Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #8 (3.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan doesn't know whether he's coming or going right now, a feeling which is only intensified when he revisits an old fear. Can Ben calm him down? See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #8 (3.3)

The feel of Ben’s lips on his triggered so many memories, memories he’d held onto, wrapped around himself as comfort in the wake of Ben’s unexplained disappearance.  Remembering  him was all he had left. He’d missed Ben terribly, and he hadn’t even had the consolation of knowing where’d he gone or why. If he was all right or if he was happy…

Every time he asked his father for information, his dad would tell him he didn’t know where they were, or if they’d ever be back. At eighteen, Ryan was hardly a child. He saw something in his father’s eyes, something that told Ryan he knew more than he was letting on. After a while he gave up asking for answers as being an exercise in futility. Ryan tried calling and texting Ben, but soon discovered that number was no longer in service, and his emails remained equally unanswered. All he could do was be patient and hope that Ben would get in contact with him.

But he never did.

Despite their rocky beginning, as time passed, Ryan began to resent Ben less and less as they were thrown into each other’s company more and more. When Liza—he never thought of her as Mother, and she never encouraged him to call her that—bought a model airplane kit for Ben, it was Ryan who helped him put it together. It was a Spitfire, he remembered, complete with a canopy that opened and closed and authentic looking decals. When they were finished with it, they showed it to their parents. Dad praised both boys for a job well done. Liza hugged Ben and told him how proud of him she was. She never acknowledged that Ryan had even had a hand in it. Looking back, he realized that was indicative of their entire relationship, although he was too young to understand it at the time.

Ryan opened his eyes and focused on Ben, ignoring the wide blue expanse around them. Safer to concentrate on Ben.

“I tried to call you,” Ryan said softly.

Ben flushed, but he never released Ryan’s hands, gripping them as if he’d never let go. “She took my phone,” he said, his tone miserable, his cocky façade momentarily deserting him. He cast his eyes down to their joined hands. “She said I couldn’t keep it, it was part of the life we were leaving behind. She said Dad didn’t want us, and that if he found us, he’d hurt us.”

Ryan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “That’s crazy. Dad’s not like that. He would never hurt anyone. He loved you.  He was very upset when you left. And so was I…” Ryan’s mind was spinning. He had to remind himself to take a breath.

“I missed you too,” Ben said, looking up at last. Ryan caught his breath at the sight. Tears glistened on Ben’s long lashes, casting an additional luminescence to his eyes. “I wanted to email you, but she said we couldn’t bring my laptop either, it wouldn’t be safe. I didn’t have a choice, Ryan, what could I do?”

They had stolen away, like thieves in the night. Ryan still remembered what would end up being their last night together.  Ben and he stayed up late, playing World of Warcraft together, then fell asleep in Ryan’s bed, which they often did when Ben was too tired or too lazy to go back to his own room.

“We’re gonna kick that guy’s ass next time,” Ben had said, referring to the game boss they’d been unable to defeat, but not for lack of trying.

“Next time,” Ryan said with a yawn. “But we might need some help. He’s strong.”

“Nah, we can do it,” Ben said with the all the assurance of youth. Ryan couldn’t help but love his confidence, one of the many things he loved about Ben.

Conversation quickly petered out. Finally, they kissed good night and fell asleep, Ben’s head nestled on Ryan’s chest. He never felt him move, slept through his leaving.  In the morning, Ryan discovered both Ben and Liza were gone, and Ryan’s world fell apart as it never had before. He’d been too young when his mother died, he had no memories of her. But Ben’s loss was beyond painful.

“Why didn’t you come to Dad’s funeral?” I needed you.

“I couldn’t.” Ben released Ryan’s hands abruptly, clenching his own into fists.

“Couldn’t?” Ryan echoed. “What do you mean—?”

For one brief moment, Ryan saw something in Ben’s eyes, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Anger? Guilt? No, something else. More like a cry for help. Or was he imagining that? The next moment, Ben was laughing, his expression unreadable.

“I knew you would come to me, all I had to do was wait. And now we’re together again.” He threw his arms around Ryan, nestling his head against Ryan’s chest. His next words were so faint, Ryan wasn’t sure he really heard them.

“Please don’t ever leave me.”

to be continued

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #7 (3.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan's still in a bit of shock at discovering that the band he's just started working for is led by none other than the stepbrother he hasn't seen in ten years. Guess they have some catching up to do. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale!  Enjoy!

In Pieces #7 (3.2)

They joined a short line of passengers waiting at a taxi booth just outside the terminal. When it was their turn, they slid into the backseat of a bright orange cab. The driver was a matronly woman who looked to be about fifty. She wore her grayish-brown hair in a long plait that hung down her back and swung back and forth with every move she made.  Turning in her seat, she offered them a professionally courteous smile. “Welcome to New Orleans. Where can I take you?”

When Ben gave her the address, her eye brows raised slightly. “Mandeville? That’ll be a hundred dollars…” She paused, as if expecting an argument, or perhaps some attempt at negotiation. Ryan wondered why the fare was so outrageous, but he didn’t say anything. This wasn’t his business, and he wasn’t about to butt in.

“That’s fine,” Ben said.

 “Any luggage?”

“Not today,” Ben replied.

“Then let’s go.” The cabbie turned back around and adjusted her seat belt.

Ryan could see the driver’s curious eyes regarding them in the rearview mirror.  A crucifix dangled there, as well as a strand of what he assumed to be Mardi Gras beads.  She merged the cab into the steadily increasing airport  traffic and turned on the radio. Jazz  played soft and low in the background. Loud enough to be heard, but not too loud to be intrusive.  Ryan wasn’t surprised. This was New Orleans, after all. When Ben relaxed back into the seat. Ryan tried to follow suit, although he was suddenly nervous for no reason he could put his finger on. Maybe it was because everything was happening so fast.  He glanced up to find Ben regarding him with those amazing crystal blue eyes.

“Mandeville. I guess that’s where we’re going?” Ryan asked for the sake of saying something, although that was far from the first question on his mind.

How have you been? Where have you been? What happened to you?

“Yeah, that’s where Cameron’s digs are. We just arrived here yesterday ourselves. We’ve been checking out the city, waiting for you to come. Mandeville seems pretty nice, but it’s way out in the suburbs. The house is about a forty-five minute ride from here.”

That explained why it cost so much then.

“It’s nice of Cameron to let us stay there. Aiden said he’s one of your biggest fans. Will he be coming on the tour with us?” Ryan envisioned this Cameron as being something of a groupie. Wasn’t that considered a sign of success when a band began to accrue groupies?

 “Cameron’s more than just a fan, he’s our angel,” Ben said. He took one of Ryan’s hands, holding it between both of his as he stroked it softly. Ryan thought he could feel his pulse rate rise dramatically at Ben’s touch. He cleared his throat, attempting to focus.


“Think investor,” Ben explained. “Money man, if you like. I prefer angel. It has such beautiful connotations.” Damn, but Ben’s smile was dazzling. He’d only grown sexier over the years.

Ryan realized he had to get himself in hand or he’d never survive the experience. And that would be a shame, now that they’d finally been reunited.

“I’m sure Cameron will show up for at least some of our concerts. He’s more than welcome to travel with us, too, seeing as he’s footing the bills. I guess it depends on his schedule.” Ben placed two fingers lightly on Ryan’s wrist, right at the pulse point. Ryan struggled to even out his breathing, but that wasn’t happening. The effect Ben had on him had only grown stronger in the decade they’d been apart. If there had been an undeniable attraction between them then, there was an irresistible force sweeping through Ryan’s body now, one he fought to control.

Ben peeped seductively up at Ryan from beneath incredibly long purple-tinted lashes. “I see some things never change,” he said softly, just before he laid their conjoined hands over Ryan’s heart. “Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump… Does it still beat just for me, Ryan?”

A flustered Ryan tried to frame a coherent response, but the words refused to come. Ben laughed. He dropped their hands onto Ryan’s thigh, his lips curled up into a self-satisfied smirk.

“You don’t have to speak, I can see the answer in your eyes,” Ben said.

“No… that is… I mean….” Ryan took a deep breath and started again. “A lot’s happened in ten years, Ben. You have no idea. What ha—” Before he could get out the question he longed to ask, Ryan became all too aware of their surroundings. More importantly, he saw what lay ahead of them, and in which direction they were going. Sure, he’d known there was a lake, but he assumed the highway would skirt the water. “Is that a… are we going on a bridge?”

“It’s the only way to cross the lake,” Ryan said. “Don’t tell me you’re still afraid of bridges?” Despite his words, his voice held a note of compassion.

“I’m not afraid of bridges,” Ryan protested, the trembling of his voice proclaiming otherwise. “I just wasn’t prepared, that’s all.”

“Ma’am”—he pitched his voice toward the cab driver—“can we go around the lake instead of over it?”

Her gaze met his in the mirror. “Sorry, hon, it’s the only way to get to Mandeville. Don’t worry, it only takes about twenty minutes. Then it’ll be all over.”

That’s what I’m afraid of.

“How long is it?”

“About twenty-four miles.”

Jesus Christ.

Ben squeezed his hand. “Don’t think about it,” he said. “Think about me instead. Think about us.”

Without warning, he swooped in and claimed Ryan’s lips in a soul-searing kiss. Every thought Ryan had had exploded at the contact.

In his mind, ten years fell away in an instant. Back to the way it had been and should have remained…

to be continued

Now go see what's up with the other Briefers!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #5 (3.1)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In last week's chapter of In Pieces, Ryan got quite a shock in the form of the stepbrother he hadn't seen in ten years. What is he doing here? What's going on? Coincidence...or much more? See what's happening in this week's chapter. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #6 (3.1)

He hadn’t fainted since he was a kid, and even then it was due to the heat, not this unexpected rush of emotions that had overwhelmed him at the sight of Ben. How embarrassing. His only saving grace was he hadn’t fallen on the floor and cracked his skull open. Ben must have caught him going down, and somehow he’d managed to end up cradled securely in his long lost stepbrother’s arms. Ben wore a bemused expression as Ryan drank in the sight of him after having been separated for so long.

Ryan had always thought Ben was possessed of an ethereal beauty, even as a teenager, but now he couldn’t help but notice the young man he’d become was breathtaking. Ben’s once curly blond hair hung in luxuriant waves to his shoulders, streaked with ice blue and mauve strands that only served to accentuate his eyes, as did the subtle application of guyliner. Ben had just begun to dabble with makeup as a teen. He would situate Ryan in front of him with a handheld mirror while he experimented with different shades of eye shadow and blush, asking Ryan’s opinion at every step. Looked as though he’d perfected the art since then. A hint of peach blush on his high cheekbones matched the gloss on his Cupid’s bow lips. 

There were so many things Ryan was dying to know, things he wanted to say, questions he needed to ask. He didn’t even know where to begin. “Ben,” was all he managed to get out. Ineffectual much?

“Of all the gin joints,” Ben prompted him with a roguish grin.

Ryan had to laugh in spite of himself. “I know, right? I can’t believe you’re here… after all this time…I mean, what are the odds?”

“Pretty good, actually,” Ben said mysteriously. “C’mon, let’s get you on your feet. Think you can stand?”

“Well yeah…. I think… I mean…”

Without warning, Ben leaned down and laid a soft kiss on Ryan’s forehead. Ryan’s thoughts dissipated instantly. He had no idea what he’d been about to say as he found himself gently lifted into a vertical position. Only then did he remember they were not alone. In fact, they had an audience of two very interested bystanders. Aiden was grinning broadly, but Abby’s expression was enigmatic, her eyes hooded.

“Wow, Ben, looks like you made quite an impact on our writer,” Aiden said. “Just think if you could do that with whole audiences.”

“I can and I will,” Ben said, never missing a beat.

Ryan was more confused than ever. He looked from one to another, his brain working to catch up with the evidence before him. These three obviously knew each other, coupled with the fact that Ben was even here, they were all here… everything began to fall into place.

“You’re with the group?” he asked. “You’re with Salvation?”

“Of course he is,” Aiden answered quickly. “Ben’s the heart of Salvation, I assumed you knew that. What were you thinking? How do you even know Ben?”

Ryan couldn’t speak, staring at Ben, open-mouthed. Ben… his Ben… a part of the very same group that hired him? After ten long years, surely that was no coincidence.

Ben fielded the question for him. “Of course Ryan and I know each other. He’s my stepbrother. C’mon, let’s get back to Cameron’s place. He’s waiting for us, and you know how he feels about being kept waiting. Grab Ryan’s bags, will you?”

Not waiting for an answer, he slid a protective arm about Ryan’s waist. Ryan was amazed at the strength in that slender limb.

“I’d ask if you were surprised, but I think that’s obvious,” Ben said as they made their way through the terminal.

Ryan was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that Ben was here, and not only that, he was part of the band which was Ryan’s new employer. Which meant he was working for Ben, didn’t it? “Shocked might be a better word,” he admitted. “I think this gives coincidence a whole new meaning.”

As they reached a bank of elevators, Ryan assumed Aiden and Abby were following them, but his attention and his focus were all given to Ben. He didn’t dare look away, afraid if he did, Ben might disappear again.

“This is no coincidence,” Ben said. Before Ryan could ask him what he meant, an elevator dinged open.  “Hold that thought,” Ben said softly.  He turned toward Aiden and Abby, who’d just caught up with them. “Where you parked?”

“In Short Term,” Aiden replied.

“Ryan and I are gonna take a cab,” Ben said. “Catch up on old times. Meet you at Cameron’s.”

Abby seemed less than pleased at Ben’s words, but she didn’t say anything. She was holding Ryan’s carry-on bag, which he’d completely forgotten about, so flustered was he at seeing Ben, while Aiden had his suitcase. She practically thrust the smaller bag into Ryan’s chest. He grabbed it quickly before it could fall.

“C’mon Aid, let’s go back to the house. I feel the need for a drink, what about you?”

“Ab-so-fucking-lutely,” Aiden agreed. He winked at Ryan and Ben. “Catch you back there,” he said, following his sister into the elevator. The doors shut and they were quickly lost from view. Ryan turned toward Ben expectantly.

“I knew who you were when I chose you, Ryan. It’s good to have you back again.” He pressed their lips together softly, taking Ryan by surprise. Not that he fought against it, either, reveling in the feel of Ben’s mouth on his. All too soon, the kiss ended,  and Ben stepped back, his eyes giving nothing away, although Ryan longed to know what he was thinking and feeling.

“Let’s go,” Ben said, and then Ryan was following Ben out to the taxi stand, and whatever moment they’d just had passed.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers are up to!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #5(2.3)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Ryan is in New Orleans to meet the band who has hired him to chronicle their first tour, Salvation. He thinks this may be his last chance to make something of his writing. He is met at the airport by twins, Aiden and Abby. But all is not as it seems and Ryan may be in for a big surprise. Find out what's up in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they're up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #5 (2.3)

“These all the same?” Abby gave her brother a questioning look as she reached for the drinks. Aiden nodded .  She set one of the mugs in front of Ryan, while Aiden distributed everything else.

“Three salted caramel macchiato,” he said. “And three authentic New Orleans beignets. I was looking at the menu, wondering what would be the ultimate New Orleans experience and I almost decided to get the chicory, but the girl who was waiting on me said it’s kind of bitter, and something of an acquired taste, especially if you’re not used to it, so I thought we could try these instead?” Pausing to take a breath at last, he looked to his sister, as if seeking her approval. She nodded and he smiled.

This one’s a talker, Ryan made a mental note.

Normally, Ryan took his coffee black, but under the circumstances he wasn’t about to complain. He could make the most of any situation, if he had to.  “Thank you,” he said, not wanting to appear ungrateful, before adding, “I take it the two of  you aren’t from around here?”

“Nope, strictly tourists.”  Aiden dropped the empty tray onto a nearby table then flopped into the chair beside Abby. Side by side, Ryan could appreciate their resemblance even more. They both possessed the same high cheekbones, the same porcelain skin that only served to bring out the utter blueness of their eyes. Masculine and feminine—these twins blurred conventional gender lines in a way that Ryan found to be breathtaking.  He forced himself to look away from them, reminding himself that staring might be considered rude.

“We’ve always wanted to see the city, just never had the chance,” Abby said. “We got lucky that Salvation’s starting their tour in Louisiana. We’re using New Orleans as our base of operations when we can.” N’awlins rolled off her tongue as though she were a native.

“You mean that house you were talking about?” Ryan asked. “The one that belongs to one of your fans?” Lifting his macchiano gingerly, he took a cautious sip. The creamy froth on top was criss-crossed with caramel lines and glistening sea salt. What he really wanted lay somewhere below that. He had to tilt the glass to reach the coffee beneath, let it run down his throat in a warm cascade.  The taste was better than he’d expected. Just sweet enough without being too sweet.

“Cameron’s house, yeah. We’ll  still probably end up in a motel or two along the way, for some of the farther out gigs. It’ll be fun.”

Ryan wondered what Aiden’s definition of fun was. In his experience, most motels had little to offer in the way of entertainment, and were often definitely short on the amenities .  As he listened to the siblings, it belatedly occurred to him he’d never thought to ask for a copy of the band’s itinerary. Knowing where they were going might be important information to have. He’d promised Cassie he would keep in touch with her. Postcards would be a way of showing her something of the places he was getting to see as well as letting her know he hadn’t forgotten her. Assuming he had time for any sightseeing. Guess he’d find out what the band did in their leisure time, then decide if he wanted to follow suit or not.

“So where do you come from?” Ryan asked. “If you don’t mind my asking, I mean. I’m not trying to be nosy or anything—”

“Just doing your job,” Abby finished for him. “We understand, don’t worry. That’s what you’re here to do, we get it. If there’s anything we don’t want to talk about, trust me, we won’t. So feel free to ask away. Aiden and I come from sunny California. ”

Good to know.

Ryan remembered Abby’s hint about a notebook. He’d brought one with him, his fallback position for times when he might not want to use his laptop, although he’d brought that too. Never leave home without it was his motto. Although nothing could compete with the sheer simplicity of pen and paper. His handwriting skills, however, left something to be desired, and had atrophied to the point where Cassie claimed it resembled chicken scratch. Luckily, he could still decipher it himself.

Why hadn’t he brought it on the plane with him, instead of stuffing it into his luggage? He hadn’t anticipated needed it before he had a chance to unpack. This was all so new to him. For the hundredth time, he wondered why him. What made him the right man for this job? Surely not the novels that had barely seen the light of day and received mixed reviews at best?

Digging into his suitcase here and now was probably not a good idea. He’d have to trust to his memory, at least for now. He patted one pocket of his jacket. Nope, didn’t even have a pen. What kind of writer was he?

The unsuccessful kind.   
“California,” he repeated, realizing belatedly he was becoming lost in his own head…again. He was almost afraid to meet the twins’ eyes, afraid he’d already made a bad impression. But when he lifted his gaze, he found they weren’t looking at him, but at something behind him.

“Didn’t expect to see you here,” Aiden was saying, while Abby took a bite of beignet and said nothing. “How’d you get here? Cameron?”

Who was here? Another member of the band? Ryan turned toward the newcomer. The light from  the concourse momentarily blinded him. All he could make out was a silhouette.

“No, I took a cab. I decided I just couldn’t wait any longer, so here I am.”

That voice. So familiar and yet so strange.

As Ryan’s eyes adjusted, the man’s features came into focus.  Crystal blue eyes of infinite depth.

Ryan’s own eyes grew wide in shock.

Could it be…. Was this… But how….

“Ben?” he asked in shocked disbelief just before the world began to fade.

to be continued

Now go see what the other Briefers have been doing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #4 (2.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In the wake of Ryan's father's death, he leaves to begin a brand new job with a band called Salvation, as their biographer. Will this be his way to get back into the publishing world? Maybe this is his last chance. See what's going on in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #4 (2.2)

The coffee shop was blessedly quiet when they entered.  As early as it was, the aroma of fresh java filled the air, no doubt meant as an enticement to passing travelers to stop and smell the coffee. And then, hopefully, buy a cup.

“Grab a table, I’ll get our drinks.” Aiden nodded toward one just inside the doorway then hurried off before Ryan could get a word in edgewise, or ask a question, such as what they do they have. Guess he’d find out.

Abby laughed. “You get used to it.” She slid into one of the square-cut café chairs in one elegant movement, her skirt moving easily with her. “When my brother has ideas, he acts on them. And when he wants coffee…” She gave an elegant shrug.

Ryan took a seat across from her and glanced around.  To their right, a polished wood bar curved along the side of the restaurant that overlooked the concourse, lined with the same chairs, the red-and-purple striped padded backs in contrast to the pale pastels of the seats. On the other side of the shop, behind a black granite-topped counter, stood two young ladies in identical purple shirts, the coffee company logo emblazoned on one breast. Violet bags of coffee filled the shelves in front of the counter, while on either side, glass cases displayed an assortment of delectable pastries. The décor here was very unlike that of the coffee shops he was used to in St. Louis, which tended to be more wood and less chrome. But those familiar haunts were increasingly going out of business, one by one, either bought out by a larger chain or simply closed due to lack of business. This place screamed modern as well as successful, which made sense, considering where it was located, in the busy concourse in the heart of a busy airport in a city that was known for its love of celebrations.

Ryan shrugged off his thoughts and diverted his attention back to Abby. She lounged comfortably in her chair, completely at ease, unlike him. Through the glass-topped table, he could see her long legs were crossed gracefully at the ankles beneath her floor-length skirt, as she regarded him. Poetry in motion was the clichéd phrase that came to mind. He had the impression in looking at her that she was younger than he was, yet there was something in her eyes, something that gave her the look and feel of an old soul. And wasn’t he being overly dramatic. Again. Story of his life.  Always reading into things.  “You’re twins, right?” he asked.

“From birth,” she confirmed with a wink. “Aiden arrived first, so technically he’s my older brother. But, as he likes to remind me, only by a few minutes.”

“I thought so. I mean, there’s such a strong resemblance between you,” Ryan commented. “Especially for being fraternal twins. I don’t think I’ve ever seen—”

“Identical.” Abby uncrossed her leg and leaned toward him, her eyes boring into his. “Not fraternal. We’re as alike as the proverbial peas in the pod.”

Ryan’s grasp of science might not be the best, but even he knew twins of the opposite sex had to be fraternal, never identical, the result of two eggs rather than one split egg.  But he wasn’t about to challenge her statement, either. Although he was supposed to write about the band, right? He assumed that meant everything. Maybe there were subjects that were off-limits? Hopefully, somebody would set some ground rules before he made a fool of himself by asking the wrong questions.

“Oh,” was all he managed to get out, for lack of anything wittier coming to mind. He wasn’t surprised when she laughed at him.

“Come on,” she coaxed him. “Tell me what’s the first thing you’re thinking now.”

Before he could apply a filter to his forthright tongue, Ryan blurted out, “You don’t look like any drag queen I’ve ever seen.” Oh damn, of all the stupid things to say. Ryan’s cheeks flamed as he wondered how really stupid he sounded right this minute, and had he just jumped to an unwarranted conclusion.

“Because I’m not a drag queen, honey.” Abby didn’t sounded upset or angry, fortunately. That would be a bad way to start out his new job. Was she used to this kind of reaction, maybe? But then if she wasn’t a drag queen, what was…

The idea flashed into his brain the moment she spoke the word.

“Transgender. I hope you have a notebook, Ryan. You’ll need a scorecard to keep track of the players with this group.”

Her tone was light, but again he sensed something deeper, darker there. This time he was sure it wasn’t his imagination running away with him. But he wasn’t about to press for answers. Not like this. Certainly not on his first day. He had the feeling she would tell him whenever she was ready. Hopefully.

Before he could say anything else stupid, Aiden’s return put a momentary stop to their conversation. Abby turned toward her brother, reaching for the tray in his hand, and the moment had passed.

to be continued

Now go visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: May 15, 2018

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

In last week's chapter of In Pieces, Ryan returned home for his father's funeral, on his way to start a new job. His stepmother, Cassie, offered him a place to live if he wanted to stay in St. Louis, but he had to go. Today he arrives at his destination - New Orleans, to meet the band he is going to accompany on their US tour, Salvation. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #4 (2.1)

Louis Armstrong Airport was a busy place, even early in the morning. The flight from St. Louis to New Orleans had taken less than two hours. Cassie had insisted on driving Ryan to Lambert Airport, despite his protestations that he could Uber the short trip. He promised he would send emails and texts as often as he could, depending on how busy this rock group kept him.

He made his way through Concourse B, where Southwest Airlines was located, scouting the crowd for a placard with his name. He didn’t know who would pick him up. The band’s manager, whose name slipped his mind at the moment, had said someone would be there, but gave him no other information. She herself was not going to be accompanying them on the tour. Not this time.

Until they’d contacted him, Ryan had never even heard of Salvation. Which made their offer of employment all the more baffling. As outlined in the offer letter, his job was to travel with the band and write an account of the tour, complete with photographs.  All expenses paid, plus a salary.

Ryan was hardly in a position to turn down such a great opportunity, especially if doing so could put him on the literary map again. He was only twenty-eight, but he was already a has-been as far as the publishing world was concerned. Five years had passed since he’d had a new release, and his last novel had been received with less-than-enthusiastic reviews and very dismal sales. Even the small houses didn’t want to deal with him anymore. Authors were a dime a dozen, and Ryan was yesterday’s news. This gig might be his last chance to succeed in his chosen field.  If he failed again…. That didn’t really bear thinking about.

Out of curiosity, he’d looked the band up on the Internet, but information regarding them wasn’t exactly plentiful. Apparently the type of music they played was known as church metal, whatever that was. Not that it mattered. Beggars couldn’t exactly afford to be choosy. Liking their music wasn’t a requirement for employment, although it would make sitting through their concerts more tolerable if he could listen to them without cringing. If push came to shove, though, and they were truly atrocious, he could always invest in a good set of ear plugs.

 In the few photographs he’d found online—they didn’t seem to have a website to call their own— he’d noticed the band members were more than passing fond of make-up, and they liked to wear religious costumes. So, how religious were they? And was this how they dressed in their everyday lives? Assuming they even had such things?

Ryan Fremont.

He almost walked past the couple with the sign. He remember seeing a picture of the girl—apparently the only female member of the group—in which she was dressed as a nun. He had no idea which member of the group the guy was. He was casually dressed in a pair of jeans and a Rolling Stones T-shirt, a far cry from their concert attire.

Ryan pivoted toward them, and took a deep breath. This was really happening, wasn’t it? He worked to quell his unexpected attack of nerves. There was nothing to be nervous about. This was just a job, nothing more.  “Hi, I’m Ryan Fremont,” he offered his name. Up close, he noticed the girl was really pretty. When she shook her head, waves of dark curls cascaded down her back, and she nervously licked her lips, her sapphire eyes regarding him intently.

“Hey, you made it!” her companion said. He had the same dark hair she had, which fell to his shoulders, but his eyes were the same deep blue. They were almost mirror images of one another. Ryan immediately pegged them as fraternal twins. “I’m Aiden, and this is Abby.” He gestured toward the girl at his side.

“Nice to meet you,” Ryan said, relaxing slightly. They seemed nice, no need to panic. He glanced around, wondering if the other band members were here as well.

“Nope, just us,” Aiden said, as if reading Ryan’s mind. “We just got into town ourselves, so everyone’s getting settled in the house.”

“You have a house?” Ryan was surprised. He’d assumed they were staying in hotel rooms. Salvation must be doing well for itself if they could afford more than a hotel room.

“It’s not ours,” Abby said. “We’re just using it. It’s someone’s vacation home, actually.”

Abby’s voice was low and melodious. She probably had a great singing range. He wondered if she sang lead, but then remembered the lead singer was the one who dressed as a priest. Abby played drums.

“Why don’t we grab your stuff from the carousel and get going?” Aiden suggested. “We can get acquainted on the ride.  I’m sure you have questions you’re dying to ask.”

“Actually, yes, I do.” Ryan appreciated the other man’s honesty. It wouldn’t hurt to start getting a feel for the members of the band, since they would were the subjects of his book after all.

“Good. Carousel’s over here. I noticed a coffee place right on the concourse. Want to grab some of their famous New Orleans coffee and talk?”

“I could use some coffee,” Ryan admitted. He wouldn’t mind trying something different, and this was as good a place as any to start. As he followed Aiden and Abby toward the luggage carousel, he couldn’t help but notice their fingers twined as they held hands. The sight only made Ryan’s heart ache a little more.

to be continued

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wednesday Briefs: In Pieces #2 (1.2)

Good morning and Happy Hump Day! If it's Wednesday, then it must be time for more flash fiction from the Wednesday Briefers! We're a group of authors who bring you our finest flash fiction every week, 500 to 1000 words, inspired by one of our prompts.

Last week I started a new story, In Pieces, and we met Ryan Fremont - first as a young boy, then as a young man at his father's funeral. The story continues today, I hope you like it. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what they've been up to. Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!

In Pieces #2 (1.2)

 Ryan turned his gaze toward his stepmother. Cassie was Dad’s third wife. Widow now. Ryan’s mother, who’d died when Ryan was an infant, had been the first Mrs. Fremont. And Dad’s second wife, Liza, had disappeared years ago, vanished without a trace. Along with his stepbrother, Ben. He’d hoped they would show up today—whether to pay their respects or simply acknowledge his dad’s passing, he couldn’t say—but that hadn’t happened. Maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised. He hadn’t heard a word from either of them in ten years. The last time his dad had been in contact was when he’d gotten the divorce papers signed, and even that was done through his lawyer, nothing direct.

Cassie’s head was bent, her eyes closed. Maybe she was praying.  Ryan sighed. Prayers never seemed to do any good, so why bother? Hadn’t gotten him anywhere today. He’d prayed to be able to see Ben. See how well that had worked out.

Not to mention, he shouldn’t even be here today. Today should have been the first day of his new job, but obviously Death had a poor sense of timing, and an even worse sense of humor. He’d called and explained the situation and had been told not to worry, just come as soon as he could. This was not the first impression he’d wanted to make. But what could he do? Death asked no one’s permission. It took who and what it wanted, and those who were left behind had to manage the best they could.
Still he couldn’t help but wonder why his dad? Why now?

There were so many things he’d meant to say to him, so many things they could have done together, while there was still time, if they’d only made the effort. If they’d only known that time was winding down. No amount of regrets could change that, no matter how well meant. And no new job, not matter how providential, could make up for that.

A light touch on his arm startled him. Ryan looked up to find Cassie standing there, her eyes anxiously scanning his face. “Are you okay?”

He was touched by her concern—he should be the one comforting her. They’d never had what some might call a traditional stepmother-stepson relationship. People who didn’t know better would assume Cassie was his older sister, in light of the few years that separated their ages. When his dad had first introduced them, Ryan had been suspicious of the age gap between them. Especially coming so soon after Liza’s departure, when the wound was still fresh. But as he quickly discovered, Cassie was good for his dad—she made him laugh, and she drew him out into the world when he tried to hide behind his work—not to mention, she and Ryan had a lot of common interests, including music. She’d been his Rock of Gibraltar over the last ten years. Through good times and bad.

There had been more bad times than he cared to think about.

“I will be. What about you? Is there anything I can do? I mean, I won’t be here long, but if there is…” He gave up trying to say anything worthwhile at that point. Cassie was a strong woman. What did she need him for? He would miss her more than she’d miss him.

“I’m going to be great,” she assured him. “Your dad left me well-taken care of, don’t worry. There’s enough there for both of us, you know. More than enough for you to stay in St. Louis. The house is plenty big.  And I promise not to cramp your style.” She winked.

He couldn’t help but laugh. Comedy and tragedy were so closely entwined, sometimes it was hard to tell where the one left off and the other began.

“You don’t have to leave,” she continued, when he made no immediate reply. “We can keep on going to The Pageant, and Pops, and any other damn place we want. We can watch our favorite bands and dance the night away.”

The offer was a tempting one, he had to admit. He liked Cassie, and he knew they could live together and get on well. There had never been a moment of romantic interest between them, and he knew neither of them wanted that. Not now, not ever.  Living with her might even solve all of his problems…

But no, he knew he had to go. He needed to make a fresh start. He couldn’t hide behind his dad now, and he couldn’t stay mired in the past forever. Time to move on at long last. No, he had to do this for himself. Maybe, one day, under better circumstances, he would come back to stay. But for now this was the best thing for both of them.

Besides, how often did a person get a chance to work for an actual rock band? This could be the experience of a lifetime.

How could he explain his reasoning to her without sounding ungrateful? What kind of friend did that make him? Just saying it wasn’t her, it was him sounded so cliché it wasn’t funny.

“It’s okay, Ryan,” she said before he could even begin to formulate a response. “I understand. I know you miss him terribly, even after all these years.”

Ryan’s ears burned, as heat flooded his cheeks. She knew him all too well. What could he say? The truth was the truth, no matter how sad and tarnished.

“Maybe getting away from here will be just what you need. Make a new start. See something of the world. Well, at least the US, to start with. Go, have fun with that band. What’s their name again?”


“Yeah, them. Just don’t forget to text me now and then. Just don’t forget me.”

“I won’t,” he promised.

She kissed his cheek gently just as fat drops of rain began to fall.

Didn’t that just figure?

to be continued

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