Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A Vote of Confidence by Irene Justice A Short Story

A Vote of Confidence
By Irene Justice

Prompt: "It's not you, it's me."

“It’s nothing personal,” he mumbled.  “It’s not you, it’s me” he threw in there, and then turned to laugh with his buddies.  Why did I have to like him so much?  Why did I have to listen to Laura and drink the liquid courage to go up to Miguel and ask him out?  His dark cornrows were absolutely perfectly braided back and his smile was as pearly white as ever, that’s why.  I had been in love with him since he first came to our high school last year, late in the senior year, another reason why.  He and I both went to our local university and signed up for the same Civics class, yet another reason why.  Why did he have to be my crush and why did I have to ruin my freshman year in college by asking him out, when I obviously was not his type?   “Hey, Jane?” he asked, after I had turned away in humiliation.  “This doesn’t affect our friendship though, right?  You’re still going to help me with my Civics paper, right?”
            “Oh of course and forget I said anything.” The sad part was I really did want to stay friends with him.  Even after I turned back to keep walking, and I could hear Miguel and his buddies continuing to laugh.  I knew I was better than this.  I knew I deserved better than this.  I kept walking to the back of the restaurant towards the table that Laura and I had been sitting at, where she was still waiting.  Thank God it was out of Miguel’s sight. Nonetheless, as soon as I sat down and slid into the booth, I dropped my head into my arms; my dry, naturally ugly and wavy, chestnut hair fell around my face. 
            “Oh Jane, I’m sorry.  How bad was it?” she whispered.
            I lifted my head up with a crease in my eyebrows and my eyes filled with water.  My bottom lip slowly quivered just enough to let Laura know that if I talked about it, the waterworks would surely come. 
            “Jane don’t worry about that loser!  You deserve so much better than him.  Sure, he’s tall, dark, and damn fine…” she started.
“Laura!” I interrupted.  “Not helping here.” I finished in a whispered, drained voice.
            “I’m the worst friend ever.  Jane don’t worry about him, you totally missed out on a bad egg if you ask me.  If this is how he treats someone who has helped him with multiple papers, study for quizzes, and even asks her to give up her best friend as a project buddy to partner with him, then I don’t even want to know what kind of boyfriend he would’ve been to you.” She spewed.
            “Yeah” I said breathlessly.  “You’re right, I know you are.  It’s just, it’s just that the first time I have ever been brave enough to ask a guy out, ever, not only does he say no, he basically laughed in my face.” I stated. “I don’t think I can ever do that again, Laura. That seriously killed me, and I have to still see him Friday at his house for his paper.” I added.
            “Wait, what? You’re still going to help him? Are you nuts? Jane! You cannot let that man laugh at you in front of his friends, and then still be ridiculous enough to go and help with, I mean basically do, his paper for him!” She yelled.  I was pretty sure the whole restaurant had heard this part of our conversation.  I held my breath, eyes wide in disbelief and got up to peer around the corner wall.  Thank goodness Miguel and his friends had left.  I didn’t think this situation could have gotten any worse. 
            Of course that was before Friday night came and it was nearing 7:00 p.m. and I had to head over to Miguel’s house.  I pulled up in front of his house and turned off the ignition.  It was a humid night in July, one of the worst this month and I decided to wear a dress to cool down, which I normally didn’t do. I wore a rather fitting black dress but kept my gray and white Converse on to dial it back down.  I was by no means in the mood to feel sexy and my messy bun and glasses told anyone that.  I knocked on the large red door and could see through the side windows that someone was coming. I stood up and straightened my head so it didn’t look like I was snooping.
            “Ah Jane. How are you tonight, little lady?” Miguel’s dad inquired.  He was handsome for an older man, his gray hair only showing on the side of dark hair and only a little. 
            “I’m well Mr. Daniels, thank you.” I said smiling as I slid my glasses up the bridge of my nose.
He did his best Denzel voice when he invited me in, “Good, good.  Now you have a seat right here and I’ll go get that dumbfounded boy of mine.”  He smiled a half quirky smile, trying to imitate Denzel even further.
            “Thank you, Mr. Daniels. Your impressions get better and better every time.”  I said sweetly, hopefully believable.  Mr. Daniels was the best, always trying to make me smile.  He left me in the living room, where there were pictures of Miguel everywhere; Miguel with his football team, Miguel with his football trophies, Miguel catching a hike during a football game.  I’ve seen these pictures one too many times and could tell anyone exactly what color shirts Miguel was wearing in each of them, and what his number was on his football jersey. It was 13, by the way; Miguel always liked 13 because most people were scared of it.  Finally, after a few minutes of sitting awkwardly on the corner cushion of the black leather couch, Miguel came up from the basement. 
            “Oh, hey… Jane.  Man, I feel like an ass right now, because I completely forgot that we were supposed to get together tonight for that paper.  I should’ve texted you, but I got so um, swept away… in the book I was reading.” He stuttered a bit, glancing down at the carpet and not maintaining eye contact. 
            “Oh no worries, what book?” I asked earnestly.  He had never mentioned reading a book before.  I immediately imagined him reading Jane Eyre or Jane Austen, fulfilling the fantasy of reading the classics together, sitting by a fireplace with a soft flannel blanket draped across the both of us but then I came back from my day dream as I realized this was Miguel I was talking to and he was most definitely lying.
            “Oh um, well, I guess it was more like an article not an actual book.” he continued.  “You’d be surprised what kinds of intelligent things are on Facebook.” he said surely, confident in his ability to read a full article on Facebook.  “It was about how this one school didn’t have a football team and this kid, I can’t remember his name, started a petition and got the whole town to sign it, in order to get a football team for the school and he raised the money they needed for all of the equipment and stuff.”  Of course there were some articles on Facebook or any social media platform that held real merit or factual evidence but this, coming from Miguel, I suppose was an important issue, at least it was to him.
            “Yeah of course, there’s a lot on there, on Facebook I mean.”  I replied, hoping I didn’t sound arrogant.  I really was impressed that he read anything at all.  During our study lessons, he refused to read anything at all, always had an excuse.  He stood there on the other side of the room with his hands in the pockets of his black shorts, his white t-shirt highlighting his upper chest and triceps and then I noticed him pursing his lips and glancing around the room and then back at me as if he were waiting for something else. Duh!  He wanted me to leave now, of course he did.  “Oh, I’m sorry.”  I got up, the skin from my thighs peeling off of the furniture, making an embarrassing sound, my eye went wide and I hoped he wouldn’t make this situation any worse than it already was for me.  “Ok, should we reschedule then?” I asked, not wanting to reschedule at all.  He started but was cut short when we both heard the crash.  He didn’t move.  He stared right at me, squinting, trying to figure out whether I heard the sound as well.  Then I heard laughter from the basement, too - He definitely had friends over. Reading an article, right.
            “So, I was thinking maybe you could do like a rough draft of the paper for me, like before, and then I can really get a good idea on how to write this paper on equality?  I really want to do justice to this assignment, ya know?” he slyly asked, nodding his head in a yes motion, which somehow hypnotized me into nodding yes, too. “You really are so smart and I know with your help I’ll really nail this assignment.  Again, I’m sorry about tonight though.  Maybe we can get together Monday after school to go over the draft.  Alright, I’ll see you Monday?  Thanks Jane, you’re the best.”  He said, rushing his explanation so he could turn on his heels and run back down the basement stairs, this time I could hear him shushing the kids but unable to stifle his own laughter as well.  I even heard a kid ask as I walked to the front door “And she said yes?  Oh man Miguel, she’s got it bad for you!” and they all started laughing again as I pulled the door closed behind me, stepping out into the humid, empty darkness of this July night.
            Why was I so lame?  Why did I have to be such a dork and have no spine at all?  I hated myself in this moment.  I really did.  My eyes burned again and I bit my lower lip to stop myself from crying… again and headed towards my car.  I put my key in the ignition and turned it, ready to go home, but fate wasn’t having it; the car didn’t start. 
“Why have you abandoned me?!” I yelled asking to no one and nothing in particular. I got of my car and turned to face it. I kicked it. Nothing happened other than my big toe went a little numb.  I lived 10 minutes driving to Miguel’s house, so the walk back would take about 30 maybe, and then I would still have to figure out how to get my car out from in front of his house before Miguel or his friends came outside.  I could imagine them now, “Damn, Miguel! You’ve got her wrapped!”  “She’s a stalker!” “Miguel, get a restraining order!”  I had to get my car out of here. 
            I called my dad and of course got no answer.  It was a Friday night and he and my step-mom were out doing karaoke for sure.  I called Laura to see if her dad could help too, and nothing.  I glanced up at the big red door.  It stood out more now from the street than standing up close and in front of it.  The porch light lit the door with a yellow hue, which seemed to make it more of a blood orange red, rather than a fresh strawberry.  I thought of the red balloon from Stephen King’s “It”, then.  I thought of my death if I were I to go back up to the door and ask Mr. Daniels if he could help. He was a good man - Not only would he help me, but he would make Miguel come up and help me, too.  No, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t sign my own death certificate, just starting my first year of college.  I should’ve never come here.  I should’ve never asked Miguel out.  There’s a lot of things I regret in this moment.
            I pulled out my phone and did what I thought any normal girl my age, in my situation, would do; I YouTube’d how to start my 1999 Chevrolet Cobalt when the ignition wouldn’t start. I got back in the car and skimmed through a few videos, starting them and then stopping when the person would ramble too much about pointless nonsense.  YouTube was great when the person got to the point, being a free site and all.  I finally got to the part of making sure the wires were connected to the battery the way they should be, according to Matt who was a 55 year old mechanic. I got out and lifted the hood of my car, strands of my hair falling from the makeshift bun I had fixed right before leaving the house.  I pushed my glasses up my nose again and used my phone as a flash light.  I noticed one of the wires loose just like Matt had indicated and tightened it with a small toolkit my dad had put in my trunk. 
            “Thank you dad,” I whispered to the night sky, my only companion in all of this torment.
            “Hmm,” a man’s voice startled me, and I jumped, hitting my head on the hood of the car.  I reached up, rubbing the Everest-sized bump beginning to form.  “Jeeze, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”  He said and I turned to see the voice materialize into a man.  This guy was around my age, maybe a few years older, with brown hair and a light stubble, and smiled at me, maybe pitying me, but I couldn’t really be sure. I had had just about enough embarrassment for one night.
            His red flannel shirt, moved with the breeze opening to show off his plain grey t-shirt underneath.  He looked so laid back with his worn, tan messenger bag strap laid diagonally across his chest, dark blue jeans and flip flops.  I met his dark brown eyes, as he slowly stepped towards me, holding out his hand for me to shake.  He smiled then, a devilishly handsome smile, reminding me of one of the protagonists of The Wild Montana Rescue series written by Susan May Warren that I was recommended earlier this year.  I felt heat rise to my cheeks and I tried to glance away, but felt my gaze drawn back to those metallic gray eyes and I found it nearly impossible to look away.
“I’d offer you some help, but it kind of looks like you know exactly what you’re doing.”  He said, stepping back.  He brought his hand up to his eyebrow, seemingly trying to think of what to say or how to say it.  “Listen, do you maybe want to come out with me tonight?  I know you don’t know me, my name’s Ben by the way,”  he added with a dorky but cute wave, “but I mean if you’d like, I’m heading to, well I’m actually heading to a reading of an author I’ve never read before.”  He stood confident and steadfast and was so interested in me.  This was unexpected for sure.  I had come here originally to do Miguel’s paper for him, and hoped that I would get to sit next to him and smell his sweet cologne that he always had on and instead I stood out front of Miguel’s house, fixing my own car, and talking to a handsome stranger.
My mouth started to open and I was ready to answer when a door opened and laughter fell out of the house behind me.  I turned to see Miguel and his two buddies from the diner earlier, come stumbling down the steps, along with a couple of girls that I had seen at school, though I didn’t know their names.  They stopped laughing once they reached the end of the sidewalk and spotted me with the hood up on my car and me standing with my red oil rag, crunched up in between my pale fingers.  Miguel’s eyes went past me to Ben’s and he nodded and then looked back to me.
“Jane, are you ok?” he asked, “Do you need any help?” truly seeming concerned.
“I don’t, thanks.”  I gestured back to Ben who was now behind me and to the left a little, “Ben actually walked up right as I finished up.”  Miguel seemed unimpressed but nodded anyway. 
“Jane I was just saying to the guys, that you should come and hang with us tonight.  Right, Mark? Ty?  C’mon we can talk about stuff at the diner over some steaks.”  He genuinely seemed to want me to come with him, but why?  Why now?  He blew me off only a little while ago in his living room, making fun of my desperation with his friends before I was even able to make it fully out of his house.  Why now did he want me to come out with him?  He glanced at Ben again whom, I couldn’t believe was still standing there behind me. 
“Jane, I should probably…” Ben started and I turned quickly and smiled.
“Right, I’m right behind you. Let me just make sure she’s good to go.”  I saw Ben’s face immediately light up and my heart filled with excitement and I almost couldn’t hold the butterflies that were fluttering around in my stomach.  I got in, said a quick prayer, turned the key, and my car started.  I smiled and looked up and whispered, “Thank you”.  I got out, closed the hood and gave a thumbs-up to Ben, who smiled and winked at me, then went to get in and start his truck.  I looked back over to Miguel, who seemed to be in shock that I just ignored him.  I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, and started to get back into my car, until he yelled out to me.
“Jane, you don’t even know him.  It’s me you asked out, remember?” he asked taken aback by my sudden lack of self-esteem.  I thought about it for only a moment longer and then set my jaw and raised my two hands slightly off the car door and roof, and slid into my seat.  I leaned over the passenger seat as I slowly pulled up in front of the group.
“I’m sorry Miguel, but you implied you weren’t interested and Ben seems to be, so...  It’s nothing personal you know.  Oh, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I’ll probably be busy Monday after school too.  I guess you’ll have to do your own assignment this time.”  I watched as Miguel’s mouth opened and his friends all stared with bewildered looks on their faces.  I smiled and pulled out from the sidewalk to make a U-turn, wheels slightly squealing as I turned and then beeped and waved at Miguel and his friends.  With my head clear and my heart pounding, I followed Ben down the street, into a night full of possibilities.

Life, Altered by Irene Justice A Short Story

Life, Altered
By Irene Justice

Prompt: You walk into your job and find a secret, coded note pinned to your desk. What do you do next?

~Chapter 1~

Another Monday, another day of my life down the drain.  Bland beige walls lined the outer office where my 6x6 cubicle sat, no pictures, no windows, just beige. The same computer that an innumerable amount of people who have gone and left this Hellhole over the years have used, still in the same spot, outlined by years of dust.  I surely wasn’t going to clean it.  My anonymous plant grew to the side of the pot, yearning, dying for sunlight that it would never reach; only the bright incandescent LED lights feed it enough energy to sustain its also meaningless life.
            I reach for my phone, because the red blazing light tells me there are voicemails.  None that I care about of course, but my boss cares enough about these voicemails that if I don’t check them, my paycheck will be yanked back so hard that my head will spin; he said this to me himself. I always see this red light.  It haunts my dreams and screams to me that I am nothing but a message taker, an appointment setter, a blob of a human girl with no real life goals.
            I type in my access code and then my password, one hard plastic button at a time and listen to the one new voicemail message that I have. A broadcast message from the school, wishing everyone a great holiday weekend and remember to turn off all systems to save energy.  Part of me wants to take my phone receiver and smash it as hard as I can into my computer monitor and watch as I create my own fireworks of broken pieces and electric currents that fight for survival as I bring complete and utter death to it. The other part of me, the sensible part of me that knows I need this pitiful job, deletes the message by pressing seven and pound and lightly hang up my phone.  I rest my head into my hands, my dry elbows pressing down into this cheaply made desk.  I push my hair behind me and my bangs from my face, and only then do I notice the half-folded sheet of paper pinned to my desk, nothing written on the outside of the folded page, and no ink bleeding through the white paper either.
            A red plastic thumbtack stuck out.  My first thought is it’s from my boss.  I don’t know why the shmuck would just stick it to my desk with a thumbtack, but I didn’t know why he did half the stuff that he did.  My second thought is that it could be my suicide note, waiting for me to just fill it out, sign it, and die.
            I have to use more than just my thumb and index finger to pull out the thumb tack, though.  It was in there more than it looked, like a splinter that you think you have every time you pinch, only to pull away and see you never had it all.  I pick up the paper with both hands and hold my breath as I open the folded sheet and begin to read.  It’s a list of numbers.  Well, that’s just wonderful.  Who the Hell leaves a folded piece of paper tacked to someone’s desk with a list of numbers in it and doesn’t tell the person what it’s for? The list was horizontal, with dots and dashes in addition to the numbers. I stare at the numbers and try to think, try to make sense of them. 35.2258-80.8528-59.2631-158.5578. Then I see in the top right hand corner a stamp.  Not a stamp with ink but just an indented stamp of some symbol with a twist and lines.  Like a curvy rose stem with spikes on the side. Well, what I did next is what I thought anyone in my position would do - I Googled it.

~Chapter 2~

            The search brought up a calculator.  Great, Google thought I needed help with math.  I usually do, so I don’t want to be too angry at the soulless software.  Why couldn’t I think better about this?  Years of mind numbing office work, plugging in useless data that meant absolutely nothing to me has eaten away at my brain cells, leaving dust and cobwebs and neurons that cease to fire any longer.  I grab my Life Water bottle with one of my hands; I’ve reused this bottle more times than I can count now.  I can’t justify constantly spending more than $2.00 on one bottle of water when you can get a 24 pack from the grocery store for $4.00, or for that matter if you live in a clean enough place, which I don’t, you can get water for free from the nearest river or spring.  Twisting off the black cap, I slowly raise the bottle to my lips and take a swig of the lukewarm water that’s been stagnant now for the 30 minutes I’ve been here.  I can taste the metal in the water from our so called filtered water fountain in the hall.
            I break up the numbers into pairs and enter them into Google again.  I don’t type my normal 70 wpm; I don’t want to accidentally get a number wrong.  One by one, I type in the numbers, decimal points, and then the following numbers.  Google brings me to a page for a bank’s location.  Latitude and longitude coordinates?  My freshman geography professor would be very disappointed that I didn’t recognize these to be coordinates right off the bat, but the man was in his 70’s back then, and long in the grave by now, rotting and giving his life back to the Earth, so what did I care about his opinions?
            I type in the second set of numbers and an airport’s location is on the screen.  A bank and an airport.  Was this for real?  Someone found my desk, Ly Matthews’ desk, and pinned coordinates to a bank and an airport without any explanation at all.  I call bullshit. 

~Chapter 3~
            Not bothering to ask my boss if it was his note, I double click my outlook and I type my boss a quick email - 

                                    I vomited in the bathroom. I’m going to go back home and lay down.

            I haven’t called out of work in a while, today seemed like as good a day if any to play hooky.  After jotting down the addresses with my blue Z-Grip pen, I quickly shut down my computer, grab my used water bottle and purse and head out into the sweltering heat of Maryland’s stagnant and humid summer.  My black Chevrolet sizzled as I came up along the side and a wave of heat spewed out as I opened the driver door.  Wasting no time at all, I sat down on the black cloth seats and winced as my bare, pasty legs brushed the black imitation leather on the edges of my seat; not a great day to wear a pencil skirt, though it looked so good with my new white blouse, and I needed something to make me happy today.
            I yank down the sun visor that did absolutely nothing in the efforts of keeping my car cool and shove it through the two front seats into the abyss that is the back seat.  After plugging in the address to the bank in my GPS, I head out of the campus and speed through every stoplight until I reach my destination. A plain Bank of America sat alongside 6th street.  I must be nuts for leaving work to come to a bank with nothing in my hands and even still something draws me out of my car.  The black security guard opens the door and holds it for me.
            “Here you are ma’am.”  he said so politely.
            “Thank you” I said and smiled as best I could.  There I stood in the lobby while customers waited in multiple lines, to reach the number of different tellers at the long counter-like desk that spanned the length of the room. Men and women of all ages and even a few young children that looked too young to be in school, stood patiently, waiting for the magic word, “Next”, to be called aloud. I stood in the back of the lobby just right of the door and wondered why the Hell I acted on such a random impulse.  Maybe I hate my life so much, that I just don’t care about the repercussions of my actions any longer.  And though part of that was true, I knew I couldn’t afford to act this insane every day or my bills wouldn’t be paid.  My cat would have nowhere to live and would wind up back in the shelter and this time on death’s door, because she was 4 years old and hissed at anyone that wasn’t me.  Little bitch, no one would want her.  I loved her of course and she loved me, and she was all I had but that wouldn’t save her from the deadly injection that awaited her if I were to become homeless.
            I held my keys by my pinky and grabbed ahold of the edges of the paper with both hands, scanning the endless white that seemed to hold nothing. Another security officer, this time a Hispanic man, with a golden nametag that read “Gomez” in bold, walked up to me.  He was an older man; no less than in his 60’s with a greying mustache and a light brown hand that reached up to my arm.  A welcoming smile was on his face.
            “Can I help you, Miss?” He asked curiously and pleasantly enough.
            “I, um, I’m not sure.” I stuttered, showing him my paper. “I got to work today and this note was pinned to my desk.  I typed the numbers into Google and nothing. There’s also this seal or stamp-” The guard took the paper and led me to the side of the room, cutting me off mid-sentence.  He seemed to be searching and feeling for the stamp.
            “Don’t you worry ma’am, I’ll have the safe deposit box ready for you in a moment. Would you like any water while you wait?” He asked as he backed up into another security guard, who immediately nodded and swiftly turned on his heels to head to the back of the bank lobby.  A safe deposit box?  How would he know that by a list of numbers and stamp?
            “What’s going on?” I demanded. The guard ignored me and stared at the back entrance until the other officer poked his head back around and nodded. 
            “If you’ll come with me ma’am, the deposit box is ready for you now.” He rested his fingers just slightly on my forearm to guide me to the back doorway. As soon as the door closed behind me, I felt something hard hit me right behind the ear, and then darkness devoured me whole.
~Chapter 4~
            My head throbbed and my eyelids felt like they each had weights hanging off of them, making it seem impossible to open them.  The last thing I remembered was walking into the back room at the bank.  Where was I now?  I reached back to the source of the pain and pulled two fingers away, wet with crimson blood.  I was hit and brought here.  Though, where was here, exactly?  I slowly lifted my body to see that I was lying down across 4 small bucket seats. In front of me were more of the same seats, and to the side of me also.  I was on a plane.  We weren’t flying, though.  The other coordinates, I thought to myself, were to an airport, but why knock me out and bring me here?  What the Hell did I get myself into?  I peered over the rows of seats and saw no one; maybe I could make my way to the door before anyone caught me. 
Then a man walked backwards into the plane, pulling and locking the door in front of him. He turned and headed in my direction.  I ducked my head down and slowly slid onto the narrow patch of floor in between the seats.  Pursing my lips and breathing in and out as quietly as I could without any noise.  As soon as I saw his feet a few seats in front of me, I pushed myself up and threw my entire body onto him, throwing us both into the bucket seats on the right side of the plane. I dug and scratched and screamed and cried.
I wasn’t going down without a fight.  I got off of him and ran for the door.  Once the man collected himself, he got up, came after me and then stopped just short of where I was at the door, making me freeze in my tracks.  His eye lids had a deep slant that highlighted the golden brown in his eyes, making his intense stare impossible to look away from.  I couldn’t move.  He didn’t even try to stop me and I had to know why. 
“You are Ly, yes?”
I stayed quiet and regarded my captor.
“I know you’re scared but you don’t have to be.  I know everything about you, Ly Mathews.  I knew your dad.”
~Chapter 5~
He took a few steps back and leaned against the seats behind him. 
            “When you were about 11 years old, your father came home from a business trip.  He brought home with him, an artifact.  It was small and made out of wood.  It fit in the palm of his hand.  Did he give this to you? Do you remember this piece at all, Ly?”
I stared in bewilderment. I’ve been hit and kidnapped, and I’m being asked about a toy that my father brought home from a business trip?  How did he know my dad?  Judging from his appearance, he had to have been a kid when my dad died, just like I was.  The plane’s engine started then, stopping my thoughts short. It was loud and thundering, like a roar rumbling in a lion’s belly, fighting to be released, to scare off an enemy, and it made me jump. I stood stunned, the noise in the air deafened me, and my body felt numb.  The whites in my knuckles regained color as I loosened my grip on the door handle. My heart beat steadied and I was finally able to take a breath and stare my captor straight in the eye.
            “Why would I tell you anything? You knocked me out and kidnapped me.  I don’t usually cooperate with criminals.”
“No, I got you away from the men who hurt you.  I’ve been in their shadows.  I knew they’d get to you before me; they have more resources, but they want that artifact, and they want you dead after they get it.”
“Why me?  I didn’t do anything but find a stupid note on my desk when I got to work today.  I don’t know anything about any artifact.  My father brought home toys for me whenever he came home. Just toys.”
He studied me for a moment, deciphering my story, picking it apart and analyzing it for truth, or fragments of it. 
“Ly, that note was put there by the guys at the bank, their organization, to draw you out and collect the artifact.  They sell things on the Black Market and will do whatever it takes to retrieve that item. Your father brought home a piece of history that holds a lot of power and if it winds up in the wrong hands…” He ran his fingers through his dark hair and cursed under his breath.  He was so young to be mixed up in this mess. I was so young.  He was only a few years older than me, if that.  Did my dad steal something from him?  Could it have been worth that much money?  How was I certain he didn’t want it to sell on the Black Market?  I didn’t know what the Hell this guy really wanted but what I did know was this - This man saved me from someone who wanted me dead, and now I owed him my life. 
I stepped towards him, obviously startling him, as I watched him shift uneasily.  I didn’t know if I still had this thing or not. I didn’t know if he was telling the truth and he was a good guy but I had to make a choice here and now.  I could lie and maybe go back to my boring desk job and forget this day ever happened, forget that I ever found that note.  Or I could try and help this man find what he’s looking for.  I had a choice to make. It could end my life or it could save it.  I could be making a horrible mistake or become the heroine of this story.  I bit my bottom lip, thinking of exactly what I wanted to say next.  My breath coming short and shallow, my heart beat quickening.  I looked this mystery man up and down as he regarded me, waiting to hear my next words.  His body tense, standing straight, and shoulders back. His posture spoke complete discipline and I liked it. 
There was warmth rising through me, up from my stomach and spreading through my chest still.  The excitement and fear of all of this was too much.  I wanted it to stop; at least I thought I did.  This sensation, this adrenaline had its own mind, its own energy.  With a deep inhale and a shaky breath out, I gave in to my heart’s desire, to the thrill of not knowing what would happen next.         
“This artifact, what exactly does it look like?”

Monday, May 14, 2018

Ink, Iron and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

Goodreads Synopsis:

Can she write a world gone wrong?

A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation, where her mother―a noted scriptologist―constantly alters and expands their reality.

But when her home is attacked and her mother kidnapped, Elsa is forced to cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative Victorian Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of young scientists with a gift for mechanics, alchemy, or scriptology―and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.

In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created―and only she can stop it.

My Thoughts:

This story starts out a little slow and may confuse some readers, so I suggest paying attention to what you’re reading. Don’t do what I do, and skip over any details to get to the quotes. I don’t know why I do that, because the details is what really draws you into the story but sometimes I just get bored and need to skip ahead, so I don’t put the book down at all.

The setting was quite unique and I really enjoyed that. I also enjoyed that scriptology was included in this story. Alchemy has been done and mechanics have been done more times than I can count, but scriptology was something new and I was intrigued. However, the scriptology aspect could have been explore a bit more, to draw readers into more of the magic. 

The relationships between the characters were spot on. Not too complex and not too many characters to follow. I thought the romantic interest could have developed a little sooner but all in all, the romantic scenes definitely satisfied me. 

One thing I will be hopeful for in book 2: I want to see more of Faraz. I feel like he has a lot going on in the background and I want to see him put his alchemy to work! As well as a romantic interest for him. He seems to be the most diverse character and I would like to hear more about his culture, wishes and desires. 

In closing, I was really reminded of The Mortal Instruments while reading the series. You have your main character Elsa who has multiple gifts and a master of all of them and is a lot like Clary from TMI. You have Leo, whom is arrogant and secretive like Jace. Porzia is just like Izzy, with all of that sass. Faraz seems to be the sole unique character here. There are even small children in the house; Porzia’s siblings just like Izzy’s, leaving plenty of expansion for future books. The traveling through portals was very similar as well. I’m not complaining about this, just stating my senses. I adored TMI and love the similarities that are in Ink, Ivory and Glass as well. I think Clare tweaked her story more than enough to make hers unique and strong in many other ways. I can’t wait for book 2!

Gwendolyn Clare's debut novel -- INK, IRON, AND GLASS -- is the first in a steampunk duology about a young mad scientist with the ability to write new worlds into existence, out now from Imprint. Her short stories have appeared in ClarkesworldAsimov's, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, among others, and her poetry has been nominated for the Rhysling Award. She holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, a PhD in Mycology, and swears she's done collecting acronyms. She lives in North Carolina with too many cats, too many ducks, and never enough books.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Your One and Only Review & Giveaway


Your One and Only
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?
My Thoughts:

I love dystopian YA novels.  Your One and Only hit the nail right on the head for me.  I was a bit hesitant at first because I don’t like it when characters have numbers next to their names it can be a little confusing, but Finlay definitely made Althea-310 a human clone, stand out among the others.  This book screams difference, individuality, and acceptance from all corners.
With two point of views, one from Althea-310 and the other from Jack (the last living human), the story is told exquisitely.  Once the two are introduced, the goods and bads from both species are highlighted and your mind really gets to thinking.  I love it when a book gets me to thinking like this one did.  The fact that clones are a large possibility in our future and with all of the diseases spreading, a plague is never out of the question either, both really have an impact on you when you read this.  Finlay made these clones real, almost as real as humans and so you don’t think of them as empty or robotic.  They breathe and feel and think for themselves. 
Jack is the outsider here, and though a bit aggressive, I love him for it, every second.  I love his perspective of the clones and of Althea-310 in particular. While Althea-310 accepts Jack and Jack accepts Althea-310 and even a slight romance seems to begin, the story does not focus on romance.  Sam’s role in the story could’ve been a little stronger.  His affections towards Jack seemed kind of all of a sudden and not so built up from earlier in the story. 

Though there is definitely great world building, the story is absolutely character driven and Finlay does a fantastic job of getting you to know her characters and wanting to meet them in real life.   I felt the first quarter of the book was a bit too slow but the next 3 quarters totally made it up for it. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of YA Dystopian and Sci-Fi.

Favorite Quotes

Lights hung like fireflies from the flowering trees in twinkling paper baskets, and the colored rocks glowed around the perimeter of the kapok.

They understood each other, and in their understanding, they became one.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.

"Don't you know?" His breath was hot in her ear.  "I'm the snake in the Garden."

How foolish we were, to act as gods.



Originally from Ithaca, New York, Adrianne Finlay now lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa with her husband, the poet J. D. Schraffenberger, and their two young daughters. She received her PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and is an associate professor of English at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa. 
She is also an avid soap maker, and sells handmade soap locally to raise money for type 1 diabetes research. 


       Prize:3 copies of YOUR ONE AND ONLY by Adrianne Finlay (US Only)
       Starts: 1/30
       Ends: 2/9

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Wild and Unremarkable Thing Review and Giveaway

Goodreads Review

Cayda has spent her entire life training to slay a Fire Scale. Now the time has come to leave her dragon-ravaged village behind, march into the Summer Alps, and reap the rewards of a Champion. But the road between poverty and prosperity is rife with beasts, betrayals, and baser temptations. Sensible Cayda soon discovers she’s not the only Champion with her eye on the prize, or the only one wearing a disguise.

A Wild and Unremarkable Thing pits girl against dragon in a stunning blend of Greek mythology and medieval lore. Don’t miss the thrilling novella that readers are calling poetic, enchanting, and a must-read for fans of fantasy!

My Thoughts

For me A Wild and Unremarkable Thing was a exciting and fast fantasy read. A book about dragons or red scales, is a book that draws me in quickly. With Mulan feels and a Medieval Times setting in this novel, an adventure awaits you. Dragons/Fire Scales mixed with feminism and family bonds, there are a lot of great ingredients to this fantasy.

The mythology element of the death God added an extra finesse to the story. I loved Cody's character!  She was very real and driven.  This story is character-driven and done so quite well. Penn was another great character in this story for me.  One might not think they would like the God of Death, I know personally before his character arch, I pictured Hades from hercules...  but his character developed and quickly became a key role for Cody's livelihood and destiny.  

Cody and Penn met my expectations mostly. Where I felt some of the language to describe certain body parts in the novel may have been blunt or vulgar, the romantic scenes could have been lengthened with more detail. The romance itself did not feel rushed but the intimate moments did.

 I loved Prince Fares role in the story as well, his extremely friendly nature with both men and women, kept the story lighthearted and at times comical.   Wolfe not so much.  I loved him in the beginning of the book and I thought he would do something great but I felt the author must have had a change of heart on his character somewhere in the middle of the book and decided she didn't like him anymore.  I was ok with the same feeling towards Zoe, but I never cared for her anyway.  The book was short and felt rushed and was a fast read for me and I actually read it in about 4 hours and that is a first for me. I read it that quickly for two reasons. One it was a short book and two it was an exciting book. I wish the story could have been dragged out a little longer with more relationship details but the excitement and adventure with dragons and hunting made up for it and I will surely be dreaming of becoming a dragon slayer tonight in my slumber. Although thanks to A Wild and Unremarkable Thing, I may consider the dragons feelings...

My Favorite Quotes

"Small of sature, gentle of heart, " he says.  "You might write your own story, Cody.  But men will write stories about you too."

"You're getting a little ahead of yourself, aren't you?"  he says.  Now she's gliding through his veins.  Now is blood is silk and his pulse is fluttering.

He's sure he will die a dreadful, unimpressive death, sixty years from today, if he does not do something great. 

All manner of things can happen to a girl traveling alone, even a girl with bound breasts and sheered-off hair. 

About the Author:
Jen Castleberry lives and writes in Virginia Beach.
Her background is in Animal Welfare.
All of her pets are named after superheroes.

       Prize: 1 signed paperback copy of A WILD AND UNREMARKABLE THING by Jen Castleberry
       US Only
       Starts: January 23
       Ends: February 2


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