It can take seconds. An instant connection formed by a short glance, a chance meeting or a deeply bonded friendship. An emotional imbalance that takes you by surprise and sweeps you entirely off your feet. A suffocating experience so intense it was as if you were drowning and the realisation is like coming up for air. A feeling so momentous that your heart skips beats and for just one minute you feel like you might collapse from the clarity between your shared gaze. A shiver, ever so slightly unnerving that your skin tingles and the world begins to blur in the distance. A feeling of warmth, of safety, of pure endless bliss… a feeling of being whole. How do you know when you’re falling in love?
She looked at me, hopeful that I might be joking. The hint of a smile playing on her luscious lips. The way she wrinkled her nose when confused made my knees buckle. And there they were, each cute little line furrowed between her brows. I almost lost it and gave in to her plea. She always did that to me. Tori was my biggest weakness. I shook my head, knowing I had to remain strong. I looked deep into her eyes. Hoping to find answers where there were none. I could spend all day looking into her dark, green eyes or pushing the swirls of red hair away from her beautiful face. Her skin was soft to touch. I desperately wanted to touch her. My body yearned like fire for oxygen to touch her, even now. Even when there was no hope for us.
Tori tilted her head to the side, waiting for my answer, still expecting my words to be a morbid prank. I stood in silence. It felt like a thousand moments slipped by in those few minutes. My heart breaking piece by piece with every breath I took. Was I truly doing this? I shook my head again, looking down, feeling the tears on the brim of my eyes. I breathed deeply, exhaling through my mouth. I wanted to die. If I couldn’t have her, I didn’t want to live. Letting her go would surely kill me anyway.
“Kieran?” she asked. Prompting me to finish what I’d started. I think she saw my distress because she reached out to stroke my arm. I pulled away. The pain in her face tore me apart. She knew then that what I had said was true. What had I done? A single tear rolled down her cheek. Mine came in floods. She said nothing. I felt empty. She turned and ran. My pulse raced and my legs twitched, needing to run after her. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Tori wasn’t in love with me.
Imogen fiddled with the straw in her cocktail, boredom taking a turn for the worse. She refused to go home, nothing waited for her.
“Is anyone sitting here?” asks a tall, shabby-haired man.
Imogen shifted slightly on her bar stool, entranced by his dark blue eyes.
“Ah. No.” She flipped her hair and leaned toward him. Removing his jacket, the man positioned himself comfortably on the stool next to her.
“Scotch on the rocks please,” he calls to the passing bar tender, side-glancing in Imogen’s direction. Casting her eyes south, she noted a muscular body and narrow hips. Tall, dark and mysterious. He stole a second look, pulling Imogen forwards with his alluring stare. Crossing her legs, she fought the erotic thoughts swirling inside, all featuring this beautiful stranger. Heat rushed to her cheeks snapping her back to the cocktail. What’s wrong with me? She thought.
“You’re not from around here,” he states, forcing them to lock eyes again.
Imogen takes a deep breath and clears her throat, “I’m sorry?”
“I’ve lived here my whole life. Where are you from?” The bar tender hands him the scotch.
“I just moved here yesterday.”
The man nods taking a sip of his icy cold drink. Imogen watched him, feeling the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. Shake it off! She demanded of herself and ordered another cocktail.
“Put it on my tab, Joe.” He smiled then.
“Er. No. That won’t be necessary.” Imogen recoils hearing her own words.
“Necessary? Are you always so blunt when people are trying to be kind to you?” Imogen cuts him off, immediately apologetic. “I didn’t mean to be rude. Please forgive me. Perhaps I can buy you a drink?”
“It’s fine,” the corner of his lips twitch. “So, are you going to tell me where you’re from?”
(Warning: The following material contains adult content.)
As I wake, my fingers lightly brush the floor in search of my latest read. Unable to function without satisfying my ‘chapter’ withdrawal, the book falls open on my lap, impatiently waiting for me to find my glasses. “Where are my glasses?” I scream, only to realise I’m already wearing them, having fallen asleep reading the night before.
I was nine the first time I finished a novel on my own, and proud. However, upon turning the last page little did I know that I would unearth a deadly monster. A universal terror known only to mankind. An unworldly creature that feeds on the minds of intellectuals and adventurers alike. It latches onto your brain attempting to quench a murderous thirst nothing can sustain… nothing except books. Such a terrible beast threatens to undo you from the very moment it takes possession, enticing you with smarts, cleverness and an undeniable ignorant social life. This monster is known as the, “Bookworm”.
Since that day, I have read, anything and everything my mind is able to comprehend, if only to keep the Bookworm at bay.
Surrounded by few belongings, the consequences of his actions overwhelmed his heart. How easy it had been to give in to temptation; a momentary lapse, a mistake. The man felt the cold sweep across his skin with delicate fingers. He no longer had a place to call home. The sadness that glazed over his daughter’s sweet brown eyes was to be the death of him. Sorrowful pleading, words of regret, lamenting a broken heart, none would help. It would be the hardest thing he would ever have to do. And with a desperate sigh, he left.
Hell found me. Unbearable heat surrounded my body. The flames seethed my skin and smoke filled my lungs, slowly suffocating me. Trapped with no escape, with no hope; I was going to burn alive.
Sent home early from a business trip in London, my stomach fluttered with excitement to surprise James. Calling from the train, I instructed him to pick up a ‘present’ from the station around two o’clock. Upon seeing him, alarm bells rang loudly in my ears; something was deeply wrong. His tiring eyes, his light touch, his brief kiss, all of it, completely alien. A bump in the road, repeated in my head like a mantra; James and I are happy. Who am I trying to convince?
“What’s wrong?” I asked, after a prolonged and uncomfortable silence.
“Nothing,” he replied.
“Don’t lie to me James, I know when something is bothering you.”
He pulled the car to a stop.
“James?” I pressed.
He shouted suddenly, “You cheated on me!”
Shocked I questioned, “What are you talking about?”
“Sophie, she told me everything whilst you were away. She told me all about Alan and your secret life. How could you do this to me?”
Infuriated by his accusations, and the influence having come from my best friend, I began to raise my voice, “How could I do this to YOU?! How could you do this to ME?!”
James looked dumbfounded, “What?”
“You’ve been cheating on me for months, with several of your ‘girl-friends’!” I corrected, “And you’ve had a crush on that Paige girl from work for almost a year! I’m not an idiot, I just hoped it would pass.”
Calmly lying he said, “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,” which only angered me more, “Oh please, your act of innocence is insulting.” A wave of nausea hit me, “Why is Sophie involved in this?”
A knowing smirk twitched across his lips, “No reason, she’s involved in a lot of things you don’t know about.”
I stopped breathing. My palpitating heart pained my chest as his words drowned me in an ocean of betrayal. I cherished James, loved him beyond thought or reason, believing myself worthy of his affections. Yet he stood before me, playing the delicate strings of my heart with tainted fingers; delightfully amusing himself with the tale of his latest conquest, my best friend. Ten years of friendship and for what? The realisation became too much to bear, my relationship, my life, a mockery. Bile began to rise in my throat; I stepped out of the car, slamming the door in my wake. Crossing the road, I hailed a nearby black cab. With my gaze firmly locked ahead, I surrendered to my tears.
Unable to fathom my grief, I arduously negotiated a sabbatical with my boss, packed some clothes and headed North. My favourite Uncle owned a small cottage in the remote seaside town of Dornoch, and agreed to let me stay there for the rest of Winter. The rather curious building lay on a hill about half a mile out of Dornoch, but a short walking distance from the beach. Painted white walls covered with decorative plants and flowers gave the cottage a dated look, along with its thatched roof. Inside, four adequately spaced rooms, each furnished with an old fashioned sentiment completed the image. Still, it was quite beautiful.
The crisp morning air, occasionally refreshing, left a cold and painfully dry sting in my chest. The wind blew harshly causing my muscles to seize. Keeping myself warm became a matter of layers as I duelled with the heating, unable to figure out how to work the fire. Having left my phone at home in a bid to cut off outside communication, I couldn’t call my Uncle to ask.
Despite the cold, it felt good to be alone. Although, putting my life into perspective seemed a daunting task, like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. I thought about James with a strange sense of relief. A whirlwind of questions filled my mind, speculating over my previously clouded judgement. Remembering Sophie, the stain of her treachery still fresh, I struggled to feel surprised; a failed friendship I somehow expected. The clarity of hindsight being too much to bear, I donned my favourite purple coat, believing a brisk walk would cleanse my insipid thoughts.
My face and hands were met with icy blows from the wind, making me regret my decision. Determined to put myself in high spirits I battled the frost towards the beach. The waves crept slowly toward my feet and peace greeted me with open arms, embracing me with calm serenity. Closing my eyes I inhaled the fresh salt air when something wet and furry pawed at my legs. Jumping at the disturbance, I looked down to see a black and white sheepdog panting, drooling and wagging it’s tail.
“Abbey, com!” A voice shouted.
Turning my head in the direction of the deep, husky voice I felt my heart stop as the most beautiful man approached me. Luscious brown, curly locks tousled around his face, revealing a hint of almond coloured eyes. His tall and muscular form walked gracefully toward me, leaving me breathless.
“Sorry aboot her,” he spoke with a thick Scottish accent, “A think she likes ye.”
Locked in a stare, I mindlessly stroked the dog’s soggy fur, “It’s fine,” I said, “She’s a lovely dog.”
“Yer from England a see, what are ye doin so far up North?” he asked.
I struggled with my words, still fixated by his eyes, “I… err… I’m… sabbatical! I’m on a sabbatical… from work. My Uncle owns a cottage not far from here.”
He nodded and I mimicked his actions. Catching a glimpse of his smile my cheeks burned red with embarrassment.
He interrupted the silence, “Well, wis nice meetin ye.”
“You too.” I managed.
I watched him walk away averting my gaze when he looked back. With flushing cheeks and a sinking stomach, I wondered where I had lost my voice. I pondered the thought a little longer, my heart performing pirouettes, then the angel returned, “Scuse me?”
“Yes,” I replied a little over zealous.
“Thare’s a Christmas party goin on at The Eagle the nite aboot nine. Would ye like tae come an meet som a the locals?” he asked sweetly.
“Sure, sounds great.” I said with nervous excitement.
He extended his arm, “The name’s Kirk.”
Butterflies stirred in the pit of my abdomen as I returned the gesture, “Megan.”
“See ye the nite then Megan.” He smiled.
Watching him walk away for the second time a dreaded interrogation took over, what am I going to wear?
Having rummaged frantically through my suitcase, I despaired at the clothing carpeted floor, still undecided on an outfit. With a deep sigh, I flopped on the bed questioning the massacre I had committed on my wardrobe. Taking a bath seemed a better option.
Several kettles later I eased myself into the hot water letting the heat soothe my stresses. My mind traced over the catastrophe of the last few weeks, drawing outlines of images; my reasons for the overwhelming need to run away, the sudden abandonment of my family over the holidays and the complete stranger spellbinding me into a stutter. Insanity gushed through my veins, yet, I still wanted to attend the Christmas party thinking, who spends Christmas alone? Gathering some composure, I withdrew from my pensive bath, dressed in a red top with jeans and made for The Eagle.
Warmth radiated throughout The Eagle, calling to the patrons still outside in the ice. Colourful Christmas decorations hung from the ceiling and a quaint little tree sat on the bar next to a burping Santa. The most welcoming sight, had to be the stone fire situated in the centre of the left wall, burning peacefully. Nothing like home, I reprieved. I approached the bar swiftly, ordering a cocktail, my nerves getting the better of me. Sitting on a high stool I began observing the people around me, watching them laugh and play party games, share stories with their families and in general, enjoy themselves, emphasising my unhappiness. I mulled over my cosmopolitan for a while longer and contemplated leaving when a voice crept up behind me, “Glad ye could make it,” Kirk said with a polite tone.
He then focused on the barman, “A malt whiskeh an w’ever the lady’s drinkin’.”
“Thank you,” I said shyly.
“Com an sit wit me an me friends, thay aw wanna meet ye.”
I stood shocked by this sudden invitation. Kirk took one stride, laced his fingers through mine and sauntered us both toward a table of similarly attractive and burly men. The intimacy of his touch felt strange yet comforting, then he let go. Did I want to hold his hand? Shaking myself from my reverie, I removed my coat to take a seat. Regardless of feeling completely ridiculous, I was determined to enjoy myself. At first, I found difficulty in understanding their thick Scottish accents, though, amusingly, the more cocktails I supped the more I understood. When the bell rang for last orders my mind buzzed merrily and Kirk offered to walk me home.
Arriving at my door, Kirk ceased talking, looking at me with a gentle smile. Eager to kill the silence I asked him how I might work my fire.
“Hiv ye tried turnin it on?” he joked.
Giggling, I pushed him lightly on the arm for teasing me, then he kissed me. A rush of sensations spiralled through my body, my knees weakened as Kirk glided his hands through my ebony hair and down to my waist, pulling me closer. His lips were moist and soft as they caressed my own. Is this truly happening? Confusion overwhelmed my thoughts, forcing me to stop, “Wow,” I gasped.
Unsure of my feelings I took a step away from him, ”Well, thanks for the lovely evening. Goodnight.”
Gazing into my eyes he smiled sweetly, “Gunite Megan.”
Stumbling into my frozen living room, drunken witchcraft willed my fire to life. With the room slowly beginning to thaw, I grabbed a blanket to curl up on the couch with, safely assured I would remain warm.
I awoke suddenly feeling very hot and proceeded to remove my blanket. Briefly opening my eyes, a bow of light pierced me with an arrow of fear. Hell found me. Unbearable heat surrounded my body. The flames seethed my skin and smoke filled my lungs, slowly suffocating me. Trapped with no escape, with no hope; I was going to burn alive.
My eyes flashed to every corner, searching for a way a out. I found none. The fire grew bigger, devouring everything it touched. The Reaper swung his scythe impatiently. I ran for the kitchen door kicking through the flames, desperate for freedom when an explosion hurled me across the room and knocked me unconscious. The room temperature increased rapidly, the monstrous fire taking its fill. In the depths of my subconscious, sirens wailed and people screamed for help. I sleepily awaited death.
The beeping sound of a heart monitor startled me awake. Surrounded by white clinical walls I knew I lay in a hospital bed. Relief washed over me, reminding me of the sun pouring through a cloudy day. A red haired woman dressed in baby blue plodded through the door; tears streaked my face.
“Dunny cry, Miss. Yur safe now. Doctor!”
Attempting to recall past events leading to medical attention, my thoughts lingered on a kiss. A deep, sensual kiss forcing my nervous system into submission. Kirk’s kiss. My body responded to his touch in unimaginable ways. Closing my eyes, I remembered the circular shape of his face, his light brown eyes, the stubble on his chin. I felt the soft whisper of his hand upon my face. Bewildered by his sudden appearance, I noticed he wore a Fire Fighter’s uniform. Kirk saved me? A cascade of emotions caressed my skin, showering me with knowledge. Kirk and I were soul mates.
I’m surrounded by a thousand whispers in darkness yet one calls to me quite clearly above the others. Understanding it’s cries however, is impossible. And then I see it. A silhouette walking towards me with purposeful intent. I feel the cold touch of fear creeping up my spine as the sinister figure continues to approach. A flash of light and suddenly I’m looking in a mirror, though the reflection is not of me. Pain overwhelms my chest and loneliness resides within. I am lost. Is this the wasteland? My hands are bound, chains locked tightly around my slender wrists. Imprisonment? No. A wound. A subconscious punishment for the broken shards I hold too dear.
William Shakespeare once wrote, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken.” He believed, like so many of us after him, that ‘true love’ transcends the bonds of physical attraction. It is a fundamentally emotional connection rooted from the depths of our souls; winding, bending and entwining us together. An ineludible intoxication, a destined intensity, a traveller of time that carries our hearts in eternal embrace.
Sometimes it feels like nothing, as though you never existed. Others, it comes in constant waves, each one more painful than the last. Is it possible to actually feel your heart breaking? Almost as if the muscle itself is tearing apart inside your chest? For me, it begins with breathlessness; life just stops flowing through. Then I feel a lump in my throat and my lungs tighten. Nausea overwhelms my stomach, so much that I vomit and yet it provides no release. My head rushes suddenly, the same as standing up too quickly only different. Different because I cannot emotionally ‘digest’ whatever caused this physical reaction. Finally, the tears. Secret tears that appear on the brim of my eye, gliding softly down my cheek. Each drop representing a vice deepening it’s grip on my heart. Is it possible to heal from such an awful experience? Time is said to be a great healer… perhaps to save face? Physical scars reflect improvement; emotional wounds however, remain palpable. Sometimes it feels like nothing, but you do exist. Whenever I think about you…