Sweet Lust Affair, with Photo Proof (Flash Fiction True Story)

It was most definitely lust at first sight. 

I couldn’t look away. She was round and firm, dressed in simple but elegant style in fall colours, awaiting an invitation for a party for two And all the signs were there that she wanted me to take her home: the seductive brown eye catching mine, the smooth roundness of her body, laid back and relaxed behind a clear window deliberately designed to frame the object of my desire, to make my hands clench in anticipation, to have my mouth watering in need. 

I tried to walk away. I knew it was wrong. 

I didn’t need it.

But oh, I wanted it. 

I wanted the satisfaction. I’d never had this before, not completely. Selfishly, I wanted the taste. I had only had a sample of it before, dampening my lips, a hint of it on my tongue, and I wanted more.

I tried to walk away, but my feet took me in a circle — right back to the window, to the temptation, and my will crumbled. 

In my hands, we almost lost control. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She popped her top open on our way to the door, and her sweet fragrance overwhelmed my senses. “Just wait,” I murmured tenderly, uncaring of the state of the people nearby. I covered her back up, carefully. “Our time is coming.”

But not yet, I thought on the way to the car. No, I want the anticipation to build. I want the first moments to curl my toes. 

So I brought her home, and I made supper. Was it the suspense of the wait, the delight of certainty of the decadent pleasure that made my dinner so good? I held myself back from rushing, savouring every mouthful in practice and preparation for my . . . dessert. 

And at the same time, while she waited in the kitchen, perched coyly on my table, I thanked my lucky stars that my son had to be driven to karate as soon as I was done eating. That my daughter was having dinner at a friend’s house. I prayed that my husband would stay asleep where he was napping in the bedroom, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stand the thought of us being interrupted. 

I wasn’t in the mood to share. 

Took the teen to his class. 

Went into the kitchen.

And she was mine. 

I had her fully in my hands, now, and oh, Gods, I wanted to just open my mouth and lick her clean, bury my face in her depths, consuming her coolness with the heat of my lips. I hungered like a vampire, baring my teeth, hovering over her curves with only a hair’s breadth of will keeping us apart. But it was too coarse, too quick. Our consummation had to be leisurely, slow, and entirely centered. A marathon, not a sprint. I wanted the pleasure to linger, rising and falling, rather than a burst of sensation over too soon.

So I brought her to the love seat, the better to support my feet as I stretched my legs beneath her. I took my time, choosing the perfect crevice into which to sink my tool. She gave gracefully, bending and breaking under the touch of my outstretched silver, opening to me in a delicate burst of fragrance and pale flesh. 

When I finally had her in my mouth, smooth and velvety, she tasted just as I’d imagined, just as I’d hoped. I closed my eyes to appreciate her flavour, rolling it on my tongue. 

And then I did it again. And again.

She’s in the kitchen, even now. Waiting for me to come back to her. I’m waiting for the others to go to bed, to have privacy once more. 

Like I said, I’m not going to share.

Want proof? It’s in our photos. Go ahead and look! I don’t care who knows about it, so long as you don’t come between us. 

Me, and my sweet lust affair.

   
    
    
   

Just a silly / fun assumption poem

Billy walks casually down the street,

Cindy’s soft hand in his, perfectly fits.

He strides over puddles, avoiding wet feet,

And thawing lumps of slushy dog

“Mitts!”

Cries his true love, letting go his grip,

To blow on her hands and rub them fast.

“It’s too cold for the pool; not even a dip

in the hot tub will warm up my

“Pass

if you want,” Billy tells Cindy,

“I’m tired of being bored in this muck!

Too warm for a ski and too cold for my bike,

Unless we go back to your place and

“Tuck

your shirt in,” she laughs, “Not happening.

My parents are home and they’ll pick

on us both. How about instead I watch you swim,

whistling at the size of your

“Ticks

me off that you won’t come in the water,

you’ve already got your swimsuit and stuff.”

Billy shakes his head. “We’re almost there!

And you even went to the spa and waxed your

“Tough

cookies,” Cindy tosses. “I’ll swim when it’s hot,

Right now I’m just not feeling the best.”

They dodge a snow heap and Billy curses a lot,

mourning ’cause he won’t get to see her

“‘Fess

up,” Cindy warns him. “I know what you’re up to —

I can see your face getting red.

Swimsuits in springtime are just an excuse

to get me back into bed!”

—————

Addendum: I’ve never written one of these before! Much more challenging than I’d anticipated. Sonnets might be easier. Still, kind of fun and a nice stress-reliever. Happy Tuesday — hope you enjoyed!

Book Review: In Celebration of Elastic Waistbands, by Christee Gabour Atwood

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I feel like Christee Gabour Atwood has been peeking into my life and taking notes. Honestly, there was so much I was able to appreciate and commiserate with in her tales, it felt like I was almost meeting my doppelgänger.

Once I got used to the style of the book — short, column-length chapters that were a comfortable length to read with tired eyes — I gobbled it up whenever I could. I really enjoyed her humour, her Erma Bombeck-esque take on life, career, home, and fur-babies. I am going to order a copy of this book for my mother, and probably get copies for some of my friends. This is the Rubber Chicken for the Soul. When I feel surrounded by perfect moms with hotel-clean houses and organized lives, this book is going to remind me that a) only a small proportion of North American women are like that, and b) most of them are on TV. Christee Gabour Atwood is welcome in my dog-hair, comfortably cluttered home, anytime. I may even have to frame some of her words of wisdom, immortalizing her proverbs in cross-stitch, because I honestly love them that much. Plus, cross-stitch is a great way to avoid mopping, folding laundry, dishes…

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005JJW78U

Urban (Suburban?) Winter Olympic Sports that I’d Like To See…

Grocery Cart Steeplechase
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The Playing Field: a large flat parking lot covered in alternating patches of hard-packed and slushy snow, 5 cm deep.

Objective: Complete a circuit of parked cars with a heaping grocery cart without letting a bag fall off or hitting the side of a vehicle.

Points are scored for keeping on straight tracks, smoothness of cornering, and fastest arrival at the target vehicle.

Penguin Parkour
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The Playing Field: a stretch of sidewalk downtown after the ploughs have gone by and left massive heaps of chunky snow piled over curbs, around fire hydrants, and covering benches.

Objective: Make it to a bank, a pharmacy, a gift shop, and pick up take-out without falling on the slippery sidewalk or street, using obstacles to propel yourself over the dangerous snowbanks.

Points are scored for creative use of fire hydrants, uncovered benches (even the edge), lamp posts, parked vehicles, baby strollers, and shopping bags in manoeuvring the body up, over, and around the snowbanks. Bonus points are awarded if no damaged is caused to these objects.

Freestyle Tandem Shovelling
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The Playing Field: A double driveway with connecting walking path during a heavy snowfall.

Objective: Midway through the snowfall, partners take turns clearing the freshly fallen drifts before the snow plough comes by and re-buries half of the lower driveway.
Points are scored for grace, rhythm, synchronization, speed, and thoroughness. Double-points for scraping ice down to the original paved, dirt, stone, or gravel drive. Highest scores go to those who put their snow in the plough-away direction, so the majority is carted further down the street by the vehicle.

That’s it, that’s all I have for now. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! Cheers!

“5 Minutes Earlier…” (working title for grade 9/10 play for 2013)

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*Updated with new ending*

Characters:

Bethany, the birthday girl
Katie, her best friend, organizing the surprise party
Steph, her cousin, responsible for the cake
Lainey, her sister, in charge of decorations
Will, Steph’s boyfriend, in charge of party food and drink
Alex, her friend, helping with decorations
Chelsey, her friend, in charge of music
Kaitlyn, her friend, helping with keeping things clean and tidy

AT RISE: A backyard patio with table and seating for 5. It is partially decorated for a birthday party. The house entrance to the yard is at stage right. There is a fancy garden clock showing the time as 6:00 pm.

Noises of fighting are heard before the curtains open — voices overlapping each other:

KATIE: You’re going to ruin everything!

STEPH: Ow! Be careful, watch out!

LAINEY: (loudly sobbing) Waaaahhhh!!!

WILL: Get off me, Katie!

ALEX: Give me that before you break it!

CHELSEY: You owe me now! You owe me $250!

KAITLYN: You guys! She’s going to be here any minute!

Curtains open. KATIE is on WILL’s back, pulling on his hair. STEPH is standing in front of the table with the cake, at center stage, trying to keep the cake from getting wrecked. LAINEY is kneeling over crushed presents, trying to pop boxes back into shape. ALEX is trying to get a portable iPod dock from CHELSEY, who is trying to beat him over the head with it. KAITLYN is running back and forth, trying to keep friends from killing each other and comforting LAINEY.

KATIE: No-one is going to eat that garbage! You had $50 to get pop and chips, what did you do with it?

WILL: I swear, she loves black licorice!

LAINEY: First the bird, and then this! I told you all, just gift cards!

KATIE: (gets off WILL, elbowing him aside to confront STEPH) And you — you had ONE job! ONE!

STEPH: Hey, it’s not my fault these losers can’t keep their fingers to themselves! (She picks up the box and shoves it toward KATIE to show her.) I did the best I could!

ALEX: (in a tug-of-war over the iPod dock, backs into KATIE) Hey, watch it! This was a Christmas present from my Grammy!

CHELSEY: Then you can tell Grammy you had to sell it to buy me a new phone!

KAITLYN: Can we please try to clean all this up before– (she is interrupted by BETHANY entering stage right)

BETHANY: Oh…my…goodness. What is going on?

KATIE furiously shoves the cake up toward STEPH’s face. STEPH moves at the last minute and the cake ends up all over BETHANY.

WILL: Surprise!

Blackout. Music: “Tiki Room” plays while scene is quickly changed: the clock’s hands are changed to 5:55, presents are stacked neatly next to the table, along with an empty birdcage; the cake box is in the centre of the table, as well as a flat of pop. One can is already open on the table. There is a feathery lump on the ground near a laundry basket filled with tablecloths: a dead budgie.

Lights up: All are gathered around the dead bird.

ALEX: Ew. Its eyes are gone. (He pokes at it with a straw.) They must have dried up and fallen out in the washer, or in the dryer maybe.

KAITLYN: Don’t touch it! That’s disgusting!

STEPH: Yeah, put that straw in the garbage now.

WILL: It’s probably sterile, you know. After all, it did go through the wash. (He turns away and sneaks a lick of frosting and a drink from the open pop on the table. He ends up with frosting on the corner of his mouth.)

LAINEY: Now what are we going to do? This was supposed to be Bethany’s main birthday present!

KATIE: We can still give her the cage and tell her she can pick out the budgie on her own. Quick, we’re going to need to get rid of the evidence.

CHELSEY: I’ll go and get a bag.

KAITLYN: What for?

CHELSEY: To put it in the garbage, duh.

KAITLYN: That’s so cruel! We should bury it in the garden.

WILL: We could give it a Viking burial! Make it a little boat and burn it while it floats away on the pond! (He high-fives ALEX.)

STEPH: I knew it! I knew you were getting into the cake! What is wrong with you?

KATIE: This is the last time I ever organize a surprise party for anyone. (She goes
to drink from her pop, but it’s empty. She turns it upside down
.) Okay, who drank my pop?

WILL: Sorry, just trying to save the rest of it for the party. Frosting makes me thirsty.

STEPH: Why couldn’t you snack a little on the party food?

WILL: Nah, I don’t like it.

KATIE: Will, this is dollar store Hallowe’en candy. Hallowe’en was ten months ago!

ALEX: Time for some music! Chelsey, toss me your iPhone!

CHELSEY: Don’t drop it.

ALEX: I have excellent reflexes. (CHELSEY throws it. He misses and drops it,
falling backward onto the presents and crushing them.
) Crap.

Blackout. Music: “Tiki Room” plays while scene is quickly changed: the clock’s hands are changed to 5:50, the cake box is in the centre of the table, and a flat of pop. One can is already open.

Everyone is in various stages of preparing for the party, except for STEPH and KATIE, who are offstage. KAITLYN is sweeping the patio, LAINEY and ALEX are hanging streamers and/or balloons, and WILL is filling bowls with candy in between sneaking drinks from the open pop. CHELSEY is unrolling an extension cord behind the table, bringing the end to the portable iPod dock at stage left.

CHELSEY: I have all of Bethany’s favourite songs on a playlist. It took me a few hours but I know she’s going to love it. (She shows ALEX, who is helping LAINEY with decorations.)

LAINEY: That’s great, but we really need the tablecloth now. Katie’s bringing the presents in from the house and I don’t want them to end up on the ground. They’ll get all dirty.

CHELSEY: Where are they?

LAINEY: In the dryer, right next to the back door.

CHELSEY: I’m on it! (As she passes the cake box, she sneaks a fingerful of frosting from the edge of the cake.)

ALEX: Bethany’s going to be so surprised! I’ve never been to surprise party before, I think I’m more excited than she’s going to be. Can I do the music for a bit, just for fun?

KATIE: (enters from stage right with a stack of presents, and the empty birdcage is on top) Guys, I can’t find the budgie. You have to watch it really carefully when it’s flying around.

WILL: Well, you can’t leave it in the cage all day. That thing is tiny. (He sneaks a bit of frosting off the cake.)

KATE: It’s just until she gets it home. The bird needed exercise. Nobody saw it fly out the door, I hope? (She goes to set the presents on the table.)

LAINEY: Can you just put those by the table for now? We’re just waiting on the cloth, and it’ll be a pain to move them all.

KAITYLN: Will, can you hold the dustpan?

ALEX: Make sure you wash your hands, after. Otherwise it’s just like we’re eating food out of the dustpan.

WILL: Yeah, yeah. I’m done anyway.

KATE: Okay, I know I haven’t had more than a couple of drinks from this and it’s already half empty. Who’s been drinking my pop?

STEPH: (enters from stage right with a can of frosting and a butter knife) You’d think that a cake decorator would know how to spell “Happy Birthday” properly. Guys, I can totally tell that you’ve been tasting the frosting! Stop it! (She prepares to fix the cake.)

CHELSEY: (enters from stage right with a basket full of laundry) Okay, tablecloths are fresh and ready to go! Kate, can you help me with this? I love fluffing it like a sail.

KATE: (grabs a corner of the top tablecloth) Remember when we were in kindergarten and we’d have one of those big parachutes? Everyone would hold a side and we’d put a ball on it and pop it all over the place. (They shake out the tablecloth and a feathery bundle flies out, landing on the patio floor.)

Blackout. Music: “Tiki Room” plays while scene is quickly changed: the clock’s hands are changed to 5:45. The table is at stage left.

KATE enters from stage right with CHELSEY, ALEX, and LAINEY.

KATE: So, I was thinking, it won’t take long at all to put everything together. Just move the table over here for the food, cake, and presents, and put the streamers on the trees. Boom, done!

CHELSEY: And where do you want the music?

ALEX: I brought my dock for you, but I think we’d get better sound on the other side of the yard. We need an extension cord.

KATE: I’ve got one in the kitchen.

LAINEY: I’ll get started with the decorations. Alex, want to help me?

STEPH: (enters from stage right with the cake box) Am I late? There was a little problem with the cake, but I bought some icing to fix it.

KATE: (opens the box and looks in) Happy Birthday Insert Name Here dot dot dot? Seriously, Steph?

STEPH: I know, but I can fix it!

WILL: (enters from stage right with shopping bags of candy, a flat of pop, and a bowl, that he sets on the table) Oooh, yummy! Can I have a taste?

STEPH: Your finger gets near this cake and you get back a stump.

KATE: I am parched — I hope nobody minds if I have a drink right now? (She gets a can and opens it, taking a sip.) T-minus 15 minutes to party, everybody!

CHELSEY: I can’t wait to see her face! And you got her the bird, right?

KAITLYN: (enters from stage right) That almost sounds dirty. Just like this patio. Honestly, you couldn’t have swept a little before we got here?

ALEX: Come on, everyone, let’s just be nice to each other. It’s a party!

Blackout. Music: “Tiki Room” plays while scene is quickly changed: the clock’s hands are changed to 3:00. The patio is empty.

KATE and BETHANY are doing yoga on the patio.

BETHANY: I don’t want any fuss about my birthday this year.

KATE: Why don’t you come for a sleepover? We’ll keep it completely low-key, just movies and popcorn.

BETHANY: Sure! That sounds like fun.

KATE: We could make it with all of our friends. But nothing birthday.

BETHANY: Nice and relaxing, it’ll be perfect. I’ll ask as soon as I use the bathroom! (She exits stage right.)

KATE: (takes out her cellphone and dials) Hey, Steph? Can you order a cake for tomorrow? I’ll email you the details after Bethany goes home, but we’re going to have a surprise party for her!

Blackout. Music: “Tiki Room” plays to the curtain call.

Bear in mind — this might get altered a bit by the students after they see the script. Comedy isn’t always my strong suit.

Is a vampire hunter allowed to be squeamish?… Excerpt from “A Living Specimen”

Trisha donned the white cotton gloves Bill passed her, and held up each item as he described it. She walked around the room, gritting her teeth when first one person, then another gave her a knowing smile.
Never be late for meetings.
“This jar of holy water has the seal of the Pope himself,” Bill continued. His baritone filled the room. Myrtle leaned forward as Trisha passed. Pausing to allow the little old lady to have a good long look, Trisha glanced back at Mitch. He waggled his fingers at her.
Rolling her eyes, Trisha moved on.
“Each item has its own resting place in the chest, which is lined with silk.” Bill was clearly very proud of his latest acquisition. “The stake, made of ash, has a leather-bound hilt for a firm grip, and was cut by hand.”
Now Trisha reversed direction, the stake laid across her palms. She resisted the urge to brandish it at Mitch, who grinned at her with a mouthful of brownie.
“Excuse me, Bill?”
A hand popped up at the back of the room. Bill acknowledged the speaker.
Trisha managed to control her expression this time. As much as Jasmine Mehta got on her nerves, it wouldn’t do to reveal that fact. It was okay to bitch about the petite East Indian when Trisha was alone with Mitch, but woe betide anyone who publicly complained about the woman.
As Trisha circulated back toward the fireplace, she wondered what it was that irked her so much about her peer.
Was it her beauty? Trisha herself felt reasonably attractive most days, but Jasmine was exotic. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows, big brown eyes and long black lashes, clear skin, white teeth and lush lips were complimented by a spill of silky black hair. Trisha couldn’t ever remember seeing Jasmine’s hair styled the same way twice. Her clothing was as posh and impeccable as her makeup.
Plus, Mitch had once been Jasmine’s boyfriend. Trisha didn’t even like to think about the implications there.
Maybe it was knowing that Jasmine was smarter than Trisha. It hurt to admit that her intelligence was not the highest in this room, unlike some of her college classes. Jasmine clearly had more expertise and experience in her little finger than Trisha had in her whole brain, and yet she was only two years older. Mitch had reassured her on more than one occasion that Jasmine did make mistakes and wasn’t always right, but it didn’t seem that way to Trisha.
For example, Jasmine used words like “economy” and “conservation”, tossing them off like they were nothing. Trisha could barely follow her comments much of the time. Her vocabulary was off the charts, as was her understanding of politics and money.
“Therefore, in light of our budgetary concerns, the treasure department must caution against further spending of this nature.” Jasmine’s voice was as delicate as her looks. Trisha wished that her nemesis at least had an accent, a guilty thought that belied her unconscious prejudices. It simply wasn’t right how inferior Trisha felt when Jasmine was around.
Bill nodded as Jasmine sat back down. “You’re quite correct, we don’t have the room in our finances for a purchase like this. I would like to supplement the cost out of my own pocket, though my wife will probably kill me.”
A few of the senior members laughed appreciatively at the back of the room. Jasmine appeared mollified.
“But this kit is complete — it’s extremely rare. And it was never used, also rare. You can understand the historical importance of the find, and how it will add to our educational services.” Bill accepted the stake from Trisha, placing it reverently back in the case. “You may sit down, now, Trisha.”
Smiling stiffly, Trisha turned away, hoping she wouldn’t trip over her own feet. She made it back to the couch, turning aside as the unknown tech guy brought up a folding screen for the next part of the meeting. Mitch patted the seat next to him, and with a grateful sigh, Trisha plopped down.
A horrible stink reminiscent of dead and rotting flesh immediately rose from the cushion beneath her.
“Geez, no wonder you’re sitting here alone,” she whispered to Mitch, her erstwhile brownie completely forgotten as her eyes watered. She tried to take shallow breaths, not wanting to attract anymore attention. “What did you do, take your shoes off?”
“Hey, my feet aren’t that bad anymore.” He put an arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “The thing was stinky when I sat down, too.”
“So why did you stay here?” Trisha leaned away from his chocolate-breath, which was not helping her lurching stomach.
“Everywhere else was taken.”
“Sh!” The lights had dimmed.
It was the monthly report on investigations and hunts. Bill explained each data chart as it appeared on the screen. “Spectral apparitions are down in number, but the intensity of each report is increasing. Rachel, you may want to look into the astronomical factor — maybe a conjunction of planets is providing strength.
“You got it.” Trisha craned her neck for a glimpse of the curvaceous blonde.
“We had five encounters with zombies, all successfully contained and put down. Possible relation to government testing facilities. Mitch, that’s your department — see what you can find out about the latest germ warfare experiments, would you?”
“Will do.” Mitch, caught in the disrespectful act of trying to nibble Trisha’s ear in the semi-dark, held up a thumb.
“There were twenty-six UFO sightings called in, of which nine were explainable, four were first-kind, seven were second-kind, and six were abductions.”
Trisha tried to hold her attention on Bill; he was a decent man, and the information was important. Her job was data analysis and vampire hunting. She felt that there might be a link between the phases of the moon and vampire attacks, and wanted to do more research — besides that of her interminable master’s thesis.
Unfortunately, sitting on a horrible smell while her good-looking boyfriend tried to creep his hand up her skirt did little for her focus.
“…vampire hits are down, and I think we’ve done a good job on that.” Bill nodded in Trisha’s direction; Mitch’s hand vanished like air from her thigh. “Thanks to Trisha’s skills, that is.”
Trisha realized that people were applauding her. Taken a little by surprise, she nodded in appreciation.
“Just try to remember, we would like an undead specimen at some point,” someone called out. “We can’t learn a whole lot from those little piles of ash you keep bringing back.”
“I can’t help it if that’s what they do,” Trisha retorted, smiling sheepishly. “You want a live specimen, come out with me some time and bring a net! Made of titanium!”
Laughter roared out of the darkness. Trisha could feel herself blush.
She had done something right.
By time the meeting was over, Trisha had nearly gotten used to the smell. She stood up and stretched, feeling Mitch’s eyes on her long legs.
“My god, what is that incredible stench?” Jasmine had come up to the fireplace to warm her hands. Trisha saw her nose wrinkle and quickly pointed down at the couch.
Mitch saw the look Trisha passed him. “Yeah, I noticed it before, but I didn’t have time to do anything about it.”
He got up and tilted the couch back. “No leftover food.”
“I should say not!” Myrtle had materialized suddenly at Trisha’s side. “This room may be old, cold, and ugly, but it’s clean. I check it myself, every night.” She pushed her round spectacles further up on her nose to glare at Mitch.
He cowered.
“You’re right, Miss Gray, I’m just trying to find the source of the smell.” Trisha loved how his tone went automatically to fear and respect whenever the little woman came around. Mitch let the couch back down and crouched to lift the faded yellow cushions. “And I think I just uncovered our bad boy.”
He flipped the cushion up. Trisha shrieked and jumped back.
Jasmine snorted in disgust. “You kill vampires as a hobby, and a little dead mouse freaks you out?”
Trisha became conscious that she was using Myrtle as a human shield. She let go of the older woman’s shoulders and stepped away. “That’s entirely different. Vampires are a threat, and once you kill them, they’re just ash. That is — it’s just — I mean, look at it! I was sitting on that!”
A crowd was gathering.
Bill poked his head in between Mitch and Jasmine to examine the tiny corpse stuck to the underside of the cushion. “Looks to me like it got squished to death,” he remarked.
Trisha felt her bile rise.
“Maybe within the last twenty-four hours or so.” Bill had taken a fireplace match and was poking at the remains of the mouse, still firmly attached to the couch fabric. “It would have to take a pretty heavy person to do that kind of damage. Or two people. Who knows, it could have been any of us.”
Oh no. Trisha stared at Mitch. They had snuck into the library the night before. The formerly sexy memory of falling onto the couch in his arms, the weight of his body pressing onto hers, turned to mulch in her brain. She went to him and clutched his arm, eyes frantic. “Mitch! Do you think that we — I think I might be sick.”
He kissed the top of her head and patted her hand. “Well, it’s a helluva way to go.”
Trisha decided it might be time to break up with him.
“We’ll never get the smell out,” Myrtle stated. She surveyed the room. “Any volunteers to find us something new? Preferably cheap?” She nodded to Jasmine, who had already produced an accounting book.
Trisha’s hand shot up.
“If you go to Sally Ann’s New and Used,” Jasmine told her, holding out a card, “they’ll probably have something halfway decent. Try not to spend more than fifty, if you can.”

****
The adhesive tape pulled out a few more of the tiny hairs on Trisha’s arm. She hissed in reaction, making the woman in the lab coat jump slightly.
“It’s all right, she’s just changing your dressing.” Bill soothed her. He was sitting now, on the opposite end of the table. The lights had been lowered out of deference for Trisha’s raging migraine. “For some reason, it won’t stop bleeding.”
“I know.” Trisha watched as the medic — or doctor, did the Society actually have a certified doctor on staff? — pulled away the last of the gauze. For such a little scratch, it hadn’t stopped oozing since…it happened. The dark red on white made Trisha feel sick again. She felt sweat break out on her forehead, even though she was still cold. “Do you have any aspirin? Or maybe a tea? I think I’m coming down with something.” Her voice sounded so pathetic, even in the small room.
Bill gestured at the wall behind him. For the first time, Trisha noticed the dark mirror set into the drywall.
“So that was where you went, then? Sally Ann’s?”

****
Trisha stood on the sidewalk for a moment, looking at the window display. An old, chipped mannequin in a tie-dyed shirt and a red feather fascinator posed coquettishly next to a formica table with two matching chairs. The table was covered in cheap romance novels, old National Geographic magazines, cookie jars, and a cake stand dripping with junk jewelry. Everything, including the mannequin, had a hand-numbered price tag.
She fully expected the store to smell like cat pee.
To Trisha’s pleasant surprise, it was only a little musty, and a bit like lilacs. As she had become accustomed to doing, she scanned the corners of the room for threats. Instead, she noted that the store owner had perched a number of reedy fragrance defusers on the shelves bordering the walls.
The store owner — Sally? — was sitting behind the counter, immersed in a battered Reader’s Digest. She was wearing a sweater with a cat printed on the front. Her black hair showed a fine line of white along the part.
Trisha walked slowly throughout the displays. It was a paradise for collectors. Figurines of shepherdesses and elves sat next to cookbooks and cake decorating supplies. She brushed by a rack of old clothes, shuddering at the thought of spiders lurking within. Jasmine was right; for a vampire hunter, Trisha was unusually squeamish.
The furniture was at the far end. An old dining room set crowded next to a glass-front cabinet from the eighties. Three couches nestled so close together that it was nearly impossible for Trisha to edge her way in between them.
She clenched her fists. “No spiders, no mice,” she intoned, before taking a breath and sitting on the first, a lovely plaid.
It smelled distinctively of cats.
Rising quickly, Trisha moved to the next one. It was puke green pleather. The price tag showed a cost higher than her budget, but Trisha was confident in her bargaining skills.
Unfortunately, as soon as she sat on it, her butt sank to the bottom of the frame. Staring at her knees, Trisha shook her head in disapproval. “Way overpriced, Sally,” she muttered.
Hoisting herself up, Trisha shuffled along to the last couch. Yellow brocade resembled the sofa that she knew Mitch was probably delivering to the town dump at this moment, his best friend Skyler in tow as extra muscle.
She lowered herself onto the corner using extreme caution.
No stink.
She allowed her full weight to settle down.
The springs held.
Trisha leaned over and gingerly sniffed the fabric. Mothballs and dust. She sat back up, satisfied that there would be minimal insect or rodent invasion with that kind of protection. Just to be sure, she rose and lifted each of the cushions.
Still a bit high on the price, she noted, but given the options…
Trisha shuffled back out of the couch corner and went to try her hand at haggling.

It took all of her meagre budget, and a phone call to Mitch and Skyler to make sure the pick up would happen, but Trisha whistled as she left the shop. Take that, Jasmine Mehta! On the money, virtually the same colour as the last to match the decor of the Queen Anne library / meeting room, comfortable and mouse-free — Trisha allowed herself a few childish skips as she headed back for a workout in the Society’s makeshift gym.
No-one else was using the equipment in the bright former ball room. The grand old mansion boasted a few treats like this; Trisha stretched her legs out, and imagined once again what parties might have been like in the building’s heyday. Tall windows stretched from the polished floor along the length of the room; the floor was now scarred but still gleaming, and while some of the windows were boarded up, there was one pane which remained pristine and whole. Tarnished candle sconces and gas lamps lined the other three walls, between mirrors as tall and ill-used by time as the windows.
It was too bad that there was no money in this business. Trisha stepped onto the programmable treadmill and keyed in her workout. The things she could do with Queen Anne architecture. The gardens alone deserved to be brought back to their full glory. S.H.I.P. operated out of donations and gifts, with the occasional bequest. Everyone was truly volunteering their time, after careers and family obligations. Trisha sensed that there was muscle not being used in the organization. Why not show the government what they did? Wasn’t it possible to get a grant of some kind, to increase the facility’s profile and get them decent headquarters where every room had modern heating?
At least the old ballroom had some solar gain, even in winter. Under her baggy t-shirt and exercise leggings, Trisha’s goosebumps had vanished by the time the treadmill began its tilt for the running portion of her program. The puddle of sunlight she was enjoying would probably move before she was finished her run, but at the moment, she was basking in it.
The door behind her opened and closed softly.
“Oh. I thought I’d be alone.” Jasmine padded softly past, a towel thrown over one brown, sculpted shoulder. She was unashamedly clad in black clinging short-shorts and matching sports bra. Her hair swung freely from a high ponytail.
“Damn,” Trisha panted to herself. “If I were a lesbian, she’d totally be my type.”
“Thank you,” Jasmine replied. She settled onto her back to do some presses.
“It wasn’t my intention for you to hear that.” Trisha gritted her teeth. She didn’t know what was worse — the burn of embarrassment or the burn in her calves.
“My hearing is exceptionally good,” Jasmine remarked. Her voice echoed clearly throughout the space. “I’m not bothered. But I’m not gay, thanks anyway.”
“I’m not gay, either.”
“You could be bisexual. What is it they say now, that sexuality is on a spectrum?”
Trisha raised her eyes to the ceiling. “Everyone experiments. I’m all about boys.” She glanced back to Jasmine’s sculpted abdominal muscles. “You’re incredibly hot, and you know it.”

Ah, the joys and pains of starting a family… excerpt from “Tabitha’s Solution”

Eight days earlier, Tabitha had been absolutely positive that the baby was on her way. Her entire pregnancy had been incident-free: no morning sickness, no swollen ankles, no varicose veins. A few stretch marks now crossed her abdomen, but otherwise it had been text-book perfect.
“I’m so excited, I just know it’s going to go smoothly, Mom.” Tabitha grinned as she cradled the phone between her chin and shoulder. The soft pastel green receiving blanket she was folding crackled with static electricity in her hands as she shook out the fold. “Plus, if we do have the baby tomorrow — no, when we have the baby tomorrow, I’m going to think positively — I’ll win that brand-new nursery at the mall!”
“But you already have a crib, and a stroller.”
“I couldn’t resist entering that contest, I just had a really good feeling about it.” Tabitha added the tidy square of fabric to the linen shelf beside the crib, and picked up a cotton one printed with yellow duckies. “It includes a bassinet with a lacy lining, so Victorian and adorable, plus a changing table. I don’t have a changing table.”
“Do you really have room for all of that?” Her mother cautioned. “We talked about that. Until you move, you’re pretty crowded as it is. That’s why I got you that rail-riding changing thingy.”
Tabitha suppressed a sigh. “I’d make it work, Mom. I’m creative. I play Tetris, I like rearranging things.” She refused to look around again at the small bedroom holding the old double-bed, one long dresser, a side table with a lamp, and for the baby, the linen shelf she had converted from an old plant stand, and the crib squeezed into the only space left, nearly blocking the bedroom door.
“I wish I could be down there with you, dear,” her mother sighed.
“I know. I do too.” Tabitha hoped she sounded sincere. On the one hand, having her mother present during her labour would be a comfort. On the other, she wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. It was going to be hard enough being exposed to the midwives again! Tabitha never even let women in a change room see her naked, always putting on her swimsuit in the bathroom.
Still, she had imagined her mom waiting just outside the delivery room, and being one of the first to hold her new grandchild. That would have been wonderful.
“Did your washer and dryer ever come?” Her mom was asking.
“Yes, just yesterday.” With great relish, Tabitha described her new appliances as though they were toys. “They’re really shiny, Mom. So much better than going to the laundromat. I can’t believe we lucked out on an apartment with a laundry room, let alone that we were able to buy the set on sale. It’s going to make using cloth diapers much easier.”
Tabitha didn’t care that her mother was probably was rolling her eyes; this was a debate she had often gotten into with her. No, she did care. “I know you think it’s silly, but it’s really better for the environment.”
“All you’re doing is using more electricity,” her mother argued. “Why else did they invent disposables? God knows, if they had had disposables when you and your brother were babies…”
“There are mothers in India who never put their babies in diapers,” Tabitha pointed out. “Babies have survived being put in cloth diapers for thousands of years. It’ll help him to toilet train faster, if he feels the wet.”
“Tabitha. This is a baby. You’re looking at a year before that is even close to happening.”
“Yeah, well… I want to try it, anyway.” A lump pushed at her hand, to the left of her navel. It was most likely a foot. She prodded it back, and the foot abruptly struck her lower rib. “Ow. Besides, it’s a lot easier than it used to be, with the velcro Kushies instead of pins.”
She’d never be able to convince her mom, Tabitha knew.
“When will Dad be back from his business trip?”
“Oh, in about a week.” The tone of her mother’s voice changed from wistful to bemused. “He’s been trying to get me to fly out and join him in Vancouver, but I’d rather be closer to you. Maybe I should take the train down, what do you think about that?”
“Mom, you’d have to sleep on our couch. It’s just not practical.” Not to mention the single bathroom they’d have to share! “I’ll be fine. I can take care of a baby.”
“Mm-hmm.”
“Really, it’s going to be great!”
“Okay.”
“I mean, Alex is going to take a few days off, and the midwives will be doing two home visits, so I won’t be completely alone. I can take care of the baby.”
“What about the rabbit?”
Tabitha glanced down at the black-and-white German bunny sniffing around her feet. “I can take care of Beatrice too; she can run around while I’m feeding the baby. She won’t be a problem. We finally got her litter-trained, so cleaning the cage is easier, too.”
“Well, if you need me to take her, let me know.”
“It’s fine, Mom.” Tabitha cringed; she didn’t want to sound like a whiny teenager. “Listen, I have to go to the bathroom. I just got kicked in the bladder again. I’ll call you first thing tomorrow, and as soon as my labour starts, all right?”
“I love you, Tabby-cat.”
“Love you, too.”
Tabitha rubbed her belly as she set the phone back in its cradle. “Your grandmama is going to love you soooo much, little one,” she reflected aloud. “We just have to be patient a little while longer. It would be nice for her to be here, but we just don’t have the space! And I read all the books, I know how to take care of you. How hard can it be? You’re just one little baby!”
Her bump shifted abruptly, as though in response.
“Yes, yes, I get it. My poor bladder is crowding you. Well, let’s take care of that.” Quickly folding the last three blankets and setting them on the shelf, Tabitha grabbed her battered copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, and headed to the bathroom.
And emerged, a short time later, feeling slightly disgruntled.
Where were all the signs of imminent labour? Her muscles had been scrunching and relaxing inconsistently for a week, a strange but not unpleasant sensation, but there had been no pain to suggest that it was time. Sherry, her primary caregiver, had said that she was experiencing pre-labour, and that it was a good thing. But nothing else had happened.
No bloody show. She wasn’t quite sure what that would be like, in spite of the book’s description.
No sudden gushes of fluid, or flare-ups of back pain, not that she really wanted to experience these things. Tabitha just wanted to have her baby, as quickly as possible. And if it was at all possible, it would be ideal if needles were not involved. It wouldn’t be comfortable, but unless medical intervention was absolutely necessary, no needles would come anywhere near her skin.
Admittedly, all the battle stories she’d heard from her prenatal classes, and read in her books, about the potential side effects of drugs on a baby’s brain — or on the mother, so she couldn’t remember giving birth — had strengthened her prejudice against modern medicine. Plus, the fact that even watching someone getting a needle made her nauseous made getting an epidermal completely out of the question. Absolutely nobody was getting near her spine with a sharp object unless she was knocked out, first.
Punctured spinal column. Tabitha shuddered at the thought.
Alex was completely on her side. He attended as many appointments with her as he could, and understood her fears. “I won’t let anyone touch you, unless there’s a problem,” he promised her, over and over.
She was relying on that.
Her mother had reminisced often enough about Tabitha’s own introduction to the world. In the late 1970s, she had had to shave, and have an enema at the start of the labour. Ick. Thank goodness hospitals no longer did any of that — Tabitha did not relish the picture her mother had painted of a woman who had just given birth running to the toilet. Sherry had laid those fears to rest in one of her early appointments.
“Enemas? No, no, that’s not done anymore,” she shook her head, smiling. “And you’ll only need a catheter if you go in for a c-section. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. If there is a problem, we’ll refer you right away to the obstetrician-gynocologist.”
“How quickly could the OB-GYN get there, if the baby’s in distress?” Alex knew all the terminology, from his years as a volunteer with the St. John Ambulance. He smiled at Tabitha, squeezing her hand as tightly as she held his own.
“He’ll be either in the hospital, or on-call, depending on how you are at the beginning of your labour.” Sherry consulted a schedule hanging on the wall. Her light brown curly hair reminded Tabitha of her mother. “In fact, the doctor has a couple of scheduled inductions and a caesarean booked around your due date. I don’t think you’ll need to worry, unless the baby is breech or something else is going on.”
So many things could go wrong, but Tabitha tried not to think about that. For over eight months, ever since she had confirmed that she was pregnant, she was only ever optimistic that her first birth would be perfect. Traditional, in the modern sense. She would breathe through the pains, using her meditation and yoga training. She would visualize, to help her body relax. She would have her favourite soft-rock or new age music playing, and a scented candle. They would be in the hospital, just in case, but Alex would be by her side through the whole experience and make sure that it was just like she wanted.
Perfect.
Twenty-four more hours, and she would be a mother. Alex would be a dad. All of this discomfort and concern would be behind them.

Thirty-six hours later, Tabitha had to stop herself from grinding her teeth with impatience.
“Honey, what are you doing with that shovel?”
Tabitha huffed and puffed, her breath coming in little clouds of condensation. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m shoveling.”
Alex approached her with the caution of a bomb defuser approaching an unknown container. “I can see that. But sweetheart, you’re nine months pregnant. Why don’t you let me do that?”
She glared at him over her muffler, without breaking her rhythm. “I’m fine. It’s just a couple of inches of snow.”