short story – skye sparrow

Skye Sparrow was weird.

She had a weird name, weird clothes, weird sense of humour, weird taste in music. Her hair fell to her waist, a soft shade of lilac, and her lips were painted dark and inelegantly, as if she had crushed blackberries against her lips. She wore bold, mismatching colours in outdated fashions and she spent her evenings alone in Blackwood Kirk, whispering and singing to the dead.

People came to expect her there, that rainbow splash amidst the grey. Yet, still, it unsettled them. There was something about colours and death… they weren’t well matched.

Every evening, Skye bought a small swirl of frozen yogurt sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and chocolate flakes. She walked twice around the Kirk, her long skirts brushing over grass and graves. Her voice was sweet and strange and between spoonful’s of yogurt she sang songs that no one had heard before.

Everyone in school had their own theory about her; Cathy said she was a thousand-year- old-vampire, Sue said she was a witch. Kev said her parents were either cult leaders or circus runaways, Owen said she was a demon bride.

Owen was right.

*

Skye Sparrow didn’t smoke or bite her nails. She drank a normal amount of caffeine, couldn’t whistle, and hadn’t picked her nose since she was four years old. But she did have a bad habit.

She had always been an easy target for demons and faerie alike. She believed in them all; goblins and faeries, mermaids and banshees, trolls and elves and pixies. Not just believed but wanted, needed, to believe.  And they wanted her back.

She made her first bargain when she was seven years old.

For proof of their existence, she gave up her favourite dress; a blue satin ballgown that glittered like the night sky. Her mother was furious when it disappeared but she didn’t care, because in its place she had a crude little map that led her to faerie hiding spots.

When she was ten years old, and too young to understand what she was giving up, she sold her first kiss to save her younger brother after he fell from his bike and tumbled into the river.

A year later, she gave away every freckle on her skin for a good grade on her maths homework.

When she was fourteen, she gave up a month of her life to spend just two days living among the faeries, eating goblin fruit and dancing with creatures she had only seen in dreams. She sold three of her adult teeth to make the world forget that she had gone missing.

At sixteen, a demon who loved her gave her a talent for music that could never be matched. In return, she agreed to marry him.

At seventeen years old, Skye Sparrow bargained to save her demon husband-to- be. All she had to do was sing to the dead.

And she swore that she would never make deals with faerie folk again.

*

‘Do I lean my head left or right? Or neither? Do our noses get in the way? Should I floss right before. No, right? That would be awkward. Oh god, what if there’s garlic on the pizza?’

Skye raised a brow at her best and only human friend, watching her wipe away the lipstick from her mouth and immediately pick up a new shade, ‘Relax, Jade. It’s just kissing, it’s not that scary. And I can guarantee that Owen isn’t worrying about it this much.’

‘Easy for you to say, you’ve probably kissed hundreds of guys,’

‘Oh, yes. Can’t you see the line of eager suitors at my door?’ Skye rolled her eyes and poked her head out of the window, ‘Gentlemen, please, some patience! My lips are still chaffed from the first hundred! My poor skin would also be grateful if you would shave!’

‘Very funny,’ Jade pulled Skye away from the window and the confused stares of people passing on the street below, ‘Will it be sore if he hasn’t shaved?’

Skye laughed as Jade ran a worried hand over her cheek, ‘I don’t think Owen can even grow stubble, you’re safe.’ She moved to the wardrobe and started pulling out clothes for Jade to try on.

‘Ugh, I can’t stop thinking about it. Tell me about your first kiss, it’ll distract me,’ Jade tossed lipstick number five across the table and turned to Skye with pleading eyes.

‘How will talking about my first kiss distract you from yours?’

‘Please?’

Skye chewed on her bottom lip, focusing her attention on the bold pink dress she held out before her. Jade had only come into her life six months before, full of passion and sincerity. Others had tried to pass on their whispers and conspiracies and, instead of avoiding direct eye contact with her, Jade had waltzed over to Skye, linked their arms together and declared loudly, ‘Don’t you hate it when you find other people’s noses in your business?’
Skye had never had a human friend before; only faeries and demons that mostly wanted to consume her piece by piece. Jade had no secrets and Skye shared none. She never lied to her one friend, never wanted to repay her honesty with lies. She just volunteered very little.
There were moments when Skye wondered why she didn’t trust Jade not to laugh or scoff or back away from her if she told her the truth.

‘Well, Jade, I sold my first kiss to my childhood friend when I was ten, but we didn’t kiss until I was fifteen. We were in the graveyard, obviously, and his lips were very cold. Did I mention that my childhood friend is a demon?’ 

Jade was staring at her and Skye worried for a moment that she had accidentally made her wild declaration out loud.

‘I mean, you don’t have to tell me if you really don’t want to,’ Jade smiled, ‘Or was it just so good you got lost in the memory?’

‘My first kiss was with a demon. He gave me a dead flower after and asked me to marry him.’

‘Oh ha ha,’ Jade stuck her tongue out and returned to her lipstick-smudged reflection.

*

Skye Sparrow was not afraid of death.

She had clung to her childlike sense of invincibility. She may have had few friends, but those she had were in all the right places.

Scythe had been shapeless before her.

He heard whispers of the human girl; the intuitive child with dreams and wants enough for every faerie and demon to feed on for years to come. He watched her, and fell in love with her wild smile and yearning eyes. She was vibrant from the inside out; laughter and colour where he was tears and shadow.

He took many forms to be around her; ravens and crows and spiders. She would speak to him, even though he could not answer. She called him friend.

He was watching the day she and her brother were racing through the forest pathways, pedalling their bikes faster and faster. Her brother had time enough to scream as he hit the broken branch, fell from his seat and down, down, down the ravine towards the river.

She abandoned her bike at the bottom of the hill, scrambling towards the steep edge and calling her brother’s name. Twigs and twisted roots seemed to reach out for his small, limp body as if trying to catch him.

Scythe’s brothers were already there.

They waited in the water, thin shadows ready to gather up the falling soul. They hissed as Scythe took him first. He fabricated a human body for the first time, half-formed and crudely shaped, a child the same age as Skye. Sallow flesh covered only part of his face, bone and hollow sockets on the left side. He took the boy in his skeletal hands and carried him up to the path.

‘Thank you, thank you,’ Skye had cried, pulling her brother into her arms and sobbing into his dirt encrusted hair. Scythe’s brothers seethed, the river bubbling and steaming in rage.

‘You have to give us something in return,’ Scythe spoke for the first time, his voice soft and brittle.

‘I know,’ Skye nodded, stroking her brother’s hair, ‘What do you want?’

Her soul, his brothers demanded, Her servitude. 

Scythe’s body shivered. Skye was light and life, the first star to break through the night. He could not imagine her turned to shadow and ash. He would not give his brothers what they asked for.
He had never experienced selfishness until that point.

And so Skye Sparrow sold her first kiss to Death.

*

‘Jade is trying to set me up on a date.’

‘What?’ Scythe spat his frozen yogurt over a circle of pink-tipped daisies and onto Skye’s lap as she laughed, ‘But… I mean… Of course, if you want… I just…’

‘I wish everyone could hear how incoherent Death is,’ Skye teased, ‘Relax, I said I wasn’t interested.’

‘I’m only one part of Death, you know that,’ Scythe muttered as he wiped yogurt from his lips and the smooth bone of his cheek, ‘And I would understand if you wanted to…date.’

‘No way. It’s probably just some loser who wants to find out the weird girl’s secrets.’

Scythe nodded, his blue eye searching Skye’s expression, hoping he would find the reason he wanted to hear there. She tucked a lilac curl behind her ear, her own spring-green eyes fixed on the darkening sky, and sighed. She picked up the silver flute from the grass at her feet, admiring the leaves and vines that shaped it and the way it glinted in the last slivers of daylight.
She’d followed the music into the graveyard when she was ten and found Scythe playing a crude wooden flute through broken and bleeding lips. It was his punishment, for saving a life for only a kiss. Trapped in the graveyard, trapped in his half-formed human body, with only a splintering flute.

Skye had sold the colours of her hair, the colour of walnuts and caramel, to have a new flute faerie-made for him. She passed it over to Scythe now and lay back, her head resting on the steps of the mausoleum as she listened to him play.

The music was soft and ethereal; a lullaby to soothe the dead. It was as strange as the music she’d danced to with creatures of another world. It sent shivers through her skin and inflamed her heart. She would happily lay there forever if it meant the song would never end. This music wasn’t meant for the living.

Which is why Scythe only let her stay for one song; one song that he poured his ashen heart into for her.

He lowered the flute from his grey lips and watched the skin at her brow knot into a frown at the silence. His punishment was a blessing. Because he got to see her every night. Because she would slip her warm hand into his and kiss his skull. Because she smiled like a crescent moon and made him laugh. Because being with her was like being alive.

‘I wish I could play like that,’ Skye said as Scythe sat down on the stairs beside her,  ‘Or sing. Or have any musical talent.’

‘I could help with that,’ Scythe picked up a strand of her hair in his skeletal fingers and clumsily plaited it.

‘What would you want in return? I’m all out of freckles but I think there’s a mole or two around here,’ Skye held out her arms for inspection, and could have sworn she saw some greedy faerie eyes on her, ‘I’m definitely not giving up more teeth though.’

‘I’m not making a deal, I would never take something from you again. I meant I could teach you,’ Scythe undid the braid in her hair, an excuse to keep running his fingers through the soft strands.

Skye sat up, her head cocked to the side, ‘Really? You’d teach me… for nothing?’

She knew Scythe still held onto some guilt for stealing her first kiss. As if she hadn’t given it freely, as if she wouldn’t have made some other deal to get it back if she had wanted. She remembered what he’d asked her when she’d pulled her lips away from his, the second and last thing he’d ever asked for himself. She chewed on her lip as she looked at him now, decayed and solemn and beautiful. It didn’t seem to matter that she was young and human while he was ageless and not.

‘Then teach me as a wedding present,’ she grinned.

‘A… what?’

‘Ask me again,’ Skye cupped his face in her hands, stroking across the sharp bones, ‘Ask me and I’ll say yes.’

So he did, her answer interrupted by the clash of his lips on hers.

*

Jade was waiting for her, perched on a slanted gravestone.
It had been almost a year since they had shared more than an estranged smile. Skye’s skin had turned pale, her eyes shadowed and hollow. Jade wanted to punch herself for not noticing a long time ago, and then punch Skye for not letting her help her.

‘I thought you might like some company for once,’ Jade’s smile was an open palm waiting to be held.

‘It’s not a good idea,’ Skye stared at her for a moment that lasted eternity before turning away.

‘Wait,’ Jade leaped up, following Skye’s rushed steps through the maze of graves, ‘Please talk to me.’

‘Don’t you have new friends to talk to?’

‘Yes, I do. But I want to talk to you,’ Jade huffed, ‘I didn’t realize all this time you were just mad that I made other friends.’

‘I’m not.’

Skye melted into the shadows and Jade halted, looking around the darkening Kirk for a glimpse of where she had disappeared to.

‘Look, I’m sorry,’ She folded her arms over her chest, hugging herself against the cool wind, ‘I should have made more of an effort. I let them talk crap about you, and… and I didn’t fight for us,’ She paused, waiting for an answer that only the whispering of the tress gave her, ‘I should have tried harder to be there for you when… well, when whatever happened. But I needed you to talk to me, Skye. Why wouldn’t you trust me? I know this is months too late but I’m here now, please. Please talk to me.’

Jade yelped as Skye flickered into view in the corner of her eye, leaning against the wall of the mausoleum. She was holding a cup of frozen yogurt in one hand, spoon in the other and her patchwork jacket was scuffed and torn. She looked tiny and frail next to the towering structure, like a songbird hit on impact.

‘What happened to you?’ Jade held out her hand, sighing in relief when Skye’s fingers slipped through hers and squeezing it tight.

Skye told her everything. Starting from when she was a child and had sought out the creatures from stories. How she bargained away pieces of her life, how she had befriended a demon and loved him. They sat on a stone slab, sharing a spoon and passing the tub of yogurt back and forth. Skye told her how a year before, her demon had asked her to marry him for the second time and she had said yes.

‘His brothers weren’t exactly…happy. One of them came to us… God, he looked horrible. He had the skull of some horned animal and what I’m pretty sure was a resurrected human corpse. He took Scythe away and I thought… I thought I’d never see him again.’

Scythe had cried, tears rolling down flesh and bone as the shadows stole him and Skye had raged. She talked to no one save the demons and faeries she summoned and bargained with until she had Scythe’s brothers before her. And she made her last deal.

Jade rubbed at her temples when Skye finished, ‘So… You’re in love with Death?’

‘Technically ‘Death’ is made up of Scythe and his brothers so… partially?’

‘And now you’re doing his job… does that make you Death?’

‘No. Well… Partially.’

Skye bit her lip, waiting for Jade to get angry, or laugh at her, or walk away without another word.

‘I definitely never loved Owen enough to bargain away my soul like that,’ Jade finally said, a tentative smile twitching at her lips, ‘I’m sorry you didn’t feel like you could tell me this before… But I get it, it sounds insane.’

‘But you don’t think I’m insane?’

‘Oh I definitely do. Who gives up a hundred years of their life for a guy? And you’re going to spend all that time singing to worms and skeletons? And won’t you be all old and gross by the time Scythe is finally free? Skye, seriously, you see how this is kind of all glass empty, right?’

Skye grinned, placing the last pomegranate seed on her tongue, ‘Don’t worry, Jade. I’ve been friends with demons for ten years, you don’t think some of them have a bone to pick with Scythe’s brothers?’

‘What does that mean?’

‘It means that I’ve already had a t-shirt made up saying Queen of the Underworld. But, until then, think you can harmonise?’

 

A short story by Holly E. E. Garrow

 

short story – perfect things

him

There’s water in my lungs, but drowning isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
My eyes focus on the ribbon on my wrist; white with yellow flowers, a heart-shaped coffee stain, frayed edges.
I wish I wasn’t dying. I wish I had been a stronger swimmer. I wish I had smiled back at my brother before he left.
I wish I had travelled to America, I wish I had seen the blossoms of Japan, felt the sun of Australia, tasted spices in the Indian air.
I wish I had a chance to find out if I was right about the colour of her eyes.
I wish I knew every cadence of her voice, each freckle on her skin. I wish I had felt her hand in my own, I wish I had kissed her even once.
I am drowning in wishes.

*

her

I’ve loved a boy since I was six years old.
Maybe children can’t fall in love so fast. Maybe it did take years, maybe there was a day when everything changed. All I know is that we met once and from then on I never wanted another.
My Imaginary Boy. That’s what everyone called him. I didn’t mind. He was my secret.
He lives in that little corner of my mind reserved for perfect things; the first star to appear in the sky, a flawless ring of ripples in still water, a daisy with snow-white petals, round and untrodden. I think he smells like earth in the rain, like the colour of moss and sounds like the rustling of paper.

I stand watching the rush of the river I love and hate. There is no sound above the roar of the cascading waterfall, gushing like milk and shattering into droplets of glass. My eyes focus on the green stretch of land above the wet rocks on the other side.
How unfair for the world to be a stone throw away, and yet unreachable.
Sometimes he doesn’t show, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes we stay until the sky turns black. Sometimes all we need is a fleeting moment.
I clutch the edges of my too-long woollen sleeves as I wait for him.
Finally, finally he comes.
Slipping into view like that first star, rippling across the horizon, pale as a daisy petal.
Is it possible for a heart to break and fill at the same time?
His first words roll across the grass to my feet, wrapped around a black rock. I peel away the paper, drinking in the messy scrawl that is more familiar to me than my own handwriting.

When the sun begins to bleed and fall and he is lit up in a fiery red, I know I have to go.
I walk away, looking back as I always do.
I watch as he steps towards the ravine.
He slips into the water as if he’s slipping into a blanket.
I can hear my heart beating in my ears and my eyes refuse to believe what they see even as my feet run back to the river.
I refuse to see him thrashing in the waves that push him towards the waterfall, refuse to fear, refuse to die.
I have known for too long that I will die loving this boy, but we will live first. I will leave this place with him by my side. I will watch silver pour into his dark hair and laughter make tracks in his skin.
I know this as I leap into the cold water.

*

him

Why did I never go to her?
The same reason we don’t look too close at the sun. It is perfect from where we are, unharming and unharmed, beautifully constant. That’s what she is. Blazing and light and there.
And when you find something pure and beautiful in this world, you do everything you can to keep it safe from the very same world that bore it.
Once long ago, I dreamed that we walked through snow, hand in hand, her pulse against my wrist. We dropped like snowflakes and found ourselves encased in a glacier diamond.
My brother smacked a hand over my head when I told him.
‘Go get her, you idiot,’ he shook his head.
Those words circled like vultures in mind, screeching and hissing go get her, go get her, you idiot, you idiot, you idiot. 
I was terrified to lose her, it’s true. But to never find her was what I feared above all else.
So I stepped into the river.

*

her

‘She’s not paying attention.’
‘She’s thinking about Imaginary Boy.’
I bet she starts drooling in a minute.’
‘Shut up,’ I raised my chin and picked up my pace, as if I’d said something that actually would have made my friends shut up. I wasn’t sure whether they believed in my Imaginary Boy or not, but they would gladly tease me either way.
‘Maybe he’s an elf! One of the hidden folk, come to steal our girl away.’
‘He’s perfectly human and that’s all you get to know.’
I wondered sometimes if they felt slighted. I could have introduced them. Taken them with me so they could wave at him across the river, giggling and throwing notes to fill him in with every embarrassing story from my childhood.
But I wanted to keep him all to myself.
I wanted to find him, feel the roughness of his shaved jaw and the softness of his grown-out hair. I wanted to hop on an air plane and lay my head on his shoulder as we watch the world shrink beneath us. I wanted eyes to follow us; admiring eyes, envious eyes, charmed eyes. I wanted to tell the story of how we met and loved and I wanted to document our lives together in a photo album overflowing with adventures.
I also wanted to keep meeting on two sides of a river. I wanted to stay young and broken. I wanted a secret, a story that could never be changed or spoiled.
I wanted and wanted. A creature of yearning that would never be satisfied,  a hungry monster from a fairy tale.

*

him

I fled to the riverside in a mood that felt like grey, rain-full clouds ready to burst.
I don’t remember why, but I would be grateful every day after for whatever terrible moment forced me out the door.
Running like only a child forbidden to run could.
I halted at the rumbling of the waterfall.
I looked across the river to the other side, remembering the one time I had walked across the earth there. The grass is always greener, I’d heard people say.
She was there. My tiny heart fluttered and shivered, a new born bird feeling for the first time.
Golden haired and pretty as the girls painted in books.
I watched her pull a ribbon from her hair and wind it around…. a stone?
She tossed it across the river and I had to run near to the edge to catch it before it fell into the water. I skidded on the wet grass as I caught it in my hand.
I untied the ribbon, white with yellow flowers, and held out the scrap of paper it had secured to the stone.
‘Hello’ it said in messy yellow crayon.
I looked up at her and smiled

*

 

We met under a dying sun.
Just once. One night on the same side of the river.
Both of us fair-haired and fair-eyed and foul-tempered.
The youngest in a crowd of sky-gazers waiting for a little touch of magic to stain the sky.
We had chubby hands that met over a small rock, flat and round and perfect.
Our parents were fascinated by the fact that we lived so close, neighbours if not for the river and waterfall. We were fascinated by each other, two tiny souls finding each other in a vast sea of giants.
We shared a tent of sticks and stolen blankets, delighting in having evaded our parents. We watched the bright green auroras light up each other’s eyes.
One clumsy kiss on the cheek, two jam-coloured blushes, three fingers that clung together the longest.
We fell in love on one side of a river.

A short story by Holly E.E. Garrow

 

Ghost-Girl part 1.

I’m working on a super awesome novel just now so short stories have taken a back seat (although they are always there for me when I want to procrastinate from the writing I’m supposed to be doing). This story, tentatively titled Ghost-Girl, may turn into a novella rather than a ‘short’ story. But I figured it’s been long enough since I shared something creative. This story is all about witches and ghosts, magic, the sea, cats and the struggle to follow an uncertain  heart and pave your own path. 

happy reading!

Svenna was twelve days dead when she was kissed for the first time. It was also the first time in those twelve days that she was glad to be gone from her body. Later, she would imagine those cold, unkissed lips hidden under the earth – insect-bitten, blood-blackened – and she’d thank the heavens that they were far away. Clouds had floated above the sea in hues of ash and pewter and smoke, white waves shattered on black rocks and a lonely, silver-feathered gull had danced in the sky.

And Alice… she was technicolour.

Svenna realized in that moment that in seventeen years of life and twelve days of death, she had never truly seen colour.

Alice had been fourteen years and ten months old when she was kissed for the first time. She’d felt particularly grown-up wandering the halls of her older brother’s house party in heels she’d practised walking in for days and a stolen lipstick called Wild Rose. She’d blushed vividly every time Finn’s guitar-calloused fingers brushed against her arm. That night she was Cool-Grown-Up-Alice, so when two drunk girls dared her to make a move, she did. Finn had held the back of her head, his fingertips brushing against her skull. Stubble scratched at her skin and cheers erupted around them. When they pulled apart, Finn had a smile that gave her butterflies. There was a smudge of Wild Rose on his bottom lip.

Three years later on a cold, grey shore she kissed Svenna and it felt like the first time ever.

                                                                            *

Three days dead

Svenna was dreaming. She was floating on the water as gentle waves rocked her back and forth and licked her limbs. She knew she was dreaming because it wasn’t cold, even though the sun was wintry silver behind the clouds and rain was dissolving into the sea around her. She swam towards the shore. She was dry as she walked onto the sand, but her white-blond hair was damp and laced with seaweed. The skin on her fingertips was soft and crinkled. She tried to make shapes in the sand with her toe but the ground remained unscathed. She made her way to the crooked stone steps leading away from the beach, where a small shrine had appeared. Stuffed toys nestled between pink and white daisies and a framed photograph sat at the centre. She wiped the raindrops across the glass as she looked into eyes that belonged to her. She felt almost sad and almost scared, but it was a dream after all. She touched the plastic nose of a stuffed bear and waited to wake up.

Alice’s elbow was sticking out of a car window and the wind, cold and carrying salt from the sea, was roaring at her. Finn’s EP was playing full blast and rain splattered onto her lap. Cerulean-dyed hair lay plaited over her shoulder, dotted with daisy clips. Her lips were painted Ruby Chaos.
‘It’s freezing, Al, close the window,’ Finn shouted over the wind and music.
He had stuck around since that first clumsy kiss, despite the threat of Alice’s brother’s fist to his face. He had long brown hair that he tied up in a bun and leather cords that snaked around his wrists. He made Alice a crude bracelet out of his old guitar strings and winked at her when he played in pubs. She was lucky, lucky, lucky and she wanted very much to be in love with him.
She twirled her necklace around her fingers as she peered at the rain-heavy clouds.
‘Al, the window!’ Finn pinched her arm and she flicked his in return before winding the window up.
‘How long ‘til we’re there?’ Alice arched her back and stretched her arms as far as she could in the cramped space, ‘I need to move. And breathe.’
‘We’re almost there.’
Every winter Finn’s aunt went south with the birds and left behind two cats and five plants waiting for their arrival.

The house was tucked behind a roughly hewn stone wall that kept the sea at bay. Shells of different shapes and shades were arranged around the walls of the house and a timeworn little anchor served as a door knocker. As soon as they opened the door, a small cat with more fur than body appeared at their feet, twining through their legs and purring. Alice scooped the cat into her arms and scratched her soft ears as she walked in and out of each room, leaving Finn to drag their bags into the bedroom upstairs. She wandered into a cosy living room where she found a white shorthair cat with a patch of black fur across one eye, stretched out across the sofa, his paws resting on an envelope addressing Finn and Alice in large cursive handwriting.  There was also a generous handful of ten pound notes stuffed into the envelope. Alice whistled as she counted them out and ran upstairs to show Finn.
‘What’s all this?’ Finn gestured to her open suitcase. University prospectuses had been jammed in on top of her clothes, the pages dog-eared and covered in scribbled post-its.
‘My brother must have packed them before we left,’ Alice picked up the nearest one, flicking through the pages, ‘thanks for going through my stuff like I didn’t ask.’
‘I was looking for my shirt,’ Finn rolled his eyes, ‘I thought we were travelling next year, you didn’t tell him?’
Alice sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, the springs creaking and groaning as she did. Her plans had involved this little trip to the sea and nothing further. Her future was shrouded in a mist that she just had to walk through one step at a time.

Finn wanted to travel from country to country, busking with his guitar and selling his CDs with her by his side. He insisted that travelling would be good for her, for them; to see the world together.
Her brother, on the other hand, was what everyone called responsible.  The responsible thing to do was go to University, like him. His was the voice of reason, as it always had been, and reason had only wanted to talk about what universities she would like and what she should study. The world would still be there in four years.
But it was her father’s hopes for her that felt like weights dropping into her stomach. It was he that she feared disappointing, and expected to the most. She twisted the chain of her necklace around her fingers as she thought about what he wanted.
‘It doesn’t matter where you go, Alice,’ her father had said to her before she’d left, ‘because you have magic, in your blood and in your bones. All that matters is that you learn what that means.’
As a child, she had delighted in this idea, spending hours trying to prove that she had magical powers. It earned her several unpleasant nicknames and few friends. Her father was an anthropologist with a reputation for eccentricity. He studied magic in all its practices; the necromancers, alchemists and the mages. From the Yukaghir of Serbia to the Voodoo Priestesses of Haiti to the Wiccan neighbours that he had tea with every month. He had fallen in love with a witch and he had loved her as he watched her die and Alice had taken her first breath. She had decided that his unwavering conviction about her and her magic was nothing more than a wish, a hope, a dream.

And those were her choices.
The romantic.
The responsible.
The impossible.

 

 

identity

I want to bring up something that I’m sure a lot of creative people struggle with, especially when they’re just starting out.

Maybe you’re a writer, or an actor, an artist, a musician. You know your passion and you work hard at it. But you still have rent and bills and food and clothes to pay for. So you get a job to support yourself, as a shop assistant or a waiter or something like that.

When you meet new people, one question always comes up; ‘So what do you do?’

(Sometimes the question is worded more like; ‘Who are you?’

That’s even harder to answer.)

Do you tell them the day-job you tolerate to survive? Or do you tell them what you really do, what you really are, what you dream and work on.

There are plenty of people that will love to hear about the latter. They’ll be supportive and interested. But, in my experience, there are many more who don’t think like that. These people want to know how you bring in the money, what your realistic, driven career ambitions are, not your ‘hobbies’.

The other day I met someone and when they asked me the dreaded ‘so what do you do?’ I answered as I always do.

‘I’m a writer’

‘Oh. So, a journalist? Do you write for a newspaper?’

‘No, I mostly write fiction. I’m just starting out but I’m working on some stories that I’m really excited about.’

‘Oh, that’s nice. Have you thought about getting a job at a newspaper?’

‘No.’

And here comes the worst part, the one thing I can’t stand to have people say to anyone

‘And what will you do if that doesn’t work out?’

UGH.

Top tip: when you’re talking to someone about their passion, DO NOT ask them about plan B, don’t question their aspirations or wonder why they haven’t got a ‘real job’.

People like to hear things like ‘I’m a doctor’, ‘I’m a lawyer’, ‘I’m a teacher’. They might even be happier hearing ‘I’m a shop assistant’, ‘I’m a waitress’.

But here’s the thing. Not everyone identifies as their job. I am not my day-job, I am the thing that drives my every step. I am a writer, regardless of where my publications are or how much money it brings me.

I know that this will ring true for every struggling creative out there, but I think it will also feel familiar to others. You might have a successful career but love volunteering at the animal shelter more, or directing short films in your spare time that make you prouder than you’ve ever been. Your passions and dreams are the most important, beautiful things.

And getting to know someone’s passions tells you a lot more about them.
So, can we all just stop assuming that someone’s identity is directly tied to their job?

You know what else makes up my identity? Being a Gryffindor with aspects of Ravenclaw, the music I practice, the jewellery I like to wear, the fact that I can’t play a board game and wish I could live under the sea. I identify as a witch, a warrior, a lost-girl of Neverland.

You know what has never been an important part of my identity? Every damn job I’ve ever worked in my life.

Does the man known as Bruce Wayne identify as a playboy millionaire?  No, he’s freakin’ Batman.

I guess, to conclude, you’re all beautiful, amazing people and I believe in you. Do what you love and love what you do, no matter what.

happy reading, happy living

x

5306096406191

WoMentoring

Last year I was so, so lucky to be mentored by the wonderful Kirsty Logan through the WoMentoring project. It was such a special experience and it just so happens that Kirsty is now looking for new mentees!

WoMentoring is all about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Where successful literary women help out women with writing aspirations – and is there really anything better than some girl-on-girl encouragement? It’s an incredible project and all of the women involved deserve so much gratitude. Did I also mention that it’s absolutely free?

I applied after a friend of mine sent me the link to the website because she knew how much I love Kirsty Logan’s writing and I was quite literally skipping with joy when I got an e-mail from her saying I’d been chosen as her mentee!
For most mentors, about 3 sessions are arranged which can be face-to-face, skype, emails, you choose! You can also spread them out as much as you want. Personally, I was so excited to soak up all the advice that I arranged the sessions monthly.

Kirsty is so helpful and lovely. As a pretty new writer, I needed help with, well, pretty much everything! Kirsty gave me amazingly helpful exercises to try out to help get my writing started or shake up perspective, read through my work to help me improve it and answered all of my questions about writing, routine, publishing, agents…

By the end of our sessions, I was far more focused on my work, my writing and editing had improved, and I was more confident than ever in my chosen path.

The application is simple, I submitted an extract of my most recent NaNoWriMo and then a cover letter explaining why I’d benefit from mentoring. Simple, but I recommend taking the time to really work on it!

If you’re dreaming of being a writer and really need a helping hand, I can’t recommend this enough!

And wherever you are in your writing, Kirsty offers mentoring, editing, and wonderful advice. Check it all out here.

And You can check out the work of some of her incredibly talented recent mentees on her blog here!

Thank you WoMentoring, and thank you Kirsty Logan!

happy reading!

Holly 

music : Chocolate Digestives (and le Berceuse de Champignons)

Here’s something a little different today!

Recently I’ve gotten back into music composition, something I find both amazingly fun and crazy difficult! The last time I finished any composition that I was happy with was a very, very long time ago. Maybe 2009, 2010? Yep!

My method of composing is a lot like my method of writing, which involves a hell of a lot of procrastination. In fact, throwing myself into the music is really just a procrastination from writing.

But anyway, I thought I’d share those long-ago pieces here.

This first one is something a I wrote for my wonderful friend, Rowena. You might be thinking that the title is a bit weird, but that’s how friends are; full of weird inside jokes and references. Although, I have to say, I’m not sure I remember why mushrooms. 

So here it is. Pop some tea on, get your chocolate digestives, listen as you read something lovely.

 

short-story : red, white and silver

There were still stitches on her chest, black thorns twisting over her heart. She ran a finger over the crude threads as she looked at the thin, snowy dress waiting for her and hoped that the stitches wouldn’t show beneath it.
Bring me her heart, her stepmother had said.
And so they had.
Whatever beat in her chest now was different. She could feel it, hear it, all the time; each thump and pulse, the constant thud.
She slipped into the dress and swept her hair over her shoulder, falling like an ink-spill down her chest.
Bring me her heart.
She wondered what her stepmother had done with it. Was it now entombed in a trinket box, drained and dried and dead? Had she tossed it straight into the fire and scattered the ashes in the snow? She couldn’t shake the image of her stepmother sitting at the table, red hands and bloodied chin, sinking her lovely white teeth into her heart.
The doctor opened the door with a single sharp knock. He held out a length of red chiffon and a cream lace mask. She took them without a word and turned to the cracked, rusted mirror in the corner. She tied the silk ribbons of the mask, adjusting it around her dark eyes and draped the veil over her head, turning the world crimson.

The masquerade had been going on for hours by the time she arrived. Snow kissed her skin, the flakes clinging to her bare arms. She wore slippers of ice, clear as glass, and her veil brushed against her bottom lip.
She twirled through the crowds and squinted at the masked faces. Hands grabbed at her, eager to touch her impossibly milk-white skin, or kiss her rose-petal lips. She allowed strangers to carry her partner-to-partner across the ballroom floor.
When the music died, all heads turned the same way.
He paused in the doorway, surveying the room. He wore no mask but his head was adorned with a silver-haired headdress. The black eyes of the wolf flashed in the candlelight, its intimidating stare no match for the prince in its gaping jaw.
She was the last to bow, pushing back her veil and looking into his eyes before lowering her head.
The musicians picked up their instruments and the dancers reached for each other.
They parted for the prince as he stalked across the room. She was still, waiting. She took his hand with a smile as he pulled her into the dance.
He is called the Wolf for a reason, they had told her, Make him want you. Make it exciting. Make it a hunt.
So they danced, and danced, and danced, until he raised a hand to her mask and she spun out of his arms. She ran, her head dizzy but her steps graceful.
Outside, the moon was a thin sliver and the stars were sparse.
She paused on the stairs and stamped her foot. The ice slipper shattered and she hissed as splinters sliced her skin. Blood trickled onto the steps and she limped on, leaving a trail of bloodied footsteps in the snow.

The Wolf underestimated her. She was fast and had led him into the shadows. He could taste her blood in the air, sharp and sweet. He could hear her heart, beating without fear.
He forgot everything but her.

Bring me her heart, she had said.
She couldn’t help but lick her lips when it had been brought to her, wrapped in reddened leaves and still dripping blood.
Her stepdaughter’s heart was far more delicious than any before.
She didn’t know that they had a plan. She didn’t know that her stepdaughter had been saved and remade. When the prince came to her home, she didn’t notice the weapon he brought.
She watched the blood pulse in his veins over dinner.
She slipped into his room at the first chime of midnight.
The Wolf lay under the sheets, the eyes and ears of the headdress resting on the pillow.
She leaned in, fingernails sharpened and hunger in her eyes.
A hand gripped her throat and pulled her back.
She writhed and scratched and licked the blood from her fingernails.
She stilled, the taste of the prince’s blood on her tongue.
If she was in the prince’s arms…
The wolf in the sheets moved and stood before her.
The last chime of midnight echoed and her stepdaughter blinked at her from beneath the headdress, moonlight glinting in the dagger in her hand.

A short-story written by H.E.E. Garrow

happy reading

x

(featured image found on https://uk.pinterest.com/photogrist)