. It was followed by loud booming laughter.

“I’ll just wait for Mike”, I told him, “He’ll be here any moment”.

“As you like”.

When Mike got back onto the bus, he told Matt: “Lock the doors, please. It’s getting crowded out there. We’ve been waiting here too long”.

Matt immediately locked the bus door. “Andrew’s been asking when we’re leaving? He’s getting impatient.” Andrew Stevens was the band manager.

 “Aren’t we all”, Mike retorted, “tell him, we’ll leave in ten minutes”.

I followed Mike down the narrow bus hallway, narrow because of the various tables and seats on either side of it. The next part of the bus had curtained bunk beds built into the side and a small but well-equipped kitchenette.

We found the rest of the band in a semi-circle around a table at the back of the bus.

I stood uncomfortably against the wall as the four familiar faces stared at me, curiously. Mike sat down at the table with the rest of the band. Two crew members I recognised from youtube videos over the years were leaning on either side of the wall to my left and right.

On Mike’s right, sat Sean Masters, the band’s lead guitarist. Next to him, sitting in the middle of the table was the drummer, Jason ‘Jay’ Shanahan. Next to him was Carter and on his right, Noah Stewart, the bassist who was closest to my left. All five of them were heavily tattooed. Sean had chin-length black hair and brown eyes. The most facial hair he ever considered growing was the little stubble visible on his jaw in the late afternoon. Jason was almost two metres tall with blue eyes, wild auburn hair and a dark brown moustache and beard. Carter had blue-green eyes, short black hair and was a little chubbier than the rest. He always said that he got his tattoos to make him look more muscular. Noah was short, something no one would let him forget, with dark brown hair and a beard peppered with grey even though he was the youngest in the band at thirty-six. The other four of them were forty. The five of them grew up together in Orange County and had been a band for over twenty years.

“Look, we don’t have a lot of time”, Mike started, “So, this is Noah-”

“Don’t bother introducing anyone”, I interrupted him, “I know everyone’s names, birthdates, blood types-“ I was delighted when I made them all laugh. Of course, I didn’t know their blood types.

“Guys, this is Victoria”, Mike half-smiled. “I suppose you don’t know Mike and James Miller?”

He gestured to the two crew members on either side of me. Mike and James were brothers who’d been working with the band since the very beginning of their career. Mike was at the time the head of merchandise and distribution while James was the drum technician. The Miller-brothers looked very similar with their dark hair, dark eyes, and muscular builds.

“Not personally”, I replied, “but I know who they are”.

Mike Miller laughed. “Would you look at that?” He looked over at his brother. “We might be as famous as they are!” He gestured towards the band.

“I wouldn’t take it that far”, I smiled, but I already liked the Miller-Brothers as well.

“Now for the rules”, Mike stated. “There are quite a lot of them ranging from tour rules which are non-negotiable and primordial—and our rules which are of course negotiable and won’t surpass your limits”. 

I opened my mouth to speak but, he answered the question I was about to ask. “The second part can be discussed just between the two of us”.

I nodded. “I assume the band will be around all the time on tour, right?”

Mike frowned. “Of course, why?”

I shrugged. “We might as well discuss everything here then”, I told him, “I’m sure they know exactly what’s going on”.

“There are no secrets between us”, he answered, and the other guys laughed as I blushed.

“Besides it’s also practical”, Mike added, “to have a private conversation on this bus is very difficult”.

“You get to know people really well on tour”, Noah winked at me.

“This could take a little while”, Mike told me, “So why don’t you sit down”.  

“Uh-where?” I could see all the space around the table was taken.

He tapped his left thigh. I wasn’t going to say no to that opportunity, so I sat down obediently on his lap.

He rolled his eyes. “I won’t break”.

“I know”, I countered. “I’m just very uncomfortable”.

I wasn’t hyperventilating on his lap like I thought I would. I had completely forgotten to breathe. It was only when I became dizzy that I realised I was holding my breath. I let the breath out in a whoosh of air and then gasped.

“It’s best to breathe”, Mike suggested. “Keeps you alive”.

“I’m sorry”, I told him. “I’m trying”. I was annoyed at myself for acting like a teenager around them.

“So, for obvious reasons this will be a verbal agreement and you can leave whenever you want”, Mike explained, “of course, actual sex-related details can be discussed as we go and are always negotiable if you’re uncomfortable with anything”. He hooked a string of hair behind my ear. “But more important is that you know what’s expected of you in a non-sexual capacity as this is a headlining tour”.

I might’ve been gaping slightly. “Okay”, I said, “are we going to discuss it now?”

“No, we’re going to discuss it later,” he said sarcastically.

“I’m trying to listen”, I said, resting my hands uncomfortably in my lap, “but I can’t think when I’m this nervous”.

They laughed and I once again felt thrilled that I was amusing.

“Can I please stand?” I begged.

“Go on”. He lifted his leg slightly and gave me a boost off his lap. I was relieved to be away from him but then everyone was staring at me again.

The very first tour-rule he mentioned was that when the band was working in whatever capacity, I only speak when spoken to and stay out of everyone’s way.

“You’re joking!” I exclaimed loudly. “I can’t not speak until I’m spoken to”.

“I liked you better when you were suffocating on my lap”, Mike said calmly.

I ignored him. “What if no one speaks to me?” I asked, sounding a little desperate.

“Then we’ll have a nice quiet tour”, he responded, “You’ll only need your mouth for one thing anyway”.

All the guys laughed appreciatively at his crude joke while I blushed.  

“Hilarious, Mike”, I said, crossing my arms in defence.

“People will speak to you”, he assured me, “We like to have fun, but we’re professionals. There will be times when you’ll be expected to entertain yourself”.

I nodded.  “Of course”.

“In public, that means at venues, soundchecks, interviews—wherever, you refer to the crew members, management and staff by their titles unless they personally ask you not to”, Mike continued.  

“Professional”, I said aloud, “that makes sense. So, I assume this doesn’t include the band, right?” I laughed but stopped when none of them laughed. “I’m not allowed to call you by your first names in public?”

“In public, yes”, Mike smiled, “in private though, you call us by our titles”.

“You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m not”, he stated plainly. “For example, Carter will be Mr .Townsend. Sean, Mr. Masters…Get it?”

“I’m not dumb, Mike”.

“Clearly”, he smirked, pointing out the irony. That mistake earned me a crack up among the band.

“That’s already 4-1 for me”, Mike grinned.

I sighed. “What about the Miller-brothers?”

“What about us?” Mike Miller asked.

“I take it you two are involved in this, so what am I supposed to call you when we’re not in public?”

Mike Lowe shrugged. “Whatever you want. This only refers to the band members”.

“But why?” I asked him.

“It amuses us”, Mike smiled.

“Wait”, James Miller said. “Could you call me Mr. Fluffikins?”

I cringed. “Do I have to?”

He laughed. “You can just call me James”.

I smiled, relieved. “Thank you”.

“Look, this is going to take forever if you’re going to ask a question or make a comment after every word of this conversation…” Mike sighed.

I smiled, thinking that he didn’t really think through inviting the loud, hyperactive person on tour.

“I’ll save my questions for after then”, I offered.

“So, I made a short list of things I like”, he told me, “But they’re not exhaustive nor are they non-negotiable”.

“Yes, you’ve said that a few times now”, I reminded him, “I understand they are negotiable”.

He handed me a piece of paper.

“You had time to scrawl down your fetishes but not to give me a call?” I raised my eyebrows at him.

Sean snorted into his shoulder.

“Just read the damn thing”, Mike ordered but I could see he struggled not to smile.

•           Being tied up

•           Impact play with; 1) Hand 2) Paddle 3) Flogger 4) Riding crop 5) Belt 6) Cane 

•           Humiliation play; 1) Name calling 2)Spitting 3)Acts of servitude

•           Anal play; 1) Toys or fingers 2) Penetration

•           Suffocation play; 1) Hand on neck 2) Head under water

•           Nipple play; 1) Toy use on nipples 2) Twisting/biting 3) Impact play on nipples

•           Blowjobs 1) Deep throat 2) Irrumatio

“Irrumatio?” I asked, “what does that mean?”

“Vigorous oral sex”, Mike clarified.

“Throat fucking”, Jason said at the same time.

“Thanks, dude”, Mike laughed.

I nodded. “Understood”.

I scanned over the list again. “So, like will there be punishments?”

“They will be suggested and consented to when and if necessary”, Mike answered.

I tried not to smile, thinking that they would most definitely be necessary.

“On that note”, Mike said, “how do you feel about being naked in front of the band?”

“Hang the fuck on”, I said, shocked. “What do you mean?”

“It’s not self-explanatory?”

“Why would I need to be naked in front of the band?”

“Well-perhaps as a form of punishment-“ he said, not at all uncomfortable with the conversation, “or you know, sometimes it’s just unavoidable when you spend twenty-four hours a day together on this bus”.

“Tours literally change relationships”, Carter inserted.

“I need to think about that one-“ I glanced around at the other band members, trying to contain my embarrassment.

“So, a few other things you need to know, no insulting or referring to anyone’s current or previous partners”, Mike told me, “You may not discuss the details of what happens in private with anyone other than the band and the Miller-brothers-“

“Does your management and crew know what’s going on?” I asked them.

“They don’t know everything”, Mike answered me, “it’s need to know basis. Of course, they had to know some of the details for you to be here”.

“Which by the way”, Carter interrupted, “our manager isn’t overjoyed about this so don’t piss him off”.

I cringed. “Not a good start”.

“Let me worry about it”, Mike told me. “But, just so you know, you’ll have to share a room with me. Andrew flat out refuses to book extra hotel rooms on this tour”.

“Oh, no, that sounds terrible”, I answered sarcatically, making Mike chuckle.

“Everything seems clear enough”, I told him. “Do I bring up what I have a problem with now, or-?”

“Yes, quickly”.   

“Not a fan of the cane”, I told him.  

“No cane”, Mike agreed.

“Name calling is fine”, I said, “I just don’t like my intelligence being insulted but it’s not a deal-breaker”.

“Minimal insulting of intelligence”, he smiled.

“Am I allowed to have sex with anyone else while I’m on tour?” I asked curiously.

“No, only with me”, Mike answered instantly.

“That includes the rest of the band I imagine?”

“Yes”.

“Is that a hard rule?”

He chuckled. “Yes, but I’m curious—who did you have in mind?”

I accidently caught Jason’s eye and looked away quickly. “No one”.

“Anything else?”

“Do acts of servitude include the rest of the band and the Millers…like if they ask me to do something non-sexual…do I have to do it?”

“I haven’t thought about it”, Mike admitted. “What do you guys think?”

“Could be interesting”, Sean smiled.  

“Acts of servitude includes the band members and the Millers”, Mike amended, “within reason. Safety first”.  

“Right—if there’s nothing else-”

“One final thing”, Mike declared, “punishments will be for minor things but breaking hard rules like getting in the way of the tour or speaking outside of the circles will result in you going home, okay?”

“Got it”.

“If you agree to this, we expect you to stick to our schedule”, Mike resumed, “that means when you’re asked to be somewhere, you be there, and you be there on time, you wake up on time, you eat on time. We’re not waiting around for you. This is a sixty-day tour and it’s not as glamorous as it sounds”.

“Do I have an itinerary I can follow?” I asked hopefully. “If things aren’t written down, I tend to forget that they exist”.

“We can give you the show dates, soundcheck times and venues, but the rest changes all the time”, he advised, “better to keep your ear to the ground”.

“Mike is making it sound like all work and no play”, Noah smiled, “don’t worry, it’ll be fun too”.

“So, is there anything else?” I checked.

“That’s everything”, he confirmed.

I was really so excited to be there that Mike could’ve proposed anything and I would still have agreed to it all.

“Then I agree”. I sighed, relieved. “Gosh, I feel better now”. I laughed. “I should go get my bag”.

“Your bag goes underneath the bus”, Carter said. “Billy will do it”.

“I’ll call Billy, and let him know you’re staying and we’re ready”, Mike told everyone.

“I’ll go tell Matt we can leave”, Noah suggested, already up from the table and walking down up the bus.

“I’ll call Andrew”, Sean said, “we’re only half an hour behind schedule. He should be over the moon”.

“Victoria, get me a beer, please”, Mike ordered politely.

“Where is it?”

“In the fridge”. He rolled his eyes, as he held his mobile to his ear. “Where else would we keep beer?”

“I don’t know?” I responded cheekily, taking a beer from the frigde, “in a box?”

The guys sniggered as Mike shot me a scorching look, and I added: “Mr. Lowe”.

I waited for him to finish his short conversation with Billy before placing the beer in front of him.

He grabbed my wrist, and pulled me forwards so my face was inches away from his, and I gasped in shock.

“Tone down on the snarky comments”, he smirked, his breath hot on my face. The adrenalin that rushed through me made me feel so dizzy that I almost swooned.

“I’m not only submissive”, I said once I regained my poise, “I just wanted to remind you, I’m a brat”.

“Oh, I’m aware”. He let go of my wrist and I took a few steps away to calm my breathing.

“Does anyone else want a beer?” I asked breathlessly.

Jason laughed. “Not anymore”.

“Can I have a nap?” I asked hopefully. I didn’t need a nap, but I needed a moment to access the crazy that my life had just become.  

“I’ll wake you if I need you”, Mike acknowledged.  

“Where do I sleep?” I asked and then added without being able to help myself,” SIR?” I put mock emphasis on the sir.

He tapped the closest bunk bed on my left. “Under me”.

My cheeks burned with blood as I looked up at him.

I recovered quickly. “Oh, good”, I smiled. “So, if you have a wet dream-I’ll be the first to know”.

The band laughed. I was definitely playing to the gallery.

“Manners”, Mike warned playfully.

“One point for me though, right?” I endeavoured.

“Just get in there”, he chuckled, pointing towards the bunk bed.

“So, no point for me?”

The look he gave me sent me scurrying into the curtained bunk bed. Finally, I could breathe properly again. I noted how incredibly turned on I was. It must’ve been the adrenalin. I was going to need to learn to control myself and not be so starstruck if I wanted to survive the entire tour. I closed my eyes and tried to block out the guys’ voices that were coming from right next to me.

“She’s cute”, Jason said in a nonchalant, shrug-offish kind of way.

“I’m not sure this is a good idea”, I heard Carter say.

“What?” Mike asked, “way to speak up now, man—you had like all day when I was sorting this out with Andrew?”

“I just think you’re thinking with your dick”, Carter sighed.

“Carter”. It was Noah. “Is this the best time?”

“She can probably hear everything”, Sean agreed.

I held my breath as they listened.

“Can you really trust her not to blab on everything we do for publicity?” Carter continued after a moment, “we don’t know her. Do you really want this kind of responsibility?”

“That’s a bit melodramatic, bro”, Noah told him. “It’s not like she’s the first woman on tour”.

I heard Jason distinctly giggle. “How will her presence do more than give everyone a hard-on?”

“No one’s attention will be where it should be”, Carter said, annoyed. “What are we doing here, huh?”

Noah sighed. “What are you getting at?”

“I don’t think she should be on the bus with us or anywhere near us while we’re working”, Carter voiced his opinion. “She can travel with the dancers or something, and she can hang out with us while we’re off”.

“No”, Mike replied simply.

“Why the hell not?” Carter shot.

“’Cause I want her here”.

“So do I”, Jason agreed. “She’s been here twenty minutes and she’s already made things more exciting!”

It was silent then Noah asked: “Why did we agree she only have sex with you again?”

“She’s got enough on her plate at the moment”, Mike said, “If she can handle that for a week, I’ll change the rule if she wants to”.

I felt the bus start to move. There was no turning back anymore, not that I would’ve wanted to anyway.

2 August (Unholy Confessions Series)

Disclaimer: This story is not recommended for under eighteens. It contains mature themes, sex, strong language, drug references and infrequent violence.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Photo by Bas van den Eijkhof available on freeimages.com

 2 August

My heart was beating uncontrollably fast as security led me down a long, white hallway. My good friend and I came to Sonisphere festival in the south of England to watch our favourite band play. On a whim, we entered a competition to win Meet-and-Greet tickets, and by some obscene coincidence, I had a winning ticket that allowed me and a friend to meet the band backstage. Obviously, I chose the only person I had taken along with me, Olivia.  She was walking next to me at that point, or rather hopping in anticipation of meeting the lead guitarist of the band. I looked at the frantic, wild creature next to me as my heart pounded. I would’ve been jumping around as she was if I wasn’t so terrified. I had been waiting such a long time for the opportunity to meet the band and was convinced that it would never live up to my expectations or that I would make a fool of myself, the latter being a lot more plausible.

Olivia’s dark brown hair was tied into a rough ponytail and was coming undone at the sides of her face. She gave me an excited smile. My features were lighter than Olivia’s. I had curly blonde hair,  green eyes and was a few centimetres shorter than her. Olivia helped me fix my face as my make-up had sweated onto my cheeks in the mosh pit.  She directed me to where the mess was, and I wiped at it with a wet tissue until I looked respectable again. (More or less) I couldn’t meet my favourite band looking like I’d been in a mosh pit for two hours even though that was the case.

“Can you believe this is happening?” I asked her, excitedly. 

One of the three security guards glanced at us over his shoulder.

“No, yes!” she said. “I don’t know!”

We giggled like school girls.

One of the other security guards looked over his shoulder as well.

“I’m nervous”, I announced in a voice that was way too loud for the narrow hallway which caused the last of the three security guards to stare at us over his shoulder, raising his eyebrows.

I gave him a nervous smile and I believe he rolled his eyes. They must see a lot of people losing their minds, meeting the band.

“I’ll be fine, right?” I asked Olivia.

“Sure?” Olivia’s answer sounded like a question.

Then the thought occurred to me: ‘Whatever happens, today is the day, I will finally meet the band’.

That was until, a minute later, when we found out that only the lead guitarist and lead vocalist were available to meet us. I wasn’t very happy, but beggars can’t be choosers. We both had our favourites even though we loved everyone in the band and my favourite was unfortunately not around. Nonetheless, I chose to meet the lead vocalist and give Olivia her favourite.

We came to a split in the hallway with adjourning hallways leading both left and right.

“This way”, one of the security guards told Olivia and prepared to walk down the hallway to the left.

The security guard closest to me gestured for me to follow him to the right.

“We’re not going together?” I asked nervously,  glancing at Olivia.

The security guard next to her shook his head.

We hugged each other. “Have fun, okay?”

She smiled, widely. “I can’t really do anything else”.

I took temporary leave of my friend as we were led off in different directions. We waved frantically at each other as we rounded our opposite corners of the hallway.

Why are the band members not hanging out together?

The security guard led me to a white door with a no-smoking sign, and the band’s name.

“Wait a second”, the guard next to me said and knocked on the door.

“Open!” My heart jumped as I recognised his voice coming from inside the room.

The security guard next to me smiled and pushed open the door. “Good luck”.

Good luck?

He wasn’t really helping to calm my pulse that was starting to make me feel light-headed. I walked slowly through the door that he held open for me. Once I was inside, he closed the door behind me. I stared at the closed door for a few seconds, trying to calm my heart before turning on the empty room. It wasn’t what I expected. The room was completely white giving it the feel of a psychiatric hospital; not what I was hoping for. Two empty beer bottles stood on the low table in between two beige leather sofas. Straight across from me was a doorway with no door leading into what looked like a closet or dressing-room of some kind. There was a mini fridge against the far wall to my left. All in all, it was very…white. I wandered where the vocalist was. Shouldn’t he normally be there to greet you?

“Hello?” My voice didn’t betray my nervousness to my astonishment and relief.

It was too quiet. I took a breath to relax and thought about sitting down but then decided against it.

“Hello?” I tried again.

Still nothing.

I walked further into the room. I couldn’t get used to how white it was. But then what was I expecting? Crucifixes? Coffins? To be honest, probably. I bit my thumb nail, staring around. I reflected on everything that had happened to me in the last couple of months. It was surreal that I was at Sonisphere in the first place, but that I actually won the competition was impossible. It was the kind of stuff I dreamt about.

And the band. What an amazing show it was…I’d seen them many times before in my life but that show was the most spectacular thing I’d ever seen in my life and I’d seen quite a few great bands.

“Hey there”.

I spun around in shock and seeing him, put a hand to my chest, involuntarily gasping for air.

He gave a dry chuckle. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you”.

“I’m fine”. It didn’t sound like I was. My confident voice and demeanour seemed to have vanished the moment he came into view.

My heart was racing ten kilometres ahead of the rest of my body. I felt completely detached from myself as if I was floating somewhere. The actual Michael Lowe in the flesh! My mouth went dry when I took in the man standing in the closet doorway. He was wearing a pair of light blue jeans that hung low on his hips fixed by a black belt. He was barefoot and shirtless.  His body was acutely muscled with both his arms and most of his chest covered in tattoos. And in true American fashion, he was wearing a black cap over a white bandana, covering his light brown hair. At his age, he still managed to pull off looking like he’d just stepped out of high-school gym class. His presence was massive. He took up the whole room with his energy. Then again, he was one metre, eighty-five, very tall compared to my one metre, fifty-eight. 

He was frowning at me, his hazel-green eyes puzzled.

I swallowed, hoping that it would take care of the dryness. “Hello”.

“Hey”. He smiled showing straight, white teeth. “I was just changing. Excuse me, while I put a shirt on”. He disappeared back through the doorway.  My heart accelerated all over again as he walked back into the room seconds later, wearing a white tank top. I stared  at him, feeling dizzy again.

His lips were moving but I didn’t hear a word he was saying.

“Are you okay?” he asked, waving his hand slowly in front of his own face to get my attention.

“Oh!” I said, much louder than intended. “Yes, yes…I’m fine”.

“Okay…” He must be used to people falling all over him by now.

“Beer?” he asked, pointing towards the small mini fridge.

“I don’t drink beer”, I said automatically, but realised I should probably have one. “I mean-I only drink brown beer-“

“Whiskey?” he offered instead.

“Please”.

To my surprise, he pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels from a duffle bag next to the sofa. He moved to the fridge and glanced over his shoulder at me every so often. He seemed perplexed by something. It made me feel panicked and I wished I knew what he was thinking.

He poured the whiskey in silence while I stared at his back.

He looked over his shoulder again. “You can sit down, you know”.

I sat down on one of the sofas immediately as if he had commanded me. I still hadn’t accepted that it was real life yet. He walked over and handed me the small glass of whiskey. My heart bounced when he came close to me. I put my glass of whiskey down on the low table with the empty beer bottles, as he sat down across from me with a beer in his hand. He watched me, intently, or maybe it just felt that way. I got the impression he was waiting for me to say something, but suddenly I couldn’t think of anything to say.

When I felt sufficiently awkward, I said: ”Uh-happy birthday for last Friday”.

“Thank you”, he chuckled. “Feels good to be twenty-one”.

I laughed, knowing full-well he turned forty, three days ago and looked down because for some reason I had started blushing. 

“What’s your name?”

My eyes snapped up to his as he spoke. “Victoria?”

“Are you sure?” he asked, playfully.

“Sorry”, I replied, bashfully. “I’m a little nervous”.

“I’m Mike Lowe”.

I laughed.

“What?”

“There’s no need for you to introduce yourself”, I told him. “I know who you are”.

“I know you do”, he answered, gently. “It’s just polite”. 

There was another silence during which I stared at him with a small, nervous smile.

He stretched and groaned.

“Are you alright?”

“My back’s killing me”.

 “What have you been doing?” I asked, curiously, “I mean-besides the tour?”

“Last night we were up late”, he said, looking rather surprised at me. “It wasn’t a great idea the night before a gig, but we had friends in London, we never see”.

“I’m not judging you-“

“Today we had an interview and a technical run and then the festival-“ I supposed most fans didn’t ask him what he was doing. I felt like I was having a conversation for the first time in my life and had forgotten all the things people normally talk about. He watched me with his eyebrows raised.  

“I’m pretty good at massages”, I heard myself say.

He looked at me in surprise again, but quickly masked his emotion and smiled.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to breathe evenly to calm my heartbeat.

“Should I lie down on the sofa?” he asked.

It was my turn to be surprised. “What for?”

“Was that not you offering to massage me?” he asked, casually.

I stopped myself from gaping. “Sure”. I wasn’t going to complain. I stood up, hoping I wouldn’t fall over.  

He laughed, probably at the terrified expression on my face.

He picked up two of the pillows from the sofa he had been sitting on and positioned them on the sofa where I had been sitting moment before, then pulled off the white tank top. He laid down on them and I kneeled gingerly beside him, wondering how the hell I got myself into these situations. As much as I wanted to be so close to him, my pulse and breathing were out of control. Hoping that I wouldn’t be sick on him, or pass out, I reached across his shoulders. My right hand couldn’t comfortably reach. I started moving my hands clumsily , nonetheless.

He lifted his head. “It would be much easier if you sat on my ass”.

“Of course”, I cringed once he had his head back on his arms. “But that would be-uh strange, wouldn’t it?”

“Not the strangest thing that’s happened, believe me”. He laughed, “not even the strangest thing that’s happened today”.

I did what he suggested. Once I was sitting on his behind, I said: “Tell me if I’m hurting you”.

He chuckled, arrogantly. Apparently unlikely.

I reached out my hands to his shoulders. His back was completely clear of tattoos, I noted. I took a stabilising breath and placed my shaking hands on his shoulder blades.

“Are my hands cold?” I asked and realised to my embarrassment that my voice sounded shaky and breathless.

“No”, he responded, lazily. “They’re fine”.

I kneaded the muscles on and around his shoulders with my fingers. I applied pressure in circles with the palms of my hands down the side of his spine. It was tough, his muscles were large.

“Is it supposed to be turning me on or putting me to sleep?”

“What?” I asked, freezing immediately in shock.

“Don’t stop”, he laughed. “It’s working”.

I thought about that statement trying to decipher whether he was kidding or not while working out the tension in his back. My own hands were starting to ache with the effort of trying to soften the stone that was supposed to be back muscle.

“You’re really stiff”, I said, balling my fists and hearing my knuckles crack.

“I know”, he said, suggestively.

I frowned. “Am I missing something here?”

He suddenly lifted and I slid off his bum and onto the floor.

He unzipped his jeans.

My heart bounced frantically as I tried to make sense of what was happening. “Stop!” I said loudly, jumping up from the floor. “What’re you doing?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?”

“It looks like- “ I blushed, “wait-I don’t understand…”

His eyes were puzzled again. “Don’t be shy”, he said and took hold of my hand.

“What?” I asked softly, keeping my eyes on his crotch as he moved my hand towards it.

I looked up at his eyes, completely sure one of us had the wrong idea.

“Wait”, he said, letting go of my hand. “You are here to fuck me, right?”

I raised my eyebrows in shock, panting a little. “Really?”

He frowned, confused. “Who are you?”

“Um-Victoria?”

He sighed, impatiently. “Yes…are you-?” His eyes widened in shock. “Oh, shit…you’re the competition winner”.

“Hi”, I said, smiling idiotically and waving at him.

“Dammit”. He zipped up his fly and pulled his shirt on, looking unsure whether he should laugh or die of embarrassment. “I’m sorry”. He rubbed over his face.

I frowned. “Who were you expecting?” He looked directly at me which caused the butterflies in my stomach to dance, wildly.

“A groupie?” I heard myself suggest and regretted it, immediately.

This is the twenty-first century, Victoria.

Luckily, he laughed. “No, but it doesn’t matter”, he said, waving it off and sitting back down on the sofa.

I sat down gingerly on the sofa across from him again.

“So that was weird”, I remarked.

“Honestly, I’m sorry”, he said again. “I assure you, this is not the way I behave with fans. The massage confused me and-“

“Look, it’s fine”, I reassured him. “I was going to be ill-prepared no matter what happened in this room”.

“You do give a great massage though”, he offered as consolation.

“Thank you”. He was clearly embarrassed, but I was curious. “If I were-“ I swallowed, “you know, whoever you were expecting-“

“Yeah?”

“What would you expect?” I asked with false confidence.

“A blow-job”, he said nonchalantly.

I turned crimson at the thought.

“You’re blushing”, he noted, amused.

I failed miserably trying to cover up the fact and started stuttering. “Oh…no…It’s not about the-”

“Relax-“ Then he narrowed his eyes, inquisitively. “How old are you?” My immaturity obviously had him second-guessing if I had the right to be there.

“Thirty-three”, I said, embarrassed.

He frowned. “You look a lot younger”.

“You thought I was underaged?”

“No one would bring you back here if you were underaged”, he chuckled.

“Plus, you’re married”, I thought out loud.

“That’s not why”, he said with a note of finality.

I frowned but didn’t pursue the subject. I realised I should probably try to change the subject when he read my mind.

“So, what do you do?” he asked, leaning back on the sofa.  

“You mean, besides making a fool of myself?” I smiled. “I’m a musician and writer”.  

I expected him to look impressed, but he didn’t.  “Would I be able to find any of your music?”

“Sure, but no one knows who I am”.

He probably expected something more from me at my age. 

I tried to sound more impressive. “I used to live in England and there I was in a progressive hard rock band”, I told him. “Now in France, I play in cover bands for money—rock mostly. I also have some books published”.

“Are you English?”

“Well, no”, I responded. “I lived in England but I’m South-African”.

For some reason, he looked impressed at that. “South-Africa?” he asked, surprised. “How’s that?”

“Dangerous but beautiful”.

“Sure, of course with all the shit going down there now…Wasn’t your previous president accused of rape?”

“It just one of the many things he was accused of”.

“Off to a bad start”.

I nodded, thoughtfully. “Every country has its issues”.

“I didn’t realise you weren’t English”, he said. “Your accent sounds kind of English”. 

I shrugged. “Yours is all American”.

“Do you like England?”

“Sometimes”, I answered. “It’s very different from my culture. And I had a lot of bad experiences. But my best friend is from there. So I have mixed feelings. Do you like England?”

“The people are cool”, he smiled, “but it’s too cold”.

“Yeah”, I chuckled. “Tell me about it…in South-Africa, in winter, it’s still twenty degrees during the day”.

“Really?”

“Yeah, but only during the day”, I explained. “When the sun sets, it gets very cold”. I cleared my throat. “So, what’s Orange County like?”

He smiled at my strange curiosity, like everyone was supposed to know what Orange County was like. “Sort of like being on holiday all the time. Warm and friendly”.

I pulled a face. “Are all the girls like those girls on Laguna Beach on telly?”

“Telly”, he chuckled at the word. “No, the tv shows are exaggerated. It comes from a place of truth, but you know it has to be more dramatic for tv”.

“So, some of them are?”

“Yeah…is that a bad thing?”

“It depends on how you look at it”, I said.

“And how do you look at it?”

I frowned.

Why does he want to know this?

“Um…I’m not the biggest fan of girls who just think about shopping, guys and make-up all the time…especially at their age. It’s degrading”.

He looked down at the table in front of me. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Huh?” I asked, confused. “What do you mean?”

“You haven’t touched your drink”, he stated, gesturing towards the glass in front of me.

“Oh”. I picked up the glass. “You’re not Jay so-“ I stopped my sentence immediately realising that I had no idea if the rumours about the band’s drummer were true and took a sip of my drink. ”It’s good”, I said as the whiskey burnt its way down my throat.

He didn’t miss my comment. “What was that about Jay?”

“Nothing…don’t worry about it…”

He watched me a little while longer and then smiled again. “So- a musician, and writer…you don’t seem very happy with how it’s going”.

“What do you mean?” I frowned.

“Well, you didn’t look thrilled when you were talking about the cover bands-“

“It’s not the ideal”.

“What would be your ideal?”

“Playing in an original metal band but singing melodic vocals with some fire…a bit like you do these days, I guess”, I explained. “Also continuing my writing-probably on the road”.

“What kind of books do you write?” he asked, intrigued.

“Fiction, mostly”.

 “So why France?”

“The culture is similar to that of South-Africa”, I told him, “People are mostly kind and generous. They’re also very opinionated so I fit in well”.

“America has a bigger industry for music and books though”.

“I couldn’t live in the US”, I answered, a little too quickly.

“Why?” he asked, leaning forward slightly as if to hear better.

“I-um-I apologise”, I said, nervously.

“You don’t like it?”

“No”.

“Why?”

“Uh-it just doesn’t agree with me”.

“How so?”

“You’re offended”.

“No”, he answered, sounding offended. “It’s just that I’m trying to understand-”

“It seems to me that money is all everyone cares about”, I said cautiously. “There seems to be a big emphasis on being the best and everything seems a tiny bit fake”.

“That’s a generalisation”.

“Well, most of the authority figures then”, I continued, even though every fibre of my being was telling me not to. “The politics are a mess-never mind…”

“No, please…” Mike said, “enlighten me…”

“No, I’d rather not…”

“For example?”

“For example-“ I said, regretting mentioning America at all. “It’s sometimes good intentioned but the US always goes off to help other countries and end up making the situation worse”. 

How the hell did we end up in this conversation?

“Do I have to like everything?” I attempted innocently. “It’s the idea I don’t like”.

“Have you ever actually been there?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

I swallowed. “Uh-no”.

“Chill”, he laughed. “I know it’s a mess-especially with our recent record of presidents”. He got up swiftly from the sofa and surprised me by sitting down next to me. “We should probably not waste our time trying to sort out America’s politics in this room”.

I breathed out loudly in relief.

He frowned, and then slowly a smile parted his lips. “Are you scared of me?”

I shrugged. “It’s not fear…it’s nerves. Like I’m afraid that you would think I’m annoying or typical or I may even be disappointed that I don’t like you. They say you should never meet your idols”. I immediately felt like I overshared.

“Well, you’re not typical”, he assured me. “I’m still deciding about annoying. Are you disappointed yet?”

“Who said you were my idol?” I laughed.  

He blinked a few times, deciding whether to be offended or embarrassed.

“Kidding”, I grinned. “One point for me”.

He grinned. “I didn’t realise we were awarding points”.

“I just started”, I told him. 

“Why does being around me make you feel nervous?”

“Are you serious?” I asked him, surprised. “You must realise that fans create this idea of people and they’re afraid of having it squashed. Like when you met Metallica…weren’t you nervous?”

“Well, yeah”, he smiled. “But I wasn’t shivering the way you are”.

I swallowed. “You’re an attractive guy”.

He chuckled. “You mean you’re nervous ‘cause you think I’m hot?”

“Thanks for stating it so bluntly”.

“One point for me then, right?” He chuckled.

“I’ll give you that one-“

“Thank you”.

Addressing the nerves, helped me feel more relaxed.

“Forgive me if I’ve gotten the wrong impression but are you in an open relationship?” I asked him suddenly. “I mean romantically monogamous but not sexually?”

He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Are you familiar with the lifestyle?”

I nodded. “You can say that”.

“You haven’t gotten the wrong impression”, he confirmed.

There was a knock on the door. “Mike?” someone called. “Time to wrap it up”.

“Already?” I complained out loud.

“I’m sorry”, Mike said, “we run a pretty tight ship around here”.

“I understand”, I told him and stood up. “I suppose it would be presumptuous to ask you for a photo and an autograph?”

“Not as presumptuous as offering me a massage thirty seconds into meeting me-“ he pointed out.

I blushed. “Look, I saw an opportunity and I went for it-“

I took out my phone as he scrawled down his autograph for me on a photo of the band.

“It’ll take me a while to get all of your photographs”, I told him, “if I keep meeting you one by one”.

“The next time you see us, I’ll get you the others, deal?”

I laughed. “Deal”.

“Now hurry up and let’s get this photo taken”, he insisted.

I stood next to him. He put one arm around both my shoulders and held my phone with the other as he took the picture.

“Thank you”, I told him sincerely, as he handed me my photo of the band. “It’s been a pleasure”.

“Likewise”, he countered. “Would you like a hug?”

“That would be great”. He hugged me briefly and I walked to the door, trying not to feel sad.

At the door, I turned back towards him. “Oh, by the way, meeting you wasn’t a disappointment”.

“I’m glad to hear that”, he grinned. “Take care of yourself, Victoria”.

I stepped through the door and closed it behind me. I walked back down the white hallway, willing myself not to cry. It was just way too short. Meet-and-Greets should last entire weekends. I sat down against the wall and attempted to wait for Olivia, but I was restless. I tried to imagine what she would be experiencing. I realised I had started crying. It was to be expected as I was overwhelmed by the show, meeting Mike Lowe and then it all sort of coming to a strange halt.

“Miss?” a voice said next to me.

“Yes?” I looked to my right see the same security guard from before next to me. He had a dark olive complexion, black hair, and brown eyes.

I wiped at the tears on my face, conscious that I was probably ruining my make-up again.

“Mr. Lowe would like to have another quick word”, he said, “if that’s possible”.

“Really?” I asked, surprised, my heart racing again. I stood up from the floor to follow the man. “What does he want?” I asked, confused and nervous again.

“I’m not sure, Miss”, he told me, unhelpfully.

I followed the man back to the pale room.

“So, you’re their body guard?” I guessed.

“I am one of them”.

“Why do they need bodyguards?” I asked,  “when they’re all so big”.

He shrugged. “Think about it—if they were to hit a fan who tried to get at them—what d’ya think the media would do?”

“I get it”.

“Mike!” the bodyguard called into the greenroom. “Here she is!”

“Send her into the back, Billy!”

“You heard him”.He left again, closing the door behind him.

I walked through the doorway into the area that looked like a dressing room, preparing to apologise to him just in case I did something wrong. There weren’t a lot of clothes in the room. Just a couple of items hanging over low railings. I was struck again by its plainness. But there was nothing plain about the man who was leaning against one of the low railings to my left. His stance was casual, but his eyes were shining with mischief. I swallowed, coming to a standstill about two metres away from him. It was eerie and uncomfortably quiet as we stood watching each other.

He chuckled. “You think you could breathe for a second?”

I let out the breath I was holding, feeling a little silly.

“I like you—“

I hid my racing thoughts well and replied, calmly. “You called me back so you could tell me that you like me?”

He cast a stern look at me. “—don’t talk for a minute, okay?“

I nodded, silently.

“We’re on tour at the moment-“

“I know”.

He sighed. “Just shh-”.

I bit my lip to stop myself from talking again.

“Are you familiar with the concept of BDSM?”

I laughed. “Are you kidding?”

“No”.

“Yes, very familiar”, I said, wondering what the hell was going on. “Are you?”

He didn’t answer my question but said: “I want you to continue on tour with us”.

“Huh?” So, it wasn’t the most intelligent reply…but what could you expect from me when I was in that much shock?

“It’ll be beneficial to you as a musician”, he explained. “I’ll introduce you to producers and some of our friends in the industry”.

“Am I dreaming?” I slapped myself in the face. “Ow”.

He shook his head, chuckling. “You’re going to be perfect”.

“Are you joking?” I demanded, staring around me. “Am I on camera or something?”

He smirked mischievously. “I didn’t say I’d just give it to you-there are some conditions”.

“I can’t pay you—I don’t make that kind of—“

“I’m a millionaire”, he chuckled. “I’m not talking about money”.

“This is starting to feel a little like coercion-“

“Not if it’s something you like and consent to”, he pointed out, “and it won’t be a ‘if you do this, I’ll do this kind of situation”.

“So, what is it I’m consenting to?”

“I’m offering you an audition of sorts”.

“You’ve got me completely confused”, I told him, frowning. “What d’you mean?”

“A blowjob. That is if you want to, of course. I’m not forcing you”.

“What?”

“You should really work on your listening skills”.

“You want a blowjob from me?”

“Do you see anyone else here?” he asked, gesturing around the room.

“No”, I said, “but-what would I be doing on tour?”

“Guess”, he laughed.

“Oh!” I said, gathering what he meant at last, “I didn’t see that one coming”. Then laughed a little at my own joke.

He rolled his eyes.

“So, no point for me for that one?” I attempted.

“No”.

“You can have anyone though…” I said, “I don’t mean to push my luck or anything…but why me?”

“There are surprisingly few people in the world who understand both BDSM and open relationships”, he responded honestly. “This way I don’t waste any time being a teacher. I don’t have time for that”. 

“Seems logical”, I responded. “But you don’t even know what I’m into”.

“I’m a fast learner”.

“Anything else I need to know?” I frowned. “Like will you lay down the rules for me?”

“Naturally”, he said, “if I decide you come with us”.

“Which you will decide based on a blowjob?”

“Are you slow today or something?”

“You’re tasteless”.

“Come over here and find out”, he smirked.

I laughed a little despite myself. “One point for you then”.

“What’s that now?” he grinned. “Two-one?”

“Don’t rub it in”.

I looked from his eyes to his arms and down to his crotch. “Okay…but there’s going to be nothing dangerous, right?”

“No”, he responded. “I believe in consent—but it will be a kind of on-off thing on tour as it’s my private life. We like to have fun but it’s our career. So, none of this in public or while we’re working. I promise you will be safe and cared for”.

“The rest of the band will know about this?”

“Yes, there’s nothing we don’t know about it each other”, he told me, “That’s something you’ll need to be comfortable with. Do you think you can do that?”

There was no way I was going to give up the chance to go on tour with the band. Music, free shows, and sex? And contacts? Sign me up!

“Sounds doable”, I answered, underplaying my excitement.

“Look, we don’t have a lot of time”, he said, impatiently. “It’s now or never”.

“I understand but is your wife going to know about this?”

“Yes”, he responded. “Let me worry about my relationship”.  

He waited, then adjusted his cap, irritated. “Do you want to do this, or not?”

“I do…I want to do it…” I said, frantically.

“Then shut-up and get over here…” he ordered.

I walked deliberately towards him, determined to be mature about my decision.

“Good girl”, he said, patronisingly when I stood obediently in front of him. He definitely knew how to play the power status. 

I looked him square in the eyes, ignoring the thudding of my heart. He put a hand on my waist and pulled me against him. I was afraid that I might swoon, but I took a small stage breath. I heard him undoing his zip. I couldn’t believe what was happening. A few hours ago, it seemed like an exciting concert day and there I was staring up at the vocalist of the band.I sunk down onto my knees and commenced with the task he demanded. Afterwards, he looked flushed, but stood unsmiling with his arms crossed.

I gulped, unable to think of something to say.

“I’ll make sure you have all the details so you can make an informed decision”.

“Like I’m going to say no”.

He smiled at me. “Get out of here”.

“Okay”. I half-jogged to the door.

 “Give Billy your details…” he called after me.

“Who’s Billy?” I called back.

“The guy waiting for you outside the door!”

“Say hi to Ava for me”.

Ah…well done, you idiot.

Luckily, Mike snorted. Ava Lowe was his wife. I was definitely not getting a point for that comment.

I disappeared quickly back into the main room. Once out of eyesight, I quite literally ran for the door. Billy was waiting for me outside.

“Have fun?” he asked with a knowing smile that I didn’t love.

“Yeah”, I said, frowning uncomfortably, wiping at my face just in case. “I have to give you my details”.

“Just your cell phone number will do”. I wondered if Mike had done this before, and why his bodyguard was doing this kind of work?

I gave him the number and just as we finished, Olivia walked around the corner towards us.

“Have fun?” Billy asked her.

“It was great, thanks”, Olivia answered without the frown or any other form of fidgeting.

“Good”. I noted he didn’t ask for her details.

We arrived back at her flat in London at around two in the morning. We had filled each other in on our spectacular nights. I didn’t blame Olivia for believing that Mike invented the whole thing just to get lucky, and that I wouldn’t hear anything else from him. I was pretty sure of the same thing. Either way, I didn’t regret anything. I mean how often does that happen to just any fan? It was way more than I had expected from a Meet-and-Greet.

Am I a real author?

Photo by Pixabay

Hello. I am an author. That still feels strange to type, let alone say out loud. Even though it feels really good.

About four months ago, I self-published my debut novel. It’s been going very well so far, considering that I have done and paid for everything myself, from the editing to the cover to the marketing costs. I should be feeling proud of myself, right? But then why is it so hard to even say I am an author? When it is so blatantly true.

After doing a little soul-searching, I found that the reason I feel I don’t deserve to be known as an author is because I didn’t go the traditional publishing route. There exists this idea that if you publish your own work because no publisher or agent picked up your work, you must not be a very good writer. But how can that be, when some of my favourite writers started out self-published? Margaret Atwood, Christopher Poalini, Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, even Edgar Allen Poe. The list goes on. Google it, some of the names will shock you.

Over the last few months, I’ve been asked the question how and why I self-published multiple times. I’m not an expert at all, having only recently started but I’ve gotten the question often enough that this morning when I woke up, my brain wouldn’t let me do anything else until I had written this small part of my story down. Who knows, perhaps it’ll inspire some of you to write or self-publish your work.

I started writing when I was eleven years old. I’m sure it was awful when I started but it wasn’t meant to be good. I was learning to put my thoughts to paper and it helped me understand and work through some of my emotions. My imagination is infinite and boundless to the point that it can be incredibly frigthening to some. I used to read my stories out loud to my parents and friends to try and get some validation but it wasn’t until high-school when one of my friends’ mothers read one of my stories that there was a suggestion that I may be good at it. This particular person was a famous South-African writer and a really big inspiration to me. I still read her books.

Nothing really changed after that. I was just encouraged to write more. And I did. I wrote all the time. Even when I should’ve been concentrating on something else. But when I get an idea, I am consumed and it distracts me from everything else until it’s written down.

This was no different when I got the idea for “Mother of the Fire”. Originally it was going to be called “London Bridge is burning down” but that changed during the final draft editing. I was going through a very difficult time when I started writing the book. My family and I were in immigration court because the British government wanted to deport me after I had finished five years of studying in the country, and despite the fact that both my parents and two brothers had recently obtained British nationality. During the case, my right to work was taken away and I had to report to an immigration centre every fortnight to prove I was still in the country and living at my parents’ address. The case continued for three years so needless to say, I didn’t have much to do but write.

When the second draft of the manuscript was completed, I went to the London Book Fair for the first time with the bright idea to find an agent or publisher. I entered and was a finalist in “The Write Competition” that year and got to pitch my book to a panel of four literary agents. None of them took it on. I didn’t give up there and spent the rest of the fair, pitching it to every literary agent I could corner and every publisher who would listen. No takers.

After draft three, I sent the manuscript to every historical fiction and young adult literary agent and publisher I could find in the UK. Many responded with a similar response: “You’re a very good writer, we like your voice, but we cannot market this book”, or “this will never work for a mainstream audience”. Hundreds of people from the industry and not a single one wanted to give my story a chance. I was devasted. I felt incredibly rejected by both the industry and the country whose government at that point was still trying to be rid of me.

Eventually we won the case…twice, and I was granted the right to stay but I was changed forever. I went through a major identity crisis and abondoned my book. I didn’t feel “right” in the UK anymore. A year later, I met my french husband, Vincent in London and a year after that, we moved permanently to the south of France.

A few months after arriving in France, I started the journey of healing and I looked at the book again. I contacted a close friend from the UK, Emily and she agreed to help me edit the book. She had been doing editing work for businesses and relished the idea of editing fiction. On top of that, she knew me well, she understood the inner-workings of my very wild mind and she would never dream of squashing my uniqueness by forcing me to fit the “mainstream” mould. Of course it was professional so I paid her and she took her work very seriously.

During the six month period, the book’s framework changed a lot. It was a lot more me and it lost all of its young adultness and became very clear adult historical fiction. Emily encouraged me to send the book to literary agents and publishers again as it had changed. Not the story but the way it was told. I listened to her and did so but to the same conclusion. This time I sent the manuscipt to the UK and the US but still it wasn’t “marketable because it wasn’t mainstream”. Perhaps now it was even less so than before.

I complained very mournfully to a friend in France and she introduced me to famous french author and critic, Sophie who suggested I have my story translated into french and published here. She was sure french agents would never turn something down for not being mainstream enough. I decided to give it a shot and got involved with some translators. It didn’t really work out as each of them had their own ideas of what the story should be like and I felt uncomfortable.

Again, I complained to my friend in France that no one wanted to read my stories and I had done all this work for nothing and she suggested I self-publish the book. It wasn’t the first time I had considered self-publishing but it seemed so difficult to go it alone and not to mention the cost.

Though it seemed there would be no other way for me to get my stories out there and I believed very strongly that they deserved to be read. So I started doing my research. Yes, it was going cost money from my own pocket with no guarentee that I would make any back. But when I was honest with myself, I realised it wasn’t about the money. It was deeper. I needed that connection with people. I needed them to see into my soul. And for that, they needed to read my stories. I knew it would involve a lot of work and heartache but again I knew it would be worth it if even if a handful of people connected with my stories.

So I found a graphic artist and she designed an absolutely gorgeous back and front cover. I bought the ISBN and the trade number for the book. I told the french government that I intended to publish books. I found an appropriate platform to publish the ebook on. Not Amazon. I will never publish anything on Amazon. I did some online marketing. I spent many months considering giving up on the whole thing but finally on the 20th of December 2020, I published “Mother of the Fire” as an ebook.

Then the real work began. I needed to market all the time and I hated it. So I found an awesome person to help me and soon, there was enough interest that I had to consider publishing the book in paperback form. Two weeks ago, the paperback was published. It is still not easy as I am running the whole business myself. I am posting the paperbacks to most countries in the world. I am paying for all the marketing costs and liasing with everyone who is helping me. But it is worth it.

In four short months, I have had only five star reviews on Kobo and Goodreads. I was recognised as an official Goodreads author. Professional reviewers on Instagram and Goodreads are reviewing my book. I’ve been asked to do interviews. And even though I am not even close to making back the money I’ve spent and am still spending, I’ve gotten what I really wanted: the connection. People I do not know have contacted me to ask where they can get the book, people I do not know have bought the book and those people have left life-changing reviews of how much the story has meant to them.

Do not let money, fear of rejection or this mountain of work hold you back from sharing your art with the world. It doesn’t matter what the industry thinks, your audience is out there. If you paint, you are a painter. If you make music, you are a musician. If you design games, you are a game designer. If you write, you are a writer. If you create, you are a creator. Don’t even let yourself tell you otherwise.

If you are interested in reading more of this blog, please follow me.

If you are interested in reading, “Mother of the Fire”, please go to my website for the paperback: http://www.nicolevanniekerk.co.uk/

Or to Kobo for the ebook: https://www.kobo.com/fr/en/ebook/mother-of-the-fire

The Beekeeper’s daughter

Photo by Anton Atanasov on Pexels.com

Medieval vocabulary:

*Skeps- Beehives made from upside down wicker or wooden baskets.

*Geoponica-A book with information about different types of agriculture, dating back to the 900’s.

Mudford, Somerset, England, 1460

The sun rose gently on Rowe farm that morning, casting a supernatural glow over the apiary. The eight skeps stood a metre apart under the four great oak trees where the bees were already busily buzzing to and from the skeps. The beekeeper had built a wooden shelter with a straw roof underneath the trees to shelter the bees from the elements. It was nearing the end of May and soon the honey would be ready to harvest.

The beekeeper’s daughter gazed at the apiary from where she was sitting at her bedroom window. She longed to work with the bees herself but the beekeeper wouldn’t let her. It was man’s work, he would say leaving her to cleaning, washing and cooking. On the rare occasion when he ran out of protection against the bees, he would allow her to make him a wild mallow concoction from the Geoponica, which he believed in heart and soul. From time to time, when he was feeling poorly, he would allow her to go to Yeovil and attempt to sell some of the honey as medicine. Alas, no one would buy it as the people were too poor. The beekeeper had ignored her pleas to be allowed to go to London to try and sell the honey there, swearing like many times before that he would never set foot in the city. So instead, the beekeeper’s daughter stared longingly at the skeps from her window everyday but Sunday as the beekeeper worked.

The beekeeper emerged from the small farm cottage, carrying a basket and walked laboriously towards the apiary. The beekeeper’s daughter watched as he stopped a few metres from the skeps, and took out large pieces of dried cow dung. He positioned one in front of each skep before setting it on fire to allow the smoke to confuse the bees while he retrieved the honey. As the beekeeper stepped towards the first skep, he suddenly clutched at his chest and collapsed. His daughter propelled herself from the window seat, rushed to the front door of the cottage and out into the garden towards the apiary, shouting: “Father!”

The beekeeper’s daughter did not make it to the village in time to find a healer, and would feel guilty for a very long time. Within the fortnight, most of the villagers had come to pay their respects and the beekeeper was buried in Mudford cemetery. Everyone fretted and worried about the beekeeper’s daughter. She overheard them saying, ‘She’s unmarried and twenty-two’, ‘she doesn’t have enough money to appoint someone to do the beekeeping’, ‘no one would marry her, she’s too plain, ‘the poor beekeeper’s daughter’.

A lifetime of sideways glances and poverty and was not what she wanted, therefore the beekeeper’s daughter set to work on the skeps. She did not have anymore cow dung so she took some of the wild mallow concoction into her mouth and blew into the skeps three times as the Geoponica instructed. She harvested the first honey of the year and pooled it into twenty glass containers. She taught the neighbour’s son the fundamentals of beekeeping in exchange for him taking care of the bees for two months. With the last of her inheritance, she hired a horse and cart to take her and the twenty jars of honey to London.

London, England, 1460

One month later, the beekeeper’s daughter was barely living off the little honey that she was selling. She had found lodging in a back-alley brothel that promised her room and board in exchange for her using a little of the honey’s healing properties on the inhabitants. She had used the very last of her inheritance money to rent a stall in one of the busiest market places in the city of London.

That particular day was busier than usual. The marketplace was so full that there was less than a metre between people. A boy was worming his way between them with a tray of meat, shouting: “Cooked meat, beef ribs, pie!” Farmers were selling livestock; chickens, sheep and cattle, the animals competing with the sound of the humans’ chatter. There were also the wealthy merchants wearing long gowns with high collars. The beekeeper’s daughter had five jars of honey left. If she could sell them, she would have enough money to go back to Mudford to harvest some more before returning. She did not know how long she would be able to continue as the journey was perilous and the income she made almost immediately went to living in the city.

A group of knights stepped up to her market stall, glancing over the jars of honey warming in the afternoon sun.

A young, slim man, wearing a green tunic and a black hood pulled low over his eyes, stood in the middle of the group. “We don’t often see honey sold in the market thus”, he noted, “is your husband a beekeeper?”

“My father was, sir”, she responded, warily. “After he passed on, I took his place”.

She could not see the man’s face but could tell by his body language that he was surprised. She expected him to protest the idea of a woman being a beekeeper, but instead he asked: “Where do you keep your bees?”

“On Rowe farm in Somerset, sir”.

“You mean to say that you travel all the way to Somerset and back?”

“It’s not much of a choice, sir”, she responded. “The little village of Mudford cannot afford honey, and I cannot afford to continue without the money”.

“Do you also sell wax?” he asked, interested.

“I can make it, sir but again there’s been no real need as those who would buy it regularly are the nobility who use it for their seals-“

“Indeed”, he responded,” are you married?”

“No, sir”, she responded, becoming annoyed with his manner of questioning.

“So you live by yourself now?”

“I beg you pardon, sir but I do not feel comfortable answering anymore of your questions”, she responded carefully.

“Of course, my apologies”, he answered, quickly. “I mean to offer you employment as the beekeeper of my estate…and I wanted to know if there were others depending on you. I will organise for your bees to be moved to London and I will be willing to pay you £40 a year. What say you?”

The beekeeper’s daughter stared at the hooded man, quietly. “I could not rightly take the employment of man whose face I cannot see, sir”.

As soon as she spoke the word, the man dropped his hood and a hush fell over the market place as everyone in a three metre distance sank into a bow. Prince Edward IV was standing in front of her stall.

The beekeeper’s daughter bowed too. “I beg your pardon, your highness”, she said, hastily. “I did not know it was you”.

“Well, of course you didn’t”, Prince Edward said. “I had my face hidden, didn’t I?”

She kept her eyes to the ground until the Prince asked her to rise. “Would you like to reconsider my offer? Would you consider being the King’s beekeeper?”

The beekeeper’s daughter looked into the eyes of the Prince of England and declined. “Your highness, please do not think me ungrateful. I’ve spent my whole life being the beekeeper’s daughter and now that I am almost free from that title, I do not want to trade beekeeper’s daughter for king’s beekeeper”.

In truth, everybody in the market place thought she was mad but the future king of England saw something of himself in her that day. He took back his offer and vowed instead that the King’s household would buy honey only from her for as long as she lived. Soon more and more people became aware of her honey, and within another four month’s time she had enough money to move her bees to the garden of a small house she had bought outside the wall of London. From that day on, she was known as Frances, the beekeeper.

How Porcupine got his quills (A children’s story)

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Free photo by Dušan Smetana.

A long time ago, when the world was still new, Porcupine lived in Southern Africa. His home was flat and dry with lots of tall, dry grass, thorn bushes and trees. Porcupine loved his home where he could burrow deep holes to sleep in and eat as many bulbs and fallen fruit as he could find. During the day, he would sleep and during the night, he would walk around and dig for roots.

Porcupine was the kindest of all the animals in Southern Africa. Everyday he would dig out some roots and take them to the antelope to eat. He would always say considerate things to the other animals. But the other animals made fun of Porcupine because they said that there was nothing special about him. Cheetah had her spots, Rhinoceros had his horn , Zebra had her stripes and Elephant had his trunk. But poor Porcupine had nothing but his good heart. He was just a black rodent with no spots, horns, stripes or trunks.

One day, the animals came by Porcupine’s hole to make fun of him again.

Lion laughed. “Porcupine, you look so silly! Even Hyena has spots. What is special about you?”

Snake taunted him. “You don’t have any scales, Porcupine. You can never be as special as me”.

“You’re not beautiful like me”, said Blue Crane. And all the other animals agreed.

Porcupine was very sad. He started to think of ways to make himself beautiful and special like the other animals. He tried to make a big trunk out of a long stick but it looked silly and the other animals laughed at him. He tried to paint spots onto his skin with mud but it was messy and the other animals laughed at him. He tried to stick feathers to himself with tree sap but they wouldn’t stick and the other animals laughed at him.

Poor Porcupine crawled back into his hole and cried. Hyena heard crying from Porcupine’s hole and walked over.

“Porcupine”, said Hyena, gently. “Why are you crying?”

“The other animals are making fun of me and calling me ugly and saying that I’m not special”, said Porcupine.

Hyena lied down next to Porcupine’s hole. “You know, they say I am ugly and ordinary too”.

Porcupine stuck his head out of the hole to look at Hyena. “But you have spots!”

“I wasn’t born with my spots”, said Hyena. “They came later. But they are not what makes me special”.

“They’re not?” asked Porcupine. “What makes you special then?”

“I clean up after all the other animals”, answered Hyena. “Without me, our home would be dirty and full of diseases. I also remind all the animals of the joy of laughter”.

Porcupine was impressed. “That is very important”.

“What about you, Porcupine?” asked Hyena, “what important work do you do here?”

“I am good with my claws”, answered Porcupine. “I can dig really well. I dig up roots for the other animals”.

“Kindness is very important”, agreed Hyena.

“I can see really well in the dark!” said Porcupine.  “That is useful, isn’t it?”

“It is very important”, said Hyena. “We are all very important in our own way here. And nothing would work without each one of us”.

Once Porcupine realised how important he was to the running of the animal community, he stopped feeling sad when they made fun of him. He knew he was special and important in his own way. The other animals stopped making fun of him. They saw how important and special Porcupine was when he could see how important and special he was. Then, Porcupine started to grow his own black and white quills.

Raquel’s fate: A pirate story

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*A continuation of the story ‘Raquel’s predicament’ which can be found below. I would recommend you read it first.

Just off the coast of Ponta da Piedade, Southern Portugal, 1720

The water of the Atlantic ocean was eerily silent as Fausto rowed the wooden rowboat back to the ship. A seagull screeched as it flew low over the icy water. Raquel shivered involuntarily, sending a shooting pain through her dislocated right shoulder. Fausto sneered and spat into the sea water.

Raquel was gripped with fear as they reached the bottom of the large ship known as ‘a fragata da liberdade’. The freedom frigate, captained by a formidable pirate known for his gall and unpredictability. Being the master of a band of rogues like these called for a merciless, daring and aloof person. Nicolau possessed all of those traits and more. The men feared him.

Raquel glanced up at the ship  with trepidation. The large dark wooden frigate had three tall masts, impressive burgundy sails and was fully rigged with forty guns on the gun deck. The ship that had become her home over the last four months abruptly filled her with dread. What she would give to take back the last four hours of her life. Fausto had finally decided to show Raquel the tiniest amount of pity and untied her wrists, allowing her to climb the ladder built-into the side of the frigate unsteadily with one hand.

The men had clearly been awaiting their return as they were lying or standing around, unoccupied. The deck was clean yet dark and gloomy save for the light of the moon and a few iron ship lanterns. On the top deck next to the helm, three men were playing mandolins and fiddles to fifteen others who were lying on sacks of grain below them on the main deck, singing and drinking. On the other side of the main deck, seven men were smoking pipe tobacco and gambling. Every single one of them gawked at her as she stumbled forward onto the deck, catching herself with her left arm before she fell on her face. Fausto appeared behind her moments later and directed her forcefully towards the Captain’s cabin, the door to which was located underneath the men who had stopped playing their instruments stare with more vigour.

“What has the kid done now?”

“Ramon, the Captain has been looking for you all night!”

“You’re a dead man, Ramon”.

“You better not have muddled this up, galley slave!”

The men could not manage to keep their thoughts to themselves as Fausto pushed her past them and towards the Captain’s door. Her wrists were no longer tied hence she could attempt to make a run for it, then a swim for it. It wasn’t that far back to the cave though the water was deadly icy. Before Raquel could act or Fausto could knock, the door to the Captain’s quarters opened to reveal Captain Nicolau, dressed in his black breeches and long burgundy overcoat. He was not wearing his hat and his black hair was wildly disheveled.

“Captain”, Fausto said, suddenly intimidated and took a step back. “I wonder if I could have but a moment of your time?”

The captain did not seem to have the disposition for idle conversation, though he never did. His dark brown, almost black eyes moved steadily and deliberately from Fausto to me. “Get inside”.

Fausto pulled me into the Captain’s cabin by the scruff of my neck and closed the door with his foot. The Captain watched us, coldly. The silence was so deadly that Raquel could hear Fausto swallow, loudly.

“Explain”, the Captain ordered. He often spoke in short noxious bursts that gave the impression your heart was about to explode.

Fausto gave the Captain a clear, factual account of all he had witnessed when he found her. It became clear to Raquel that the Captain had sent Fausto out to locate her. The more details Fausto gave and the more of the story he told, the angrier the Captain became. By the end of the short recollection, he had broken three glasses and kicked a hole in a pair of wooden drawers.

“Ramon!” Captain Nicolau barked. “Stay there. Fausto, get out!”

Fausto practically ran from the room, terribly grateful to have gained his freedom. Raquel stared after him, longingly. The Captain slammed the door shut and locked it before turning furiously on Raquel. She cowered out of instinct though was feeling more at ease after Fausto had left. The Captain advanced on her and suddenly, and with incredible force pushed her right shoulder back into place. The blood curling scream that emerged from her lips, sent all the crooks who were listening outside the door, scurrying off looking for something to do. Satisfied that the men were away from the door, the Captain turned back to Raquel, and kissed her. When their lips parted, he sighed: “Raquel, what the hell happened?”

“I’m so sorry, Nicolau”, she started, desperately. “It didn’t go according to plan. He wasn’t supposed to be below deck. He was supposed to be fighting above deck with you. I didn’t know what to do. I–”

Nicolau watched her suspiciously. “You know better than this. This is irreversible. You do not kill commanders unless you want to draw attention to yourself. How could you do something so reckless, so selfish?”

“He forced himself upon me-”

Nicolau frowned. “Though you were dressed like this?”

Raquel shrugged. “It didn’t seem to make a difference to him”.

Nicolau looked like he might kick another hole in the furniture. Raquel quickly continued. “But he didn’t. He tried, you see, and that’s why I stabbed him. Three times. In the back. While he was lying on top of me”.

“Where is the body now, Raquel?”

“Still in the cave where Fausto found me”, she answered, quickly. “He wouldn’t give me the time to finish burying him”.

“Why in God’s name would you bury him?” Nicolau demanded, heatedly. “You’re next to the ocean. Send him to the fishes!”

“What if he started to float and they found him?” Raquel countered. “I was afraid, Nicolau”.

“This is a bloody disaster”, he cursed, bitterly. “You know, by now Fausto would’ve told the whole crew. They’ll be out for blood, mark my words”.

“You’re our Captain”, Raquel insisted. “They fear you. You tell them what your plan is and they will follow you”.

“No, Raquel”, he answered, quietly. “Have you not been paying attention since you’ve been on this ship? We’re vagabonds. The foam on the sea. The lowest of the low. The moment they believe I am not strong enough or they see some advantage for themselves, they will overthrow me. They will expect nothing less than your death”.

“What if we told them that I’m a woman?” Raquel suggested, desperately.

Nicolau stared at her, incredulously not willing to acknowledge her foolishness with an answer. “Death is the only way”.

“I have to die?” Raquel asked, fearfully.

“Yes”, Nicolau answered, soberly. “And so do I. Still, it may suffice if they merely think we are dead or gone”.

She frowned. “I’m not sure I understand–”

“In the early morning hours, we will take the rowboat and make for the shore”, Nicolau clarified. “Not leaving a trace of ourselves, we make for America on the first available passing”.

Two weeks later, Raquel and Nicolau arrived on the coast of Delaware. The air was crisp with the promise of a better tomorrow and she could still smell the familiar and loved smell of the ocean. Raquel watched Nicolau, pick up their few belongings. The man who saved her life by abandoning his ship, his crew and the only life he had ever known. She took the hand he held out to her and they disembarked.

*Raquel and Nicolau didn’t stop pirating. They spent the rest of their lives luring passersby to their deaths by pretending to be stranded after storms, and killing and robbing anyone who came to help. Well, there is no honour among thieves.

Raquel’s predicament: A pirate story

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Ponta da Piedade, Southern Portugal, 1720

Raquel paused her digging to wipe the sweat from her brow with her long white-sleeved shirt which covered in dirt, blood and sea water merely served to further soil her face. She was sweating more as a result of her distress than from the physical exertion of driving the shovel repeatedly into the sludge that made up the surface of the cave . She wasn’t standing very deep inside the cave and could as easily see as hear the waves crashing onto the modest beach, separating the mouth of the cave from the expanse of the Atlantic ocean. The tide was rising. If she didn’t hurry, she would be stuck in there until morning.

Not much chance of those good-for-nothing freebooters coming to look for me, she thought disloyally.

She pulled from her trouser pocket, the silver pocket watch she had taken off a salt merchant during a coastal-raid the previous week. Both the pocket watch and the faint light appearing on the horizon indicated it was near daybreak. She had little time to dig a pit big enough to hide her blunder. Nobody could find out how badly she had botched her orders. Especially not Nicolau. It was simple…like every time before; board the ship, while the others distract the soldiers with an assault, she sneaks below deck and pockets as much loot as possible. How was she to know that he’d be down there?

She heard the familiar sound of a wooden boat being pulled onto shore. She hurriedly dropped the shovel, tore off her brown overcoat and attempted to bury her problem under it temporarily.

“Ramon!” she heard one of the buccaneers named Fausto call. He was only a few metres outside the cave. “Ramon! Where are you! I’m going to kill that boy”.

Raquel had nothing with which to hide the hole she had been digging. She would have to go outside to meet Fausto if she didn’t want to risk him storming in and seeing the mayhem she had created. She seized her banana, steadfastly and marched towards the mouth of the cave immediately upon which Fausto entered the cave, his face nearly as red as his beard.

“Ramon!” he shouted in her face, clutching her by the scruff of the neck with his large hands. “What the devil is taking you so long?” He reeked off tobacco, Porto and perspiration. His eyes widened as he took in her appearance, and more importantly the condition of her once almost white shirt then sodden with blood. Before she could think of a suitable lie, he threw her to the side and advanced, fervently on the hole she had been digging.  The force with which Fausto had thrown Raquel sent her hurtling towards the solid rock wall, the impact, dislocating her right shoulder. Her howl of pain was drowned out by Fausto’s bellow of outrage as he discovered what was hidden under the coat.

“Do you mean to kill us all!” he shouted, beside himself and storming towards her. He pulled her up, overlooking her cries of agony and jerked her towards the sight he had uncovered moments before. “You have but a minute to explain yourself, boy!”

Raquel knew better than to argue with her Captain’s first mate but she would still explain herself with dignity. “I didn’t expect him to be down there. He was supposed to be on deck brawling with you. But you kill people all the time-”

“Don’t be daft, kid!” Fausto barked, pointing at the corpse of the man, already starting to decompose on the muddy ground. “Look!” Fausto indicated the Portuguese naval insignia of a commander sewn to the coat of the dead man. “You killed a commander of the royal navy, you idiot. Even the most foolhardy corsair would never dare kill a commander”. Fausto searched the body. “How did he die? I can’t find a wound”.

“The wounds are on his back”, she responded wearily. “Three jabs of my dagger to his lower back. He bled to death”.

“Evidently”, Fausto said, regarding her blood-soaked clothes, darkly.

She took the chance to attempt to defend herself while Fausto was pondering the situation. “I wasn’t thinking”, she persisted. “He attacked me. Do you expect me not to defend myself?”

“You’re expected to think, and to think of your crew.”

“But we’re pirates!”

“Even pirates have a code”, Fausto answered directly.

“I didn’t expect-” she started.

“You didn’t expect him to be down there”, he mocked. “Spare your guile for the Captain”.

“No, not the Captain”, she started begging. “I can bury him. No one else need ever know about this. We could-”

Ignoring her protests, Fausto pushed her towards the mouth of the cave. “You are part of this crew. To the Captain you shall go like the rest of us”. Fausto forced her into the wooden row boat. “Just in case you think of risking a swim -” He tied her wrists roughly with some rope he pulled from the bottom of the boat.

Raquel groaned at the pain it caused to her right shoulder but didn’t dare say anything. It wasn’t the first injury she obtained while part of the crew and it wouldn’t be the last. “Fausto, please”, she attempted again. “We can’t leave the body rotting there. We can cover this up and-”

“I will come back to get rid of the body once I’ve delivered you to the Captain”, he said.

“He will be so angry”, she continued. “I don’t want him to think that I am not capable of serving as part of his crew-”

“Angry?” Fausto laughed bitterly. “Your actions have damned us all! They will come looking for this fellow, make no mistake. And when they do, they will be coming for all of us. You better hope the captain takes pity on you and cuts your throat. If not, it’s the gallows for all of us”.

To be continued…

 

 

Coincée dans une coquille/Trapped in her shell

Coincée dans une coquille    

 Elle s’assoit tous les jours sur le sable en regardant la mer. Les vagues tournent comme des danseurs faisant leurs arabesques et tombent sur le sable. Elle fume, pensant. Est-ce qu’aujourd’hui serait le jour où elle marcherait dans l’eau et finalement disparaîtrait ? Elle observe les mouettes qui volent au-dessus de sa tête. Elles sont libres. Elles sont imprévisibles. Pas comme elle. Elle écrit négligemment son nom dans le sable et regarde les vagues lavant le gribouillis ; comme pour laver ses péchés. Elle n’aurait jamais dû y aller, elle n’aurait pas dû essayer, elle aurait dû rester dans sa coquille. Elle traîne ses pieds plus près de l’eau en regardant les vagues se briser et tourbillonner. Quand elle lui a parlé, elle a signé son propre acte de décès. Pourquoi n’a-t-elle pas vu un signe ? C’est trop difficile de changer. ‘Il est vraiment un agneau’, ont dit ses parents. ‘Il ne l’a jamais fait auparavant’, a déclaré son meilleur ami. ‘Ça doit être moi’, se dit-elle. Elle ne peut pas revenir en arrière, elle ne peut pas avancer mais elle peut aller à la mer. Et pourtant, si elle meurt, il a encore tout le pouvoir. Cela ne peut pas se passer comme ça. Il ne compose pas son destin. Elle respire et tourne le dos à la mer.

Trapped in her shell:

She sits on the sand every day, staring at the sea. The waves seem to move like dancers doing arabesques before falling on the sand. She smokes, thinking. Perhaps today will be the day when she walks into the water and dissapears forever. She watches the seagulls flying above her head. They are free. They are unpredictable. Not like her. She writes her name carelessly in the sand and watches as the waves wash away her scrawl; like it is washing away her sins. She should’ve never gone, she should’ve never tried, she should’ve stayed hidden in her shell. She drags her feet closer to the water, watching as the waves breaking and swirling. When she spoke to him for the first time, she signed her own death certificate. Why didn’t she see a sign? It’s too difficult to change. ‘He is really a lamb’, said his parents. ‘He has never done it before’, said his best friend. ‘So it must be me’, she decides. She cannot go back, and she cannot go forward. The only choice she has is to go into the sea. But then, if she dies, he will still have all the power. That cannot happen. He does not have control over her destiny. She takes a deep breath and turns her back on the sea.

*I wrote this very short story for a French writing competition and won the first prize. As it was originally written while thinking in French, chances are the English is not as good. Hope you like it nonetheless.