Short Story. The Individualist. (Enneagram 4)

Steve stepped back from the canvas, eyebrows furrowed as he examined his most recent markings.
Bright strokes of chalk were layered over delicate lines of paint. An odd combination for an odd man, but the contrast in textures had always struck him in ways that other mediums hadn’t.
He glanced up at the clock before switching pieces of chalk. He still had thirty minutes until Hannah left work. Another twenty after that until she should arrive home.
He wanted to be done with his current piece before she got back. He was painting it for her as a surprise. It was part of a collection he’d begun when he proposed to her. And he’d given her one every year since, a painting for every year of marriage, each depicting a significant moment in their relationship.
She claimed they were the best presents she ever received outside of their children. He hoped that was true.
He always spent more time on these paintings than any of his other works. They are more than presents to him. His love for Hannah wasn’t something he could express with words. But with art… with the time and care he put into his work… they were truly a part of him. The most beautiful part of him. And Hannah deserved the most beautiful parts of him.
He found himself humming as he put the finishing touches on his painting, enjoying the quiet of his home while Hannah and Chris were away.
He always felt guilty for enjoying their absence, but he couldn’t help that he felt at peace in the silence. Chris would be home soon, anyway, back from a quick weekend trip with a couple of his friends. There was no need to feel guilty about having fun by himself while his full-grown adult son was away from the house.
His humming grew louder, reverberating throughout the garage as he became further engrossed in his gift. A tear fell from his eye as he finished it, prompting a surprised chuckle. He often shed a tear or two over his work, yet it caught him by surprise every time.
He was so focused that he didn’t hear his phone at first, letting it vibrate atop his workbench. Then it rang again, dragging him out of his creative bubble. He almost didn’t answer it when he saw it was an unknown number, but if they called twice…
“Hello?” He said into his phone, putting it on speakerphone so he could focus on his painting.
“Mr. Garrafino?”
Steve hesitated, his breath caught with fear. “This is he,” he said.
“Mr. Garrafino, your wife was in a car accident and she is currently on her way to St. Joseph’s Hospital.”
Steve’s heart raced, his ears ringing with alarm, filled with pressure as he fought against the weight of his anxiety.
“Mr. Garrafino?” Said the lady on the other end of the phone. “Can you meet us at St. Joseph’s Hospital?”
“Yes,” was all he could manage to say, having to blink back the spots in his vision.
In a daze, he ran inside and grabbed a set of keys from the kitchen table. With tunnel vision, he ran out his front door, not bothering to lock it as he ran to his car.
Three times he tried the handle of his car before realizing he grabbed Hannah’s keys instead of his. Keeping her keys just in case, he ran back inside and grabbed his own.
He might have run some stop signs. If he did, he didn’t notice. Though he definitely ran some red lights, ignoring the blaring car horns.
Once inside the hospital, he slowing to a complete stop, immobilized by fear. He didn’t know how badly she was hurt, but it had to have been serious. She was taken by an ambulance. And if she was okay, they would have said she was okay. The fact that the lady didn’t say Hannah was okay, was confirmation enough that she wasn’t.
“Sir, can I help you?” Asked the desk attendant.
Steve nodded, stumbling over his name. Her name. But he eventually received directions to her room.
He was already in tears as he entered her room, his imagination painting fearful images of the pain she might be in.
Then he saw her, smiling at him with a spoon full of pudding in her hands. “Hello, dear,” she said cheerfully.
Steve collapsed in on himself, falling to his knees with relief. “Thank God,” was all he could think to say as he grabbed her hands, kissing them repeatedly.
“I’m okay,” Hannah said, “but the car is pretty beat up, and I’m not sure it’s still under warranty.”
Steve wiped his tears on his sleeve, not willing to let go of her hands. “What happened?”
“I honestly don’t know,” she said, shrugging, and then immediately wincing in pain. “I apparently ran into a car. My head was throbbing, but they gave me some pain medicine for it. My neck still hurts if I move it though.”
“You don’t remember the crash?” He asked, moving closer to examine her head. He couldn’t see it before, but underneath her dark hair was a swollen wound that had already been cleaned.
“I remember flashes,” she said, closing her eyes. “But nothing coherent. The doctor had some guesses as to what happened, but she’s waiting for the tests results to come back before saying anything for sure.”
Steve smiled down at her, amazed at her resiliency. He wasn’t sure how she could smile after such a traumatic event. He supposed the drugs helped.
“I’m so sorry, honey,” he whispered, bending down to give her a gentle kiss. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
She smiled back before shoveling down a spoonful of chocolate pudding. “Of course I’m okay,” she said with her mouth full. “I’m the strongest woman you know.”
Steve couldn’t help but chuckle at that. “The strongest,” he agreed, nodding emphatically. It wasn’t until that moment that he finally thought about their children. “Chris and Beth!” He said suddenly, straightening up. “We need to let them know.”
Hannah grabbed his arm, instilling a sense of peace. “The hospital already called them. They left a message for Beth, and Chris is on his way here.”
Steve let out a sigh of relief as the door suddenly opened, revealing a young doctor. “Good evening,” she said, adjusting her glasses as she nodded in Steve’s direction. “Mr. Garrafino, I presume?”
Steve nodded. “Thank you for taking care of my wife.”
“No thanks necessary,” she said, smiling at Hannah. “Now, the test results from our brain scans have come back, and they confirm what I suspected.”
Hannah placed the empty pudding cup on the table next to her bed, looking much more serious than before.
Steve watched her face, suddenly anxious. “What kind of results were they?”
The doctor let out a small sigh as she looked down at her notes. “You suffered a severe seizure,” she said, making eye-contact with Hannah.
“From hitting her head?” Steve asked, feeling completely out of his depth. He knew nothing about seizures.
“Unfortunately not,” the doctor replied. “The seizure is what caused the crash in the first place. Based off of our scan, it looks like you have severe Epilepsy.”
Hannah looked just as lost as Steve felt. “What does that mean?” She asked, her voice shaking.
The doctor moved to Hannah’s side opposite of Steve and placed a hand on her shoulder. “It means you’re at risk for more seizures. Potentially ones just as severe as the one today, but your condition is treatable.”
Steve held his breath, attempting to process the doctor’s news. “What does that mean? Treatable?”
“Like with medicine?” Hannah asked. “Will that make the seizures go away?”
The doctor smiled understandingly, lifting her hand from Hannah’s shoulder. “In eighty percent of patients, yes. The medicine should keep the seizures at bay.”
With that, Steve finally allowed himself to breathe, relief plain on both his and Hannah’s face.
“But there is still a chance the medicine won’t take,” the doctor cautioned, “and seizures can still be triggered by high-stress situations.”
Steve and Hannah looked at each other, each processing what the news meant.
“So what does that mean, exactly?” Hannah asked. “That I have to stay calm at all times?”
The doctor smiled again. “Not exactly. It means that until we see sustained evidence that the medicine is working, you’re not allowed to drive or operate a vehicle. Nor should you attend work.”
Hannah grimaced.
“Thank you, doctor,” Steve said, attuned to his wife’s frustration. “We appreciate your help.”
“You’re very welcome. I’ll be back with your prescription and to answer any other questions you have,” she said before leaving them alone in the room.
“I don’t want to leave work,” Hannah said as soon as the doctor left. “I’ll go crazy with nothing to do. And we don’t have enough saved for us both to be out of work.”
“We’ll be fine,” Steve said, stroking her hair in the soothing way she liked. “I’ll find something.”
“You shouldn’t have to,” she said, on the verge of tears for the first time.
“Hey,” he said, kneeling down to her level. “Look at me.” She looked over, her lips still turned down in frustration.
“I’m going to take care of you,” he said. “You’re going to be okay. We’re going to be okay.”
With her eyes still locked on his, she let out a small smile. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” Steve said, smiling back. “Because I’m the strongest guy you know.”
Hannah’s smile widened. “The strongest.”

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Short Story: Maggie

“You’re acting weird,” I said, using my long cane to guide me down the boardwalk.
The coast was quiet, the smell of sea salt and sand washing over me.
“Am not,” Maggie said, touching my arm to let me know she was beside me. “I just wanted to swim.”
“I barely had time to leave Jeff and Sara a note before you dragged me out of the house.”
“You were wasting daylight,” she said, exasperated. “Just stop complaining, it’ll be fun.”
I shook my head, allowing her to take my hand. “I’m not swimming.”
“I’ll stay with you the whole time,” she said, giving my hand a squeeze. “What else are little sisters for?”
“I don’t care,” I said, “I’m not getting in the water.”
Maggie went quiet for a moment as she steered me off the boardwalk. The unevenness of the sand forced me to lean on her for support.
“You need to have some fun,” she said eventually.
I sighed, grimacing as we stumbled through the sand. “I have fun. I’m getting pretty good at wrestling. I’m working my way up the team.”
“And are they your friends?” She asked, her usual sassy demeanor coming through.
I shrugged, though the action may have been lost on her.
I went silent as she led me across what seemed to be a never-ending stretch of sand.
“Are we gonna stop anytime soon?”
“It’s a bit further,” she said, her breath short, likely exhausted from supporting me. “On the other side of these rock formations.”
“Why do we have to go so far? I can hear the Ocean right next to us.”
“It’s my favorite spot,” she said defensively. “My real parents used to take me here when I was a kid.”
I scoffed. “You’re still a kid.”
Maggie didn’t reply, guiding me closer to the water where the sand was easier to navigate.
I immediately worried that I hurt her feelings, something frustratingly hard to determine when I couldn’t see.
“My mom and I had a place like that,” I said after a moment. “We had a lake we would visit pretty often. She would feed the ducks while we talked… I’d like to go back there at some point.”
“I’m sure our foster parents would bring you there if you asked,” Maggie said, a hint of bitterness in her voice. “They adore you.”
I frowned, seized by guilt. “Jeff and Sara don’t love me any more than you.”
It was Maggie’s turn to scoff. “They don’t pay attention to me. If they’re not ignoring me, they’re yelling at me, there’s no in-between.”
“Maybe if you’d stop trying to run away, they’d have less reason to yell,” I said, squeezing her hand in an attempt to seem less harsh.
“So they could go right back to ignoring,” she said matter-of-factly, not quite managing to disguise her pain.
I didn’t reply, giving up for the moment. There was nothing I could do when she got like this; determined to feel sorry for herself. Her life wasn’t perfect, but…
“I care about you,” I said, smiling in her direction.
She squeezed my hand. “I know, which is why you get the privilege of joining me at my favorite spot. Speaking of which… we’ve arrived.”
I sighed in relief. “Describe it to me,” I said, letting go of her hand.
“The sand is super clean here, the water too, which is kind of a teal color. This section is secluded, surrounded by rocks, which is why it was our favorite.”
I nodded, picturing it in my head. I’d only been to the beach a handful of times before the incident, but I remembered how beautiful it was.
“Still not going to swim?” She asked, grabbing my elbow to pull me forward.
“No, I’ll watch… so to speak.”
“At least take off your shoes,” she said, forcing me to sit in the sand. “I mean, honestly. Who wears tennis shoes to the beach?”
“People forced there against their will,” I answered, dropping my cane as I pulled off my socks and shoes. “You know you’re gonna have to help me put these back on, right?”
“We’ll see,” Maggie said playfully as she pulled me to my feet, handing me back my cane. “But for now, you’re not gonna ruin my fun.”
Suddenly, I heard splashes in front of me, the sound of feet pattering through the shallow water.
“Come on!” She called. “Get your feet wet!”
My heart pounding, I stumbled my way closer to the water, the cane of little use on the uneven surface.
“Fine, but only my feet!” I called back, stepping onto the wet sand compacted by the waves.
I hadn’t been around water in years, especially not the Ocean. Despite myself, I had to admit the feeling was exhilarating.
“Alright, come guide me!” I yelled, moving slightly closer.
There was no reply.
“Maggie, I need your help!”
Still no answer. My heart starting racing. “Don’t overreact,” I whispered, “she just didn’t hear.”
“Maggie!” I yelled, dropping my cane as I pressed further into the water.
Still no reply.
Starting to panic, I fell to my knees, dragging my hands across the coarse sand.
“Maggie!” I yelled again, the waves overpowering the sound of my voice. I never should have come out here with her alone.
“Maggie!” I yelled louder, my voice shaking with fear.
I crawled across the sand, the waves washing across my hands and legs.
“It’s okay,” I whispered, attempting to breathe calmly. “Don’t panic.”
I inched further into the Ocean, shaking with fear.
“Don’t do this to me!” I yelled. “Come back!”
There was no response. The only sounds were of the seagulls squawking over the crashing waves.
“She didn’t leave you here,” I whispered, reassuring myself. “She wouldn’t do that.” But the alternative…
I crawled further, struggling to stay upright as the undercurrent pulled at my legs.
“You know it’s pointless for me to look for you!” I yelled, not daring to crawl any further. “Say something! I’m serious!”
Nothing.
Alarms went off in my head, my hair standing on end. She would have said something by now if she could hear me.
Maybe she just ran away again. Or maybe she just swam too far down the coast…
True panic set in as I forced myself further into the Ocean, frantically casting my arms about in the water for any trace of her.
Minutes passed without any sign of her, the water steadily rising to my chest. Within each second that passed, I clung harder to the hope that she had merely run away. I fought the urge to yell, trying to listen for her instead.
Desperate, I pressed through the water toward the largest splashes I could hear, hoping one of them would be Maggie.
I tried to recall the swimming lessons when I was a kid, attempting to pull myself through the water, but it was useless.
More time passed. Nothing.
“Help!” I yelled, hoping someone would hear me.
Nothing.
“Help!” I yelled again, praying for a passerby.
Still no response.
Tears fell down my face as I felt my way through the waves. Dread began to take hold of me. She had been gone for far too long.
And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to stop searching, no matter how hopeless. If she hadn’t run away…
She was my responsibility; the only person in her life she really trusted, and I let her down.
Finally, I accepted the fact that I couldn’t save her.
“Help!” I yelled as loud as possible, moving back toward the shore. “Anyone, help!”
I gathered speed once I found shallower water, finally certain of which direction to run. Once I made it make to the sand, I turned left, orienting myself with the coast.
“Help!” I yelled repeatedly, running as fast as I could along the compacted sand.
Over and over again, I fell, tumbling into the sand only to get up and keep running. Someone had to be on this beach.
It seems like miles before he finally heard someone respond to his calls.
“Hey!” Someone yelled nearby.
I stumbled to a stop, instinctively holding out my arms in their direction.
“What’s wrong?” A woman’s voice asked from a short distance. I heard multiple footsteps moving through the sand.
“I can’t see and I lost my little sister,” I said frantically. “You have to help me find her.”
There was a moment of silence before the woman took my hand. Then a man spoke.
“Where did you last see her?” He asked, his voice urgent.
“We were past the rock formations,” I said, pointing behind me.
Without another word, the man ran past me, leaving me behind with the woman.
“I’m Veronica,” she said, holding my hand tight as we jogged through the sand. “We’ll find her, don’t worry. I’m calling the police.”
“Do you see him?” I asked.
“Hello? We have a missing person at East Beach…”
“Can you see them?” I asked again, shaking with fear.
She didn’t answer until she’d hung up with the police. “I can’t see past the rocks.”
Too frightened to wait, I ran back down the coast, my heart pounding.
I could hear Veronica following me, eventually grabbing my hand to force me to stop. “We’re past the rocks,” she said. “Sean is still looking. How far were you past the rocks?”
“I don’t know,” I said hopelessly, falling to my knees.
“It’s okay,” she said, patting me on the back. “I’m going to look for her too, okay? And the cops are on their way. Just stay here, we’ll find her before it gets dark.”
I nodded, listening as she ran through the sand into the water.
Trembling, I slammed my fists into the sand, screaming until I couldn’t any longer, collapsing in the sand.
Then all was darkness.

“Stephen?”
I opened my eyes, immediately grabbing the sunglasses from my nightstand.
“We’re going to put out some more signs, honey,” Sara said, patting me on the shoulder.
I nodded, feeling for the cane propped against my nightstand. “I’m coming.”
“You don’t have to,” she said soothingly. “I know it’s early.”
I shook my head, getting to my feet. “Just give me a minute, I’ll be right down.”
I could feel the weight of her smile as she left my room. Every morning since her disappearance, we put out more signs, holding onto the hope that Maggie had merely run away.
So far, she hadn’t turned up on any reports, nor had she surfaced at the beach, and with each passing day, I allowed my anger to drive me, refusing to acknowledge the sadness within.
If she ran, I had every right to be angry… and the alternative was too difficult for me to consider. So I chose to be angry.
I helped my parents search for her every morning for two weeks before giving up. My parents, however, never did.
Eventually, even my anger could no longer keep my depression at bay. I quit the wrestling team and spent most of my time in her old room, going through her things and picturing what it used to be like with her there.
The very first day after her disappearance, we found Maggie’s journal underneath her pillow. There was nothing else Maggie cared more about than her journal, and I never said this, but she would never have left us without it.
Both the cops and our parents read it, but said it didn’t contain anything useful. They even read parts of it to me, but I couldn’t handle listening to her thoughts and feelings like that. So back in her room it went.
Still, I liked to hold her journal when I was in her room. It made me feel close to her, despite not knowing what was inside. I would even run my hands along its pages while I replayed that last day with her in my mind.
Then, more than a month after her disappearance, I found something on the last few pages of her journal.
At first, I thought it was just a slight imperfection of the paper: a speck of dirt or bump of some type. Then I pressed harder, rubbing the pages together with my fingers.
It was brail.
My heart racing, I felt my way back through the pages to the first few bumps I could find:
Hi, Stephen.
It took me a while
to learn brail for
you, but it was worth
it. I just want to
let you know that
I love you, and I
hope to see you
again someday.
Just in case they
Care, tell Jeff and
Sara I’ll be okay.
I’m going to miss
you, but I need to
find my own way.
I don’t feel whole.
I’m missing a piece
of me and I don’t
know what it is.
But when I figure
it out, and I’m ready,
I’ll come back to you.
I promise.
With all of me,
Little sister.


This story came about from an idea I had, which was to try and write a story from the perspective of someone who couldn’t see.

I thought it would be fun to use all other descriptors except for sight because we tend to rely on visuals too often. So it was really just a fun exercise for me.

Then I decided there should be a very clear environment that we could still imagine easily, so I chose a body of water to keep us oriented. And the rest just came as a wrote.

One of the biggest deterrents for writers can be the lack of “amazing ideas.” Don’t let that stop you. If something sounds interesting to you, then pursue it. Diving into that creative part of your mind will likely stir up better and better ideas; things you would have never thought have had you not allowed yourself to explore.

This piece was actually a top selection in an international contest. I hope you enjoyed it! I will be writing more short stories soon, so keep an eye out!

Short Story: The Bench

I met my wife on this bench.
I was daydreaming, watching ducks float in the lake when I first saw her. She was running along the bike path, her face full of determination. I expected her to run right past, but she stopped right in front of me instead, kneeling to re-tie her shoes.
She shot me a quick glance as she knelt in front of me, her curly hair tied back in a bun, sweat dampening her shirt. Yet, despite her obvious exhaustion, she seemed… alive.
Nervous and suddenly sweating even more than her, I tried to think of something clever to say…
“I like your shoes,” I said, mentally kicking myself.
She gave me a quizzical look as she finished tying her pink running shoes and took out her earphones. “What?”
Supremely embarrassed, I looked into her eyes and managed a stutter. “Um, I said that I… like your shoes.”
She gave me a weird look, obviously unsure of what to make of me. I didn’t blame her.
“I mean… they look good on you, is all,” I said, giving her a tentative smile in an attempt to seem less creepy.
“Thanks,” she said, returning the smile, “your uniform looks good on you.”
My heart leaped. “Thanks. I iron it myself,” I said, smiling like an idiot.
She nodded sagely, a grin forming on her lips. “Isn’t that mandatory?”
I shrugged, declining to answer.
Her grin broke into a full-out smile. “So when do you ship out?” she asked.
I frowned. “Two days, actually. That’s why I came out here. To re-evaluate my life choices.”
She let out a full-throated laugh, her eyes sparkling as they looked back at me. It was the first time I’d ever made her laugh, and it’s still one of my fondest memories.
“Then we better make this time count then,” she said, holding her hand out. “I’m Sarah.”
I wiped the sweat off on my pants before taking her hand. “Andrew.”

“Then what happened?” Grant asked, taking notes in his little moleskin notebook.
I sighed, wiping away a tear from my eye as I looked out over the lake.
We were sitting on the wooden bench, still damp from the rain that morning. I didn’t mind, running my hand down the arm of the bench, dragging my fingers against the grain as I drug up memories long past.
“What was your project about, again?” I asked, eyeing the young boy.
“To ask a stranger their life story.” He said casually, his pen poised over the notebook.
I eyed him distrustfully for a moment. “It’s not a very happy story.”
Grant shrugged, looking at me expectantly.
“Alright then,” I relented.

I fell in love with Sarah over those next two days. She thought I was foolish for believing that, but it’s true.
She was smart. Smarter than anyone gave her credit for. And she never failed to make me laugh, even in my darkest moods. In a world full of so much suffering, she shined. A lone spark of hope.
But that third morning I left for war… It’s not something I like to talk about. And to tell you the truth, I’ve blocked much of it out. If I start dredging through memories… well, I’d rather not.
Suffice it to say that I was deployed for two years, but only about a third of that time was spent fighting. The rest of those two years were spent thinking about Sarah.
I didn’t send her any letters. She told me not to. But I wrote them anyway and held on to each and every one of them.
But before I could come back to Sarah, I got injured.

Grant stopped writing just long enough to look down at Andrew’s arm, his eyes alight with curiosity.
“And then I came home early,” I said lightly, eyeing Grant.
“But…” Grant said, still staring at my arm.
“But what?” I prompted.
“But, how did it happen?” Grant asked nervously.
I shook my head at the boy. “I told you I didn’t want to talk about the war.”
Grant nodded, his face fallen in disappointment as he readied his pen for more notes.
I rolled my eyes. “My arm was blown clean off,” I said, raising what was left of my right arm.
Grant’s eyes widened, taken aback.
“And that’s all there is to it,” I said, lowering my arm.
Grant nodded vigorously, his eyes still focused on the stub sticking out from my sleeve.
“So,” I continued, “I went home early.”

I was embarrassed to see her again. I didn’t even want my mother to see me the way I was then. I felt half a man.
Still, I looked for her, hoping that when I found her she would look past my injury.
I had built up this image of her while I was away. I imagined her just as she was when I first saw her. I thought about what I would do when I saw her again. What I would say.
We had arranged to meet at this same bench. I arrived early, dressed in my military uniform and sweating with nerves. I was close to bursting with anticipation when I saw her walking down the bike path, just like that very first day.
When I saw her, all other thoughts escaped my mind. The only thing I could think about was how lucky I was to see her again.
She wore a flower dress with sandals, her hair loose around her shoulders. Her eyes lit up when she saw me, a smile breaking out on her face.
I stood, fidgeting with my hand as she walked toward me, unsure of what to do. I wanted to run to her, but didn’t want to make a fool of myself.
I knew the exact moment she noticed my missing arm, her smile faltering, her eyes squinting in concern.
“Didn’t you have two of those before?” she said, her eyes twinkling.
I smiled, feeling a weight lift from me. “They were pretty strict,” I said playfully. “I couldn’t leave early unless I left a part of me behind.”
She came to a stop right in front of me, smiling as if no time had passed at all.
Blindingly nervous, I gave her half a hug before taking a seat.
“How are you?” I asked, nervously fiddling with my jacket.
She sat on the bench next to me and took my hand in hers. “I’m good,” she said… “A lot has happened.”
I nodded, focused on the warmth of her hands. “For me too, obviously.”
“Was it terrible?” she asked, her eyes full of concern.
“The war? Not really. Not most of it anyway.”
“And… losing your arm?”
I shrugged. “It wasn’t the most pleasant thing I’ve ever experienced, but it brought me back to you.”
She smiled sweetly, stroking my hand.
“What about you?” I asked. “Was it terrible… being here without me?”
She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Not so terrible as losing an arm, I would think.”
I shrugged again, smiling back at her. That was when I noticed the ring on her finger.
For a few moments I just stared at it, trying to process what it meant.
“Are you engaged?” I choked.
Her face wilted. “Married,” she admitted.
I pulled my hand away, trying to hide the fact that I was shaking.
“I didn’t know how to tell you,” she whispered.
I shook my head, not knowing how to respond.
“I told you not to wait for me,” she said, a single tear falling down her face.
I couldn’t look at her, running my hand through my hair. I was shaking with anger. At her for moving on, but more so at myself for expecting anything else. She didn’t owe me anything.
I looked at her one last time, forcing the barest hint of a smile onto my face before walking away. I felt broken and lost, but I never looked back.

“But you got married,” Grant said, frowning at me.
I chuckled. “Yes, years later.”
“Can we skip ahead, then?”
I sighed, taking a swig from my bottle, watching the sun begin to set over the lake. “Might as well.”

Three years later, Sarah divorced her husband. I didn’t realize it at first. I wasn’t really in a place to keep tabs on anyone, seeing as I was dealing with my own things.
During those three years, my mother died suddenly. She had lung cancer. I spent all the money I had trying to treat her, but she died anyway.
We only had each other at the end, and then I had no one. She asked me to decide where to spread her ashes. I chose this lake. Not long after, I lost the house along with most everything else. Still, I never loved anyone else.
It was sometime after that when I found out Sarah was divorced. She had apparently tried to reach me for a long time before she finally succeeded. She found me at this very bench, watching over my mother.
I almost didn’t recognize her when she walked up to my bench. She had aged so much over those five years, but she was more beautiful than ever.
As soon as I recognized her, I pulled her into an embrace, overjoyed at the sight of someone I cared about.
She hugged me back, holding me even tighter when I eventually tried to pull away.
I don’t know how much time passed before we let go.
As soon as we sat down on the bench, I couldn’t help but look at her hands. There was no ring.
I proposed to her sixth months later. We were at this bench, and I read to her every letter I’d ever written to her over the years. We both cried. A lot. And it was the happiest day of my life.

“And you both lived happily ever after,” Grant said hesitantly.
I shook my head, gesturing around me with my hand. The park was empty except for my box full of letters and the ducks floating in the lake. “If we lived happily ever after, then where’s Sarah? I told you this wasn’t a happy story.”
Grant shifted uncomfortably. “Well, for a while then, at least, right?”
I nodded, already lost in my memories. “For a while.”

We were happy for a time, but like all things on this earth, it didn’t last. It turns out, Sarah wasn’t perfect, and neither was I.
I still loved her. More than she ever knew. But marriage was hard. Even harder than war.
I hated myself for thinking this, but I began to understand why my father left us when I was little. It didn’t make what he did any better, but at least I understood. He was weak, and so was I.
I eventually turned to alcohol. It became my crutch. My escape from the stresses of marriage and the memories of war.
It was reasonable at first, but then it got worse and worse until it had taken over my life. Alcohol had enslaved me, and it had enslaved our marriage.

“So you got divorced?” Grant asked, strangely somber.
“Not divorced,” I said, “but separated. She was right to leave me. She deserved better.”
Grant’s hands shook, for once not taking notes. “I’m sorry.”
I shrugged. “It’s not your fault. The blame was entirely on me. Anyway, before she left me, we had a child. A little boy named Bryan. He was fourteen months old when she left with him.”
“And you never saw them again?”
I kept my gaze on the lake, trying to hold myself together. “No. That was about twenty years ago.”
Grant hesitated before closing his notebook and setting it inside his backpack. “How long have you been homeless?”
I gave him a look before taking another swig from my bottle. “I’d say nineteen years or so. There aren’t a lot of jobs for amputated veterans without a degree. It doesn’t matter, though. I’m fond of this bench. Better times and all that.”
Grant wiped away a tear as he looked into my eyes. “And you get to be with your mother.”
“Exactly,” I said, smiling as I placed the bottle next to my box.
“But you never tried to reach out to her?” Grant asked. “To see your son?”
I frowned at him. “Of course I did, but she wanted nothing to do with me. They moved out of town and on with their lives.”
“And you stayed here,” Grant said, a hint of accusation in his voice.
“Here is home,” I said defensively. “If they ever want to see me again, this is the only place she’ll know where to find me. So it’s here that I stay.”
“But you’re still drinking,” said Grant.
I stopped mid-swig, looking Grant in the eyes. “Like I said, I’m weak.”
Grant stood, sighing as he pulled his backpack over his shoulders.
“Thanks for your time,” he said as he dropped a dollar in my box and walked away.
I grunted, taking another swig from my almost empty bottle. It felt good to talk to another person, but it came with a price. My memories better forgotten were more vivid; more painful.
Then I noticed the markings on Grant’s dollar. In pen were the words when you’re ready, followed by an address.
I snatched the dollar up, staring at it blankly, suddenly realizing who Grant really was. My heart leaped as I threw the bottle at the ground, shattering it into pieces.
Clutching the dollar to my chest, I tried to run after my boy, but I was out of shape and he was nowhere to be seen.
I stumbled around the lake a couple of times, hoping to spot him somewhere in the distance, but he was gone.
Both heartbroken and hopeful, I made my way back to the bench and picked up my letters. “By, mama,” I whispered, as I walked away from the bench.
My boy wanted me sober, so that’s what I was going to be.


When I sat down to write this piece, I liked the idea of writing an entire story in one location. But it is incredibly difficult to write an engaging story without significant movement.

So instead of telling a story in space, I tried to tell a story through time. The same location over years of time. Pretty neat in theory, but that brings a whole other issue of consistency.

To start at the beginning of the story and then jump through time in chronological order would be jarring for readers. Therefore, we need a narrator, someone to guide us (hopefully seamlessly) through time.

Hence, this story all centering around a single bench. I hope you enjoyed it!

Allie. Chapter 46. Catharsis.

Allie knelt beside Miguel’s body, her hand wavering over his head. His eyes rolled around unfocused as if unaware of his surroundings, only to connect with hers for the briefest of moments.
He was alive in there somewhere, changed forever. And yet he was responsible for Draco’s death.
Allie’s hand shook over his head as she struggled with what she was about to do.
Frank knelt gently beside her, digging into the sand that lined the stadium floor. “Draco wanted to bring him to his sister. We can still honor that.”
Serenity stood behind them both, her eyes fixed on the sand she dared not look at Miguel’s body. It was all she could do to refrain from attacking him, no matter how helpless.
Patty’s eyes were distant, absently petting Jade as she watched Allie making her decision. Miguel had done more than take Draco from her. He’d taken her entire village. Her mother. There would be no mercy for him if it was up to her, but that’s not what Draco wanted.
Sensing her pain, Jade purred reassurance, nuzzling Patty’s hand.
Finally summoning the nerve, Allie placed her hand on Miguel’s forehead. His eyes continued to wander, unseeing, but his body stilled at her touch.
She felt the tension leave him as she closed her eyes. She focused on his breathing, ragged and uneven.
Reaching out was natural, as instinctive as Claiming, only there was no response.
Broken images flashed through Allie’s mind, unintelligible and disorienting. “Your sister,” she whispered, frustrated. “Where’s your sister?”
The images continued. They may have been people or places for all she knew, but none of them were discernible.
“Miguel,” Allie whispered again, refused to give up. “Show me your sister.”
Miguel stiffened at his name, his eyes meeting hers just long enough to be on purpose, and an image appeared in her mind. Or, rather, a series of images, all of the same person.
A baby on his arms. A little girl with bows in her hair. A teenager scowling at him. A middle-aged woman with sadness in her eyes. An old woman with a cane in an alley, turning her back. And it turned out Allie recognized the street. Then the images became scrambled once again.
With a sigh, Allie removed her hand, rising to her feet as Frank did the same.
“Well I know where to start,” she said, meeting the gaze of her companions one by one.
Frank nodded firmly. The others had no response.
“It’s what he wanted,” Allie continued, raising her chin.
Patty pressed her lips together into a thin line, but eventually nodded as well.
Serenity remained unmoved, her mind on other things. Past things.
Allie let her shoulder slink a little as she glanced at Claire, Shean’s body draped on her back next to Draco’s.
“We should bury them both first,” Allie said, breaking the silence. “Before I go searching.”
“I’ll bury Drumond,” Serenity said, standing up straighter.
“We’ll help you,” Frank said, his chin wavering as he held back his emotions.
“No,” Serenity said, “I need to bury him alone.”
Allie nodded. “And I need to bury Shean,” she said. “Also alone.”
Allie and Serenity made eye-contact, each nodding to the other.
“When I’m done, I’m leaving,” Serenity added, her voice breaking ever so slightly.
“To chase down the others?” Patty asked, a hint of eagerness in her voice.
Serenity shook her head. “No. I’m going alone, and for no other purpose than to be alone. I need time… space.”
Patty scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. “You’re leaving us? What about family?”
Serenity smiled. “You have your family,” she said, nodding to Allie and Frank.
“And the city?” Allie asked, eyeing the townspeople peaking down into the stadium. “Aren’t you their Queen?”
Serenity sighed. “Let them rule themselves… unless you want to rule them?” She offered Allie. “You do have two dragons now. More powerful, even, than me at the moment.”
Allie frowned at the idea, unable to comprehend the full meaning of Serenity’s words. The idea of more power than she’d ever dreamed… didn’t feel right. She had no desire to be Queen.
“No,” she found herself saying. “I may have been born in the city, but I don’t belong here. I don’t want to belong here. I want to go back to the farm.”
Frank smiled, looking back and forth between Serenity and Allie. “Would you have any room for a stable-hand on this farm?”
Allie smiled back. “I should think so. I may even have room for a little sister if she’ll have us…” she said as she looked to Patty.
Patty’s lips trembled as she held back her tears, her face contorting in the effort. “I’m not going anywhere near the pigs,” she finally managed, nearly choking with emotion.
“Oh come on,” Allie said, beaming. “They’re really quite majestic animals.”

——

Lots of topics to cover here at the end…

First off, I want to thank everyone who took the time to read this story. I realize it can be quite frustrating to wait this long to finish a book, but it also gives a good indication of just how long it takes to write a story.

I wrote each chapter the week it was published without exception, and did no editing. I’m sure that was obvious at times, but, again, it gives a good indication of how a first draft looks. It’s messy and a grind, which I hope gives any aspiring writers the freedom to proceed. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Keep working at it.

I intend to self-publish this book for anyone who doesn’t want to read it in blog form, but only after it’s gone through a round of editing. This can also give an idea of how different a chapter can be after a round of editing for anyone interested in that.

I will continue the blog primarily through short stories self-contained in each individual blog, so I hope you enjoy them! And I’ll continue to tackle writing principles after each short story.

Now for the breakdown of the actual chapter:

The last chapter. The very end. Should be about catharsis.

I spent the entire book attempting to build up your emotions, and now, at the end, this is my attempt to allow you to release them. A sigh of relief. A spark of hope. Whatever you want to call it, it’s supposed to be satisfying.

In the very beginning, I had no idea what this story would be about, but it eventually became clear that it was about justice and mercy. Absolute freedom vs. Rigid judgement vs. Mercy. Draco, through all his faults, stood for mercy.
And even though he died. He also won, because mercy won. And in that way, he truly has become Immortal. He lives on through his friends (and wife) who are forever changed because of his actions.

This in of itself should be good enough to bring a sigh of relief, whether consciously done or not. But as I’ve already implied, it’s not a self-contained character arc. All of the characters are tied to each other.

Draco’s mercy is the catalyst to Serenity’s character arc. Not completed within the story, but hinted at.

Simultaneously, Allie has been shown how to wield her new power. For her, it wasn’t just about taking control of her life, but what to do with that control.

And then there’s Patty, her family taken from her, and a new one given; the beginning of a whole new story, and a representation of Allie at the beginning of her arc.

All of these arcs tied together and represented by the one decision to show what little mercy they could to the person they hate. I didn’t plan that ahead of time. It’s merely the natural conclusion to the story of these characters.

Now, I’ll end this chapter with one last topic: sequels.

I do not intend to write a sequel to this story. But it is written in such a way that there could be a sequel, or there could not. I could end the story right here. Or I could continue it. Both are completely viable. And if you’re a new writer, I highly recommend you approach your story in this way. Allow me to explain.

If you go into a story intending for it to be a trilogy, that’s cool. More power to you. But that becomes a problem if you’re also trying to sell that story to an agent or publisher.
Publishers do not typically trust new writers to deliver on trilogies. They might give you a chance for one book, maybe. And that one book cannot end with a cliffhanger, because you just don’t know if you’re ever going to get to write the next book or not.

What does this mean? That if you’re a new writer, you have to prove yourself by writing a great satisfying story in a single novel. You don’t have multiple books to prove it to them. Just one. So you better know how to end a story right. How to provide that catharsis necessary for the reader.

This is why you read so many trilogies where the first book reads like its own story. Because the writers didn’t know if they’d get another two books to finish it. So when they do, they tack on the other books to the original story. They still had a plan in place in hopes that they’d get more books, but they needed to write a satisfying story in the first place. So how do you do that?

Don’t hold back. Give them everything you have in the first book. End the story in a satisfying way. And if, in the process, you’ve given the readers a world that captures their imagination and characters they want to spend more time with, you’ll get your chance to tell more of the story.

Draco. Chapter 45. Fearless.

Shean locked eyes with Allie as Stephen’s blade pierced his skull. He’d never had a family before. No one to die for until Allie.
He had just enough time to smile before everything went dark. Wind rushed past his ears as he fell. Then nothing.

——

Allie reach out to catch Shean, but he was too far away. There was nothing she could do for him anyway. He was dead as he fell, a small smile etched on his face.
Stephen flipped the knife in his hand and threw it at Allie. She saw the knife just in time, throwing herself flat against Claire.
Anger overtook her as the knife passed over her shoulder, biting into Claire’s hide.
With a shout, she threw herself at Stephen, attempting to tackle him off of his dragon. She managed to wrap an arm around his neck, throwing all of her weight into the chokehold.
“Traitor,” he hissed as he broke her hold with a sweep of his arm, following up with an elbow to her jaw.
Her vision darkened for the briefest of moments as she rolled backward down his dragon’s back.
Just then, both of the dragons rolled, still grappling for dominance. Claire was worn down, but unburdened by Allie’s weight as she tore at the other dragon.
As the dragons rolled, Allie was nearly thrown clear of the fight, but barely managed to grab hold of the dragon’s leg.

——

Camore and Horn reluctantly let their wild dragons go, forced to follow Stephen’s orders. They had new enemies to worry about, turning to face the swarm of Claimed flying toward them.
The four riders carrying torches flew straight toward Camore. None of them engaged right away, taking their time in sizing him up.
Jade was one of them, riding on Jade’s back. She carried a blazing torch as she circled Camore, looking for an opening to attack. Three others held similar torches, including Draco, who’d commandeered one of the guard’s horses.
Their four torches were the only ones they’d managed to scrounge up before rushing in to attack, making them the only chance of taking down Camore.
Patty climbed higher into the sky to avoid Camore’s tail just as Draco’s horse slammed into Camore’s side.
With a lunge, Draco dragged his torch across Camore’s wing, attempting to set it on fire. But before it could catch, Camore spun, knocking the torch out of Draco’s hand while simultaneously snapping the head off of a guard with its teeth. His torch went out as he fell through the sky.
Patty saw the opening, bringing Jade down hard on Camore’s head. Jade slashed at its back as Patty jabbed her torch into its face.
Camore let out a roar as it raked its claws across Jade’s body, flinging her off of him before Patty’s torch could set him aflame.
Camore spun, following Patty as if to finish the job, but Draco interfered, slamming his horse down on its back. The horse clawed deep past Camore’s scales just as the fourth guard faced the dragon head on.
Foolishly, he flung his torch at Camore’s face.
Furious, the dragon pumped its wings, knocking Draco off balance just as Camore snapped the other guard in half.
Draco’s horse launched away from Camore, joining Jade as they circled the dragon. Patty’s was the only torch left.

——

Horn dove in and out of the Earth, picking off his enemies one by one. Serenity rode a lion, forced to hover above the ground where Horn last disappeared.
“We can’t hit him hard enough!” Frank yelled from the back of his horse. “Not while he’s using the ground as protection.”
“Be patient,” Serenity yelled back. “Ground or not. Dragon or not, we have to try.”
Just then, Horn exploded from the ground, wrapping its jaws around the last remaining guard and dragging him back underground.
Serenity and Frank climbed higher in the air with their Claimed, watching the Earth for signs of movement.
For seconds. Minutes, there was silence as Horn waited for the Serenity and Frank to move closer to the ground. Close enough for him to surprise with an attack, but they maintained their distance.
Finally, Horn emerged, clearly agitated as it flew at its enemies. Frank intercepted the dragon, letting Serenity fly higher into the sky.
Horn snapped at Frank’s horse, roaring in aggravation as Frank led him on a narrow chase. All the while, Serenity climbed higher, watching for her moment.
Eventually, when she deemed they’d climbed high enough, she urged her lion downward, gaining momentum as they sped toward the dragon.
Frank repeatedly spun in the air, barely managing to avoid Horn’s claws as Serenity barreled toward him.
Just before Serenity arrived, Horn caught Frank in his claws. Frank was ripped from his Claimed, thrown to the air just as Serenity’s lion slammed into Horn’s head.
The lion was half as big as Horn and had hit him with as much force as she could muster, but Horn was unfazed.
Horn spun in the air with Serenity and her lion still attached. Then, catching them off guard, he plunged toward the ground, slamming Serenity into the Earth.

——

Stephen’s dragon roared, trying to shake Allie free from its leg as Claire bit at its neck.
Allie’s arms shook with the strain of holding on to the dragon, all too aware that she wouldn’t be able to hold much longer.
Stephen frowned at her, but made no effort to reach her as she clung to his dragon’s legs. Instead, he gazed into the distance, communicating with his dragons.
Suddenly, Stephen’s dragon managed to twist itself around Claire, breaking her hold on him. Then, with a sickening crunch, he sunk his teeth into Claire’s neck.
Claire immediately sunk through the air, limp.
Then, able to hold on no longer, Allie feel through the air after her.
With a satisfied grin, Stephen left them to fall and steered his dragon through the clouds, eager to deal with Drumond and Sarah personally.

——

Camore flew right at Patty, identifying her torch as the last remaining threat.
Patty and Jade dove underneath the dragon, twisting in the air in an attempt to avoid the dragon’s wrath, but Camore was too fast.
The dragon managed to hook Jade with one of its claws, yanking them to the side with a force that nearly knocked Patty off of her back. Even as she struggled to stay on Jade, Patty tried to catch Camore’s leg with the torch, but the flame wouldn’t take.
With gritted teeth, Draco flew straight into Camore’s leg, trying to break its hold on Jade, but his horse wasn’t strong enough.
Camore flapped its wings in a fury, twisting its neck around just enough to catch Draco’s horse in its teeth. Then, with a twist of its jaws, it flung the horse to the side.
Draco jumped just in time to catch Jade, pulling himself up next to Patty as his horse fell through the air.
“Give me the torch,” he said, breathless.
Patty pressed her trembling lips firmly together. “But… I can fight. I’m not going to go hide. Not this time.”
“I know you can fight,” Draco said, watching as Camore reared its head back, preparing to bite into Jade next. “You’re so brave, little one. Your mom would be proud.” And with that, he snatched the torch from her hand and lit himself on fire.
Ignoring Patty’s look of horror, he leaped onto Camore as the flames took hold, climbing up its leg.
The move caught Camore off guard, shocking it into hesitating, its jaws poised over Jade and Patty. With a roar, it tried to bite at Draco instead, but it couldn’t quite reach him.
With the flame now roaring around Draco’s body, Camore’s leg finally caught on fire, slowly at first, and then quickly spreading down its body.
In searing pain, Draco forced himself to keep climbing, working his way up Camore’s torso until he finally reached its head.
Soon, Camore’s entire body was covered in flames. Only then did he finally release Jade from his clutches. All four of them fell through the sky. Patty and Jade in pain. Draco and Camore in flames.

——

Stephen broke through the clouds just as Camore burst into flames, falling through the sky.
With a snarl, he flew past the dying dragon, forcing himself to focus on Horn instead. Only two of his dragons remained, but with Claire out of the fight, his enemies had none. He intended to make sure it stayed that way.
Suddenly, Horn emerged from the ground with a victorious roar. Behind him, both Frank and Sarah were sprawled on the ground, their bodies actively trying to mend themselves back together.
Stephen landed his dragon next to their bodies. “Good boy, Xaen,” he said as he slid to the ground.
As he looked down at Frank and Sarah’s beaten bodies, he was surprised to find mixed emotions welling up inside him. Relief at the victory, and yet disappointment as well.
Years spent in pursuit of absolute freedom, and it he finally had it. Earned through the blood of his fellow gods and their pets. It had taken far too long to accomplish, and yet… it felt unfinished. He was unsatisfied. And as he stared down at Serenity’s slowly healing body, he realized why.
It wasn’t enough to have freedom. He needed revenge. And with that realization, he allowed himself to breathe more easily. Yes, revenge. And he was about to take it.
Feeling more sure of himself, he grabbed Serenity’s unconscious body and dragged it on top of Xaen. “Now for Drumond,” he said as he flew back into the sky, Horn at his side.

——

Allie blacked out as she hit the ground. Distant in her consciousness, she felt her body break at the impact of the fall.
Then she felt nothing. Thought nothing. Time was eternal, and yet had stopped. Then, eventually, light broke through.
Words, thoughts, and images reformed in her mind as she fought to stand. Her muscles trembled, but held enough to climb to her knees. Then she managed to open her eyes.
Claire stirred next to her, mere feet away. Allie could feel her pain as she stumbled toward her. Her dragon let out a pitiful roar as she rose her neck, muscles trembling more visibly than Allie’s.
“Take your time,” Allie whispered, gently laying her hand on Claire’s wing. “The fight is already lost.”
Claire let herself back to the ground, following Allie’s advice in preserving her energy. It wasn’t until that moment that Allie noticed the mound laying several paces past Claire.
The heap was colored just like the ground, camouflaged as it recovered its strength. The wild dragon Allie had saved from Stephen.
Hope flared within Allie as she was hit with the realization. She had the opportunity to continue the fight. All she had to do was Claim the struggling dragon.
Making her decision, she sprinted toward the dragon, her chest tight with anticipation. Her body rebelled against her, protesting the limits of its health, but she refused to listen, pushing herself to catch the dragon before it was too late.
The dragon raised its head, alert, just as Allie leaped onto its back. And with all of her strength, she held her hand against its head, attempting to force a bond.

——

The sound of their impact was the only thing that alerted Draco to the fact that they’d hit the ground. The rest of his senses were blinded by the pain of the flames, and yet he still clung to the bonfire called Camore.
Jade pumped her wings, managing to slow their fall just before crashing into the ground next to them. One of her legs snapped as they hit, the impact of the fall throwing Patty from her back.
Draco forced himself to crawl, every motion pure agony as his body fought the flames. Blindly, he clawed his way forward. With every pull against the dragon’s scales, he tricked himself, convinced that the next pull would bring him free of the fire. The next. And the next.
He had nearly fallen unconscious by the time he managed to finally pull himself free of Camore. He would have never realized except for falling off of Camore and onto the cracked Earth. The flames ate at his body all the same, refusing to let him recover.
“I suppose I should thank you for going out with a fight,” Stephen said, kicking dirt over Draco. “It would have been disappointing any other way.”
The flames enveloping Draco began to die as Stephen continued to kick dirt over him.
“I’m quite tempted to let you burn,” Stephen continued, “and I still just might. But I haven’t come all this way just to stab you in the back. No, I want to watch your eyes fade as you die.”
As Stephen continued to layer Draco with dirt, he became increasingly aware of his aching body. Feeling returned to his limbs as he became acutely aware of the searing flames.
Finally, the fire died down enough that Draco regained control of his eyes. When he opened them, he found himself laying face-up, looking at Stephen’s menacing grin, Xaen and Horn framing the sky behind him.
Then Stephen raised his knife.
Stephen’s grin grew wider. “Did Miguel tell you, Drumond? I was hoping he might.”
Draco tried to roll to the side, but his muscles had yet to reform, still fighting the active flames.
“A glass blade,” Stephen said. “Made special for the king.”
Then, with a steady hand, Stephen brought the knife down to Draco’s chest, resting the tip of the blade on his half-exposed heart.
“You’ve had your run,” Stephen whispered. “It’s my turn, but don’t you worry. I’ll take care of your wife for you.”
Draco tensed, his eyes widening as he tried to move his arms, hardly managing to raise them off the ground.
Stephen laughed, pressing the glass blade so it cut into his heart. A shallow cut, bringing a slow bleed.
Suddenly, the Earth shook with a chorus of roars.

——

Allie flew Claire over the fire, aimed directly at Stephen and Draco. Physically, Claire was weak, not fully recovered from her injuries, but Allie could feel the rage flowing through her. She was ready to fight.
Beside her flew Bael, her new dragon, equally ready to fight as he fed off of her emotions.
Before Stephen’s dragons could rise to meet them, Allie leaped off of Claire, landing directly on Stephen’s back.
As she threw everything she had into her chokehold, her dragons clashed with Stephen’s head-on. Bael thrashed at Horn as Claire wrestled with Xaen. The last of the standing dragons.

——

Serenity was thrown off of Xaen as he launched himself into the sky. Half-conscious, she attempted to catch herself as she hit the ground, but to no avail.
Her body was still healing where Stephen had injured it, done in the attempt to keep her subdued, but he had left her alone for too long.
Slowly, she climbed to her feet, stumbling in the process.
Looking around her, she found a pile of flames littering the sky-line with dragons clashing overhead. But what most caught her attention was Stephen stumbling backward as he fought to free himself from Allie’s grasp.
Then Draco rose from the ground, looking paler than she’d ever seen him.
As soon as she saw him, she found herself running, gaining momentum as her body healed.

——

Draco stumbled to his feet, holding his right hand over his heart. Even as his skin healed, he could feel his heart continue to bleed.
Stephen stood before him, throwing Allie back and forth as she clung to his neck. With wild jabs, he managed to stab Allie repeatedly with his glass blade, but it wasn’t enough to break her hold.
Allie yelled victoriously all the while in his ear, pausing only to bite at his neck.
Draco dragged his feet forward, determined to help her finish the job, but he was too slow.
Before he could reach them, Stephen managed to free himself from Allie by slashing her wrists. She let go, falling to the ground just as Draco attempted to tackle him to the ground.
Stephen nimbly stepped out of the way as Draco fell to his knees, but before Stephen could take advantage, Serenity appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
Before he could react, Serenity tackled Stephen to the ground, knocking the knife out of his hand.
Draco watched as Stephen rolled on top of her, pinning her shoulders. He tried to stand, to run to her aid, but he was too weak.
Then Stephen lunged for his knife, Serenity still pinned to the ground.
Draco got to his feet, only to fall again. “Sarah,” he whispered, unable to speak any louder.
Stephen grabbed his knife, holding it over Serenity.
“No,” Draco said, climbing to his feet once more. “Sarah!” He yelled hoarsely, managing to throw himself at Stephen.
Draco lost his balance as he crashed into Stephen knocking them both into the ground as Serenity rolled out of the way.
Draco tried to stand again, but he had already used everything he had to save Serenity.
Then Stephen was on top of him, knife in hand. “There’s no time to savor this,” he said. And then he plunged the blade into Draco’s heart and twisted, breaking the glass.
Draco mouthed two words as he died. Inaudible and unheard. “I’m sorry.”

——

Serenity rolled to her feet to find Draco lying at Stephen’s feet. Lifeless, his eyes half-open, a tear still on his cheek.
Serenity froze, uncomprehending as she stared at her estranged husband. She paid Stephen no mind as he moved toward her, her mind in shock.
Tears formed on her cheek, her body beginning to shake with despair.
It was Allie to came to her rescue, prompting her to fight. Allie to broke Serenity out of her haze. Then came the fury. The anger at Draco for leaving her yet again. The anger at Stephen for forcing him.
What came next was a blur as Allie and Serenity fought together, tearing Stephen down bit by bit until he finally lost consciousness.
It was only then that Allie’s dragons persevered. Horn was the first to go down, killed with a blow to the head by Bael. Then Xaen fell under the pressure of Claire and Bael, subdued long enough for Serenity to Claim him as her own.

———

I’m keeping this extremely brief since this chapter took so long to write.

Be fearless.

Don’t let expectations rule your writing, not your own or anyone else’s. Your story doesn’t have to look a certain way. End a certain way. Etc.
I suggest you be true to the characters. To their arcs. To use certain storytelling principles in order to write a satisfying story.
But those are just suggestions.
The only necessary thing to be a writer is to be fearless.
Write what you want to write. Don’t let fear get in your way.