The Signs of Autumn
“You’re definitely an Autumn,” the makeup artist told me as she roughly brushed a brown color on my eyelids.
“Well, Autumn IS my name.”
“That is just too funny!” she gushed, “It’s a really pretty name.”
“Is it?” I thought to myself. Fall is the season where the skies darken, a chill sets in, and plants start to die. More depressing than pretty. But I wouldn’t say any of this to the makeup artist. She was preparing all the bridesmaids for my friend Paige’s wedding and you’re supposed to be cheerful for weddings.
When our faces and hair were ready, all the women walked down a long hallway to where the groomsmen were. Two of the other bridesmades were discussing the men in the wedding party. I’m a quiet person and for some reason people seem to think that also means I don’t listen. In reality, it means I listen more.
“I’m totally going to hook up with the best man,” the maid of honor whispered loudly to another bridesmaid.
“That’s so cliche!”
“He’s smoking hot! I’ll do that cliche.”
“No offense, but you barely know him. Isn’t that a bit slutty?”
“I’m not slutty... I’m sexually social!”
We got to our walking partners and linked arms. Who we walked with was based off of height and we were the shortest pair. I don’t care about height with guys like some girls do. My partner was probably 5′7 and I thought he was very attractive. As we walked down the isle, I struggled in my heels, and clung tightly to his arm keep myself steady.
Paige looked breathtaking with her long blonde hair in curls. Nobody would ever think she looked like an Autumn. She radiated sunshine like a summer day. She cried gently as she gave her vows and even her tears seemed happy. I’d never understood the concept of happy tears. If I cried it always meant I was sad.
Following the ceremony, the wedding party went outside to take photos. Everybody kept commenting on how lovely the colorful leaves were, but I couldn’t wait for the shoot to end. The flashing lights and moving around for different poses exhausted me. Eventually it ended and we were all told we could go back in for the reception.
Craving a few moments of quiet and solitude, I decided to take a short walk in the woods nearby. It was calming, especially since I knew the reception was about to be loud and crowded. Several times I was about to turn back, but decided to venture a bit farther.
Then I stumbled and everything went dark. I had slipped on some falled leaves, hit my head, and loss consciousness.
I’m not sure how long it was before somebody shook me back to reality. I sat up very slowly with my pounding head.
“Are you ok?” the girl who had shaken me asked.
“I’m Autumn,” I responded groggily.
“Do you believe in signs, Autumn?” she asked me as she brushed some hair behind her ears.
Her ears were pointy and I stared at them. She noticed and covered them up quickly. Now I was scanning her in search of something. The girl was pale and petite with little hands and feet. She reminded me of something.
"You look like a fairy."
Impossibly, her skin became paler and she didn't move a muscle. She started muttering something barely audible.
"You must have been one of us."
"You have to help us! Autumn is almost over and then it'll be too late!"
She was louder now, almost frantic. Before I could respond, we both heard the swish of people walking through leaves and calling my name. The girl I had been talking to rushed away. Starting to feel dizzy again, I lied back down. I vaguely recognized the men who approached as Paige's cousins.
"Her head is covered in blood," one said to the other seriously.
For the first time, I touched my head and noticed it had indeed bled. It seemed to have stopped though. They each took an arm and started walking me to the hotel the reception was at. As they discussed calling an ambulance, I thought to myself that these linked arms reminded me of walking down the aisle as a bridesmade. The guy I walked with had also been pretty pale and petite. Did he have pointy ears too?
You’re the Seventh
“Tall pumpkin spice latte for Angela!” the tall, male barista shouted with a wink in my direction.
I grabbed my drink, enjoying the warmth it gave my hands, and sat down next to my friend Olivia. It was Sunday afternoon and time for our weekly coffee date where we would catch each other up on our lives and gossip about mutual friends. That day I felt particularly relaxed, as I knew I had the week off and had no reason to rush home afterward.
“Did he wink at you?” Olivia asked as soon as I sat down, “He’s cute.”
“He’s gay,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
She looked at him and shrugged.
“Well, have there been any other men piquing your interest lately?”
I sighed and recounted how my coworker, who I had no interest in, had increased his usual amount of flirting. Next, I told her about some annoying catcalls I’d been getting from construction workers on my street. That was the extent of it for the week.
“What about you ’Livia?” I asked with my usual nickname for her, “Have any men been getting your attention lately?”
“Not a single one. I’m really starting to hate guys,” she said, deeply glaring her bright green eyes.
I touched my drink to hers in agreement before taking a big sip. Our conversation moved on to the ridiculous amount of friends we had that were getting engaged. At the age of 23, neither of us could understand how so many of our friends were engaged already. Eventually, we hugged and parted ways for the next week. Olivia off to do laundry and me to buy my week’s groceries.
We live in a world where, for women, the smaller your body, the bigger your power. Therefore, in order to stay thin, my weekly menu never varied. It just made it easier for me to keep track of calories and other nutritional values. Robotically walking through the aisles, grabbing food items was mechanical. While not paying attention, I ran into somebody’s overly filled cart. As I fell, my skirt flew up, and several items fell on and next to me.
“Sorry!” I heard the voice before I saw the face.
I pulled my skirt down and then accepted a hand from an attractive male stranger.
“No, I’M sorry,” I told him as I started to help pick up some of the fallen items.
I grabbed some raspberries and blueberries as I gazed at his blond, wavy hair, and laughing brown eyes.
“These are all crushed. I’ll go get you some new ones,” I told him.
As we walked over to the fruit section, I inquired if he was having some sort of celebration because of the amount of food in his cart. It turns out that was just ONE of his carts. As a chef, he often tested out recipes at home before trying them at work.
“What restaurant do you work at? If the food is as good as the ingredients I’d love to try it. I’m off this week. Maybe I’ll treat myself tomorrow.”
“Well, if you went tomorrow, you wouldn’t get to taste my cooking. Mondays are my day off. How about you come over to my place tomorrow morning and I’ll make you breakfast?”
Normally, I wouldn’t accept that type of offer, but I was in drawn to this man in a way I wasn’t used to. I agreed, typed his address into my phone, and made plans to arrive at 9:00am the next morning. Used to having dates at night, rather than the morning, I wasn’t sure what to wear. Settling on a short, fitted, floral dress, I drove off to the address I had typed. When I arrived, my jaw dropped. This was no normal house. It was more of a Gothic castle. But, the address matched, so I decided to go ahead on knock. Before he even opened the door enough for me to see his face, I could smell the food. In a trance, without even saying hello, I walked towards the kitchen.
“Sit down and I’ll bring you something,” he directed.
“Sorry, hi! Thank you!” I said, trying to regain some sense of politeness.
I tried to concentrate on forming sentences, but was having trouble exhaling. I just kept inhaling the intoxicating scents. A few seconds later he set a plate down in front of me and gave me a fork. I dived in as he described the food.
“Those are lemon blueberry pancakes with raspberry whipped cream.”
“Oh my God,” I said between bites, “where do you get raspberry whipped cream? It’s incredible!”
“I created it,” he said simply and walked away. When he returned I was finishing my last bite of pancakes. He replaced my empty plate with a full one.
“Egg white omelet with butternut squash and sweet potato hash browns,” he announced excitedly.
It didn’t matter what he called the food, it looked and smelled too delicious not to eat. After that and some chocolate mocha scones, I felt as if I were going to explode. I regretted the choice of the tight-fitted dress.
“Maybe you’d like to borrow something more comfy to wear for a bit?” he asked as if reading my mind.
Again, that’s not the sort of offer I’d normally accept, but this dress had begun to suffocate me, so I accepted. A moment later he returned with a gray t-shirt and some white and gray plaid shorts. I changed in the bathroom and went back to the kitchen.
“This material is so soft! Where did you get these?” I asked him.
“Actually, those belong to my brother.”
“Oh, does he live here too? That makes sense -this place is huge! Do many people live here?”
“All my brothers and I live here. There are five of us total. Six if you include one of my brother’s son.”
“Five boys! Wow, your poor mom. Are they all as great of cooks as you?”
“No,” he laughed, “We’re all very different. But, let me get you something to eat, you must be really hungry.”
I was about to protest when my stomach growled. Impossibly, I was indeed hungry again. My logic went out the window and I decided to trust my senses. My first sense was to kiss my date. Next, it was to sit for more food. As more and more food was placed in front of me, I ate until he stopped bringing it.
“It’s getting late,” he finally told me.
I looked at the time on my phone and shook my head disbelieving that it was actually almost 11:00 at night. I thought to myself that time was acting very strange. Then I thought to myself: I’m going to throw up. I gagged.
After being directed to the bathroom, I ran to it. Then I puked until every inch of my insides felt raw. My body collapsed on the ground in exhaustion. I inched up when I heard a light knock and crawled to answer the door.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly.
“Nothing to be sorry about,” he told me, “but you must be tired. The door to your right is a guest room. You’re welcome to stay in it tonight.”
“Thank you,” I accepted his invitation.
I knew it would take all my strength just to brush my teeth and make it to the guestroom bed. There was no chance I could get to my car and drive home safely. I fell into the deepest sleep of my life. When I awoke, I was not alone. I tensed, feeling a body next to me. Had my date creeped in and taken advantage of me during the night? I didn’t feel violated.
No, nothing like that could have happened. He must have been concerned about me last night, came to check on me, and fallen asleep, I told myself. But, when I turned around, I screamed. I had no idea who was laying next to me. The, admittedly cute, man ran a hand over his buzzed head and blinked a few times, showing glimpses of his water blue eyes, before closing them again.
“Shhhhh,” he told me.
“I will not ‘shhhh!’” I warned as I scooted away, “What are you doing in my bed?”
“You’re the one in my house, wearing my pajamas.”
“Your brother lent them to me after he cooked for me. I still don’t see why you’re in this bed. This is a guest room, right?” I said, my fear and anger both already subsiding.
“My room needs cleaning and I’m tired. This room is clean. Let’s not argue. It’s early.”
“I should say goodbye to your brother and go,” I said without really wanting to do either.
“Oh I’m sure he left for work already. Go if you must, but personally, I’d sleep a few more
hours first. Aren’t you tired?”
I was. The combination of all the food and all the energy it took throwing up still had me tired. Plus, it did still seem to be early.
“Actually, I am. Should I, um, go to another guest room?”
“Shhh, just sleep,” he encouraged me.
Against my better judgment, I shrugged and lied back down. Within a few seconds, I had fallen asleep. At some point, I started to wake up and felt his arm around me. Instead of moving away, I snuggled deeper into it, and allowed sleep to take me again. At one point I remember groggily waking up and kissing him before falling into another slumber. When I woke up again it was to a voice I didn’t recognize. I felt around the bed, realized I was alone, and sat up to see who was talking to me.
“Is this yours?” I was asked by a man holding my dress.
However, what was in his left hand was of the least interest to me. The man standing in front of me was the single most attractive individual I had ever seen, or even imagined possible. His wet, dark hair matched his dark brown eyes perfectly, but even that couldn’t hold my attention. His abs could only be described as an eight pack, followed by that dangerous V shape which pointed to the soft white towel hanging around his waist. I’d never wanted to grab a towel so badly.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he told me.
“Um, yes, sorry,” I said, shaking my head to gather it, “What time is it?”
“It’s about 11:30 in the morning, Gorgeous.”
“That’s it?” my surprise momentarily distracting me from my obvious staring, I grabbed my phone.
It was indeed 11:30 in the morning. On Wednesday.
“Did I sleep the entire day? Oh my gosh, I need to get home and-“
“Shower?” he supplied as he tossed my dress at me and used the now free hand to rub some water off his hair.
“Yes,” I replied, shamelessly staring again.
“You can use the one in the bathroom next door. There’s shampoo and everything else you’ll need in there. There’s a robe on the hook and I can grab you a towel for your hair.”
“Can it be that one?” I scandalously proposed as I stared down at his.
“If you’re lucky,” he said with a wink and walked away.
Blushing at my sudden boldness, I took that as my cue and went into the bathroom for my shower. Normally, I turn the heat all the way up. Today, I turned it all the way down. Despite the icy water, when I climbed out of the shower, I felt hot. Had the water simply evaporated off of me in an instant, I might not even have been surprised.
I put on the robe and wrapped a towel around my hair that I hadn’t remembered being there before. Had he come in and put it there while I showered? The heat in my cheeks increased. I left the bathroom and wandered back to the guest room where I had left my dress. Next to it, lying leisurely on the bed, this time sporting a pair of low cut jeans instead of a towel, was the unbelievably sexy man.
“There’s my dress. Help me put it on?” I asked with my hands ready to drop my robe.
“No,” he replied, “You can’t put that on. It’s dirty.”
“Maybe I like it dirty,” I replied, not believing my own voice.
I watched as he slowly walked over to me, lifted my chin, and kissed me. My arms went around his neck instantly and I was determined to never release him. The next thing I remember is waking up in that bed again. Somehow, I was in another pair of pajamas. I quickly overcame my disorientation –I wanted that man again. But, when I opened the bedroom door, I was facing another stranger. His indigo eyes searched mine immediately.
“Hello,” I said, “I’m looking for one of your brothers. He’s-”
I was interrupted by a small child running down the hallway.
“Daddy!” the black-haired child screamed and ran into the man’s arms.
The pair had the same eyes, hair, and obvious love for each other. My heart melted.
“I’m hungry. Let’s go eat!” the child announced.
“Whatever you want,” his father told him as they started to walk downstairs.
The kid whipped his head back and shouted, “You’re eating with us! Come on!” Obediently, I followed.
The rest of the day, I was at that child’s mercy.
When he said to give him something –I gave it.
When he said to say something –I said it.
When he said to do something –I did it.
There was no end to his wants and expectancy to get them. As I grew hungry –he didn’t care. As I grew tired –he didn’t care. But, neither did I, for some reason. He wanted all of my attention and refused to let an ounce of it go to another. And it flattered me more than I would have thought possible.
“Now we’re all going to have a sleepover in the living room!” the child demanded.
“As fun as today has been, I really think it’s time I go home,” I tried.
“No! I need you to have a sleepover!” I agreed. Right before bed, I received his final demand.
“Give me a bedtime kiss!”
I tried to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he turned his head so it landed on his lips. We all laughed and fell asleep on the floor. When I awoke in the morning, the child was gone and I was left sleeping next to his father, who woke up at the same time I did.
“Where is your son?” I asked right away.
“He’s off with his private tutor. Then he has piano and swimming lessons. I make sure that he has everything he needs. He’s perfect.”
I stared at his father as he continued to brag about his son and how he was the one to make him. Normally, the bragging would turn me off, but as I was completely enamored by the child, I couldn’t help but think the bragging was deserved. What deserved praise more than raising a child? The child’s confidence and intelligence was a result of his upbringing.
His father was the reason the child was so amazing. Any other children he had would probably turn out just as perfect. I could be the mother to a perfect child, if only I were with that man. Well, there was once place to start. I kissed him. Then, he continued to talk about himself until I eventually fell asleep, smiling at his achievements.
Saturday, I awoke with a start. This time, rather than waking up alone, or with one man, I was surrounded with all the men I had met in that house, with the addition of another. His long red hair was slicked back and his long beard was pointed like a dagger. I watched as his sharp green eyes glared at each of the men in turn.
“You fed her until her body couldn’t handle another ounce! It started to reject the food and made her throw it all up!” he screamed at my chef.
“And you, keeping her in bed the ENTIRE DAY! If you had let her go home as she wanted she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see this one,” he yelled as he switched his focus from my snuggling buddy to the sexiest man in existence.
“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” is all he asked before a punch caused his victim to fall on the ground.
I started to move forward to help him, but the child’s insistent whisper against it kept me in my place.
“Oh, yes, how can I forget the little brat who always gets his way and the father thinks so much of his parenting skills that he lets him? You’re as bad as the rest of them. YOU ALL TOOK ADVANTAGE OF HER!” he roared.
He’s right, I realized. They had, in their own ways, all taken advantage of me. And each of them had allowed the others to do so as well. In the entire place, this stranger was the only person really sticking up for me. His harshness wasn’t just warranted, but I gladly welcomed it.
“Thank you,” I told him, before placing a kiss upon his cheek.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” the stranger growled at me, causing a shiver to spread throughout my body.
With that direction, I quickly dashed outside and into my car. I drove home without looking back. Even though it must have been morning, exhaustion hit me again, and I immediately changed into a pair of my own pajamas and went to bed. In the morning I
awoke to a text message from Olivia.
Cant wait 2 C U today and hear abt your week off!!!
My mind was reeling over the week’s events, but I decided to still go on our weekly coffee date. Maybe my friend could help me organize my thoughts. When I arrived she was
already sitting at our usual table with two drinks.
“You got my drink for me! Thanks ’Livia!”
“No problem! So, any men catch your attention this week?”
“Yes! You won’t even believe it!”
Olivia scooted forward in anticipation, those green eyes glowing.
“I met a cute guy at the grocery store Sunday night and let him make me breakfast at his house Monday morning!”
“Oh my gosh!” she squealed, “What did he look like? What was his name?”
“He was tall with blond hair and brown eyes and…oh, wow. I never asked his name!” I laughed.
“Angela! How do you not know his name? I’m guessing you didn’t sleep with him then,” she laughed as well.
“No, I slept with his brother!” I said before seeing her face and adding, “Not like that!” Sleep sleeping…like where you actually sleep!”
“Um, how did that happen? His brother was insanely attractive or something?”
“No, I mean he was cute, but it was their other brother who couldn’t have looked better! And the way he kissed!”
“Two brothers? Did you learn their names?”
“Oh my God, NO! I didn’t learn a single one of their names. I can’t believe there were six people there and I don’t know any their names.”
“SIX? How many of these six did you kiss?”
I didn’t answer in words, but my blush did it for me.
“You kissed all six men!” I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head.
“One was a kid!” I said before realizing that didn’t help my case.
“Seriously, Angela? What is WRONG with you?”
“You’re just jealous!” I threw at her.
“You’re right, I am,” were her last words before kissing me.
I stared at her, speechless.
Awkwardly, she tried to change the subject, “Want to try some of my scone? It tastes so good it’s sinful.”
I didn’t know what to make of Olivia’s sudden attitude, but I also didn’t know what to make of how I’d been acting the entire week. After parting with Olivia, and pretending things were normal between us, I made a decision. I needed to return to that house and confront each of the men. I drove back to the address, but was unable to talk to any of
The house was no longer there.
Come with me
“What could you possibly have that I want in there?” the woman challenged as she smoothed out her designer dress.
Jolie came from a wealthy, well-known family. She was what you would call "well-bred," although she hated that term. Made her feel like a dog.
Every eligable bachelor in the city was after Jolie. Apparently, as she could now see, that included the son her of family's gardener. He had just pulled up next to her and said she should climb in his truck. For any man to get Jolie's attention, he had to be extremely persuasive.
She narrowed her eyes as she waited for an answer to her question. When none came, she repeated herself.
"What could you possibly have that I want?"
"A full tank of gas."
Jolie shook her head and responded, "My family has a personal driver. Why would I have you drive me somewhere instead of him?"
"I don't plan I driving you far. Just out of town. Then I thought you might like to drive my truck yourself. See if you can handle a stick."
Briefly she wondered if the stick comment was an innuendo and considered his proposition. Jolie's family always considered learning to drive unnecessary for her, but she had always wanted to try.
Jolie climbed into the truck.
Once they got out of town and switched, she tried to drive on some country roads. At first, she struggled. Then, she got better. It was exhilerating until she saw an animal crossing the road, panicked, and crashed into the ditch.
"I'm so sorry! My family will buy you a new truck!" she managed to screech between heavy breaths.
"Relax. I don't need a new truck. I just need a new tire and I have a spare in the back."
Much calmer, she nodded and watched him pull a tire out of the back.
"Well," he told her, "Come help me change it."
"Me? I can't change a tire!"
"Why, do you not have hands?"
"I, well, I don't know how."
"I do. I'll teach you. You're perfectly capable of changing a tire."
Jolie wasn't so sure of that, but she felt bad for crashing his car, so she would certainly try.
Sure enough, she was able to do it successfully. She hadn't felt this proud of herself in years. Although her mind refused to let her name it a date, Jolie wanted to make dinner for the man. She told him on the way back.
"Come over tonight and I'll make you dinner."
"You cook? I'm a picky eater. What could you possibly have that I want?" he teased her.
It was now Jolie's turn to be persuasive.
The Other Woman
“Personally, I wear a bunch of perfume so the smell gets on the guys I’m with. That way the other girls know those guys are mine.”
“So it’s like how dogs mark their territory?”
“Ew. I never thought of it that way. This is totally different. My scent is a combination of peach, cherry blossom, and pina colada.”
“So you smell like peaches, cherries, and pineapple? Are you sure the other girls won’t just think the guys ate fruit salad?”
In high school I had several female friends who, when cheated on, would blame "the other woman" more than the guys they were dating. It never made any sense to me. You should blame the person who was unfaithful.
I never understood it in high school, but now I do. It took meeting Layla to make me see how somebody could blame the mistress.
My husband Jeff and I considered ourselves very lucky. After the chaotic jungle that is high school dating, we met each other within our first few weeks of college. Four years later we were married. Neither of us had ever cheated or been cheated on, but only a year into our marriage that all changed.
Layla entered our lives.
Admittedly, the instant I saw Layla I knew she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen in real life. My husband and I were out at a bar celebrating his birthday with a few of his friends. He had went to the bathroom, and when he returned, Layla was with him. Jeff explained that he stopped at the bar on the way back and, hearing it was his birthday, she bought him a drink. Being she seemed so nice, he invited her to join our group for a bit.
A sensation I hadn't felt in years started boiling inside of me. Jealousy.
Surprisingly, the boys weren't drooling over her. They played it cool and pretended she wasn't the most breathtaking person they had ever seen. Through polite conversation, I found out that she was a social worker who loved dogs. Could she be any more perfect?
Layla became part of the gang. Jeff and I quickly began to know her better and better and spend more and more time with her. Then came the fated day of the cheating. Can you imagine walking in on your spouse in bed with a beautiful, naked woman wrapped around them?
That's what my poor husband walked in on. Neither of us had ever expected I would fall for Layla, or any woman for that matter. The conversation later that night was crushing. No, it wasn't a one time experiment. I didn't want it to be. I loved her.
So I can see why my husband doesn't blame me and instead blames the other woman. If I hadn't met that particular woman, it's possible we would still be married now. I understand why he blames her. Jeff thinks that she changed me. She didn't though. Layla just helped me discover myself.
Jill always considered herself to be a victim of genetics. No matter how much she worked out and ate healthy foods, nothing would change the pear shape of her body. Without the help of heels, it was impossible for her to stand taller than 5'3. Worst of all, she thought, was how freckled the sun made her skin. While her friends turned golden brown in the summer, she became spotted. The unchangeability of genes was endlessly frustrating. Jill had done nothing to deserve this injustice.
For several weeks, she sheltered a crush on a new guy named Charlie in her friend group. He seemed somewhat interested, but she couldn't quite tell. Dread boiled inside her body when all of her friends decided to spend a day at the beach. Swimsuits were her least favorite thing to wear. But, knowing her crust would be there, she went anyway. Without her heels, Charlie could see her true height. He was startled, but seemed almost pleased.
Letting her guard down, Jill jumped into the water and enjoyed a day of swimming. She forgot that the salty water would eliminate her makeup and make her freckles shine brightly. But she was very lucky it did. As it turns out, Charlie liked shorter girls and LOVED freckles.
No, it wasn't fair that Jill was covered it freckles. It gave her an advantage. Little did she know, another girl was nearby watching her. This person also hated genetics. No matter what she did, her skin didn't freckle.
The Future Kingdom
The king was not the most powerful person in the kingdom. He controlled the army and the vast majority of wealth, but he himself was controlled. If somebody has great enough influence over the king, they are the one of real importance. In this case, the most powerful person in the kingdom was only 10 days old.
The queen had died giving birth to her only child, a son. The king adored his son and named him Jovo, which he heard meant "future." Above all else, he wanted Jovo to take over a thriving kingdom when it was time. As the territory was currently flourishing, this didn't seem like it would be a problem. But when the king took a walk one day, he realized just because things are one way now, does not mean they will be that way in the future.
"Great, King!" a man shouted as he saw the ruler pass.
The man in tattered clothes spoke of a worry. His job was to carve wooden sculptures, but he feared that in a few years there wouldn't be enough trees for him to provide his service.
"Nonsense," the king declared, "We've never run out of trees before."
Quietly listening, he realized that they were cutting down trees much faster than they were planting them. At this rate, it was unlikely his son's kingdom would have enough trees to burn for warmth, much less for carvings. And so the ruler decreed that, for now, social bonfires would only be held once a month, to help conserve trees. Furthermore, taxes would temporarily be raised to plant more.
Another resident approached the king.
"Oh mighty King!" she called.
The woman with worried wrinkles on her forehead spoke of how she lived in the woods nearby. Lately, she noticed the rare spotted owl had seemingly become even more rate. This lady feared that soon there would be none. Their ruler frowned at the idea that Jovo might never see this beautiful owl. And the king decreed all owl hunting cease immediately.
While the king's latest rules made many of the townspeople happy, others were very upset. Less bonfires and no owl hunting? Why, the king was taking away things they enjoyed doing! They insisted he was a tyrant and was threatening to take all the fun away from the realm.
"I am doing this for our land and our animals," the thoughtful ruler explained, "I am doing this for the future. I am doing this for Jovo."
But the people cared none for future consequences. They didn't realize is leadership isn't about what people want at the moment. It's about what they need for the future. What we do today will affect others long after we're gone.
The Stranger’s Name
As Science woke up, she yawned. Stretching, her arm hit a vase and it fell, smashing on the ground. She swore under her breath as she stared at the ashes. Hearing the sound, her mother came into the room.
"Is everything all right?" she asked.
"I accidentally knocked over one of my vases. Now this poor person is all over my floor," Science explained, "It's all your fault. You had to name me Science and doom me to a life of getting dead body donations."
This was an argument they had often and her mother didn't feel like having it again, so she silently left the room. Science sighed and looked around at all her vases. She didn't even know where she would have space to put the next one that arrived. Too young (and grossed out) to know how to productively study a body, Science always sent them to get cremated. Not knowing how else to honor them, they were in vases in her room. After cleaning up, Science did what she did every day -studied the human body with countless books and internet searches. She was determined to one day make good use of the bodies.
Eventually a break was needed, so Science took a walk to the park. She sat on a bench and felt sorry for herself. She still felt bad about the broken vase from that morning. Somebody came and sat next to her. A stranger approached her. He seemed around her age, so she wasn't frightened.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Something about the boy made her want to tell all her secrets. Being named Science, the body donations, the vase breaking this morning -she told him everything. Then she made a few more complaints about her name before quieting down.
"You think your name is weird?" the boy asked, "My parents named me GOD."
"They did not!"
"Oh yes they did," he said, pulling out his driver's license, "They're atheists and thought it would be funny."
"Oh my God!"
"Yes my child?" he said and they both laughed.
"I guess that name would suck too," Science admitted.
"No, it's fun. You just have to take advantage of it. I'm sure you could have a lot of fun with the name Science too. For example, if that was my name, I would never do my science homework. You ARE science -isn't that enough? And those bodies you get -sell them to real scientists. You could make a nice profit."
She laughed, "I never thought of doing those things."
Science's friend Amanda walked over.
"Hey, Amanda, I want you to meet my new friend, God."
"Getting religious these days? Is somebody named Science even allowed to believe in God?"
"Not like that. This is God," she turned her head, "Show her your driver's-"
Science cut herself off. She didn't see God anywhere anymore.
"He was right here," Science told her.
"Are you sure you didn't just make him up to comfort yourself?"
God silently chuckled to himself behind some bushes. Hiding suddenly was one of his favorite ways to mess with people. He loved his name. In life, you have to take advantage of the things granted to you. In death, you might as well donate your body to Science.
I had a Vodka Cranberry last night.
It told me I could dance.
When my flailing arms made me look like a joke,
I went and grabbed a Rum and Coke.
The rum said I'd get a special surprise,
if I quickly downed a Tequila Sunrise.
Tequila said I need someone to adore me,
So I found some courage in a Dark 'N' Stormy
The flaming shots promised to make me cool.
After several of them, I skinny dipped in the pool.
What at the time I thought was celebration,
now I can see clearly.
It was alcohol's manipulation.
Why do people freak out so much about sex? As long as you use protection, it’s no big deal. I lost my virginity at 14. I lost the guy at 14 ½. Did this devastate me? No. Physically, I was slightly changed. Mentally? Barely a dent. Rinse and repeat getting guys, having sex, and then “losing” said guys several more times over the years. Having sex is something you do out of lust, or a feeling of obligation, or, honestly, sometimes pure boredom. It happens. It ends (sometimes more quickly than you hope) and you move on. It doesn’t really affect your day to day life.
That’s why I was so “heartlessly” annoyed when one of my college roommates made a huge deal about the first time she had sex. When I arrived back at our dorm after a late night study session, I was ready to crash right away. Unluckily for me, I found Kelsey sitting at the edge of her bed, looking distraught. Her eyes pleading for me to talk to her before her lips did.
“Jen, I need to talk to you, but please promise you won’t judge me.”
Suppressing my sigh, I agreed to talk and assured her I wasn’t the judging type. She then went on to describe how the night before she got really drunk at some party. Clearly exaggerating, she made it sound like she drank as much as six men. Afterwards, Kelsey let some guy she had a crush on for weeks take her to his apartment. They fucked. Or as she put it they “you know...did it.”
I think she wanted me to be sympathetic and tell her that this one decision didn’t define her. But I’m not good at that type of thing. Because, to me, I can’t even see why this would be a remotely interesting conversation to have. Of course it didn’t define her. Had she confessed instead that she had coffee for the first time last night, I would have felt the same. Bored. Rather than assure her things were fine, I asked a few questions to see if I were missing something important. Nope. When I asked her if there was anything else she wanted to talk about before I went to bed, and saw the look in her eyes, I realized we would never be friends.
To her, she had lost her innocence. She knew nothing about how that felt. But I did. I had lost my innocence just the summer before. His name was Jordan. We both had the same summer temp job working at a burger stand. It would have been the worst job ever, considering I’m a vegetarian and all, but since Jordan was there, it was the best job possible. At first, we just casually flirted. But then things became more serious.
You see, this burger stand was in a pretty bad neighborhood. One day as Jordan and I were flipping burgers as usual, this punk kid comes up to the stand and tries to rob it. Boy doesn’t look a day over 17 and he’s pretty scrawny, so I think he’s bluffing. I walk out of the stand, get right in his face, and tell him to get the hell away from us. That’s when he pulls out a knife and slashes me across the arm. I stand there dumbly. When Jordan rushes out, holding a knife himself, the kid scrams.
Jordan rushes me to a hospital and makes sure I get all cleaned up. He convinces me to go to his place so he can order us some pizza to unwind after the craziness. But first we have to go grab my stuff from the dumb burger stand. When we get there, our boss is standing around pissed. When somebody from the next shift arrived and nobody was there, he was called. Jordan calmly explains what happened. Our boss doesn’t care and says we aren’t getting paid for that day at all and maybe not the week. My hero, still calm, talks about lawsuits and poor training and I forget what else, but I remember the result. I got a raise. I was really starting to like this boy.
Back at his place, I expected some of the second kind of sex I mentioned to you before -the kind you have when you feel obligated. But Jordan didn’t try to have sex with me at all. We started going on dates and sex didn’t seem to be on his mind. When I finally seduced him one night, I expected it to all be over. It wasn’t. We kept dating, it just now included sex on some of those dates. I really really liked this guy.
Finally the day came when I lost my innocence. That day, I was scheduled to work, but Jordan wasn’t. We agreed that I would meet him at his place after I got off. When I showed up, his mouth dropped as I came in. He couldn’t understand why I had worn long sleeves, flipping burgers, on a day that I knew would be 90 something degrees out. I sat on his couch. Suddenly shy, I slowly pulled up one of my sleeves.
“When that kid cut my arm, it left a big scar. I don’t want people staring at it.”
Jordan came and sat next to me. Very gently, he traced my scar with his finger. He lightly kissed my arm and then my forehead. I remember exactly what he said.
“Our bodies are our life’s timelines. Freckles show time in the sun. Stretch marks show the birth of a child. Your scar shows a time when you were brave. You should be proud of it.”
That was the moment I fell in love and lost my innocence. You see, when you fall in love, it changes how you see the entire world. You realize everything isn’t about you. It shows how amazing a person can be, and in contrast, how awful others have been. People are right when they say you can’t be truly happy without being sad. Love brings the greatest happiness, but it also exposes you to the greatest pain. So don’t worry about sex. You lose your innocence when you experience love in all its contrasts.
Chloe's Facebook is acting strange. Yesterday, she woke up to find a status typed in, but not sent, saying she was "hanging with the besties" with her location tagged at the nearby mall. Confused, she deleted it as she heard her phone ring. It was one of her best friends telling her to come hang out at the mall.
Today, the same thing happened. Only now her unsent status states "saving Shayla" and the location tagged is three states away. Chloe doesn't know who Shayla is, what she needs to be saved from, or how it involves her. But she plans to find out.