Among the things we lost that night photoLast month I entered NYC Midnight’s Micro-Fiction Contest and yesterday night I found out that my piece, “Among the Things We Lost That Night” placed 2nd(!), which means I continue to round 2.

The genre I received was “thriller” and I had to incorporate “a home renovation” and the word “cover”, into my one-hundred word piece. The first thing that came to mind was a tornado and the juxtaposition between the stubborn mindset of trying to make things work (or trying to repair something broken) when it’s inevitably going to be destroyed, which is what the father in this story is doing. In the midst of it, the mother and her son finds him dead in the wreckage of the family home.

So, without further elaboration, I give you “Among the Things We Lost That Night”:

Among the Things We Lost that Night

After Momma plucked me from the dinner table and took off for the cellar, she paused to shout up at Daddy. “Les! Get down from there—tornado warnin’! Take cover!”

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna come of it! Gotta get these shingles on!”

From the concrete cellar, I swear I heard the thump of the nail gun, wind, Daddy’s cursing. When it was safe to come up, I pointed to a mess of scattered boards. “Momma! Daddy lost a boot!”

In all my nine years, I ain’t never heard Momma’s wails—louder than the tornado sirens. That night, our lives collapsed.

 

 

Pecan Pies Blog

Recently, round one results of the NYC Midnight 2019 short story contest were released.

My piece, “The Unlikely Trouble with Pecan Pies” placed forth and I moved on to round two!!

Without further adieu:

The Unlikely Trouble with Pecan Pies  

By Erin Crocker

 

The screen door of Emma Lee’s Beauty Shop didn’t get as much as an afternoon nap the day before the Holcomb County Summer Festival. Ladies, along with their gossip, poured in and out of the small building like pink lemonade over cracking cubes of ice.

Emma Lee put her hands on her hips and took a satisfied glance at the women sitting under the blow dryers. “Ladies, I’m gonna go in the other room and refill the tea pitcher.”

“Add some more ice this time, will ya?” Bernadette Oglebee adjusted her posture and shook her head. Emma Lee nodded before exiting. She looked a few seats to her right and continued. “Josephine?” When the petite lady failed to look from her magazine, Bernadette called out a bit louder. “Josephine!

Josephine’s irritated sigh caught in her throat, but she managed to respond. “Yes?”

Bernadette furrowed her brows. “If you don’t turn that hearing aid down, you’re fixin’ to have every dog in a ten-mile radius chasing you when you leave here. You hear me?”

“Why…I don’t hear a thing. Is it acting up again?” Josephine gripped the magazine and pursed her lips to keep from snickering at Bernadette’s chagrin. “Oh, I’ll turn it down.” The lady steadied her hand and fought with the small device in her ear until she was certain it was no longer buzzing. “You happy now? Got me all distracted from my readin’.”

Ignoring the remark, Bernadette turned to Susannah. “Well, I heard that a certain someone is moving back to town…” Her eyes sparked with enough intrigue to entice all the women to lean their bodies in to hear more; even Emma Lee paused, still holding the pitcher brimming with cool sweet tea and refusing to set it down until Bernadette finished the story. “Howard George—”

Eyes widened. Hands flew to chests, and between the humid gasps, curious silence held its grip throughout the room. “I mean, I only know what I heard, but what I heard was that after spending half the summer in Paris and the rest in the Hamptons, he’d cleaned out the New Yok loft and was driving to town late tonight. And as one of the only single ladies in Holcomb, I think it best appropriate that I greet him.” Bernadette’s eyes held an ambitious tint that challenged anyone in the room to disagree.

Susannah grimaced. “He wasn’t all that attractive even back in school. Plus wasn’t he always in love with Lucille Blanchard?”

Bernadette huffed. “Attractive?” she scoffed before continuing. “Ladies, who cares about attractive. He’s wealthy. Could you imagine it? Weekend getaways, socialite dinners, shopping in Paris.” Her far-off expression indicated she was already halfway down Avenue des Champs Elysées.

“Oh, phooey! What the hell are you gonna be buyin’ up in Paris, Bernie?”

Bernadette scowled at Susannah’s remark.

“Besides, what about Lucille?”

Josephine’s ears perked at the mention of her lifelong friend. She knew she had to listen with care to what the other two ladies were about to say. “Lucille? She’s an old maid…waited for him all this time. He’s not coming for her. He wants someone with class now that he’s wealthy.” Bernadette squared her shoulders back.

Susannah sighed. “I’m only sayin’ I remember the way he talked about her. Especially her eyes. He always said he was in love with her pecan-colored eyes. I reckon the color hasn’t done got up and ran off.”

Josephine didn’t bother listening to the remainder of conversation. She waited with the impatience of a five-year-old standing in a supermarket checkout line for Emma Lee to finish unrolling her hair and brushing it out so she could drive over and tell Lucille the news.

***

Lucille Blanchard had just finished setting out a separate bowl of food for the final cat when the pressing need for an afternoon nap came to call. She eyed the recliner sitting in the corner and kicked the thermostat down to sixty-eight degrees before shuffling to her favorite napping spot. The wooden handle caused a struggle but finally relented, agreeing to support and elevate her exhausted feet. After positioning her body to one side and nearly smashing Curly, a calico kitten, she closed her eyes but noticed her left hip falling asleep. She shifted her weight until it spread evenly throughout both legs. A long sigh followed the readjustment of her cheek against the back of her hand, but before she could settle, her knuckles pushed against the side of her ear. She moved her hands and shifted her head. In a single deep breath, she relaxed, and Curly’s purrs soothed her into a near sleep—until the sharp ring of the doorbell jarred her awake.

“Well, hell,” she muttered in an exasperated breath.

The doorbell chimed once more. She rolled to her back and kicked hard at the footrest to push it down. “Imma comin’. Give an old lady a chance to get to the door, why don’t you?” She maneuvered around the coffee table and into the foyer.

Once at the door, she could hardly swing it open before Josephine pushed through and didn’t slow her pace until she reached the kitchen. She rushed to the cabinets and Lucille stood, hands on hips, and watched her friend sort through pots and pans. “Where’s your pie plates?”

“What on God’s green earth…” Lucille studied her friend. “I see you were at the salon. Did Emma Lee over sweeten the tea again?”

Josephine stood. “No Emma Lee did not over-sweeten the tea again.” She bobbed her head to mock the question. “But I overheard that you-know-who is coming back to town.”

Lucille studied her friend and waited. After some time, she spoke up. “Who?”

“You know who.”

“No. I don’t know who.” Lucille’s voice grew impatient.

“Oh, fine—” Josephine looked up from the cabinet. “—Howard George.”

Lucille’s face evolved from shock to surprise until finally she wrinkled her nose in disgust. “And what do I want with Howard George? I’m sure he ain’t changed one bit. I still remember going to the spring formal with Calvin Umberman because Howie waited until ten minutes before the dance to ask me. You hear me? Ten minutes before.

“Maybe he’s changed.”

“Changed? Man’s gonna dawdle around until they got him twenty feet underground and then he might consider changing. I spent too many years waiting for him and for what? Nothing. I have my cats…and you. I’m doing okay.”

Josephine stopped digging through drawers and cupboards and turned around. “I’m not hearin’ it. I know you’re more stubborn than a cow being loaded into a trailer, but you’re gonna listen. You’re still in love with him, and from what I hear, he’s still in love with you and your pecan pies.”

Lucille gasped and leaned in to scrutinize her friend. “Pecan pies? Why I’d never made a pecan pie. Don’t tell the girls, but I always bought ‘em right up there at the store and pulled the stickers off before church picnics.” She thought for a moment. “And those pies were never pecan.”

“Well, Howard begs to differ. He’s probably sittin’ back in a rocker somewhere just salivatin’ for one of your pecan pies.” She nodded to the gamut of cooking utensils and bowls spread across the countertop. “So, get to it.”

Lucille’s posture caved. “Well…I can’t remember exactly, but didn’t I make a pie for a high school social? Maybe that was pecan.”

“Now, I don’t remember, but I’d bet that’s exactly where he first tasted your pecan pie.”

“I’ll make this pie, but I’m not gonna do it for him. I suppose I can offer it to the fair’s bake sale. That’ll show him just what he missed out on all these years, I reckon.”

Josephine smiled and nodded. “Alright. I’m off, have some pants to hem before the festival. I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning to pick you up.”

Lucille didn’t respond. She found herself lost in her thoughts. “I oughta put cat food in the pie and walk it straight over to that man,” she muttered to herself. “Bake? I didn’t ever bake that I can recall.” She sighed and retrieved an old recipe book her momma had handed down to her. “How difficult can it be?”

***

 

Lucille sat at the kitchen table and stroked Armond, a grey Siamese, from head to tail while she guzzled her second cup of coffee for the morning. She jumped when the front door breezed open but relaxed when Josephine appeared around the corner.

Josephine’s eyes widened in confusion. “What in the hell?” She rushed into the kitchen and surveyed the sink that spilled over with pans and silverware, measuring cups lining the remainder of the counters, coupled with pans full of what she guessed to be pies. Some displayed charcoaled tops while others seemed gooey and undercooked. Her gaze darted to the cluttered table. She motioned to the fridge.

Lucille nodded. “It’s filled up too.” She shrugged. “Figured you’d help me pick the best one.”

Josephine huffed. “Well, you can’t use any of the ones sittin’ out. They went bad long ago, Lucy. Maybe one of these here in the fridge.” She opened the refrigerator and assessed the desserts. “Maybe…this one. At least the top ain’t as burned. Now, come on. It’s nine-thirty and I’m not gonna be known around town as being late.”

“Let me head upstairs and grab my purse.”

As Lucille disappeared up the stairs, Josephine moved into the living room carrying the chosen pie. She shifted her weight and watched the secondhand tick around the clock twice before calling up. “Hurry up, now. I swear you’re slower than a Sunday afternoon.”

“I’m doing my level best,” came the irritated reply followed by Lucille sauntering down the stairs. “Were it up to you, I’d just slide down the stairs.”

Josephine shrugged. “If you think it’d get us there any faster…”

 

***

The glistening black stretch limo only added to the county’s excitement about the summer festival. Citizens stopped and took a few moments to stare. In particular Bernadette whose heels sunk into the damp ground as she hastened to the limousine. She stopped short as Howard exited from the driver’s seat. “Bernie?” His grin widened. “Bernie from school?”

“Guilty.” She giggled. “And I see you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Nope.”

“Well, that’s great. Seems money can cause folks to change. I mean, it would never change me.” Bernadette ran a finger down Howard’s shoulder, and he swallowed hard.

Before he could say more, two women approached them. He immediately recognized one as Lucille and his heart jumped. As they neared, his eyes darted to the pie the other lady carried before returning to Lucille. He cleared his throat. “Lucy…I-It’s been so long—”

“Here.” Josephine outstretched her hands before Bernadette could interject. “She made your favorite—a pecan pie!”

Howard grasped his throat. “Pecan pie? I’m allergic to nuts.”

Horror replaced the excitement that danced across Lucille’s face. She took the pie from his hands. “I-I am so sorry.”

“You must’ve forgot.”

Lucille, followed by Josephine, turned and left. Bernadette stifled a laugh. “Those two. So dramatic,” she joked as the passenger side of the limo opened and a tall, young gentleman with dashing black hair and sun-kissed skin exited and approached.

Howard wasted no time introducing him to Bernadette. “Bernie, this is my boss, former boss, Huntley Davenport.”

Bernadette’s eyes widened. “So…So you mean to say that, that you, that none of this is yours? You’re saying…” Her stutter trailed off.

“I’m his driver.”

“And friend,” Huntley added. “Say, Bernadette. How about you show me around this fair of yours?”

She straightened her posture and looked down her nose at Howard. “Why, of course.”

Huntley winked at Howard who returned the gesture with a mischievous grin. With Bernadette distracted, he found himself free to search for Lucille. Howard scoured the festival and she was nowhere to be found until Emma Lee reported she’d seen the women get in Josephine’s Buick Century and take off.

***

Once home, Lucille lost herself in the daunting task of cleaning her kitchen when the doorbell rang. “What now,” she groaned as she dried her hands. She paused before slowly opening the door. “What are you—”

“I’m sorry for the confusion, Howard said. “But most of all, I’m sorry for taking so long to finally tell you how much you mean to me.”

Her frown was a palette of hurt and anger. “You left.”

“I did.” He ran a hand through his thinning, white hair. “I procrastinated. Perhaps too long because I was insecure and afraid that I’d hurt you. After my mother passed away, then my dad—”

“A horrible man. I remember that much.”

“Yes, and I didn’t know how I could love you if I didn’t even love myself. That terrified me. When I moved away, I tried to find who I was. I searched down the neck of empty bottles, and when that failed, I buried myself in work. It’s where I met the late Mr. Davenport; Huntley was young back then. His father didn’t have time for him. Mr. Davenport hired me as a driver, but I became much more. I was able to be the dad to Huntley that I never had. In return, he taught me self-worth through example. I retired a few months ago and came back here to Holcomb; to you, if you’ll have me. After all these years I can truly say that I love you, Lucy.”

Tears glistened along Lucille’s eyes. “Howie, that is simply beautiful, and worth the wait. I do love you. I would ask you to stay, but all the pies in my kitchen…”

“How about we take a week and go to the island house.” Lucille cocked her head and Howard explained. “As a retirement present, Huntley gave me the keys to his house. It’s off the coast of Florida. He owns the entire island. How about we go?”

Lucille tried to shrug off all her excitement. “Well, I could pack a bag if you don’t mind waiting. But, my cats?”

“Seems like your friend Josephine might owe you an apology favor?” He shook his head.

“I swear that woman couldn’t hear an airhorn durin’ Sunday prayer in church. I suppose she has some apologizing to do.” She scowled and  disappeared for some time and returned with a satchel full of outfits and other necessities. He took her bag and the couple meandered down the uneven sidewalk.

“I always dreamed of riding off into the sunset with a handsome gentleman.”

“Actually, the sun sets in the west tonight. We’re traveling east.”

Satisfied laughter drifted and melted into the summer humidity, and as the car door clicked behind Lucille, she sighed. That time it wasn’t from exasperation. After all the years of waiting, she was happy, but most importantly, she was whole.

 

 

 

 

 

Final Battle Blog
Upon becoming king of the Scaladorian realm, twelve-year-old Kevin Hughes is a superstar. Upon learning of his betrothal to Princess Cyrrith his life is complete, but when fantasy collides with reality, could Kevin end up losing everything?

 

On a whim, I entered the NYC Midnight short story contest. Turns out, there were around 4,000 entries and only a little over 500 were selected to move on to round two.

“The Final Battle” ended up placing first in my heat. They assign you a genre, character, and subject.

Mine were: Drama, A child with dwarfism, and an escape. The maximum word count was 2,000.

While I wait for round two results, I thought it would be fun to post up my round one winning piece. Enjoy!

Gulgrom slowed his pace and fought with the underbrush. With each chirp of a cricket or croak of a frog, he advanced a single footstep forward. The fate of Melakrihn rested on him. A single deep breath and another tenth of an inch closer to King Chreighton, Gulgrom drew his sword. One more step and—
“No!” came a shout from Amareh, a centurion elder.
King Chreighton took a swift turn but was too late. Gulgrom’s sharp blade pressed into the king’s hefty chest. Not a second later, Gulgrom was being lifted into the air.
“Huzzah! Long live King Gulgrom! Ruler of the Scalandorian realm!” The chant, mixed with a multitude of cheers, filled the humid sky until it reached the stars.
After the crowd calmed, the Melakrihn clan surrounded Gulgrom. Addram, the most powerful elder, approached and placed his arm around Gulgrom. Addram raised his hand to quiet the rest of the members. “As you all know, the Scaladorian realm will be participating in Final Battle this year. Our dwarven clan has spent ages forming alliances within the realm. Be it known, on this eve of the sixth night of July, that Gulgrom has been betrothed to Cyrrith, princess of the elven clan, Amyyll. The joining ceremony commences on the tenth eve of April and shall surely solidify Scaladorian’s first win in Final Battle!”
Gulgrom’s heart flipped. Not only did he find himself responsible for the entire kingdom of Scaladoria, he was trusted with the heart of Princess Cyrrith. No one had a chance to notice the dreamy glaze that overcame Gulgrom’s eyes as the abrupt honk from down the road would’ve disturbed any opportunity to do so.
Gulgrom sighed and turned toward a gravel lot. He approached his mom’s car and snatched the handle, climbing inside.
“I told you not to slam the door, Kevin.”
“Sorry, Mom.”
Evelyn Hughes sighed and put the car in reverse before making her next announcement. “You know, Kev—”
“Gulgrom, Mom. When you speak of me as Kevin, it takes me out of character. Oh, and after tonight, it’s King Gulgrom.”
“Kev—I mean, Gulgrom, this is what I wanted to talk about. Dad and I think it’s great you have this hobby and all, but it’s time to start making friends in the real world, like that girl from the group…what’s her name? Meghan.”
Kevin shut down at ‘real world’. Did his mom mean the real world where Jared Ransin once set his Ninja Turtle lunch box on the highest shelf in homeroom? Or the ‘real world’ that deemed him as special needs? Like they couldn’t understand it, so they labeled it…that ‘real world?’ If so, Kevin much preferred the alternate reality where he was a hero, a king, and soon…a husband.
“Well, I ran into Meghan’s mom at the store. We think that since you two have so much in common, it’d be so fun if you met for shakes at Burger Bonanza.”
So much in common? Kevin snorted. What? A shared diagnosis of Achondroplasia?
“It’d be like a little date,” she giggled. “But, not really a date…you’re twelve. No dates.”
“No, mom. I don’t want or need a ‘little date’. As king, I am betrothed to Princess Cyrrith of the elven clan Amyyll.”
“Cyrrith…Cyrrith…” Evelyn’s mind searched to place a name with a face. “Wait…isn’t that Ruth Fenstauffer? She’s sixteen, isn’t she? A little old for you, don’t you think?”
“No, it’s princess Cyrrith, and she is one-hundred-and-eighty-four. I turned two-hundred last month.”
“Well, I think meeting up with Meghan and her mom would be good for you.”
Good for him? Or good for his mom? Good for her to know that her son could truly be “normal” and not some geeked-out-fantasy-nerd type? Kevin didn’t respond, and as soon as the car pulled into the two-car driveway, he jumped out before his mother could nag again about Meghan and secured himself in the basement to spend the rest of the evening spelling runes.
***
“This is exactly what I’m talking about, Ross! He stays up all night…spends all his time in this fantasy world and—”
“Dammit Evelyn! That is his world! It’s the world he succeeds in!” Ross Hughes straightened his tie and took a final sip of coffee.
“Where are you going?”
He nodded toward the door. “Work.”
“Sure! Run away.” Evelyn shrugged. “Run off to work where you can hide behind charts and graphs. Leave me here to deal with our son!”
Ross sat his briefcase down and relented. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing. Go ahead; go to work.” Her right arm flailed toward the door and she turned and started rinsing dishes.
“Evie—” She didn’t acknowledge him as he grabbed the mahogany case and headed out the door to work.
Evelyn Hughes waited until she could no longer hear the engine of the red Honda in the driveway, then poured herself another cup of coffee. Before she could sit, the hallway toilet flushed. Evelyn walked to the door and stood, arms positioned in an impatient fold. Once it clicked open, she started the familiar lecture. “Do you know what time it is? Hmm? Do you? It’s half past nine! I already told you, one more time and this whole fantasy game thing is over. Do you hear me? Over! I’ve had quite enough. What am I going to tell principal Macey when she calls?”
“Mom, Final Battle begins in two weeks. Two. I only have fourteen days to upgrade weapons, redo uniforms, enhance defense, and spell enough runes. Now I’m in charge of the whole kingdom.”
Evelyn smacked her hand against her forehead. “I’ve had enough! Enough! When are you going to realize that all you’re doing is avoiding the world? This little game of yours…it isn’t life! You’re going to get hurt!”
“It is my life!”
“Just get your things. I swear to God, Kev. One more time and you’re out of the game.”
The ride to school was the type of deafening silence that made a guy wish his mom would just start rambling.
As they pulled up, the bell was ringing for second period—earth science. Kevin stepped out and rushed to the door. Even so, he still managed to arrive late for class.
“Glad you could join us, Mr. Hughes.” Mr. Jensen grabbed the roster to check Kevin as tardy. “Grab a Petri dish. Today we’re discussing mold fossils.”
Kevin turned to the shelf that held the dishes. The remaining ones rested at the top. His cheeks grew hot as he grabbed a stool and positioned it in front of the cabinet. Even on his tip-toes, he wasn’t able to reach high enough to grab one.
“Here, I’ll help.” Kevin relented and allowed Allison to step up and get a dish for him.
“Thanks,” he mumbled. She nodded and returned to her table.
He walked to his assigned seat. Even Allison needed a stool to reach the dishes. He glanced at her and she smiled. He turned back to the fossil in his dish—in a few years, she wouldn’t need a stool; he would. Kevin Hughes would always need a stool.
He swallowed and rewired his thoughts. Cyrrith was as powerful as she was beautiful; the eldest of three elven princesses. His heart sped at the thought of the betrothal. The enhanced magical abilities alone would be enough to prove the alliance an efficient brainchild of Addram.
Although he was aware the time spent at his desk in science class would be best used to strengthen Scalandorian’s battle plan, Kevin pulled a clean sheet of paper and began to write.
Her eyes,
gold flecks of moon—
Moon. Would that be cliché? Would his words be worthy of such beauty? Moon what? Moonshine? No, that was a drink. He thought harder—moonbeam? No. Moon-sparkle? Cyrrith did spend time with unicorns. Sparkle might work, Kevin thought.
Her eyes,
gold flecks of moon-sparkle.
That I might be—
Kevin glanced up for a second, just to consider what he “might be”. The room was empty. “Ah, Mr. Hughes. I see you’re back.” Mr. Jensen’s eyes narrowed. “The bell rang two minutes ago. You best be on your way to third period.”
Yay, third period—music class, with its never-ending symphony of up-down-up-down-up-down’s that wore on his back after the third or fourth time. Regardless, Kevin was not about to make a special request of staying seated for the duration. He grinned and tolerated the discomfort.
At the end of the school day, Kevin was surprised to see his dad at the pick-up line. “Dad?” He asked as he got in the car.
“Hey buddy.”
“Where’s Mom?”
Ross chuckled. “She’s out with a friend. Probably having a girl’s day. ‘An escape,’ as she called it.” A moment passed. “Bud, you gotta be more responsible with getting up and ready for school.”
Kevin folded his arms and watched houses jog by the car window.
“Man, I get it,” Ross continued. “Back in my day…shoot…twelve-years-old, we’d sneak out of the house and walk down to this abandoned railroad track. It was haunted, we thought. So, Larry Morganheimer would sneak coffee, and we’d hang out all night trying to catch a ghost…still not sure how he got the coffee, though. So, I’m with you on this—but you’re driving Mom crazy. Can you work harder to get up in the morning and get to school?”
“Yeah, Dad.”
“Thanks, bud,” he said as he pulled into the drive. “You gonna be okay? I have another meeting.”
“Sure thing.”
Once inside the house, Kevin sat at the kitchen table, determined to finish the poem.
Her eyes,
gold flecks of moon-sparkle.
That I might be worthy,
to hold her hand beneath
the night’s sky.
Kevin released a pent-up breath. The poem wasn’t long, but he felt it offered a good representation of his feelings for his betrothed. Would Cyrrith feel the same? Sure, she’d often been kind to him. How could the poem not win her affection? The idea of reciting his writing to her over-filled his being so much so that he concocted a new idea.
As a king, he decided the best course of action would be to meet his lover outside her window—a few pebbles tapping the glass would be enough to gain her attention. Then, he could render his feelings beneath the field of stars. When she fell madly in love with him, his mom would have no choice but to accept his life. She would be forced to see Scalandoria was real and the only illusion was her perception of normal.
He folded the paper just in time for Evelyn to enter. “Kevin,” she acknowledged. “Homework done?”
“Yeah, Mom…umm, Mom—”
“Excuse me for a second.” She didn’t stop, just kept walking toward the master bedroom.
Kevin eyed her as she disappeared behind the door. Escape, indeed. He shook his head and exited to the basement to strategize attack plans for Final Battle until dinner.
***
“I expect lights out early tonight, Kevin,” Evelyn called after her son as he trotted down the stairs upon finishing the dishes. No answer.
Kevin waited through his parents’ conversations and a few late-night television programs before slipping on his beard and into his wide-legged trousers and boots. Then, he threw on his gambeson with buttons and slipped on a pair of gauntlets. Satisfied, he grabbed the handwritten poem and made a silent getaway.
Fortunately, Cyrrith lived a couple blocks over in the same neighborhood. He continued down the sidewalk, his stomach knotting a bit tighter with each lustful step. Before turning the corner, he nearly gave up and returned home, but no—he must continue one of the most significant quests he’d ever set out on. He was King Golgrum, dwarven warrior and rune master—nothing would change that.
On his way, he gathered a few loose pebbles and stored them in his satchel. His anxiety evolved into full-on panic when he approached the house. What window belonged to Princess Cyrrith? How would he figure it out? His conundrum was met with headlights coming around the corner and growing narrower in front of the house, Cyrrith’s house. Maybe it was her? Kevin was overcome with relief—she would exit the car and he’d know her room because she’d turn the lights on once she got up there. Problem solved.
Or not. Kevin’s forehead tightened as Addram got out of the driver’s seat and swung around to open the door for Cyrrith. Once she was out of the car, Kevin’s insides unthreaded as he watched the couple lean into one another for a lengthy kiss.
“I had a good time tonight. Thank you,” Cyrrith said.
Addram smiled. “I’m glad.”
Kevin shook his head. How could they betray him? His bride and the most respected dwarven elf caught up in an affair. He slowly backed up, not realizing the drop off. “Oh!” he cried out as he flew backward.
Addram was at his side. “Kevin…what are you doing here? And dressed up, too?”
Kevin’s chest heaved, and his voice shook. “No, the better question is, Addram, what are you doing here? With my future wife at that!”
“Dude, just call me Adam; that’s my real name. You know that. Kev—man, calm down. Ruth and I have been dating for a few months.”
“B-but…you set me up to marry her! This is treason!”
“In the game, Kev. In the game—that’s what it is, it’s just a game.”
Disillusioned, Kevin found himself at a loss for words. Nothing could save him from the torturous reality of his future wife’s betrayal—the poem cried as the paper twisted and crumpled in his hand. Should he challenge Addram to an evening duel? A better idea came to him. “Banished!” he yelled.
Ruth cocked her head. “Banished? As in kicked out of the game?”
Kevin’s cheeks grew hot. “Banished!”
Adam took a step toward him. “Dude, you can’t do that just because we’re dating.”
Kevin narrowed his eyes. “Watch me!”
“Dude, that’s fucked up. Hope you feel good about losing friends. Over what…some stupid game!”
Ruth put a hand on Adam’s shoulder. “It’s okay.” She turned to Kevin. “He can’t ban us from the game. We can appeal and get back in. He’ll probably be the one who gets kicked out.”
Kevin gulped the lump back down his throat while he studied the angry eyes of Ruth and Adam. Disgust—his heart felt as though it stopped beating, and his breath shortened. The wind snatched the poem from his hand like a cruel thief. Could he really be kicked out of the game?
Before the others could catch a glimpse from the single tear that slipped down his cheek, Kevin turned and stumbled down the sidewalk, disappearing as reality, whether perceived or not, often does. The dwarven king vanished into the uncertain darkness.