In comes the dawn, new beginings #writephoto


This is part two of a fictional tale about fairies, love and death… (for the first part, click here.)

 

The full moon was waning, and that meant a sacrifice needed to be made soon. But Tara and Sam continued to lay naked, wrapped in each others arms. For the first time in decades, they tried to ignore the harvest moon’s demand for blood. For the first time, they questioned the law of their kind.

They both stared at the moon, silently pleading for it to give them another choice. As forest fairies, there was one night, and one night only where they had to spill blood. Human blood was preferred over killing a fellow forest fairy, but either way, the harvest moon’s demand had to be filled. And tonight was that night. Yet, neither of them moved, unifying their protest.

Though they had just met earlier that day, and both had the original intention of killing each other, their feelings had changed. Their meeting had sparked something inside them. It had created a desire, laughter and hope they had not known. It was also the first time they had both met another forest fairy. Their kind had dramatically dwindled over the past century and they understood why. Fairies were generally kindhearted spirits. And many over the years, died from that fault. Some refused the adult law of the annual sacrifice, and became sacrifices themselves. Others were hunted, captured and tested on by the government in earlier years. Forced into hiding, these magical fairies slowly became  folklore and myths, and simply just started to disappear. But they were indeed real, and here two lay, denying the annual sacrifice and risking their own survival.

“We are running out of time,” whispered Tara.

“I know. I just keep thinking that there has to be another way.”

“Me too.”

They both continued to lay there silently. Time they didn’t have ticked away.

Sam broke the silence. “Let’s get up before we run out of time. Let’s go hunt, together. For another option.”

“Yes. Perhaps the harvest moon will provide,” replied Tara.

“If it wants us to exist, I hope it does–and soon.”

With that, Tara and Sam got dressed and left the comfort of the waterfall and headed North. They moved through the woods quickly and quietly with Tara in the lead. Though Sam was a natural in the woods, like all forest fairies, this forest was Tara’s home and had been for nearly 100 years. She knew it intimately and headed towards the outskirts of the small desolate town. For over a mile, they moved in silence, neither wanting to acknowledge the lack of time they both had.

Then, suddenly Tara stopped. Sam watched her silently and then heard it too. Screams to the West. Horrible screams. Without a word, Tara took off running towards the distant sound. Sam followed her without question and wondered, Maybe the moon is giving us another option?

As they neared the source of cries, they slowed down trying to determine the situation. Together, two people who had prepared on killing someone in sacrifice before the night was over, stood frozen in horror at the scene they had just run to. At least when they had to kill, they did it quickly and humanly. This scene was just brutal.

There, in the middle of the woods, was a crazed man attacking a woman. She was on her stomach, desperately trying to crawl. Clinging to roots and grasping at the ground, she tried to distance herself from him. But his knife found the flesh of her back and, from the amount of blood covering her, several other places on her body.

Sam lunged forward, “This is our second chance. I’ll take him. You get her.”

Tara ran towards the blood with Sam. When he got close to man he grabbed the knife from his hand, throwing it into the brush. Then, he pounced on the attacker, pulling him off the woman.

Tara grabbed the woman and rolled her over onto her back. She had every intent on finishing her off. She looked near dead anyway, and this was her sacrifice now, thanks to the harvest moon. However, when she looked down at the woman, she froze. The bloodied victim was pregnant. Tara had not expected this and fairy laws were clear. Children were never to be harmed. Ever. Only adults could be a sacrifice. Only adult blood of a human or forest fairy would count. Killing a child would be worse than making no sacrifice at all. In fact, it guaranteed eternal torture.

The pregnant woman looked up at Tara, stretching her arms out to hold her belly.

“Pa..Pa..Pleeeasse help my baby,” whimpered the woman. Instinctively, Tara pulled her torn garment off her stomach. She wiped away the blood as best she could to see her wounds.  She was covered in scratches and blood, but there only appeared to be one shallow stab wound on her stomach.

“You belly looks ok. There is only one cut and it’s shallow,” reported Tara.

“I turned. I tried to protect… please help my baby. Don’t let it die,” pleaded the woman.

“Of course you did,” Tara smiled while rubbing the lady’s forehead. “You did great.”

“Something’s wrong. I cannot feel the baby. I cannot feel…Please. Oooohhh. Please. Please don’t let my baby die.”

Tara wasn’t a doctor, but she had lived in the forest for nearly 100 years. She’d seen many lives end, as well as begin. These were typically animals lives though. However, she wasn’t ignorant to human life and had always tried to make her harvest moon sacrifices as painless as possible.

In her century of life, she had had to learn about regular humans. Sometimes, it was merely out of curiosity. Other times, she was on a mission to study them so her encounters with them would not raise suspicions.  She needed to blend in to survive. All her experiences combined with her fairy senses, told her enough to agree with this woman. It didn’t look good for her or her baby.

As she stared down at the woman, she ran her hand over the mother’s belly. Then, she laid her hands on the woman’s head. She could feel life slipping away from the woman. Yet, the baby felt strong so far. But unless the baby was delivered soon, Tara knew, it would die with the mother.

Just then, Sam ran over.  Tara glanced up at him, and then over to the attacker who lay on the ground, still and lifeless. She knew Sam had made his sacrifice and from the scene they came upon, the world would not miss that human in the least.

Tara looked back at Sam. “She’s pregnant.”

Immediately, Sam knelt next to Tara. “How is the baby?”

“It seems fine surprisingly, but probably not for long,” Tara stated as she looked over the mother. “She’s bleeding a lot, but doesn’t seem to be in labor.”

“We have to save the baby,” said Sam while discovering a deep wound along the woman’s neck. She whimpered under the pressure of his hands. “I don’t think she is going to make it. This gash is so deep.”

“And there are several more on her back,” replied Tara.

“Save…my, my baby…my baby,” stammered the woman who had started to fall in and out of consciousness.

“We will my dear. We will. You did a great job protecting it. You were so very brave,” soothed Tara. She looked up at Sam. “This baby is not coming naturally, but it has to come now or it will die with her.”

Sam felt the woman’s belly, then her head. He was trying to sense the life of each spirit, like Tara had done moments before. He looked up at Tara. “I think your right. She’s going to die regardless. We both know that. But either way, we have to save the baby.”

“Let me at least give her some comfort. She has suffered enough,” said Tara. “Get my backpack.” Sam ran over to where they had stopped and discovered the brutal scene. He grabbed the backpack she had thrown aside and brought it to her.

Tara quickly pulled out a bottle of water and a large rolled up leaf from her bag. She unrolled the leaf and pulled out a pinch of the enclosed crushed herbs.

“Good idea,” said Sam when he recognized the herbal concoction that would give the woman a sense of comfort and euphoria.

“I can at least give her peace before she dies.”

Sam nodded and stood up, giving Tara room. Tara leaned over the woman’s head and put the herbs on her tongue. Then, she  poured a tiny bit of water into her mouth, causing her to swallow.

Meanwhile, Sam walked over to where he had thrown the attacker’s knife. After a few minutes, he found the bloody blade and returned to Tara and the dying mother who was now feeling no pain.

When he reached them, Tara had her hands over the woman’s mouth and nose, putting her out of her misery. And as a result, had just fufilled her official harvest moon sacrifice. Sam paused, knowing this fact would not matter if the child was not saved. He stood there, holding the knife in Tara’s sight and announced, “You are going to need this since there is no labor, and the baby must live.”

“I know. I know. But you can’t help me. If I mess up, I want this only on me. It can only be by my hands,” Tara said, looking at the knife.

Sam knelt down beside her and grabbed her hand. “No. You’ve made your sacrifice with kindness. I have made mine defending another. The harvest moon’s demands have been met. It gave us another option. Now, we will save this baby together. And together, we shall remain.”

Tara looked at him. “OK. But if we fail, we will both go to the Casism, instead of just me.”

“Yes, so the law says when you kill a child,” Sam replied coldly. “But…if we succeed, we will be bonded together forever by saving a child on the harvest moon. We have a chance at a blessing I never thought was possible. Not until I met you Tara.”

Tara stared at him realizing that he was referring to ancient fairy blessing that bound two lovers together when they saved a child on a harvest moon. It was more than a spiritual binding too. It was blessing so deep that it released them from the harvest moon’s annual call for blood. By saving the child together, on this night, they would not only be saved from the horror of life in the Casism, but they would be forever freed from the one night of horror that forest fairies dreaded. And, they could stay mated forever.

Tara nodded, “I had not thought of that Sam. I had almost forgotten that legend.”

“So, we will do it together,” he replied and leaned in to give her a kiss.

“Together,” she repeated. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

“Yes. Indeed we do. So, together forever. By dawn, it will a new begging for the three of us.”

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Harvest Moon Night #writephoto


Tara stared up at the moon knowing the horror would soon come. It had to. But for now, she could lay here next to him, legs entangled, and revel in his masculine scent.

The soft glow of the moon illuminated his handsome young face and broad shoulders. He looked so peaceful…so happy with his arms stretched out behind his head. His chest gently rose and fell from his breaths and he wore a near smile in his sleep. Tara giggled quietly. He’s reveling in his conquest. I will let him enjoy it for now… she thought as she traced her finger along his chest and abdomen and her foot along his leg. He moaned slightly and instinctively responded.

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She smiled. He was cute and had been an exceptionally passionate lover. She had even enjoyed their playful encounter that turned into more than she planned…

Originally, she set out for the handsome hiker to discover her along the trail. She’d be “lost and upset.” She’d let him come and save her. Then, she would turn the tables on him. Yet, this hiker was different. He made her want to stall her plan. She wanted more time with him. So as they walked along the trail, they chatted and laughed. Tara found out that Sam wasn’t just a hiker. He was a forest-ranger-in-training. He loved the forest, its smell, its creatures. He had just moved here, which would explain why she had not seen him before. His scent was new and invigorating. It did not explain how he seemed to know her lands so well though. That made her wonder, but she tossed that thought aside to enjoy the moment.

As they walked,they fell into an easy banter and comfortable unity. She watched his wonder and respect of the forest. She devoured the sound of his deep voice. And her blood warmed when he held her hand to guide her down some rocks. There was something different about him for sure. He was not like other prey. No, he was something more. And it aroused her senses and desire.

After some time, Sam suggested they take a break. “There’s a waterfall up here according to the map,” he said with a charming smile. Tara knew the waterfall of course. She knew every inch of the forest. It had been her home for nearly 100 years after all.

She smiled, “That sounds great. I could use some water. Thank you so much for getting me back on track.”

When they got to the waterfall, Sam immediately set down his backpack, removed his clothes, and jumped in the water. “You coming in?” he called with a delicious smile on his wet lips.

This man was full of surprises, she thought, and quick. She laughed as she set down her pack.

Slowly, Tara played along. There was no harm in having a little fun before she revealed her horrible secret.

“Is it cold?” she asked coyly.

“No. Its refreshing actually,” he said as he looked around the falls. “It is better than I imagined. It is almost like the water is charging my blood and spirit. Man! I love this place!”

Tara laughed. “You do love the outdoors, don’t you?”

“I can’t imagine anything better.”

“Nothing?”

“How can anything compare to this? The water is invigorating. The air is so fresh. The view is magical….”

As Sam listed his appreciation for her forest and turned in circles looking around, Tara removed her clothes. When he finally realized it, she was standing before him, naked.

He looked up and soaked in the sleek curves of her body and cascading black hair. He saw her coy smile and replied with his own.

“I stand corrected. You standing there, like that, here….yeah, that’s better,” he laughed.

“I had hoped you would think so.”

“Oh, I do. I really do.”

With that Tara descended down into the water. Sam was observant. She’d give him that. The water was invigorating. In fact, it was healing and renewing. It was one of the many things in her forest that helped her remain youthful over the century. And here it was again, offering her more: a playmate. She whispered thanks to the water and walked over to her eager hiker.

Without waiting Sam grabbed her, pulled her close and kissed her deeply. His fingers ran through her hair and traced her back. Tara responded with her own eager hands exploring his body. Oh yeah, this is a nice surprise, she thought. My plans can wait…for a bit.

Indeed, her plan did wait as they had lost the entire afternoon at the waterfall playing and discovering. She wasn’t complaining though. No, no complaints at all. In fact, the turn of events was quite pleasing. So pleasing in fact, she eagerly took the afternoon into evening.

Now, here she lay on a blanket, naked and under the moon with her prey, Sam. Her body smiled. Her heart smiled. It had been a wonderful afternoon and evening. She had almost forgotten the joy of companionship. But the time had come. A sacrifice had to be given under the full moon. Yet, she didn’t move. She didn’t want this moment to end.

However, she knew each year the harvest moon demanded blood. If she were to live another year as a forest fairy, she had to be a forest witch on this night. She had to hunt and kill to survive. And it was only once a year that human blood had to be shed. It wasn’t a big price for living the life of magic and wonder. Was it? she thought. But…for the first time in decades, she had second thoughts. She liked Sam enough that she didn’t want him to be her sacrifice. She sighed and looked over at Sam. He was staring at her.

“Is it time?” he whispered in his silky voice.

“What?”

“You don’t have to pretend Tara. I know what you are and what you need to do tonight.”

Tara leaned back and laughed. “What are you talking about silly?”

“I know you are a forest fairy. And I know, tonight is the harvest moon, which means, you need a sacrifice. And since I am the one here with you…I kind of figured it would be me.”

Tara sat up and stared at him. He sounded so calm.

“And you are not afraid?”

“No. Not at all. I actually came out here for the same reason… for I am like you. And now, here you are, with me,” he said as he flickered a spark from his hands as proof.

She sat, staring at him. Comprehending the tragedy in silence for a few minutes.

“What if we just don’t do it?” she asked.

“Then we both shall turn completely human I suppose….or drop dead immediately I guess,” he laughed. “I’ve never denied the harvest moon.”

“Me either.”

“I guess that is why we are both so old.”

“Speak for yourself old man,” Tara laughed as she slapped his arm playfully. “Wait. How old are you anyway?”

“89.”

“I thought you seemed a bit young when I saw you,” she replied.

“And you my vixen. How old are you?”

“I will be 100 next week.”

“Aaahh. And I KNEW you were a cougar! But a cougar with a birthday next week? How great! I should like to smother you with affection on your birthday, much like today as a matter of fact,” Sam stated.

Tara dropped the clothes she held to her chest. “Well, we can just pretend its my birthday now. We have a few more hours before we need to decide anything anyway.”

“Indeed we do,” smiled Sam as he looked up at the moon. “There is no point in rushing into a rash decision. So we may as well celebrate in the meantime.”

With that, Sam held out his hand. Taking his hand she leaned towards him. Inches away from each other, they stared longingly. He took in her full lips, dark chocolate eyes and flowing coal hair. She traced his strong jaw with her finger while she stared into his piercing green eyes.

“Maybe there is another way,” she whispered.

“Perhaps. Meanwhile, come to me my fairy love. Our dark sides can wait for a few hours while our light glows. Maybe, if we make the glow strong enough, the harvest moon will provide,” he wistfully stated as he pulled her on top of him.

“It’s certainly worth the effort indeed. Let us not waste another moment.”

{TO BE CONTINUED…]

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Cracked snowglobe


The cold tunnel shielded the wind, almost making it warm. But the cold wasn’t why he hid in the tunnel really. He had practically lost all ability to feel more pain. His heart was numb. So, he didn’t hid from the cold but rather the reality of what had become his life.

Mark stared at the view like he was looking into a snow globe. The lights reflected off the shimmering river. The crisp white flakes of lace blanketed the sloped bank. And it was quiet, and peaceful. It wasn’t at all like the flashing scenes of darkness and screaming in his head.

It was in these moments of peace he remembered his life. Well, his life before this. It wasn’t perfect but it was perfect enough. He was happy man, a respected man and a hopeful man. He remembered Amanda, her smile, her laugh. He’d known his wife since they met in middle school. And since then, they were inseparable. After college, they got married and all the town could say was, what took you so long. They were in no rush though. They had each other.

About a year after being married, they found out they were pregnant. They practically glowed in happiness as they moved about town. People couldn’t help but stare at them and smile. They were the perfect couple.

Then, one night it was all ruined.

As Amanda and Mark returned from an evening out, a drunk driver slammed into their car, on the passenger side, where Amanda sat. The idiot was driving so fast, his car collided with enough force to pin Amanda in the car. After the initial shock of the hit, Mark regained consciousness. He could hear Amanda screaming, crying out. Oh my God! Mark! The baby! I can’t feel it. I can’t feel anything!

Mark scrambled about the car, wobbly from his own injuries. But he could move. Amanda couldn’t. Her car door was crushing her into her seat. Mark held her hand. Kissed her. And laid his head on her stomach. Hold on little one. Don’t you leave me. Please don’t leave me.

His pleas were not enough though. Amanda and the baby left Mark that night. And with them, his heart and feelings died too. Since then, Mark lived in a daze. Not really alive but not yet dead either. He felt dead though. But until that happened, he would sit here and push away the screams of that horrible day, and sit here and watch the snow globe and pretend it wasn’t cracked.

 

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Open Minded Love


We stood staring at each other, trying to look tough, yet friendly. He was really no different than me. He was a Soldier. His boots carried the same dust. His hands wore the same calluses. His eyes shielded the same mix of hope weighed down with pain.

We both had been fighting this war and lost loved ones. We both needed and wanted progress to validate our time, our loss. As he outstretched his arms in greeting, I realized he was different than me in some ways too though.

“Friend. Welcome. I am Abdul. Come. Sit with me. Let’s talk,” said the Iraqi Soldier. Yes, Abdul was different than me because the war he had been fighting was in his streets, and was endangering the country he loved. I dearly wanted peace for our Iraqi friends, but it was still not my home. My wife and kids were home in the United States. They were safe. Abdul’s were not.

“…My wife and son were killed by last year…I fight for my country and for God now…I fight with my American brothers…” said Abdul with a determined face. I recognized that piercing look. I had a similar look when my unit was attacked on my previous tour. I remember the gunfire, the explosions and my battle buddy falling. I remember the blood on my hands as I tried to save Cooper, as I tried to stop his bleeding. I couldn’t and part of me died with him that day. So I knew Abdul’s look and nodded my understanding.

“I will fight with you my brother. I too have lost loved ones. My closest friend, my Army brother, died in Ramadi last year….I miss him everyday…”

Abdul nodded and we began to talk about how we would work together to train and fight. My soldiers were to work side by side with his soldiers to teach them tactics. Together, American and Iraqi soldiers, would join to fight the hatred in his land.

As I started working daily with Abdul, I realized just how alike we were. He was not at all like the stereotype of middle Eastern men. He was just a man. He had loved his wife and boy. The unimaginable loss of them nearly crippled him, like when I lost Cooper. He enjoyed Army life like I did: the hard work, the strategic challenge, the physicality. He cherished a cool breeze on a quiet night. He appreciated a good sporting event. He’d die for his fellow soldier. Yes, we were very much the same.

After several months, Abdul and his team were ready. They would take over the training of their own Army. They would spearhead the charge and lead their own country into peace…or so I thought.

In moments, all the progress was undone. All the bounds we had built were broken.

Abdul and I were walking to the front of a crowd, to speak with a village elder. As the elder approached us, another soldier, one of Abdul’s, ran forward screaming, Allahu Akbar. Abdul, after looking at me, ran towards his soldier tackling him and pulling him away from me and the elder, who I threw myself on. Before Abdul and his soldier hit the ground, an explosion shook the area. Everyone fell to the ground that was not thrown there by the blast. Black smoke filled the air. Blood covered the ground. Screams filled the air. For a second, I lay there trying to digest what had happened. I jumped up. Looked at the elder’s minor wounds, and then turned to look for Abdul. He lay there, mangled and bleeding out. Yet, miraculously, he was still conscious.

“The elder is good? You are good brother?”

“Yes, you saved us Abdul. Now stop talking. Save your energy. You are getting out of here,” I lied.

Abdul struggled a small smile. “Don’t lie to me brother. It’s good. I will be a martyr.”

I grabbed Abdul’s face and knelt down near him. “You will always be a martyr and my friend. You have lived up to your name. You are truly a servant of God Abdul.”

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For the Discovery Challenge – Open Minded.

A fictional story on the complexities of war: becoming partners with local forces when it is a strong possibility that there is could be one or two extremists in the ranks. Though this story is fictional, I have heard of like real-life stories of multinational soldiers bonding and then suffering in one kind of attack or another. Once you become a “battle buddy” or “brother” with another soldier, that bond is strong, and differences fade away. To all those soldiers, both foreign and American, who have died, you are not forgotten.

Memories on my Cheeks


She stood alone on the deck, watching the waves roll and swell. The cold wind blew in gusts, but she remained still. The wind was not as cold as her heart, so she ignored it. The last time she saw the ocean, life was different, better, and warmer, and that was just last year.

She remembered him with a smile. Like the storm, he blew into her life suddenly. But she had welcomed the disruption. She couldn’t fight it, even if she had wanted to. He was charming, brave, and noble. He made her laugh. And oh, those eyes of his had made her weak in the knees. After their first blind date, she was hooked. He was her person, and even better, she was his.

The whirlwind romance took off quickly. Some said, maybe too quickly. Karen and Matt never thought that though. They were hungry for time together, each other. That became obvious to their friends and the “too fast-too soon” worries faded away. And after a couple of months, their friends couldn’t even remember Karen and Matt being single. They seemed to be made for each other, a perfect match.

Karen sighed as she recalled Matt, his touch, his laugh, his kiss. He had a way of calming her when no one else could. And he’d make her laugh till her stomach hurt. She ran her hand across her stomach and smiled. “Oh Matt, you’d be laughing now. I wish you were here,” she whispered to the wind.

He was supposed to be here, on this cruise with her. It was going to be their one-year dating anniversary celebration. Now, everything was different. The happy trajectory of her life had stopped immediately when a bullet ripped through Matt’s body while he was on patrol. Her worst nightmare had come true that day, and part of her died when she saw his fellow officers walk towards her with their somber faces. “Karen, we are so sorry….Matt was killed….in the line of duty…” It was a memory like no other, one that would not go away. The scene was burned into her head and froze her in place, like it did now.

“Are you OK sweetheart? Can I help get back inside? This storm looks like it’s getting nasty,” said a fellow cruise ship passenger.

Karen looked up to find an older woman with a kind face staring at her. “Um, no. I am fine.”

The lady smiled and nodded. “Well, do you need an ear? I couldn’t help but notice your crying my dear. Cruise ships are not normally a place for tears, so I thought I’d see if you needed something.”

Karen reached up and wiped the tears from her face. “I didn’t even notice I was crying. Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeks I guess.”

“I understand. I’ve had those kind of tears myself. They never leave you, but they do get easier in time.”

Karen took a deep breath and tried to smile.

Then, the two women stood in silence for a few minutes, just staring at the storm as they held onto the deck railing.

Finally, the kind woman looked at Karen. “When are you due dear?”

Karen looked down at her barely bulging belly and caressed it. “In January. I’m about four months now, is it that obvious?”

“It is to a woman who knows that look. I work in a women’s clinic. But to others my dear, I am sure they haven’t even noticed since you look fabulous.”

Karen smiled weakly. “Thanks. But I guess it’s time I let my family know. I’ve just been waiting for a better time.”

“And when would that be?”

“I thought it was about two months ago, but that’s when my soulmate, Matt, was killed. He was a police officer, and someone ambushed him…now, he’s gone…and I’m here on our cruise…alone.” She looked down at her belly and laid her hand on it. “Well, sort of alone.”

“I see. That explains the memories streaking your face. I thought I had recognized that look too. You see, my Frank was stolen from me too. Not the same way, of course. He was in a car accident. Three years ago. I miss him every day, every second, and I thought I recognized that pain.”

Karen looked the woman in the eye. “Does it ever go away?

“I wish it did sweetie, but no. But, you can find a new normal, in time. And, what a blessing he left with you,” she gestured to her belly.

“Yes, indeed. I just wish…I had been able…to tell him…He died the day I was going to tell him…I waited too long,” Karen struggle to get out through breaths.

Just then, a big wind gust created a small shower of flower petals from a nearby plant and thrust open the double doors across the deck. The woman and Karen looked at each other and smiled.

“I’m thinking your Matt knows my dear, and just might want you to get out of this storm.”

Karen looked around, like she finally realized the storm’s presence.

“Oh. Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

The woman held out her hand. “Come. Let’s get a cup of coffee. You can tell me how you met Matt and I can tell you how I met Frank. It was really romantic too.”

“I can’t wait to hear it,” Karen said as she walked toward the kind stranger and out of the storm.

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For Writer’s Quote Wednesday’s Challenge ~ Memories.

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For the Discover Challenge ~ The Things We Leave Behind.