Lambda Awards Ceremony

It was a grand night in NYC at the Lambda Literary Awards May 27

A super-supportive audience of writers, publishers, editors, agents, readers and many other friends of LGBT writing cheered, applauded and occasionally felt moved to standing ovations.

The awards came in 23 categories, selected by 87 judges, with a total of 462 nominated titles!

Lesbian comic, social commentator and author Kate Clinton was awarded the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award for her long-time body of hilarious, but more importantly, activist work – her speech was hilarious as well, calling herself and her gal pal the last unmarried, childless, pet-less lesbians in the world.


Carsen Taite & JM Redmann

The complete list of winners may be found at www.lambdaliterary.org but favorite moments of mine included JM Redmann winning the lesbian mystery category with her new novel Death of a Dying Man (Bold Strokes Books), bringing back the wonderful PI Mickey Knight for another adventure. In her speech, she noted the marvelous glut of books for and by LGBT writers—

“There are so many books they can’t possibly burn them all.”

The audience cheered.

The lesbian romance category was won by Colette Moody and her wildly imaginative novel The Sublime and Spirited Voyage of the Original Sin. Fast-paced, funny, sexy and simply deliciously written, it’s a MUST-READ. But no more so than all five finalists in the category – Worth Every Step by KG MacGregor, a romantic adventure that combines climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and one of the most honestly written coming out struggles ever; It Should Be a Crime by Carsen Taite (campus and courtroom romance with a bit of mystery, wrapped in a hot love story), Stepping Stone by Karin Kallmaker, giving readers a bird’s eye view from the Hollywood sign to a sexy, romantic studio romance – Karin knows her way with romance! Rounding out the category is No Rules of Engagement by Tracey Richardson – a very topical and expertly written love story with a military setting and terrifically drawn characters. Read ‘em all!


KG MacGregor & Karin Kallmaker

Bywater Books had the thrill of seeing their debut author Jill Malone take home the Lammy for her novel A Field Guide to Deception. There were cheers and whoops and hollers at that announcement.

It was great to hear from Lambda Board President Katherine Forrest, Boys in the Band author Mart Crowley won his first award ever (‘bout time!) and there were wonderful comments from so many others in the industry. Not only was it a grand night in the Big Apple, but the Lammys proved once again, that GLBT writers and publishers (go Bella, Bold Strokes and Bywater and more!) are prolific, determined and hardworking in the face of a changing publishing industry.

Get your summer read on!

Fay Jacobs

Fay Jacobs is a native New Yorker who spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, public relations and theatre. She is the publisher of A&M Books, a successor to the legendary Naiad Press.

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Dragon Queen

THE NIGHT HOURS WERE the hardest for Sister Catherine. She sat in a wooden chair near the front door, now locked and barred. It was only last month when the Prioress called her into the den and assigned her the task of the night watch. Sister Catherine knew this meant she was trusted. It meant she had finally moved into the senior ranks, despite being only twenty, the youngest of all the matrons. If she did her duty without infraction the inner mysteries of the convent would be shared with her. Most especially, she wished to see the corpse of Saint Peter, a Russian monk who died in 1206. The same year she’d arrived, and was said to have seen the Christ. It was lucky to look upon him, she was told. Rumors abounded that the convent was still in operation by selling off his sacred fingers, one by one; a truth Sister Catherine hoped to learn first hand.

Just after midnight, Sister Catherine began a thorough walkthrough of the stone corridors. She usually started in the west wing, by the chapel, and then took the spiral steps to the outlook, an open terrace that offered a view of the Okhotsk Sea. And on a clear day one or two of the fifty-six islands known as the Kurils. From there she went into the dorms, and then back down again towards the wash rooms, the bath, the kitchen, the prayers rooms, the enclosed gardens, the tool sheds, ending at the shrine of Our Lady of Grace, before returning to her post at the front gate.

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The Octopus’ Lover

THERE WAS AN OCTOPUS on Lily Mackie’s front porch when she arrived home from work, keys jingling in her hand and hair slipping from the sloppy bun it was pinned in ten hours earlier. The thing was dead, sprawled across the warm concrete in a small, shriveled slump of arms. Its head was flat, gluey, slick like a placental sack stinking in the late afternoon sun. Setting down her purse and jacket beside the heels of her red pumps, Lily crouched to it with a held breath and a cautious hand. She brushed her index and middles fingers across the sloping crest above the animal’s eye, now a wad of yellow jelly in a round socket, crowned by a swarm of greedy flies. Scrunched her face at the wet, soft sound it made when pressure was applied, and touched it again.

It was nothing, Lily decided aloud. Surely it ended up here by way of some practical joke by the neighbor’s children, or even a bird, scooping the creature up from the bay and dropping it while flying to its nest. Perhaps it was some unstable vagrant, drifting through the neighborhood breaking into homes, or hurling things at peoples’ houses. Like the ones her mother was always going on about, wringing her thin hands while watching the six o’clock news.

They were everywhere, after all. Lily was often reminded of this on Sunday afternoons spent with her mother after church. Since moving to the city that was all Lily ever heard about from her mother, the crime rates and tabloid television. It was depressing sometimes, but Lily never said anything of it. Whatever it was that brought it to her doorstep, the octopus stared up at Lily with cloudy eyes, wet and dead. For a moment, sitting on sore knees with creases of dirt forming in her black pencil skirt, Lily stared back.

#

Lily was seven-years-old when she saw an octopus for the first time. It was a family trip, just Lily, her mother, and her father. The ones they used to take before he left them for the promise of another wife, in another town, with two children that Lily would never meet, packing a suitcase three nights before Lily’s ninth birthday. But that did not matter, looking back. Holding onto her mother’s hand in a patterned green sundress and a small, toothy smile, things were still good and that was what counted.

Lily had only ever known of octopuses as caricatures in children’s cartoons, with brightly colored faces and soft fat bodies with curly-q’s for arms. Octopuses were supposed to smile with blocky white teeth and blue eyes and sing songs about sharing. Instead the octopus at the Gladewater Aquarium stared at Lily, eyes dead through the deep glass plate of its invisible cage like something from Mars.

It did not smile; Lily did not know if she wanted it to, even if it could. Its face lacked the playful mouth and wooden teeth, and all of the other loveable features of its Saturday morning counterpart. The eyes were yellow starbursts or inverted fireworks, giant glass marbles beneath exaggerated brows, ageless and unkind. Molasses-slow, the octopus moved like a billowing sheet or unfurling umbrella of bumpy, pigment-dotted flesh, an alien in black water, drifting in unreal time.

Squeezing her mother’s thin hand, Lily thought it was beautiful. For her ninth birthday she would ask for an octopus, to keep in a tank on her dresser. Hearing of her plans, her mother simply laughed at the time; after her father left the laughter stopped altogether. When Lily was thirteen she would discover boys. Then high school, college, broken hearts; things wanted and left behind. She would never think of octopuses again.

#

Lily put the shriveled body of the octopus in two white plastic grocery bags and set it in the trashcan on the curb. It had seemed somehow undignified at the time. She knew she had a hand shovel sitting on the floor of the kitchen pantry by the dustpan, and a small spot in the garden by the driveway. Lily did not know if she could explain to Mrs. Hume across the street, sitting on her front porch with her daily crosswords and reading glasses, why she was burying an octopus in the flower garden.

Instead she threw it atop two empty boxes of Cheerios and some used AA batteries. It was another piece of trash, Lily assured herself, and closed her front door and switched on the porch light. She made pasta for one, watched television alone and went to bed. The shadows on the wall above the headboard curled like tentacles in slow-motion over her cold sheets, but Lily paid them no mind.

#

On Monday Lily took lunch fifteen minutes early. Mr. Berkley could not say no, after all, waving her off with a nod and the beginnings of a smile. Not after the nights spent at her desk when everyone else had gone home, and the holidays she had worked because Sally and Rachael already had plans. It kept her from having to spend them in an empty house, but Lily never mentioned that.

Instead of the cafe on Fifth and Chambers, where Lily usually picked up the Monday tuna on rye special, she parked outside the Gladewater Aquarium. Hands tight on the rubber steering wheel cover, she stared up at unassuming brick face. The tiny squares of windows dotting the building’s exterior in perfectly lined rows were now a tired green under the television-colored midday sky, not at all like the ocean blue of her memory. For it Lily swallowed tightly, and thought of her octopus.

Her octopus was long dead, and Lily knew that. It had either been tossed out in the trash, or left to rot on the floor of its tank until picked clean by fish. There was something fragile about the thought as Lily walked through the corridors of tanks, inexplicably nervous. Her stomach knotted, tight with a slick, strange fear that she could not name, her red pumps clicking against cold tile. Octopuses lived brief and solitary existences. Lily knew that, too, living long enough to produce their young in clutches of perfect eggs, then dying. There was something noble in that, she thought; the kind of tragic beauty that came with living up to one’s purpose so perfectly. Lily could admire that.

Animals swam by in a shimmer of scales and Technicolor. Sharks roamed the tank in circles like trained dogs, following tropical fish with angular faces and gaping mouths in a slow rainbow of eyes and motion. Lily stared at the ink black of water lit by man-made light, and felt somehow worse for it.

“Are you waiting for something?”

Lily looked up. Saw the woman standing at yard’s length from her left in a layered black outfit, covered in buttons and straps. Dark hair framed round features in a sharp, heavy fringe, cut like an inverted crescent above her brow line. The rest of the choppy length was pulled up into loose buns on either side of her head, falling strands held in place by sections of red ribbon. Her eyes were light and spotted, like fireworks, her mouth matte-black pulled into a curious smile at one corner, lit up by the fake blue glow of the tank lights. Then again, the smile could have just as easily been a trick of Lily’s imagination.

“Oh.” Lily flinched, swallowed, and smiled weakly. “No, not really,” she half-lied, and shuffled slightly in her red pumps. “Just felt like watching the fish for a bit. It’s supposed to be calming…I could use some calming today, I think.”

“Oh,” the woman mimicked, although in a lower affectation. Her eyes did not leave Lily’s face. “I guess we all could, these days.”

There was a pause between them, settling in the distance between their bodies and the fish swimming around them in their manmade sea. “You just looked like you were looking for somebody,” the other woman said, disregarding the silence. It made Lily’s fingers tighten around the strap of her shoulder purse. “Maybe a friend.”

Lily only smiled. “No.” Looking at the glimmer of passing blue scales, Lily said nothing of the octopus. “Not today.”

#

Lily did not speak of shadows, or dead octopuses. She took her tuna on rye at her desk and did not ask Mr. Berkley for any more favors. She did not contemplate strangers at aquariums, or rotting flesh at the bottom of the sea or in her trashcan. No one could know of that, because there was nothing to explain.

It would be three days before Lily saw the shadows again, curling from behind the bedroom door in broad black arms. She paid them no mind at first. Blamed it on an overactive imagination or bad late-night television and willed herself to sleep, face buried in her pillowcase with a determined sigh. Instead of finding sleep behind closed eyes Lily’s mind conjured visions of black water and leather flesh. The creak of the bedroom door–old hinges, she assured herself –gave her goose-flesh and she sucked in a breath between her teeth. She blamed that on the television, too. Perhaps she should be more like her mother and only watch the news. Her mother would like that.

Some nights Lily could feel the bite of toothy suction cups on the tips of her toes, the wet slither of cold arms around her thighs, but said nothing of that to anyone. Other mornings, on the street, with cups of designer coffee to chase away these waking dreams, Lily passed a woman with fireworks for eyes and ribbons in dark hair. The woman offered her a black lipstick smile, like she had in the aquarium. Small and elusive, as though Lily had painted it there herself with the blade of her finger, and she would say nothing of that either.

#

For days Lily drove passed the exit ramp to the Gladewater Aquarium on her way to work, staring at the highway sign as though it held some answer, or small parcel of knowledge. She knew better than that. Palms damp with nervous sweat on the steering wheel cover, Lily bit her lip and watched the sign speed by in a blur of green metal. For it she felt nothing, only a hollow pit in the core of her belly; just as there had been when her father left.

On the third day there was a note sitting on her cubicle desk, yellow notebook paper folded twice over. Words in a short, feminine hand, scribbled in black ink. What are you waiting for? Lily stared at the slip of paper, and thought of the dead octopus’ jelly eyes. She tucked the note inside her purse and told no one, waiting for five o’clock to come.

Across town it was already near dark by the time Lily arrived at Gladewater Aquarium, just as the doors were locked for the night. She put her car in park and sat, hands on the steering wheel and hair already slipped free of its haphazard bun. She did not know what she was waiting for, what had brought her there at all, as though it would bring her some peace. Her octopus was long dead, and what did any of it matter? There were no answers, for the shadows on her walls, the octopus on her stoop or the letter left on her desk.

Blinking, she caught sight of plastic and straps from under the stoplight across the street. The woman walked towards her car with black-gloved arms, her heavy boots carrying her dark-swathed frame, seemingly unchanged from the first time Lily had seen her, but of which she could not be sure. Instead of shrinking back like she wanted to, and starting the car and driving away, Lily held her breath. Smiling curiously, the woman lightly rapped on her passenger door with a single thin digit.

“You got my letter.”

Swallowing, Lily did not hesitate to unlock the door.

They did not speak, creeping through the congestion of uptown traffic after dark. The woman in Lily’s passenger seat wore black lipstick and looked like she fell out of some exotic fashion magazine, flowing black and pristine. Perhaps one of the Japanese or Italian journals Lily had often seen while in line at book store, but never picked up. Lily did her best to watch the traffic ahead of them and not the play of jaundice streetlight across the woman’s smooth features.

“You were waiting for me.” Lily’s voice was barely above a whisper. “Why are you doing this?”

“What am I doing?”

“You’re…” Something tightened in the pit of her chest. Feeling her eyes dampen Lily bit her bottom lip, and felt vulnerable for it. “You’re frightening me.”

“I’m sorry.” The gold between the yellow seemed to change colors in the other woman’s eyes. “That’s not my intention.”

“Then what are your intentions?” Lily asked, knowing better of it.

The mimic canted her head, features smoothing of any sliver of smiling or ill will. “To care for you,” she imitated Lily’s dry murmur, black lips catching the glint from the lamps outside. Gloved fingers reached up to curl around the curve of Lily’s chin. For a moment she did not notice the tears swelling in the corners of her eyes as they slid wetly down her cheeks.

#

Lily did not ask the woman’s name as they walked up the steps to her house, silent save the hitch of her own breath and the click-clack of her red heels on concrete. Neither did she ask her name as she took the other by the hand and led her to the bedroom. They were beyond the point of questioning when the strange woman’s fingers threaded through Lily’s, and Lily caught a breath and held it.

The woman’s mouth tasted like salt water when Lily kissed it; beyond the point of anything else as she slid her fingers into black hair. Hands found Lily’s hips and waist; her back and her breasts, plucking her blouse open gingerly, gloved digits sliding inside and pushing it from her shoulders. Black lips kissed Lily’s cheek, chin and collarbone, and for it her thighs felt weak beneath the fall of her pencil skirt. Her fingers struggled with buttons and snaps, layers of fabric and texture as Lily brought a free hand back to the other’s hair and tugged, wanting to pull her somehow closer, until their flesh and clothing melted together.

When she finally bared the woman of the outward layer of her top, hands came to her chest and pushed. Lily let out an abrupt cry as she fell back, bumping into and sprawling across the bed behind them. Without a pause or a breath the woman’s mouth was on hers again, slender black body stretching over Lily’s and fingers slipping beneath her skirt. Lily moaned, an unnatural sound, the tips of her well-manicured fingers pulling at the last fastens of the other’s shirt and tossing it aside.

The skin beneath it was cold to the touch, pulled tight over a thin framework of bones. For it Lily gasped, pulling away and looking over the woman’s chest, thin, frail, her breasts smooth of anything resembling a human nipple. It was then that Lily noticed the spots of rough skin, dotting the nearly translucent expanse of the woman’s long torso. The change in pigmentation travelled from the crook of her arms in a leathery hide, down to her extended fingertips in textured flesh rather than in the gloves they had appeared to be. Touching it now, Lily thought of the dead octopus and shivered.

Her hand still tangled in black hair was now made slick, caught by the toothy suction cups of tentacles hiding between the strands. They curled around Lily’s fingers, up her wrist and along her arms in a half-dozen spindly limbs, keeping her there as though she would wrench away in rejection. Another arm curled around her chin, others still between her thighs and around her hips, wet, sticky and unreal.

It was then that Lily realized the tentacles’ origins, the boots and bottoms of the octopus lying on the bed in a heap of fabric. Eight tendrils, thick and winding, sprouted from her waist where her legs would have otherwise been, writhing around Lily of their own will. Each limb was wide and fat like the length of an eel, black and leathery to the touch, all musculature and no bone, pulling, holding. Like a writhing mass of flesh, engulfing Lily in her small cold bed, all touch and caress.

“Is this what you wanted?” the octopus asked. Her voice was a loving murmur, low and heavy and pulled from the depths of the sea itself.

A single tentacle pushed stray hair from Lily’s brow, wet and cold. For it she held a breath, and melted away into the creature’s embrace. “Yes,” she whispered, if only to hear herself say it.

THE END

© MAGEN TOOLE


Author Profile:

Magen Toole is a student and odd-jobber from Fort Worth, Texas. Her work has or will be featured in Every Day Fiction, Literary Fever, MicroHorror and The Battered Suitcase. More of her work can be found at her blog: Eonism

Beyond The Closed Door

KATY REACHED JOSEPHINE’S door and saw that the woman had pulled it shut again. She let out a little sigh and looked down the hall as different families of the manor’s residents began to leave. Children squealed as mothers attempted to make them behave. One little boy started running and accidentally knocked a row of plastic Thanksgiving turkeys off a table. Katy looked at the door in front of her, understanding the reason why it was closed. Josephine hated children.

From what Katy gathered the six months she’d worked there, the old woman was quite feisty. It seemed nobody could tame her, and many tried, though they were mostly resident males looking for love in their last days. Jo seemed to enjoy flirting with the wrinkled old men. She’d smile affectionately at them, wearing her best jewelry, and even pay them compliments. But as soon as their gentle teasing began to turn serious, she would shut them out and retreat, her apparent game over.

Jo’s last victim had been Simon Walker, and Katy had spent the better part of her weekend trying to cheer the old man up. When she tried to talk to him about what happened, all he did was frown and say: “She’s just a damn hussy.”

Katy knew he didn’t mean it. He’d had tears in his eyes, the poor thing. Yes, Josephine was an enigma, and one that sparked Katy’s interest. Since being a little girl, Katy had an eye for the unique. That was why she had decided to become a writer—that was, if she could get through college and get published. Until then, she was stuck here, dealing with closed doors.

Placing her fingers on the handle, she hesitated, hearing a vocal melody from within the room. She opened the door slowly, quietly, and saw Josephine sitting by the window, humming an unintelligible tune. Her room was small, simple, as all the rooms were. A little out of the ordinary was a tiara placed atop her dresser. More normal decorations were pictures of old friends and family, one of which was her son she’d been waiting for all day. Austin still hadn’t showed up yet, and the Thanksgiving meal had been two hours ago.

Josephine didn’t seem to notice Katy’s entrance, her eyes apparently entranced with the beautiful courtyard foliage that had been painted a rich red and gold by nature’s autumnal brush. The old woman hummed, her slouched body wearing a set of pale pink pajamas with frayed hems. She had pulled her hair up, but several messy strands fell down the side of her face. Katy noticed she’d also put on her makeup like an artist. For the first time, the young woman really started to wonder what Jo might have looked like in her younger years; possibly quite beautiful.

Katy stepped into the room. A turquoise shawl drooped off Josephine’s frail shoulders—she’d fought tooth-and-nail with Katy earlier about wearing it. She said it was “ugly as hell.” But Katy insisted the woman needed the warmth and thus won the fight.

Figuring she’d better go ahead and do it now, Katy interrupted Jo’s humming.

“What song is that?” she asked. “It’s pretty.”

Josephine stopped humming but didn’t turn around and didn’t speak.

“It sounds familiar,” Katy said, walking over to the old woman.

They made eye contact.

“You know,” Josephine said, “I can’t remember. Might’ve been something I made up, maybe not. It all jumbles together nowadays.”

Katy let out a little laugh. She noticed the tray of food, the entrée untouched, the pumpkin pie merely nibbled on.

“You didn’t eat your Thanksgiving dinner?” Katy asked.

Jo looked out the window again, her lips pressed tightly together.

“You didn’t even like the pie?”

“No,” said Josephine. “It had whipped cream on it, and I hate whipped cream.”

“I see.”

“And I don’t want to wear this thing anymore, it’s ugly. I don’t care if I’m cold. Take it. I’m tired of wearing it.”

She handed the turquoise shawl to Katy, who reluctantly took it. Jo could be so stubborn. Katy stood up and walked to the dresser. She opened the middle drawer and placed it inside, then casually searched for another item of clothing that might keep the old woman warm. Loose silky underpants, flannel button-downs, white socks. She was about to go for one of the flannels when she noticed an old manila envelope at the bottom of the drawer. On it were scribbled the words:

Josephine, 1956

Curiosity flooded her thoughts. Josephine stared out the window again. Katy’s hands crept to the worn envelope’s opening and slid out the contents. Her heart jumped into her throat. Nude photos. Nude and provocatively posed of a gorgeous blond woman—a woman that had to be Josephine.

Blushing, Katy nervously shoved the pictures back in their hiding place and shut the drawer.

“Did you like ‘em?” Josephine said.

Feeling her neck heat up, Katy said, “Like what?”

Josephine laughed and turned around. “My pictures.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—I was just looking for something to put on your shoulders, and I was just—”

“They were taken by my fourth husband.”

“Fourth?”

“Yes.”

Katy raised her eyebrows. “How many times were you married, if I may ask?”

“I lost count after five—I’d rather forget all of them.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“Honey, it’s okay.” Jo was really smiling. “I had a life before moving to this shit hole, you know. I could tell you stories to blow your socks off.”

“Well, I’m sure you had relationships just like everyone else—”

“Yeah, and I even fucked like everyone else.” She grinned. “Though I’m willing to bet not many people did it on a pool table, or a public restroom, or with two different guys in one night.”

“Oh—um—probably not.”

It seemed strange to Katy how surprised she was at all this. She knew Josephine was human and hadn’t always been so old. Still, it was hard at times to realize it when all she saw day in and day out was a grouchy, wrinkled old woman, staring out the window like a corpse. She wanted to inquire into Jo’s obviously colorful past, but wasn’t sure if now was the right time. She had work she needed to do. But Jo, for the first time since she’d met her, looked amused—mischievous even. She looked like she wanted to talk.

Not sure what to do, Katy let her eyes wander around the room. She noticed a large, framed star certificate up on the wall.

“Someone bought you a star?” Katy asked, her interested perked.

“Yes,” said Josephine, her voice softening. “Someone very special.”

“I bet he was really romantic.”

She.”

Katy turned. “I beg your pardon?”

“She. Not he. She bought me a star. And yes, she was very romantic.”

Katy sat down on the edge of Josephine’s bed, looking at the woman with new eyes. How intriguing. She could see the connection now; see hints of the woman that once was. It was in the slight upward curve of her lips, the twinkle in her eye, the prominence of her cheekbones.

“This woman,” Katy said. “Was she your—”

Josephine stared at her with knowing eyes.

“She was the last woman—and person—I ever loved.”

Katy looked at her, waiting. Jo continued:

“I’d fallen for a handful of people in my life, like we all do. Different stages of our life, we love different people in different ways for different reasons. She used to say that I was her reason for living. And that she’d waited her whole life to find me.” Josephine looked down into her lap, her smile fading. “I knew it was the same for me. But I couldn’t tell her.” She looked at Katy again. “Do you ever look at yourself and wonder how God could let certain people into your life, when you know you don’t deserve it?”

“I think I know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, you’re young, you still have a long way to go.” She let out a sigh and gazed once more at the falling red oak leaves. “This woman and I were soul mates; in the truest sense. Sometimes I think she was an angel.”

Katy saw that there were tears in Josephine’s eyes. Still, the old woman went on:

“And I know you’re wondering. She’s gone now.” Her voice sounded hard, distant. “I was with her when she died. We always thought it’d be the other way around, but it wasn’t.” She found her smile again and placed a cold, frail hand on Katy’s knee. “If you get anything out of this conversation, I hope you remember that life really is too short to give into pride. I’d give anything to have her back and tell her just what she meant to me. At times, it was like pulling teeth just to get me to say ‘I love you.’ And even to this day, I don’t really understand myself.”

“Well, sometimes it’s difficult to state how we really feel.”

“It shouldn’t be. That’s the flat truth. It just shouldn’t be. Life—living—should be something easy and fun and honest. You’ll realize this when you start losing things.”

The young woman nodded, emotion making a knot of her heart.

“Live, Katy,” said Josephine, removing her hand from the young woman’s leg. “Just live.”

A knock startled the young woman, and she turned to see Austin, Josephine’s son, standing inside the doorframe. Katy stood up and breathed in deeply, walking to the tray of uneaten food.

“Hello,” she said to the man.

“Hi,” said Austin. “Hey, Mom.”

“Hey,” Josephine said in a sweet little tone.

“Sorry I’m late.” He bent down to give her a hug.

“I’ll just get this out of your way,” Katy said, taking the tray in her hands.

She saw that mother and son had the same blue eyes, but Austin’s stature was startling big. Surely a former athlete, he wore a wind-suit and smelled of tobacco.

Josephine gave Katy one last look. She nodded slightly, clearly off in her own thoughts. Then she shifted moods into something brighter and commenced to talk with her son.

The young woman took the tray out of the room and walked the sterile, now-quiet halls.

She pondered the photos, the star, and the woman that had been Josephine’s lover. As she let the rich thoughts firmly plant themselves in her memory, she looked at the elderly men and women, the old and wrinkled faces around her, some calmly sleeping, some staring blankly at a television, some intently focusing on a game of cards. And she wondered, with almost restless fascination, what stories they had to tell.

THE END

© CAROLINE MORRIS

Forever

THE PARTY WAS GOING full-force, the music thumping through the walls and floor of the club. But in the little enclave that some of us had gathered in on the second floor, it was quieter, almost peaceful, a welcome reprieve from the madness of the three hundred or so revelers.

“Hey, Siobhan, you awake?”

It was Brian’s voice. I glanced up automatically at the sound of Siobhan’s name, a habit, one I’d never been able to break. My eyes had been fixed on the beguiling green eyes of the pixieish blonde seated before me, who was going on and on about the courses and professors she had at the University. She was taking Women’s Studies, she’d told me. I had no idea what someone taking Women’s Studies studied. I wasn’t about to hazard a guess; still, I was mildly intrigued, my interest piqued, though more intellectually than anything. And obviously not enough. I don’t think she even noticed when I looked away.

Alexandra Wolfe

Alexandra is the founder, owner, and publishing editor of the Kissed By Venus web site and magazine.

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