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Chapter 6 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy

TIME TO REMEMBER (Final chapter)

Kaido illustriously gave me the grand tour of the castle. Every now and then, a fuzzy picture would come to mind, small things such as the two of us talking about something or a meal we had eaten in a certain room. We had lived here together for quite some time before my disappearance and it had the comfortable vibe of being a warm, happy place.

“This next room was your favorite.” Kaido led me to a large room and when we entered, my body froze. 

In the back corner stood an ornate grand piano, its dusky wood gleaming as though it had been freshly polished. Around the edges of the room were tables and chairs and off to one side was a small anteroom with comfortable lounge chairs. A set of double, glass-windowed doors opened out onto a long balcony that overlooked a gorgeous, flower filled garden. The centre of the room was empty and obviously used for dancing. It was a ballroom. 

Kaido walked up to the piano and stroked its top fondly. “You would sit and play for hours. Such beautiful music would pour forth through your fingers. It was mesmerizing.” He sat down on the plush stool and beckoned me to join him. Warily, I did so. Was he going to ask me to play? As far as I could remember, I never played a piano in my life. “Over the years you were gone it was both a comfort and a torment for me to come in here. Your presence was still so strong, especially when I would play.” 

Reverently, his long, deft fingers began pressing down on the keys and euphonic tones began to fill the room. At first, the mood was somber. In the lachrymose notes, I could sense Kaido’s anguish at being separated from me. It was gut-wrenching and I clutched at my heart in remorse. Then, when I thought I could take no more of the agony, my hands seemed to move of their own accord and I watched in horror as they began to play, matching Kaido’s skillful tunes. I tried to stop only to find that I could not and as I continued to play, the music morphed into something more upbeat, exultant even. We played in such perfect harmony. Kaido was ecstatic. A look of amazement, wonder and pleasure painted his face and despite my reluctance, I couldn’t help but be caught up in his enthusiasm. My stomach clenched as the melody washed through me but it was not clenching in pain. For the first time in months, the music did not hurt me. Instead, the emotion welling up inside me was joy. I was so overcome that I began to cry tears of happiness. Together, we brought the song to a close and for several minutes we sat there in silence. There was really no need to speak as we could each feel the other so keenly. I could not tell where Kaido ended and I began. We were both breathing hard and almost on instinct, we reached zealously for each other. Kaido pulled me onto his lap and held me firmly against him. I snuggled into his embrace and let my tumultuous emotions run free, laughing and crying at the same time. Something magical had just happened and my poor soul was struggling to comprehend the magnificence of it.

“I don’t even know how I did that,” I cried between guffaws and sniffles. “When I started falling ill, music became unbearable for me to hear. The vibes and sentiment were too much.”

“I know. We feel our emotions on a far greater level than humans.” He gently caressed my cheek and wiped my tears. “You loved this room for another reason also.”

I froze again, knowing what he was going to say. With great difficulty, I spoke first. “Dancing?” It appeared there was no escaping my passion for dancing. Even in my other life it had been important to me.

“You would dance with such grace and elegance. I could have watched you forever. You danced for me quite often,” he informed me with a touch of cheekiness.

I scowled at him, but only in jest, giving him a playful shove.

Grinning, he jumped up off the stool and moved towards one of the walls. With a touch of his hand, a panel in the wall slid back to reveal a modern stereo. He pressed a button and music once more permeated the room. Eyes bright with anticipation, Kaido offered me his hand. “May I have this dance?”

My hands trembled. Was I ready for this? He waited patiently while I silently waged a violent, internal war. “I… I…” I stammered. The panic was rising again. I couldn’t do it. My shoulders slumped dejectedly. Yet again, I was hurting the man who been nothing but kind to me. Why couldn’t I just remember?

Kaido placed a finger under my chin and tilted my head up. His handsome face was soft with sympathy. He knew exactly what I was feeling. Hastily, he turned off the music and came to sit beside me, straddling the stool so that he could face me. “I am sorry, Leira. My hopes got the better of me. Forgive me?”

“Of course. It’s me who should be apologizing.” I hung my head sadly.

“Nonsense. Though perhaps, if you feel the need to make it up to me, you will allow me to take a raincheck?” His eyes sparkled impishly and I knew he was trying to cheer me. I wished I could say yes, absolutely another time, but I could not even say that. The mere thought of dancing – especially dancing with Kaido – sent me into overdrive, though my body yearned to be held by him. I was awash with conflicting emotions. Not for the first time, I wished I could ignore them or at least control them. There had to be a way to distract myself from this torment. I wanted him yet feared to be with him, I longed to dance yet feared to dance; so many opposing emotions. I felt like I would soon split into a million pieces. Was there a way to force them into some sort of order? Was there another trigger just waiting for me to find that would be my saving grace? Kaido moved to kiss me on the cheek but I quickly turned my head so that his lips landed on mine. I needed this. I needed to feel something tangible, something I could not question. For the first time since arriving at this castle, I gave in to my lust. I wanted to be closer to him. Barely breaking the kiss, I turned to straddle the stool as he did, dragging myself closer until I could wrap my legs around him. He groaned softly as I deepened our kiss and I could taste the fervor of his lust as his hands reached for my hips, attempting to draw me closer still. My hands slipped themselves into his silky hair, my fingers running through its length. With a sigh, Kaido reluctantly pulled back.

“Leira,” he whispered. “Oh, my Leira.” His breath came is halting gasps. “You are really here.” He sounded amazed. “It can be dangerous out there for a solitary phoenix. There are humans and other creatures who will murder us on sight.” Kaido’s distress was evident. “That is the only way we can die. I was so afraid you had been lost to me forever,” he whispered against my hair. “And although I would very much like this to continue, you are not ready. You just needed a distraction and I do not want to take advantage of your vulnerability.”

As much as I did not want to admit it, he was right. I could never hide anything from him. It was a comfort and an inconvenience as, I wasn’t entirely sure I would have regretted it if things had progressed. With a last look at the ballroom, I took Kaido’s offered hand and we continued our tour.

For the next several days we spent every spare minute together. We would go for long walks in the forest and he would tell me of the creatures who lived there; fairies, elves, sprites and even unicorns habited this alternate Nantahala. Larken visited often, always with a new story to tell me about our misadventures yet, despite their best efforts, my memories remained fuzzy. The days turned into weeks and I began to worry that we were attempting the impossible. Kaido and I were lamenting over this while we sat relaxing on a picnic rug in the quaint little garden behind the castle, when an idea occurred to him.

“There is one thing we have not tried. I thought of it earlier but did not mention it as I was not sure you were ready. Now, I cannot think of anything else.”

“Tell me.” At this point, I was willing to try almost anything. The fuzzy memories were becoming annoying and they were giving me headaches. It was like I was trying to chase shadows. I could always see them just there in front of me but could never catch them.

“We could try to get you to shift into your Phoenix form,” he suggested.

My breath caught in my chest and I felt my stomach plummet to the ground. “Why… why would that help?” I sputtered.

“My thought is that maybe the shift will trigger not just a physical change but a psychological change also, thereby unlocking your memories.”

The idea sounded plausible; except there was one problem. “How do I make myself change?”

“Usually it is done by applying thought and willpower. Are you willing to try?”

I could see the fragile hope lingering behind his calm demeanor. This whole thing had to be hurting him and yet he never rushed or pushed me. I had to try. I owed him that much at least. I swallowed my fear and nodded. He took my hand and kissed it. 

“My brave Eirwin,” he uttered with pride. “I will try to talk you through it. Close your eyes and relax.”

I did as he said and tried to block out everything but the sound of his voice as he instructed me to envision myself in my Phoenix form. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, I could not remember my Phoenix form. I tried to picture myself covered in the feathers I had seen begin to sprout from my skin and superimpose that onto an image of Kaido as a Phoenix. It was not enough. Growling in frustration, I opened my eyes. 

“I can’t! I can’t do it. I can’t even remember myself in Phoenix form so how am I supposed to picture it.” My energy gave out and I dropped like a wilted flower in despair.

Kaido on the other hand, did not appear discouraged. “It is only your first attempt. Do not give up so easily, my love.” He tapped a long, slender finger to his chin, thinking. “You need a trigger.”

“That’s what happened the other times. It was like my body just responded automatically. I really didn’t even have time to think about anything,” I recalled drearily.

“We need a catalyst. Something strong enough to bring out the full change and, you will have to allow it to happen. If you try to block it as you did in the past, it will not work,” Kaido warned me. “Your body knows what to do. It just has to be pushed a little.”

I admired Kaido’s persistence and unwavering dedication. “What do you propose?”

“Let us see if my own change will provoke you again. Remember, do not fight it this time.” He got to his feet and, like before, Kaido was once again immersed in a burst of flames. When it dissipated, there he was in his glorious Phoenix form. It was as enthralling as it was the first time. I reached out a hand to stroke his resplendent feathers and he made a noise deep in his throat, nuzzling into my hand. Emotions welled up inside me and I tried to let go, tried to surrender to them so that the change would find no obstacles in its way. Nothing happened. I closed my eyes, focusing on the feel of Kaido’s downy feathers beneath my hand, willing the change to come. Still nothing. I sensed Kaido shift back to his human form and before I could open my eyes I was pulled sharply into his arms. My arms twined themselves around his taut middle and my head nestled against his chest. I could hear his heart beat and I savoured the sound. Since the incident in the ballroom, we had tried to keep our distance as much as we could. We both agreed it was probably for the best until my memories returned. However, the connection between us deepened the more time we spent together and it grew harder and harder to hold onto decency. Even if we were apart, I knew exactly where he was. I could feel him there constantly, as though a piece of him was literally living inside me. It was a pleasant reassurance that I was never alone, that I would never be incomplete again, and I began to wonder how I had ever lived without it. I felt amazing and so incredibly alive. Finally, the internal wound no longer ached, the persistent chill was melted into a warm, soothing balm that pumped and flowed and pulsed through my blood. What I failed to realise, however, was that I had fallen hopelessly and inescapably in love with this man. In fact, I had loved him from the moment I first saw him. I just had not known it at the time. This sudden revelation burst violently in my heart and knocked the breath from my lungs with brutal force. I felt Kaido tense and draw in a sharp breath as he, too, felt my epiphany. Pulling back, I gazed up into his face. His eyes, simpering with salacity, met mine and I could hold back no longer. With tears tracing their way down my cheeks, I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him hard on the mouth. There was no stopping me this time. He returned my kiss with rapacious need as I let all the love I had trapped inside me reveal itself. Both breathless, Kaido separated our lips just long enough to gently lay me down on the picnic rug. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t have to for me to know the question that he dearly wanted to ask. There was no hesitation. I knew exactly what I wanted and it was high time I got it. How much time passed, I didn’t know, nor did I care. I bared all; let my heart throw its doors wide open and held nothing back. He deserved everything I could give so I gave him everything I had. Never had I known such ecstasy or such a sweet, unrelenting and ravenous desire. It was intoxicating on the most delectable level. We fed and fed, drinking each other in until our heads spun in drunken euphoria. After, as we lay panting in each other’s arms, I said the words I knew Kaido had been yearning to hear. 

“I love you.”

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks. “My precious, sweet Leir… Eirwin. I love you.”

I smiled. “Leira,” I whispered. “My name is Leira.”

In the next instant, my body was heaving. Feathers began to sprout from my skin and I cried out in both surprise and joy. Kaido stared at me, eyes wide but I wasn’t looking at him. I couldn’t even see him. Instead, I was watching image after image flash through my mind like a movie – five hundred years of memories.

“I remember!” The words were a mighty roar.

Transfixed, I waited for the one memory that would explain where I had gone; the memory both Kaido and I wanted to know the most. Eventually, it came. “Ooooooh,” I breathed.

“What it is? Are you alright?” I still could not see him, but I could feel him. His warm hands wrapped around mine as I told him what had happened; how I had been drawn to the agonizing cries of a tiny baby girl, alone and hungry in the arms of her deceased mother and how I had wanted to help her. Tears again streamed down my cheeks as I remembered that little life slipping away and how my memories had slipped away with it. Sobbing out my apologies to Kaido, I felt him kiss my hands.

“I would have expected you to do nothing less, my darling.” I could sense the pride behind his words and I beamed with pleasure, My heart blossomed as I realised how much I was truly loved. I was so lucky. My tears turned from pain to joy and I laughed in jubilation as my body convulsed one last time, completing the change. I felt the power behind my newfound wings – wings the same colour as my hair. I flexed, stretching them wide. They had not been used for a long time and were eager to fly. On the edges of my awareness, I sensed Kaido changing form beside me. My wings flapped impatiently, wanting to touch the sky except I still couldn’t see beyond the barrage of pictures working their way into my mind, demanding to be seen. Finally, everything became still and standing in the place where two human forms had only moments ago been lost in the throes of passion, were two striking, elegant birds. Kaido made a sound of pure contentment as he nuzzled his face to mine. Playfully, I nipped at the feathers on his neck, as I had done so many times before and took off into the heavens. I twirled and dipped, dancing on air as I arched graceful patterns across the twilight sky. Soaring higher and higher, I felt the last vestiges of my wounded soul sigh in peace. It was whole once more. I was whole once more. 

“Kaido, my love. Come dance with me.”

EPILOGUE 

Beautiful music floated through the air. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the trees adding their own unique melody. It was the perfect moment. My wedding dress draped my body in brilliant, winter-white with shimmering, silver snowflakes weaving intricate patterns along the skirt and bodice, matching the snowflake tiara I wore in my hair. A sun stone blazed from its place on a white gold pendant around my neck; the colour of summer and the colour of my beloved Kaido. It was his wedding gift to me. Encircling his neck was a cord from which hung a glistening moonstone – the colour of winter and my wedding gift to him. His suit was white, trimmed with orange and he wore an orange shirt. We were Summer and Winter, together at long last. As the trees and all manner of creatures watched on – even Angie was there – Kaido stretched out his hand to me. Trembling, and with racing heart, I gently placed my hand in his. He pulled me into his arms, kissed me upon the lips and then we began to move in rhythmic, flowing motions. The tension melted away. I was dancing with my beloved for the first time as a human since my memories had returned. We had flown together several times, dancing on air, but this was different. It was in that instant that I knew I had truly returned. Life was finally complete.

THE END

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Chapter 6 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy
TIME TO REMEMBER (Final chapter)
Kaido illustriously gave me the grand tour of the castle. Every now and then, a fuzzy picture would come to mind, small things such as the two of us talking about something or a meal we had eaten in a certain room. We had lived here together for quite some time before my disappearance and it had the comfortable vibe of being a warm, happy place.

“This next room was your favorite.” Kaido led me to a large room and when we entered, my body froze. 

In the back corner stood an ornate grand piano, its dusky wood gleaming as though it had been freshly polished. Around the edges of the room were tables and chairs and off to one side was a small anteroom with comfortable lounge chairs. A set of double, glass-windowed doors opened out onto a long balcony that overlooked a gorgeous, flower filled garden. The centre of the room was empty and obviously used for dancing. It was a ballroom. 

Kaido walked up to the piano and stroked its top fondly. “You would sit and play for hours. Such beautiful music would pour forth through your fingers. It was mesmerizing.” He sat down on the plush stool and beckoned me to join him. Warily, I did so. Was he going to ask me to play? As far as I could remember, I never played a piano in my life. “Over the years you were gone it was both a comfort and a torment for me to come in here. Your presence was still so strong, especially when I would play.” 

Reverently, his long, deft fingers began pressing down on the keys and euphonic tones began to fill the room. At first, the mood was somber. In the lachrymose notes, I could sense Kaido’s anguish at being separated from me. It was gut-wrenching and I clutched at my heart in remorse. Then, when I thought I could take no more of the agony, my hands seemed to move of their own accord and I watched in horror as they began to play, matching Kaido’s skillful tunes. I tried to stop only to find that I could not and as I continued to play, the music morphed into something more upbeat, exultant even. We played in such perfect harmony. Kaido was ecstatic. A look of amazement, wonder and pleasure painted his face and despite my reluctance, I couldn’t help but be caught up in his enthusiasm. My stomach clenched as the melody washed through me but it was not clenching in pain. For the first time in months, the music did not hurt me. Instead, the emotion welling up inside me was joy. I was so overcome that I began to cry tears of happiness. Together, we brought the song to a close and for several minutes we sat there in silence. There was really no need to speak as we could each feel the other so keenly. I could not tell where Kaido ended and I began. We were both breathing hard and almost on instinct, we reached zealously for each other. Kaido pulled me onto his lap and held me firmly against him. I snuggled into his embrace and let my tumultuous emotions run free, laughing and crying at the same time. Something magical had just happened and my poor soul was struggling to comprehend the magnificence of it.

“I don’t even know how I did that,” I cried between guffaws and sniffles. “When I started falling ill, music became unbearable for me to hear. The vibes and sentiment were too much.”

“I know. We feel our emotions on a far greater level than humans.” He gently caressed my cheek and wiped my tears. “You loved this room for another reason also.”

I froze again, knowing what he was going to say. With great difficulty, I spoke first. “Dancing?” It appeared there was no escaping my passion for dancing. Even in my other life it had been important to me.

“You would dance with such grace and elegance. I could have watched you forever. You danced for me quite often,” he informed me with a touch of cheekiness.

I scowled at him, but only in jest, giving him a playful shove.

Grinning, he jumped up off the stool and moved towards one of the walls. With a touch of his hand, a panel in the wall slid back to reveal a modern stereo. He pressed a button and music once more permeated the room. Eyes bright with anticipation, Kaido offered me his hand. “May I have this dance?”

My hands trembled. Was I ready for this? He waited patiently while I silently waged a violent, internal war. “I… I…” I stammered. The panic was rising again. I couldn’t do it. My shoulders slumped dejectedly. Yet again, I was hurting the man who been nothing but kind to me. Why couldn’t I just remember?

Kaido placed a finger under my chin and tilted my head up. His handsome face was soft with sympathy. He knew exactly what I was feeling. Hastily, he turned off the music and came to sit beside me, straddling the stool so that he could face me. “I am sorry, Leira. My hopes got the better of me. Forgive me?”

“Of course. It’s me who should be apologizing.” I hung my head sadly.

“Nonsense. Though perhaps, if you feel the need to make it up to me, you will allow me to take a raincheck?” His eyes sparkled impishly and I knew he was trying to cheer me. I wished I could say yes, absolutely another time, but I could not even say that. The mere thought of dancing – especially dancing with Kaido – sent me into overdrive, though my body yearned to be held by him. I was awash with conflicting emotions. Not for the first time, I wished I could ignore them or at least control them. There had to be a way to distract myself from this torment. I wanted him yet feared to be with him, I longed to dance yet feared to dance; so many opposing emotions. I felt like I would soon split into a million pieces. Was there a way to force them into some sort of order? Was there another trigger just waiting for me to find that would be my saving grace? Kaido moved to kiss me on the cheek but I quickly turned my head so that his lips landed on mine. I needed this. I needed to feel something tangible, something I could not question. For the first time since arriving at this castle, I gave in to my lust. I wanted to be closer to him. Barely breaking the kiss, I turned to straddle the stool as he did, dragging myself closer until I could wrap my legs around him. He groaned softly as I deepened our kiss and I could taste the fervor of his lust as his hands reached for my hips, attempting to draw me closer still. My hands slipped themselves into his silky hair, my fingers running through its length. With a sigh, Kaido reluctantly pulled back.

“Leira,” he whispered. “Oh, my Leira.” His breath came is halting gasps. “You are really here.” He sounded amazed. “It can be dangerous out there for a solitary phoenix. There are humans and other creatures who will murder us on sight.” Kaido’s distress was evident. “That is the only way we can die. I was so afraid you had been lost to me forever,” he whispered against my hair. “And although I would very much like this to continue, you are not ready. You just needed a distraction and I do not want to take advantage of your vulnerability.”

As much as I did not want to admit it, he was right. I could never hide anything from him. It was a comfort and an inconvenience as, I wasn’t entirely sure I would have regretted it if things had progressed. With a last look at the ballroom, I took Kaido’s offered hand and we continued our tour.

For the next several days we spent every spare minute together. We would go for long walks in the forest and he would tell me of the creatures who lived there; fairies, elves, sprites and even unicorns habited this alternate Nantahala. Larken visited often, always with a new story to tell me about our misadventures yet, despite their best efforts, my memories remained fuzzy. The days turned into weeks and I began to worry that we were attempting the impossible. Kaido and I were lamenting over this while we sat relaxing on a picnic rug in the quaint little garden behind the castle, when an idea occurred to him.

“There is one thing we have not tried. I thought of it earlier but did not mention it as I was not sure you were ready. Now, I cannot think of anything else.”

“Tell me.” At this point, I was willing to try almost anything. The fuzzy memories were becoming annoying and they were giving me headaches. It was like I was trying to chase shadows. I could always see them just there in front of me but could never catch them.

“We could try to get you to shift into your Phoenix form,” he suggested.

My breath caught in my chest and I felt my stomach plummet to the ground. “Why… why would that help?” I sputtered.

“My thought is that maybe the shift will trigger not just a physical change but a psychological change also, thereby unlocking your memories.”

The idea sounded plausible; except there was one problem. “How do I make myself change?”

“Usually it is done by applying thought and willpower. Are you willing to try?”

I could see the fragile hope lingering behind his calm demeanor. This whole thing had to be hurting him and yet he never rushed or pushed me. I had to try. I owed him that much at least. I swallowed my fear and nodded. He took my hand and kissed it. 

“My brave Eirwin,” he uttered with pride. “I will try to talk you through it. Close your eyes and relax.”

I did as he said and tried to block out everything but the sound of his voice as he instructed me to envision myself in my Phoenix form. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, I could not remember my Phoenix form. I tried to picture myself covered in the feathers I had seen begin to sprout from my skin and superimpose that onto an image of Kaido as a Phoenix. It was not enough. Growling in frustration, I opened my eyes. 

“I can’t! I can’t do it. I can’t even remember myself in Phoenix form so how am I supposed to picture it.” My energy gave out and I dropped like a wilted flower in despair.

Kaido on the other hand, did not appear discouraged. “It is only your first attempt. Do not give up so easily, my love.” He tapped a long, slender finger to his chin, thinking. “You need a trigger.”

“That’s what happened the other times. It was like my body just responded automatically. I really didn’t even have time to think about anything,” I recalled drearily.

“We need a catalyst. Something strong enough to bring out the full change and, you will have to allow it to happen. If you try to block it as you did in the past, it will not work,” Kaido warned me. “Your body knows what to do. It just has to be pushed a little.”

I admired Kaido’s persistence and unwavering dedication. “What do you propose?”

“Let us see if my own change will provoke you again. Remember, do not fight it this time.” He got to his feet and, like before, Kaido was once again immersed in a burst of flames. When it dissipated, there he was in his glorious Phoenix form. It was as enthralling as it was the first time. I reached out a hand to stroke his resplendent feathers and he made a noise deep in his throat, nuzzling into my hand. Emotions welled up inside me and I tried to let go, tried to surrender to them so that the change would find no obstacles in its way. Nothing happened. I closed my eyes, focusing on the feel of Kaido’s downy feathers beneath my hand, willing the change to come. Still nothing. I sensed Kaido shift back to his human form and before I could open my eyes I was pulled sharply into his arms. My arms twined themselves around his taut middle and my head nestled against his chest. I could hear his heart beat and I savoured the sound. Since the incident in the ballroom, we had tried to keep our distance as much as we could. We both agreed it was probably for the best until my memories returned. However, the connection between us deepened the more time we spent together and it grew harder and harder to hold onto decency. Even if we were apart, I knew exactly where he was. I could feel him there constantly, as though a piece of him was literally living inside me. It was a pleasant reassurance that I was never alone, that I would never be incomplete again, and I began to wonder how I had ever lived without it. I felt amazing and so incredibly alive. Finally, the internal wound no longer ached, the persistent chill was melted into a warm, soothing balm that pumped and flowed and pulsed through my blood. What I failed to realise, however, was that I had fallen hopelessly and inescapably in love with this man. In fact, I had loved him from the moment I first saw him. I just had not known it at the time. This sudden revelation burst violently in my heart and knocked the breath from my lungs with brutal force. I felt Kaido tense and draw in a sharp breath as he, too, felt my epiphany. Pulling back, I gazed up into his face. His eyes, simpering with salacity, met mine and I could hold back no longer. With tears tracing their way down my cheeks, I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him hard on the mouth. There was no stopping me this time. He returned my kiss with rapacious need as I let all the love I had trapped inside me reveal itself. Both breathless, Kaido separated our lips just long enough to gently lay me down on the picnic rug. He didn’t say anything; he didn’t have to for me to know the question that he dearly wanted to ask. There was no hesitation. I knew exactly what I wanted and it was high time I got it. How much time passed, I didn’t know, nor did I care. I bared all; let my heart throw its doors wide open and held nothing back. He deserved everything I could give so I gave him everything I had. Never had I known such ecstasy or such a sweet, unrelenting and ravenous desire. It was intoxicating on the most delectable level. We fed and fed, drinking each other in until our heads spun in drunken euphoria. After, as we lay panting in each other’s arms, I said the words I knew Kaido had been yearning to hear. 

“I love you.”

Tears flowed freely down his cheeks. “My precious, sweet Leir… Eirwin. I love you.”

I smiled. “Leira,” I whispered. “My name is Leira.”

In the next instant, my body was heaving. Feathers began to sprout from my skin and I cried out in both surprise and joy. Kaido stared at me, eyes wide but I wasn’t looking at him. I couldn’t even see him. Instead, I was watching image after image flash through my mind like a movie – five hundred years of memories.

“I remember!” The words were a mighty roar.

Transfixed, I waited for the one memory that would explain where I had gone; the memory both Kaido and I wanted to know the most. Eventually, it came. “Ooooooh,” I breathed.

“What it is? Are you alright?” I still could not see him, but I could feel him. His warm hands wrapped around mine as I told him what had happened; how I had been drawn to the agonizing cries of a tiny baby girl, alone and hungry in the arms of her deceased mother and how I had wanted to help her. Tears again streamed down my cheeks as I remembered that little life slipping away and how my memories had slipped away with it. Sobbing out my apologies to Kaido, I felt him kiss my hands.

“I would have expected you to do nothing less, my darling.” I could sense the pride behind his words and I beamed with pleasure, My heart blossomed as I realised how much I was truly loved. I was so lucky. My tears turned from pain to joy and I laughed in jubilation as my body convulsed one last time, completing the change. I felt the power behind my newfound wings – wings the same colour as my hair. I flexed, stretching them wide. They had not been used for a long time and were eager to fly. On the edges of my awareness, I sensed Kaido changing form beside me. My wings flapped impatiently, wanting to touch the sky except I still couldn’t see beyond the barrage of pictures working their way into my mind, demanding to be seen. Finally, everything became still and standing in the place where two human forms had only moments ago been lost in the throes of passion, were two striking, elegant birds. Kaido made a sound of pure contentment as he nuzzled his face to mine. Playfully, I nipped at the feathers on his neck, as I had done so many times before and took off into the heavens. I twirled and dipped, dancing on air as I arched graceful patterns across the twilight sky. Soaring higher and higher, I felt the last vestiges of my wounded soul sigh in peace. It was whole once more. I was whole once more. 

“Kaido, my love. Come dance with me.”


EPILOGUE 
Beautiful music floated through the air. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the trees adding their own unique melody. It was the perfect moment. My wedding dress draped my body in brilliant, winter-white with shimmering, silver snowflakes weaving intricate patterns along the skirt and bodice, matching the snowflake tiara I wore in my hair. A sun stone blazed from its place on a white gold pendant around my neck; the colour of summer and the colour of my beloved Kaido. It was his wedding gift to me. Encircling his neck was a cord from which hung a glistening moonstone – the colour of winter and my wedding gift to him. His suit was white, trimmed with orange and he wore an orange shirt. We were Summer and Winter, together at long last. As the trees and all manner of creatures watched on – even Angie was there – Kaido stretched out his hand to me. Trembling, and with racing heart, I gently placed my hand in his. He pulled me into his arms, kissed me upon the lips and then we began to move in rhythmic, flowing motions. The tension melted away. I was dancing with my beloved for the first time as a human since my memories had returned. We had flown together several times, dancing on air, but this was different. It was in that instant that I knew I had truly returned. Life was finally complete.

THE END

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Chapter 3 of RED
Written by ChanelleJoy in portal Fiction

PART THREE

The next morning, we headed over to the Inn’s dining room for breakfast. Being able to properly enjoy my food was another new experience. I was used to either eating in a hurry or not eating at all. We were both ravenous after the ordeals of the night before and ate with zeal, ordering the full continental breakfast. Our conversation was lighter than our previous one. We spoke of silly things, of dreams and hopes and our deepest desires. I made sure to get a few happy snaps. We had known each other less than twenty-four hours and already we were fast friends. Thrilled, we discovered that we had both booked the same tour for the day so, after breakfast, we met the shuttle bus that would take us to the Kuniya Walk to Muṯitjulu Waterhole. Our guide told us that the waterhole was the home of waṉapi, an ancestral water snake. It was fascinating. My finger clicked the camera button as I took pictures of everything. Despite it being autumn, it was still unrelentingly warm in the Australian outback. The sun beat down in a fiery tirade and my hair became a sweaty mess underneath my hat. For all the heat though, it was a beautiful place. Finches chattered and flitted about and kestrels called out to each other from above. I tuned out for a moment and was suddenly overcome by the sensation of being watched. I glanced at the group but all eyes were focused on our guide, preoccupied by cameras or phones. It felt more like there was someone behind me though, creeping up silently. The hairs on the back of my neck rose and even though I anticipated it, I still jumped when I turned to find a young Aboriginal man standing further back up the trail. He stood still, not moving a muscle. I lifted my hand to wave and he waved back. Jacqui caught my movement.

“Who are you waving to?”

Taking my eyes off the man for just a moment I answered, “Oh, that young Aboriginal man behind us.”

Jacqui looked. “Um, what man? There’s no one there.”

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “The man just…” I turned to point him out but she was right. There was no one there. “Oh. He must of left.”

Jacqui looked at me skeptically. There wasn’t really any place he could have gone. It was all open.

“Maybe he ran over to those rocks or something,” I suggested, though I wasn’t entirely convinced of that myself.

“Maybe.” Jacqui’s tone suggested she wasn’t either.

Our tour continued. We meandered leisurely along the trail until we arrived at the waterhole. The same Aboriginal man was there, almost as though he were waiting for us. Oh, good. I’m not going crazy, I thought. Surely everyone can see him now. The guide didn’t even acknowledge the man. In fact, no one did. It appeared I was the only one who could see him. Don’t be silly Erin. How could you see him when no one else can? Lifting my camera, I quickly snapped a picture then looked at the little screen. There was nothing in the photo except the landscape. Frowning, I shook my head. Impossible. I studied this seemingly invisible stranger. He was tall, broad shouldered and muscular. Red paint striped his cheeks, bare torso, arms and legs, making him look like an Aboriginal warrior. His black hair hung in curls to his shoulders, held down by a red bandanna wrapped around his forehead. He was fierce in appearance, yet strangely, I was not afraid. Our gazes locked.

“Follow the red.”

I reeled back as the rich masculine voice sounded in my head. There was no acknowledgment from the young man that it was he who had spoken. His lips had not moved, yet I knew it to be so. How was that possible? Maybe I am going mad.

“You are not going mad, Erin.” The voice was warm with the tone of wisdom and a hint of a chuckle. He was laughing at me.

“I am not laughing at you, Erin. Everyone always thinks they are going crazy when they see us or when we speak to them.”

I stared at him. Everything else around me faded into oblivion. It was just me and this mysterious being who could, apparently, read my thoughts.

“Who are you?” I asked silently.

“Who I am does not matter. What matters is that you heed my message. Follow the red, Erin. Red will always lead you to safety.”

“Okay, if you won’t tell me who, then, what are you? Are you a ghost?”

He shook his head slightly. “No. I am not a ghost. But we have already met.”

It was my turn to shake my head. “No. I am certain I would remember you.”

The man smiled an enigmatic smile. He shimmered slightly, as though he was out of focus. Slowly, the image began to re-articulate only, it wasn’t the same form. Standing in his place was the little old woman from the supermarket. My eyes widened in shock as she winked at me.

“What are you? Who are you?” I was demanding now, yelling the thought at her.

“I am whoever you need me to be, Erin.”

“What does that even mean?” Why couldn’t she just answer my questions?

“You will find out soon. You are not ready to know just now. All you must know is to follow the red. Remember. Follow the red and you will be guided to safety.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about.” I was getting frustrated. It seemed she was talking in riddles. I was never any good at riddles.

“You will.” There was sadness in her voice, a regretful melancholy. “Just remember. Red will keep you safe.” With that final reminder, she vanished.

I stood there, as though rooted to the ground, staring at the now empty spot.

“Hey, Erin. Earth to Erin.”

“Huh?” I blinked a few times as reality came rushing back. How much time had passed? It seemed like hours. I panicked when I saw that Jacqui was the only person left. “Where is everyone?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the last however many minutes. They have gone on ahead.”

“Oh, I didn’t even notice.” I was still staring at the place where the Aboriginal man/old woman had stood.

Jacqui raised her eyebrows. “Clearly. Where were you anyway? You were completely zoned out. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeh.” I gave myself a shake. “Sorry. I was just thinking, daydreaming, you know. Enjoying the feeling of being free.” 

But am I really free? The thought came unbidden to my mind and the uneasiness that still clung to me gave a tug at my insides. I felt like vomiting. Instead, I swallowed hard, threw my hands up in the air and spun on the spot laughing, trying my hardest not to let the inner turmoil show on my face. Jacqui watched me, a frown creasing her brow. I spun up to her, grabbed her hands and began to spin her around with me. Her frown turned into a grin and then laughter as we spun about in circles until we were dizzy. As we staggered off to rejoin the group, my eyes were drawn back again to the place the ambiguous being had stood. Already, the event seemed surreal, fluffy and blurred around the edges like a dream. Had it really happened? I couldn’t be sure, but I did know that I would be keeping my eyes wide open for the rest of the trip.

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Chapter 3 of RED
Written by ChanelleJoy in portal Fiction
PART THREE
The next morning, we headed over to the Inn’s dining room for breakfast. Being able to properly enjoy my food was another new experience. I was used to either eating in a hurry or not eating at all. We were both ravenous after the ordeals of the night before and ate with zeal, ordering the full continental breakfast. Our conversation was lighter than our previous one. We spoke of silly things, of dreams and hopes and our deepest desires. I made sure to get a few happy snaps. We had known each other less than twenty-four hours and already we were fast friends. Thrilled, we discovered that we had both booked the same tour for the day so, after breakfast, we met the shuttle bus that would take us to the Kuniya Walk to Muṯitjulu Waterhole. Our guide told us that the waterhole was the home of waṉapi, an ancestral water snake. It was fascinating. My finger clicked the camera button as I took pictures of everything. Despite it being autumn, it was still unrelentingly warm in the Australian outback. The sun beat down in a fiery tirade and my hair became a sweaty mess underneath my hat. For all the heat though, it was a beautiful place. Finches chattered and flitted about and kestrels called out to each other from above. I tuned out for a moment and was suddenly overcome by the sensation of being watched. I glanced at the group but all eyes were focused on our guide, preoccupied by cameras or phones. It felt more like there was someone behind me though, creeping up silently. The hairs on the back of my neck rose and even though I anticipated it, I still jumped when I turned to find a young Aboriginal man standing further back up the trail. He stood still, not moving a muscle. I lifted my hand to wave and he waved back. Jacqui caught my movement.

“Who are you waving to?”

Taking my eyes off the man for just a moment I answered, “Oh, that young Aboriginal man behind us.”

Jacqui looked. “Um, what man? There’s no one there.”

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “The man just…” I turned to point him out but she was right. There was no one there. “Oh. He must of left.”

Jacqui looked at me skeptically. There wasn’t really any place he could have gone. It was all open.

“Maybe he ran over to those rocks or something,” I suggested, though I wasn’t entirely convinced of that myself.

“Maybe.” Jacqui’s tone suggested she wasn’t either.

Our tour continued. We meandered leisurely along the trail until we arrived at the waterhole. The same Aboriginal man was there, almost as though he were waiting for us. Oh, good. I’m not going crazy, I thought. Surely everyone can see him now. The guide didn’t even acknowledge the man. In fact, no one did. It appeared I was the only one who could see him. Don’t be silly Erin. How could you see him when no one else can? Lifting my camera, I quickly snapped a picture then looked at the little screen. There was nothing in the photo except the landscape. Frowning, I shook my head. Impossible. I studied this seemingly invisible stranger. He was tall, broad shouldered and muscular. Red paint striped his cheeks, bare torso, arms and legs, making him look like an Aboriginal warrior. His black hair hung in curls to his shoulders, held down by a red bandanna wrapped around his forehead. He was fierce in appearance, yet strangely, I was not afraid. Our gazes locked.

“Follow the red.”

I reeled back as the rich masculine voice sounded in my head. There was no acknowledgment from the young man that it was he who had spoken. His lips had not moved, yet I knew it to be so. How was that possible? Maybe I am going mad.

“You are not going mad, Erin.” The voice was warm with the tone of wisdom and a hint of a chuckle. He was laughing at me.

“I am not laughing at you, Erin. Everyone always thinks they are going crazy when they see us or when we speak to them.”

I stared at him. Everything else around me faded into oblivion. It was just me and this mysterious being who could, apparently, read my thoughts.

“Who are you?” I asked silently.

“Who I am does not matter. What matters is that you heed my message. Follow the red, Erin. Red will always lead you to safety.”

“Okay, if you won’t tell me who, then, what are you? Are you a ghost?”

He shook his head slightly. “No. I am not a ghost. But we have already met.”

It was my turn to shake my head. “No. I am certain I would remember you.”

The man smiled an enigmatic smile. He shimmered slightly, as though he was out of focus. Slowly, the image began to re-articulate only, it wasn’t the same form. Standing in his place was the little old woman from the supermarket. My eyes widened in shock as she winked at me.

“What are you? Who are you?” I was demanding now, yelling the thought at her.

“I am whoever you need me to be, Erin.”

“What does that even mean?” Why couldn’t she just answer my questions?

“You will find out soon. You are not ready to know just now. All you must know is to follow the red. Remember. Follow the red and you will be guided to safety.”

“I don’t understand what you are talking about.” I was getting frustrated. It seemed she was talking in riddles. I was never any good at riddles.

“You will.” There was sadness in her voice, a regretful melancholy. “Just remember. Red will keep you safe.” With that final reminder, she vanished.

I stood there, as though rooted to the ground, staring at the now empty spot.

“Hey, Erin. Earth to Erin.”

“Huh?” I blinked a few times as reality came rushing back. How much time had passed? It seemed like hours. I panicked when I saw that Jacqui was the only person left. “Where is everyone?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for the last however many minutes. They have gone on ahead.”

“Oh, I didn’t even notice.” I was still staring at the place where the Aboriginal man/old woman had stood.

Jacqui raised her eyebrows. “Clearly. Where were you anyway? You were completely zoned out. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeh.” I gave myself a shake. “Sorry. I was just thinking, daydreaming, you know. Enjoying the feeling of being free.” 

But am I really free? The thought came unbidden to my mind and the uneasiness that still clung to me gave a tug at my insides. I felt like vomiting. Instead, I swallowed hard, threw my hands up in the air and spun on the spot laughing, trying my hardest not to let the inner turmoil show on my face. Jacqui watched me, a frown creasing her brow. I spun up to her, grabbed her hands and began to spin her around with me. Her frown turned into a grin and then laughter as we spun about in circles until we were dizzy. As we staggered off to rejoin the group, my eyes were drawn back again to the place the ambiguous being had stood. Already, the event seemed surreal, fluffy and blurred around the edges like a dream. Had it really happened? I couldn’t be sure, but I did know that I would be keeping my eyes wide open for the rest of the trip.
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Written by Terra

Here

And here I am sitting in the park. At the picnic table I wrote our names in. Why did I wrote our names here ? Remember how you used to FaceTime me and I hated when you sat at that picnic table cause I would lose connection with you. Yeah it was a good memory. But now we're at that state. In life. We have a bad connection. I can't hear you. You can't hear me. And I'm crying out in that void of poor connection begging for you to see me. To hear me cause I'm not done talking. I have lot more to say.

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Written by Terra
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And here I am sitting in the park. At the picnic table I wrote our names in. Why did I wrote our names here ? Remember how you used to FaceTime me and I hated when you sat at that picnic table cause I would lose connection with you. Yeah it was a good memory. But now we're at that state. In life. We have a bad connection. I can't hear you. You can't hear me. And I'm crying out in that void of poor connection begging for you to see me. To hear me cause I'm not done talking. I have lot more to say.
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Chapter 5 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy

ANSWERS

It was a beautiful sunny sky that greeted us as we set off on our hike. We tried not to think too much about what we were doing or what we were looking for. Hours flew by and we must have walked several miles yet we found no evidence of any castle. Dejected, I sat down on a rock and let my head fall into my hands. Would I never get answers? Was I doomed to feel incomplete for the rest of my life?

“Oh, Kaido,” I muttered sullenly. “Where are you?”

“Don’t give up, Eirwin. There is something going on. I saw it too remember, saw you start to… change.” The notion still made her uncomfortable. “So, you’re not crazy. If you’re crazy then I must be too!” Angie sat down beside me, pulling a water bottle from her pack.

“You called for me?”

Both of us jumped, causing water to come flying out of Angie’s mouth and me to shriek in surprise.

It was Kaido, as alluring and elegant as I remembered him. Angie’s jaw nearly hit the ground and she threw me a wide-eyed look. It wasn’t often that Angie was left speechless.

“Um, not exactly,” I answered timidly. “It was an accident.”

“Oh.” The hope on Kaido’s face vanished.

“But,” I amended quickly, “I am glad you came.” He watched me quietly, curiously, waiting for me to go on except, I had no idea what to say. Maybe I should start with an apology. “I am sorry for running out on you yesterday. You have to understand how much of a shock it all was.”

Crossing his arms, he leant lazily against a tree. “Does it still shock you?”

“Yes,” I admitted. “But I am ready to understand.”

“So, you have come for more answers.”

I nodded and he smiled sweetly. “Then you will have to come with me.” Kaido held out his hand and beckoned me to come closer.

“Ahem,” Angie cut in. “Where she goes, I go.”

“Kaido, this is my friend, Angie. She, um, she knows about me... us.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Angie. Any friend of Leira’s, ah, that is Eirwin’s, is a friend of mine, however I must apologise. You cannot follow where we are going but I promise Eirwin will be completely safe and shall return to you unharmed.” He even threw in a bow, hand to heart as though swearing an oath.

I took Angie’s hand. “I will be alright.” She squeezed my hand tightly and I feared she would not let me go. “Angie, please,” I begged. “I have to do this.”

Finally, she let go. “Be careful,” she warned.

“I will.” I took Kaido’s offered hand and together we strode into the forest. After a short while, the castle appeared before us though I could have sworn it was not there a moment ago. I would have seen it. Slowly, I took a few steps back and the castle disappeared again and so had Kaido. I moved forward again and there it was, standing tall and solid.

Kaido chuckled at my expression. “This castle is hidden from human sight. It exists in a slightly different dimension, accessible via the gateway we just crossed. If a human were to pass through the gateway, they would see nothing but forest. We, on the other hand – and other creatures like us – can move through dimensions. Have a look at the sky,” he invited. “I dare say you did not notice it yesterday.”

I glanced up and gasped. The sky was awash with surreal hues of lilac and gold with fluffy orange clouds drifting lazily along. “I don’t understand. Are you saying we are on a different planet or something, or an alternate reality? Parallel universe?”

“No, we are still on Earth only, a slightly different version of Earth. So, yes, alternate reality would be correct, or alternate dimension.”

I was never any good at science back at school and this was getting into quantum physics type stuff.

“Think of it like this,” Kaido offered, “there are several dimensions that exist all at once and they overlap each other at various points. Humans are not aware of their existence, nor are they able to accidently cross over into one.”

“But, wouldn’t that mean that there is another version of me here? Doesn’t the theory of alternate dimensions or whatever, state that everything possible exists as alternate dimensions?” It was something like that I was sure.

“That is true for humans. However, it is not a problem for interdimensional creatures like us.”

“What?” This was getting too much for my brain to handle.

“Basically, there cannot be more than one of a creature who was made to travel interdimensionally.”

That made sense, I supposed. “Why can’t we just live in the same dimension as humans? Wouldn’t that make things easier?”

“Humans are not ready to accept our existence just yet. Who knows, maybe they never will be. To them, we are creatures of fantasy, fiction and myth.”

Again, it made some sort of sense if one was willing to think illogically. This time, I could walk into the castle on my own two feet and took my time to admire it. I felt like I was in a fairy tale and Kaido was Prince Charming while I was Cinderella. Kaido escorted me through the entry into a comfortable sitting room, encouraging me to make myself at home. As I was settling into one of the cozy, over-sized armchairs, a man-like creature appeared at the door. Though it had the body shape of a human male, it was not human. The skin covering his body – I assumed it was a male – was green, as was the hair falling loosely to its shoulders. His slightly tilted eyes were also green and held a mischievous twinkle. He wore no clothing save for a pair of brown pants and a brown, plaited cord tied around its head. Intricate patterns of vine-like swirls covered all the bare skin I could see, including the face. Despite the foreign appearance, something about the creature was familiar.

It spoke in a lilting, almost musical voice. “Ah, apologies, Kaido. I see you have company. I was awaiting your arrival however, I can return at another time if this would be more advantageous to you.”

“No apology is necessary, friend. Allow me to reintroduce you to Leira, although she goes by Eirwin now.”

Larken’s hand flew to his mouth. “You found her,” he whispered. I stood as he walked over to me. “I would not even have recognized you.” Then, without any warning, the creature threw its arms around me in a tight embrace. “I am so happy to see you again!” Not wanting to cause offense, I returned the embrace. “We have so much to catch up on, my sweet Leira. Ah but it shall be fun around here once more!” Larken was grinning from ear to ear.

“Am I not fun, Larken?” Kaido countered, pretending to sulk.

Larken laughed cheerfully. “You, my friend, are far too serious and passionate for real fun.”

“Some of us have to be,” Kaido retaliated. “And besides," he added with a cheeky smirk, "it depends on what you label as fun." 

Larken chuckled and shook his head but grumbled when Kaido informed him that Eirwin/Leira would be staying at the castle for the time being. “That’s not fair," he poutred. "Leira will not stand for that. Will you?”

“Ahhh, I… I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I don’t actually remember anything.”

Larken laughed again. “Oh, still the same I see. Nice try, Leira. You shan't get away from me that easily.”

“She speaks the truth, Larken,” Kaido informed him solemnly. “She does not remember who or what she is.”

Larken switched his gaze between the two of us and seemed to wilt as he finally realised this was no joke. “You… You truly remember nothing?”

I shook my head sadly, regretfully. I didn’t want to upset anyone else with this damned amnesia. Hurting Kaido was enough.

“Is that even possible?” Larken asked Kaido.

“It is not unheard of,” Kaido replied. “Sometimes the spirit chooses to reincarnate into human form. We do not know why. It is so rare that we have not had time to study it properly.”

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat to get their attention. What on Earth were they talking about? Reincarnation? I was here for answers, not for them to speak about me over my head. “Could someone just tell me what is going on? Please.” There was a note of desperation in my voice.

Kaido gave a start then bowed his head to me. “Of course. My apologies, Eirwin. Larken, you are welcome to stay if you like,” he offered.

“I think I will. Maybe I can help jog some memories,” he said hopefully.

I smiled at him. “Thank you. Um, I was wondering though, what are you?”

“You don’t even know that much?” he scoffed playfully. His good humor had returned. “I’m a Sprite, a forest Sprite to be precise.”

“Cool,” I remarked. “Are you from the same place we are?”

“Indeed, I am.”

It appeared I lived among some remarkable creatures in this alternate reality. “So, what am I?”

Kaido took a deep breath, hesitating slightly. “You are a Winter Phoenix. I, on the other hand, am a Summer Phoenix.”

My mouth gaped. Given my body’s odd behaviour of late, this should have been easy to believe. It was not. “Are you trying to tell me that we control the weather?”

“Not exactly,” Kaido corrected. “We keep the balance. You may have noticed it has been rather warm here despite it being winter?”

I nodded in affirmation and Kaido continued. “That is because you were not here. Together, you and I, along with the spring and fall Phoenixes, maintain equilibrium between the seasons. Without one of us, the weather changes accordingly. We did not have our winter Phoenix, therefore the weather remained warm.”

My suspicions had been right. I was connected to the weather, as outrageous as that sounded. “If that is the case, why has it not cooled down since I came back?”

“You are an embodiment of winter – an embodiment of winter that does not remember who she is and hence, winter does not remember how to be winter. It is not your fault, my love,” he was quick to reassure me when he saw the worry and guilt on my face. 

I was crestfallen. It suddenly became imperative that I remember and I motioned Kaido to go on, listening intently, hanging on every word he said as he went on to tell me about my past. Some twenty-seven years ago, I had experienced my first rebirth which made me young for a Phoenix. Instead of dying, Phoenixes burst into flames and are then reborn from the ashes, making us immortal in a roundabout way. Kaido had been through two rebirths which meant he was still young as well. We had been lovers. That much I had surmised for myself but still, to hear it confirmed made my cheeks heat up.

“So, we’ve ah, we’ve…” I couldn’t bring myself to finish the sentence although Kaido knew full well what I was trying to say.

“We have,” he replied silkily.

My whole body flushed crimson which Kaido and Larken found quite hilarious. Apparently, I was not usually so shy. 

It was at this point in the story, Kaido paused and a deep melancholy clouded his mood. “This is where things went very wrong.”

“What happened to me?” I asked gently.

“Phoenixes have the ability to shape shift into human form. It has not always been this way. It is a skill we developed over time to fit in more with our human neighbours. But God did not make us to live exclusively as a human. If we remain in the human form for too long, we fall ill. Sound familiar?”

It most certainly did. Everything was slowly coming together, like pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, although his mention of God surprised me a little. I guess the big man upstairs really was God of all; even supposed myths and legends.

After a moment, he went on. “Phoenixes like to keep their rebirths secret so when it is time, we will go off somewhere on our own. Not even our closest loved ones know where. For some reason, during the rebirth, you decided to send your spirit to a human and I could no longer sense you as I once had. Half of me died that day. I searched everywhere for you. Then, a while ago, I began to feel something tickling at the edges of my consciousness. At first, I thought I was imagining it but it grew stronger and I knew that it was you. The connection was not strong enough for me to track you but I was able to send you dreams to show you where to find me.”

“Those dreams were from you?” I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. I’d thought I’d come here of my own volition but instead, it turned out I had been beguiled and lured here. “You brought me here! What if I didn’t want to come? Did you ever stop to think about what I wanted? Maybe I disappeared for a reason!” I began pacing angry lines across the floor.

“My only thought was to help you, to show you the way back home,” Kaido explained sincerely as the corners of his mouth turned down. “I did not think you would wish to remain hidden.”

Immediately, I regretted my harsh words. “I’m sorry, Kaido. It’s just that, I thought I had come here on my own, that I had planned this new start.”

Kaido seemed confused. “You did. I did not force you. You could have ignored the dreams if you wanted to.”

Now I was confused. “Ignore them! I could ignore them as easily as I could ignore the sun or the moon! I could not get enough of those dreams. I knew they held answers to what was happening to me and the pull was so strong I could not resist!”

“They were your own feelings.” Kaido’s face brightened. “A part of you must have started to remember me for it to be like that.”

I relaxed, glad that I had not been a puppet after all. There was still one thing Kaido had not explained to me – why was I able to feel the emotions of others and, there was also the incident with the bear. 

When I asked the question, Kaido nodded. “I was coming to that. We Phoenixes are extremely sensitive to each other and to everything and everyone around us. We are kindred spirits with every living thing, even humans despite their lack of affinity for us. The bear was simply greeting a friend. Also,” he added, “I had spread the word that you may have returned and asked if all forest creatures could keep a look out. When I saw that bear greet you, my heart nearly leapt into my throat. Your human form has changed since last I saw it so, I could not be sure it was you until you turned around and looked at me with those glorious eyes. Your hair and eyes have remained the same.”

I ducked my head self-consciously under his piercing scrutiny. “Oh!” I exclaimed, suddenly remembering something I had to ask. “Were you watching me one day? It was months ago now. I was walking in the forest and the distinct feeling of being watched hit me. I didn’t see who or what it was but I found a feather, a dark red feather. The wind whisked it away before I could grab it and it almost seemed to beckon me to follow it. Was that you?”

“Ah,” Kaido recalled. “That is what you meant yesterday when you asked if I was there. No, it was not me. I did not lay eyes on you until yesterday. The watcher you are referring to was Aski, a Fall Phoenix. He was one of the first to spot you.”

“Does any of this jog your memory?” Larken piped up abruptly.

I sighed heavily. “Not really.”

“Perhaps if I tell of you of our friendship,” Larken wondered aloud.

“Please do,” I encouraged him. “I would like to know.”

Larken had me laughing with all the silly antics we used to get up to. Apparently, we had become fast friends from the moment we had met. “How could I have forgotten such a wonderful life? How could I forget each of you?”

“We know of ten cases where the same has happened. Ten documented cases in all our history. Of course, there could be more that we missed,” Kaido admitted, “however, Phoenixes tend to be rather good at keeping track of history.”

“What happened to these others?”

Kaido shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, as far as we can ascertain, there were various causes. Grief was a major contributor. Sometimes, when a Phoenix experiences profound grief, it can trigger a rebirth, almost as though they burn up from the agony of heart break. The theory is that they seek to escape the pain and so plant their consciousness into a human.”

“Was I grieving?”

“Not that I was aware of.”

“Nor I,” Larken added.

“What happened to them afterwards? Did they all regain their memories?” I needed to know what my own outcome would be, no matter what it was.

“The outcome was different for all although, those who were bonded with their mate had significantly better recoveries than those who had not.”

“Why?”

“Love,” Kaido said with a shrug. “Pure, simple, unadulterated love. When Phoenixes mate, they mate for life and the bond between the two is unbreakable, no matter what situation either of them is in. It was that bond between us that brought you here.” 

Kaido’s eyes were steaming with molten lava as he studied me. I didn’t know how much longer I could resist and I could see the strain that it was putting on Kaido as well. But it wasn’t time for that yet. I didn’t know if that time would ever come. Firstly, I had to remember. I lifted my chin in determination. 

“So, how do I remember?”

Larken clapped his hands while Kaido merely smiled, those fiery eyes never leaving mine. “Stay with me.” It wasn’t a question but it was not an order either. It was a request, one I could not possibly reject when spoken in a deep, sultry voice, husky with emotions. Unable to speak, I nodded at him.

“This is excellent!” Larken jumped up and pulled me into his arms. “You have made me very happy. I have missed my friend but I have no doubts that Kaido will bring your memories out. He will not give up and neither will I,” he vowed.

I stood on tip toes and placed a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Larken. I can see why I would be friends with someone like you.”

He nodded vigorously. “I am definitely amazing,” he said with a wink and a chuckle. “I’ll leave you two to get started. Have fun!”

We said our goodbyes and then it was just me and Kaido. The tension and heat in the air was palpable.

“Lei… Eirwin, I…”

I crossed the rug to kneel in front of him. Taking his hands in mine I stared up at him imploringly. “Help me remember?”

Kaido stood and pulled me up with him. Cupping my face in his soft hands he gently kissed me. “Of course.”

The kiss made my head whirl in bliss and I laughed. “We’d better make it fast!”

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Chapter 5 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy
ANSWERS
It was a beautiful sunny sky that greeted us as we set off on our hike. We tried not to think too much about what we were doing or what we were looking for. Hours flew by and we must have walked several miles yet we found no evidence of any castle. Dejected, I sat down on a rock and let my head fall into my hands. Would I never get answers? Was I doomed to feel incomplete for the rest of my life?

“Oh, Kaido,” I muttered sullenly. “Where are you?”

“Don’t give up, Eirwin. There is something going on. I saw it too remember, saw you start to… change.” The notion still made her uncomfortable. “So, you’re not crazy. If you’re crazy then I must be too!” Angie sat down beside me, pulling a water bottle from her pack.

“You called for me?”

Both of us jumped, causing water to come flying out of Angie’s mouth and me to shriek in surprise.

It was Kaido, as alluring and elegant as I remembered him. Angie’s jaw nearly hit the ground and she threw me a wide-eyed look. It wasn’t often that Angie was left speechless.

“Um, not exactly,” I answered timidly. “It was an accident.”

“Oh.” The hope on Kaido’s face vanished.

“But,” I amended quickly, “I am glad you came.” He watched me quietly, curiously, waiting for me to go on except, I had no idea what to say. Maybe I should start with an apology. “I am sorry for running out on you yesterday. You have to understand how much of a shock it all was.”

Crossing his arms, he leant lazily against a tree. “Does it still shock you?”

“Yes,” I admitted. “But I am ready to understand.”

“So, you have come for more answers.”

I nodded and he smiled sweetly. “Then you will have to come with me.” Kaido held out his hand and beckoned me to come closer.

“Ahem,” Angie cut in. “Where she goes, I go.”

“Kaido, this is my friend, Angie. She, um, she knows about me... us.”

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Angie. Any friend of Leira’s, ah, that is Eirwin’s, is a friend of mine, however I must apologise. You cannot follow where we are going but I promise Eirwin will be completely safe and shall return to you unharmed.” He even threw in a bow, hand to heart as though swearing an oath.

I took Angie’s hand. “I will be alright.” She squeezed my hand tightly and I feared she would not let me go. “Angie, please,” I begged. “I have to do this.”

Finally, she let go. “Be careful,” she warned.

“I will.” I took Kaido’s offered hand and together we strode into the forest. After a short while, the castle appeared before us though I could have sworn it was not there a moment ago. I would have seen it. Slowly, I took a few steps back and the castle disappeared again and so had Kaido. I moved forward again and there it was, standing tall and solid.

Kaido chuckled at my expression. “This castle is hidden from human sight. It exists in a slightly different dimension, accessible via the gateway we just crossed. If a human were to pass through the gateway, they would see nothing but forest. We, on the other hand – and other creatures like us – can move through dimensions. Have a look at the sky,” he invited. “I dare say you did not notice it yesterday.”

I glanced up and gasped. The sky was awash with surreal hues of lilac and gold with fluffy orange clouds drifting lazily along. “I don’t understand. Are you saying we are on a different planet or something, or an alternate reality? Parallel universe?”

“No, we are still on Earth only, a slightly different version of Earth. So, yes, alternate reality would be correct, or alternate dimension.”

I was never any good at science back at school and this was getting into quantum physics type stuff.

“Think of it like this,” Kaido offered, “there are several dimensions that exist all at once and they overlap each other at various points. Humans are not aware of their existence, nor are they able to accidently cross over into one.”

“But, wouldn’t that mean that there is another version of me here? Doesn’t the theory of alternate dimensions or whatever, state that everything possible exists as alternate dimensions?” It was something like that I was sure.

“That is true for humans. However, it is not a problem for interdimensional creatures like us.”

“What?” This was getting too much for my brain to handle.

“Basically, there cannot be more than one of a creature who was made to travel interdimensionally.”

That made sense, I supposed. “Why can’t we just live in the same dimension as humans? Wouldn’t that make things easier?”

“Humans are not ready to accept our existence just yet. Who knows, maybe they never will be. To them, we are creatures of fantasy, fiction and myth.”

Again, it made some sort of sense if one was willing to think illogically. This time, I could walk into the castle on my own two feet and took my time to admire it. I felt like I was in a fairy tale and Kaido was Prince Charming while I was Cinderella. Kaido escorted me through the entry into a comfortable sitting room, encouraging me to make myself at home. As I was settling into one of the cozy, over-sized armchairs, a man-like creature appeared at the door. Though it had the body shape of a human male, it was not human. The skin covering his body – I assumed it was a male – was green, as was the hair falling loosely to its shoulders. His slightly tilted eyes were also green and held a mischievous twinkle. He wore no clothing save for a pair of brown pants and a brown, plaited cord tied around its head. Intricate patterns of vine-like swirls covered all the bare skin I could see, including the face. Despite the foreign appearance, something about the creature was familiar.

It spoke in a lilting, almost musical voice. “Ah, apologies, Kaido. I see you have company. I was awaiting your arrival however, I can return at another time if this would be more advantageous to you.”

“No apology is necessary, friend. Allow me to reintroduce you to Leira, although she goes by Eirwin now.”

Larken’s hand flew to his mouth. “You found her,” he whispered. I stood as he walked over to me. “I would not even have recognized you.” Then, without any warning, the creature threw its arms around me in a tight embrace. “I am so happy to see you again!” Not wanting to cause offense, I returned the embrace. “We have so much to catch up on, my sweet Leira. Ah but it shall be fun around here once more!” Larken was grinning from ear to ear.

“Am I not fun, Larken?” Kaido countered, pretending to sulk.

Larken laughed cheerfully. “You, my friend, are far too serious and passionate for real fun.”

“Some of us have to be,” Kaido retaliated. “And besides," he added with a cheeky smirk, "it depends on what you label as fun." 

Larken chuckled and shook his head but grumbled when Kaido informed him that Eirwin/Leira would be staying at the castle for the time being. “That’s not fair," he poutred. "Leira will not stand for that. Will you?”

“Ahhh, I… I’m sorry,” I stammered. “I don’t actually remember anything.”

Larken laughed again. “Oh, still the same I see. Nice try, Leira. You shan't get away from me that easily.”

“She speaks the truth, Larken,” Kaido informed him solemnly. “She does not remember who or what she is.”

Larken switched his gaze between the two of us and seemed to wilt as he finally realised this was no joke. “You… You truly remember nothing?”

I shook my head sadly, regretfully. I didn’t want to upset anyone else with this damned amnesia. Hurting Kaido was enough.

“Is that even possible?” Larken asked Kaido.

“It is not unheard of,” Kaido replied. “Sometimes the spirit chooses to reincarnate into human form. We do not know why. It is so rare that we have not had time to study it properly.”

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat to get their attention. What on Earth were they talking about? Reincarnation? I was here for answers, not for them to speak about me over my head. “Could someone just tell me what is going on? Please.” There was a note of desperation in my voice.

Kaido gave a start then bowed his head to me. “Of course. My apologies, Eirwin. Larken, you are welcome to stay if you like,” he offered.

“I think I will. Maybe I can help jog some memories,” he said hopefully.

I smiled at him. “Thank you. Um, I was wondering though, what are you?”

“You don’t even know that much?” he scoffed playfully. His good humor had returned. “I’m a Sprite, a forest Sprite to be precise.”

“Cool,” I remarked. “Are you from the same place we are?”

“Indeed, I am.”

It appeared I lived among some remarkable creatures in this alternate reality. “So, what am I?”

Kaido took a deep breath, hesitating slightly. “You are a Winter Phoenix. I, on the other hand, am a Summer Phoenix.”

My mouth gaped. Given my body’s odd behaviour of late, this should have been easy to believe. It was not. “Are you trying to tell me that we control the weather?”

“Not exactly,” Kaido corrected. “We keep the balance. You may have noticed it has been rather warm here despite it being winter?”

I nodded in affirmation and Kaido continued. “That is because you were not here. Together, you and I, along with the spring and fall Phoenixes, maintain equilibrium between the seasons. Without one of us, the weather changes accordingly. We did not have our winter Phoenix, therefore the weather remained warm.”

My suspicions had been right. I was connected to the weather, as outrageous as that sounded. “If that is the case, why has it not cooled down since I came back?”

“You are an embodiment of winter – an embodiment of winter that does not remember who she is and hence, winter does not remember how to be winter. It is not your fault, my love,” he was quick to reassure me when he saw the worry and guilt on my face. 

I was crestfallen. It suddenly became imperative that I remember and I motioned Kaido to go on, listening intently, hanging on every word he said as he went on to tell me about my past. Some twenty-seven years ago, I had experienced my first rebirth which made me young for a Phoenix. Instead of dying, Phoenixes burst into flames and are then reborn from the ashes, making us immortal in a roundabout way. Kaido had been through two rebirths which meant he was still young as well. We had been lovers. That much I had surmised for myself but still, to hear it confirmed made my cheeks heat up.

“So, we’ve ah, we’ve…” I couldn’t bring myself to finish the sentence although Kaido knew full well what I was trying to say.

“We have,” he replied silkily.

My whole body flushed crimson which Kaido and Larken found quite hilarious. Apparently, I was not usually so shy. 

It was at this point in the story, Kaido paused and a deep melancholy clouded his mood. “This is where things went very wrong.”

“What happened to me?” I asked gently.

“Phoenixes have the ability to shape shift into human form. It has not always been this way. It is a skill we developed over time to fit in more with our human neighbours. But God did not make us to live exclusively as a human. If we remain in the human form for too long, we fall ill. Sound familiar?”

It most certainly did. Everything was slowly coming together, like pieces of a gigantic jigsaw puzzle, although his mention of God surprised me a little. I guess the big man upstairs really was God of all; even supposed myths and legends.

After a moment, he went on. “Phoenixes like to keep their rebirths secret so when it is time, we will go off somewhere on our own. Not even our closest loved ones know where. For some reason, during the rebirth, you decided to send your spirit to a human and I could no longer sense you as I once had. Half of me died that day. I searched everywhere for you. Then, a while ago, I began to feel something tickling at the edges of my consciousness. At first, I thought I was imagining it but it grew stronger and I knew that it was you. The connection was not strong enough for me to track you but I was able to send you dreams to show you where to find me.”

“Those dreams were from you?” I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that. I’d thought I’d come here of my own volition but instead, it turned out I had been beguiled and lured here. “You brought me here! What if I didn’t want to come? Did you ever stop to think about what I wanted? Maybe I disappeared for a reason!” I began pacing angry lines across the floor.

“My only thought was to help you, to show you the way back home,” Kaido explained sincerely as the corners of his mouth turned down. “I did not think you would wish to remain hidden.”

Immediately, I regretted my harsh words. “I’m sorry, Kaido. It’s just that, I thought I had come here on my own, that I had planned this new start.”

Kaido seemed confused. “You did. I did not force you. You could have ignored the dreams if you wanted to.”

Now I was confused. “Ignore them! I could ignore them as easily as I could ignore the sun or the moon! I could not get enough of those dreams. I knew they held answers to what was happening to me and the pull was so strong I could not resist!”

“They were your own feelings.” Kaido’s face brightened. “A part of you must have started to remember me for it to be like that.”

I relaxed, glad that I had not been a puppet after all. There was still one thing Kaido had not explained to me – why was I able to feel the emotions of others and, there was also the incident with the bear. 

When I asked the question, Kaido nodded. “I was coming to that. We Phoenixes are extremely sensitive to each other and to everything and everyone around us. We are kindred spirits with every living thing, even humans despite their lack of affinity for us. The bear was simply greeting a friend. Also,” he added, “I had spread the word that you may have returned and asked if all forest creatures could keep a look out. When I saw that bear greet you, my heart nearly leapt into my throat. Your human form has changed since last I saw it so, I could not be sure it was you until you turned around and looked at me with those glorious eyes. Your hair and eyes have remained the same.”

I ducked my head self-consciously under his piercing scrutiny. “Oh!” I exclaimed, suddenly remembering something I had to ask. “Were you watching me one day? It was months ago now. I was walking in the forest and the distinct feeling of being watched hit me. I didn’t see who or what it was but I found a feather, a dark red feather. The wind whisked it away before I could grab it and it almost seemed to beckon me to follow it. Was that you?”

“Ah,” Kaido recalled. “That is what you meant yesterday when you asked if I was there. No, it was not me. I did not lay eyes on you until yesterday. The watcher you are referring to was Aski, a Fall Phoenix. He was one of the first to spot you.”

“Does any of this jog your memory?” Larken piped up abruptly.

I sighed heavily. “Not really.”

“Perhaps if I tell of you of our friendship,” Larken wondered aloud.

“Please do,” I encouraged him. “I would like to know.”

Larken had me laughing with all the silly antics we used to get up to. Apparently, we had become fast friends from the moment we had met. “How could I have forgotten such a wonderful life? How could I forget each of you?”

“We know of ten cases where the same has happened. Ten documented cases in all our history. Of course, there could be more that we missed,” Kaido admitted, “however, Phoenixes tend to be rather good at keeping track of history.”

“What happened to these others?”

Kaido shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, as far as we can ascertain, there were various causes. Grief was a major contributor. Sometimes, when a Phoenix experiences profound grief, it can trigger a rebirth, almost as though they burn up from the agony of heart break. The theory is that they seek to escape the pain and so plant their consciousness into a human.”

“Was I grieving?”

“Not that I was aware of.”

“Nor I,” Larken added.

“What happened to them afterwards? Did they all regain their memories?” I needed to know what my own outcome would be, no matter what it was.

“The outcome was different for all although, those who were bonded with their mate had significantly better recoveries than those who had not.”

“Why?”

“Love,” Kaido said with a shrug. “Pure, simple, unadulterated love. When Phoenixes mate, they mate for life and the bond between the two is unbreakable, no matter what situation either of them is in. It was that bond between us that brought you here.” 

Kaido’s eyes were steaming with molten lava as he studied me. I didn’t know how much longer I could resist and I could see the strain that it was putting on Kaido as well. But it wasn’t time for that yet. I didn’t know if that time would ever come. Firstly, I had to remember. I lifted my chin in determination. 

“So, how do I remember?”

Larken clapped his hands while Kaido merely smiled, those fiery eyes never leaving mine. “Stay with me.” It wasn’t a question but it was not an order either. It was a request, one I could not possibly reject when spoken in a deep, sultry voice, husky with emotions. Unable to speak, I nodded at him.

“This is excellent!” Larken jumped up and pulled me into his arms. “You have made me very happy. I have missed my friend but I have no doubts that Kaido will bring your memories out. He will not give up and neither will I,” he vowed.

I stood on tip toes and placed a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Larken. I can see why I would be friends with someone like you.”

He nodded vigorously. “I am definitely amazing,” he said with a wink and a chuckle. “I’ll leave you two to get started. Have fun!”

We said our goodbyes and then it was just me and Kaido. The tension and heat in the air was palpable.

“Lei… Eirwin, I…”

I crossed the rug to kneel in front of him. Taking his hands in mine I stared up at him imploringly. “Help me remember?”

Kaido stood and pulled me up with him. Cupping my face in his soft hands he gently kissed me. “Of course.”

The kiss made my head whirl in bliss and I laughed. “We’d better make it fast!”
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Written by WistfulThinker in portal Blog

Ex problems

Lolz my ex sent me an apology. About. Damn. Time. The funny thing this time, though, is that I see through his crap. We broke up a long while ago and would still converse through email and Kik (he lives across the country) and usually would stop for a couple months because we'd get into a fight. What happened this time was that he was acting like he knew my future and who I was and was acting like an ass so I told him that and left. That was like last month. He FINALLY sent an apology. Like, you're right, I don't have to reply and I don't plan to. I see through your crap. If you were really sorry, you would've apologized sooner. You always say "you don't need to reply" but you know I always do which is exactly why you apologized and said that this time. Except this time? I'm not going to reply. Thanks for the apology, but we are through. I should've stopped talking to you long ago.

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Written by WistfulThinker in portal Blog
Ex problems
Lolz my ex sent me an apology. About. Damn. Time. The funny thing this time, though, is that I see through his crap. We broke up a long while ago and would still converse through email and Kik (he lives across the country) and usually would stop for a couple months because we'd get into a fight. What happened this time was that he was acting like he knew my future and who I was and was acting like an ass so I told him that and left. That was like last month. He FINALLY sent an apology. Like, you're right, I don't have to reply and I don't plan to. I see through your crap. If you were really sorry, you would've apologized sooner. You always say "you don't need to reply" but you know I always do which is exactly why you apologized and said that this time. Except this time? I'm not going to reply. Thanks for the apology, but we are through. I should've stopped talking to you long ago.
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Chapter 4 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy

QUESTIONS

I flung myself through the door of my home. By this time, my body had calmed down and the shifting had stopped which was fortunate given the fact that my house was not empty.

“Eirwin!” Angie rushed towards me and grabbed me fiercely in her arms. “Thank goodness you’re alright!”

I fought for breath and leaned heavily on Angie to stop my legs from caving under me.

“You’re exhausted! Sit down, here.” She guided me to a chair at my small kitchen table and raced to get me a glass of water. I drank it down in a single gulp.

“Where were you?” Angie squealed. She was near to having a fit. “You didn’t show up for your shift. I tried to call you and when there was no answer I decided to just come on over to see if you were alright only, you weren’t here! I checked all over town but no one had seen you since you left the café yesterday afternoon and…” She stopped as she finally realised my state of dress. “What are you wearing?” I glanced down at myself. The robe that was now riddled with rips and tears hung open, revealing the skimpy nightgown.

I shrugged. “My pajamas?” I offered weakly.

Angie sat down opposite me and took my hands in hers. “Eirwin, what happened?”

Without warning, a laugh escaped my lips and I couldn’t stop. I laughed until tears poured down my cheeks and my ribs ached. Angie stared at me as though I had gone mad. For what seemed like the one-millionth time, I wondered if maybe I had. I could rock a straight-jacket… The visual image made me laugh even harder. The laughter died as Angie continued to stare at me, clearly perturbed and unsure what to do.

“I’m sorry, Ang. You wouldn’t believe my story even if I told you.” I shook my head with a wry smile. I wasn’t even sure I fully believed it. Maybe I had been drugged somehow and it had all been a hallucination. The only way I would ever know would be to go back there again, retrace my steps. It would be easy enough to do. The map was not only still seared onto my brain but I could now sense Kaido as though he were a part of me. I knew that no matter where he was, I would be able to find him. It should have felt invasive given that I knew he could also sense me. Instead, it made me feel safe.

“You’re not going to tell me?” Angie cried. “Do you have any idea how worried I have been? How worried everyone has been?” She took a deep breath. “Eirwin, you have to tell us. The police will be back here soon. They and half the town are out searching for you. I opted to stay here in case you showed up.”

I sighed. “I went for a walk in the forest yesterday after work and got lost. That’s all.”

Angie clearly didn’t believe me and eyed me skeptically. “You went for a walk in your nightgown?”

“Would you believe me if I said yes?”

“No," she answered bluntly.

“Of course you wouldn’t. Who would?” I mumbled quietly. “Angie…” I began.

“Go and get changed. It will only raise more suspicions if the police arrive to find you in that state. Quickly!” She pulled me to my feet and ushered me to my room. “They will be here in ten minutes and there are obviously things you don’t want anyone to know.” 

Before closing my door, she jabbed a finger in my face. “But don’t think for one moment that I am going to let it go easily. You have your secrets and I respect that however, there is only so much I am willing to ignore.” The door banged shut after her. She wasn’t angry with me. I knew Angie well enough by now to tell that her mood was a side effect of her concern.

The robe was a mess. I almost felt sorry that something so pretty had been ruined. I kicked it under the bed, and the nightgown with it – I would throw them away later – then grabbed a pair of shorts and a shirt. A quick braid tidied my hair and I went to rejoin Angie in the kitchen with minutes to spare. As the police walked in, Angie ran her hands through her wavy, chocolate brown locks, smoothed her clothes and flashed Officer Brandon Jakes a gorgeous smile. Angie had had a crush on him for longer than I had known her and I was convinced he felt the same yet, they continued to do this little dance with neither of them wanting to make the first move. He was handsome with his short dark hair and coffee coloured eyes, and his uniform shirt straining over broad shoulders and well defined arms. Despite his clean-cut, dreamy good looks, I couldn’t help but recall an even more ravishingly pulchritudinous and dazzling gentleman. Squashing the thought before I could blush, I focused on Officer Jakes.

“You gave us quite the scare, Eirwin,” he remarked once they had established I was unharmed. “Maybe just remember to let someone know where you’re going next time, ay?”

I nodded sheepishly. Thankfully, they had bought my story about simply getting lost in the forest. I hadn’t really been in Franklin all that long so it was perfectly plausible. 

“Sorry, Jakes,” I replied with just the right hint of bashfulness.

“Alright then, we’ll go let everyone know that you have been found and that you’re okay. Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you. I’ll be fine.” I stood to see them out the door.

Officer Jakes turned back. “Angie? You’ll be sticking around for a while, right?”

“Yeh, I’ll keep an eye on her,” Angie promised.

“Good.” Jakes grinned at her, his gaze lingering a moment then, with a wave he hopped into the patrol car with his partner, Officer Landen. Angie sighed dreamily as we watched them pull away and I went back inside to make some tea.

“Want some?” I asked Angie, indicating the kettle.

“Sure.” She watched me silently as I prepared the tea, an air of expectation about her. Should I tell her? I knew she wouldn’t push me to talk but Angie was a patient woman. She would simply wait me out until I caved.

“So, when are you going to ask Jakes out already?” I implored, feigning exasperation. 

Usually, the subject of Brandon Jakes was enough to distract her for hours. Now, she just looked at me cynically.

“That isn’t going to work this time, sweet heart.”

I sighed and dropped my head into my hands. We sat in silence, sipping our tea while I mulled over what to say.

“How far have you ventured into the forest?” I finally asked her.

“Um, I don’t know exactly. Pretty far, I guess.”

Taking a chance, I stepped out on a limb and asked another question. “Have you ever come across a castle?”

Angie blinked at me over her teacup. “I can’t say I have, no. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I… I, um, sort of found one.” I held my breath as I waited for that to sink in.

Her expression was nothing short of pessimistic. “You found a castle? In the Nantahala Forest?”

I nodded. “That’s where I was last night. I did get lost,” I professed adamantly, “and a man found me.” My cheeks immediately blossomed into a bright shade of crimson.

“Must have been some man,” Angie smirked, raising her eye brows. I don’t think she believed a thing I was saying.

“It’s true. You wanted to know what happened and I’m telling you. This man found me and I passed out. He must have carried me back to that castle because when I came to, I was lying in a luxurious bed in a room I’d never seen before.”

Angie studied me closely, a slight frown creasing her forehead as she chewed on her bottom lip. “I think I should take you to see Doc,” she repeated her suggestion from the day before. “Dizzy spells and now this… Maybe you were hallucinating. Have you started any new medications? Or, ah… Not that I would judge you if you did but…”

“I don’t take drugs,” I interjected. “And I haven’t started any new meds. I considered hallucinations as a possibility but, that doesn’t explain the nightgown and robe.”

“Hmm, true. You got me there.” I could almost see her brain working, the cogs slowly turning as she tried to comprehend my words. “Okay,” she continued. “Say you are telling the truth. What happened after that?”

Tentatively, I told her the whole story in chronological order. She listened, transfixed as I described the strange bird of fire.

“A phoenix,” she interrupted. “You’re talking about a phoenix.”

Phoenix. At the sound of that word, my body shuddered and my head began to spin. I felt drunk with immense power, caught in its grasp like a fly trapped in a spider’s web. “Oh no! No no no! Not again!”

As before, a bright, powerful light wrapped itself around me, flickering like flames. Angie almost fell flat as she leapt up in shock or fright – probably both – and bounded several paces away from me, exhaling in a barrage of expletives. Angie never swore. Any other time, I would have found it funny. Now, as I watched, feathers sprouted from my skin and a wonderful sensation gripped me with a warm, gentle caress. This can’t be happening! Straining with effort, I tried to force it to stop, willed it with all my might. Just when I thought I had lost the battle, the light faded and I was completely human again. Angie was huddled in the corner of my kitchen. Her face had lost all colour and she was trembling from head to toes.

“Angie…” I whispered. I was still shaking and I felt completely exhausted. Everything became hazy and I reached for Angie one last time before my head crashed to the table and my world was plunged into darkness.

************

I awoke in my own bed. I could hear two people having a quiet discussion outside my door. I recognized one voice as Angie’s.

“No, she doesn’t take drugs,” Angie was saying.

“What about any medications?” The other voice was male and not one I could put a face to.

“You would have to ask her. She did say she had not started taking anything new but I don’t know if she was already taking something else,” answered Angie.

My door swung open, revealing the owner of the male voice to be Doctor Norton, better known as Doc. “Ah, I see our patient is awake.” He smiled at me and his blue eyes sparkled. 

Doc was great. Everyone loved him. Despite being in his sixties, hardly any lines marked his cheery face and he still moved about with ease, making mobile visits to patients and running his clinic. Only the grey in his hair hinted at his mature years. 

“How are we feeling?” He sat on the edge of my bed to check my pulse as he spoke.

“I feel alright, actually.” I couldn’t believe Angie had called him after what she had witnessed. Should I be angry? No. What would be the point in that? She had done what she thought best under the given circumstances and to be honest, I probably would have done the same.

After a thorough examination and Doc’s assurance that I would be fine, he left, leaving behind strict instructions for plenty of rest and fluids. Angie saw him out and returned to my room, taking Doc’s place on the edge of my bed heaving a great sigh. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly, concentrating on her hands folded on her lap. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“It’s alright,” I assured her. After that, I didn’t know what to say. What had just transpired was not supposed to happen in real, everyday life. It was the stuff of fantasy and make-believe.

“So…” Angie started, glancing at me dubiously. “You’re, what? A shape shifter?”

Anxiety bloomed in my chest. Hearing her confirm what had transpired made the reality of it hit home. I couldn’t deny it anymore. “I don’t know what I am. Whatever this is, it started a while ago I think.”

“What do you mean?”

It was pointless to hide now. I told her everything; all about my life in Miami, how I had started to change and how it had all led to me moving here. The longer it went on, the crazier I sounded. I had to give Angie credit for listening so calmly.

“I don’t really know much about the phoenix myths and legends,” Angie admitted.

“So, are you saying that you actually believe me?” I asked incredulously.

“Not exactly, but, I can’t deny what I just witnessed. Maybe you have some foreign disease or something, who knows.”

“I don’t feel sick,” I informed her. “I actually feel pretty good, the best I have felt in a long time. In fact, I think I could even go to the party tonight. It would do us good to let our hair down and have some fun.”

Angie looked doubtful. “You heard what Doc said; plenty of rest and fluids. A party isn’t exactly restful. Besides, what if… um, what if it happens again?”

It was not hard to guess that she was referring to my shape shifting display. “It won’t.” I felt certain that it didn’t just happen spontaneously. There had to be a trigger of some kind. “Plus, we still have ages before we have to leave. I’ll rest until then.”

“Okay, well, I’ll stay here and we will see how you feel by this afternoon. In the meantime, why don’t we do some research? It might give us a bit of an idea about what’s happening to you?”

I had never been so grateful for a person in my life. “Sounds like a plan.”

So, for the rest of the morning we researched everything we could find on obscure diseases and illnesses. When that revealed nothing helpful, we moved onto the more far-fetched theories about phoenixes and shape shifters, though it was hard to take such research seriously. In the end, we didn’t really come up with much of a conclusion. 

“This is getting us nowhere,” Angie sighed in frustration. “If only there was someone else we could talk to.”

“Technically, there is,” I reminded her.

“Oh right, the recondite Kaido.” She cocked her head, considering the options. “Here is what I think we should do. Tomorrow, we will head into the forest together and see if we can find this castle of yours. How long do you think it took for you to make it back home when you left yesterday?”

“A few hours? I’m not sure. I just wanted to get home. But it couldn’t have been more than a few hours.” Had I really been able to run for that long though? I wasn’t as fit as I had once been.

“So, we should make it there by afternoon if we get an early start. Right, that’s what we will do. Now, how about we forget all this weirdness until then and watch a movie? I don’t know about you but I feel like my brain is going to implode.”

“Angie,” I called as she got up to put a movie in the DVD player. “Thank you. Really. You’re the best.”

“I know,” Angie acknowledged dramatically. “Make sure you don’t forget it.”

We both chuckled then settled back in my bed to watch the movie.

That afternoon, it started to rain and the party was rescheduled to the following weekend. Admittedly, I was quite relieved. Instead, Angie and I watched a couple more movies then went to bed so we could start out bright and early in the morning. My stomach flip-flopped around like a fish out of water, full of nerves. What would we find? Would we find anything at all? I buried myself deeper into my blankets and closed my eyes but sleep was a long time coming.

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Chapter 4 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy
QUESTIONS
I flung myself through the door of my home. By this time, my body had calmed down and the shifting had stopped which was fortunate given the fact that my house was not empty.

“Eirwin!” Angie rushed towards me and grabbed me fiercely in her arms. “Thank goodness you’re alright!”

I fought for breath and leaned heavily on Angie to stop my legs from caving under me.

“You’re exhausted! Sit down, here.” She guided me to a chair at my small kitchen table and raced to get me a glass of water. I drank it down in a single gulp.

“Where were you?” Angie squealed. She was near to having a fit. “You didn’t show up for your shift. I tried to call you and when there was no answer I decided to just come on over to see if you were alright only, you weren’t here! I checked all over town but no one had seen you since you left the café yesterday afternoon and…” She stopped as she finally realised my state of dress. “What are you wearing?” I glanced down at myself. The robe that was now riddled with rips and tears hung open, revealing the skimpy nightgown.

I shrugged. “My pajamas?” I offered weakly.

Angie sat down opposite me and took my hands in hers. “Eirwin, what happened?”

Without warning, a laugh escaped my lips and I couldn’t stop. I laughed until tears poured down my cheeks and my ribs ached. Angie stared at me as though I had gone mad. For what seemed like the one-millionth time, I wondered if maybe I had. I could rock a straight-jacket… The visual image made me laugh even harder. The laughter died as Angie continued to stare at me, clearly perturbed and unsure what to do.

“I’m sorry, Ang. You wouldn’t believe my story even if I told you.” I shook my head with a wry smile. I wasn’t even sure I fully believed it. Maybe I had been drugged somehow and it had all been a hallucination. The only way I would ever know would be to go back there again, retrace my steps. It would be easy enough to do. The map was not only still seared onto my brain but I could now sense Kaido as though he were a part of me. I knew that no matter where he was, I would be able to find him. It should have felt invasive given that I knew he could also sense me. Instead, it made me feel safe.

“You’re not going to tell me?” Angie cried. “Do you have any idea how worried I have been? How worried everyone has been?” She took a deep breath. “Eirwin, you have to tell us. The police will be back here soon. They and half the town are out searching for you. I opted to stay here in case you showed up.”

I sighed. “I went for a walk in the forest yesterday after work and got lost. That’s all.”

Angie clearly didn’t believe me and eyed me skeptically. “You went for a walk in your nightgown?”

“Would you believe me if I said yes?”

“No," she answered bluntly.

“Of course you wouldn’t. Who would?” I mumbled quietly. “Angie…” I began.

“Go and get changed. It will only raise more suspicions if the police arrive to find you in that state. Quickly!” She pulled me to my feet and ushered me to my room. “They will be here in ten minutes and there are obviously things you don’t want anyone to know.” 

Before closing my door, she jabbed a finger in my face. “But don’t think for one moment that I am going to let it go easily. You have your secrets and I respect that however, there is only so much I am willing to ignore.” The door banged shut after her. She wasn’t angry with me. I knew Angie well enough by now to tell that her mood was a side effect of her concern.

The robe was a mess. I almost felt sorry that something so pretty had been ruined. I kicked it under the bed, and the nightgown with it – I would throw them away later – then grabbed a pair of shorts and a shirt. A quick braid tidied my hair and I went to rejoin Angie in the kitchen with minutes to spare. As the police walked in, Angie ran her hands through her wavy, chocolate brown locks, smoothed her clothes and flashed Officer Brandon Jakes a gorgeous smile. Angie had had a crush on him for longer than I had known her and I was convinced he felt the same yet, they continued to do this little dance with neither of them wanting to make the first move. He was handsome with his short dark hair and coffee coloured eyes, and his uniform shirt straining over broad shoulders and well defined arms. Despite his clean-cut, dreamy good looks, I couldn’t help but recall an even more ravishingly pulchritudinous and dazzling gentleman. Squashing the thought before I could blush, I focused on Officer Jakes.

“You gave us quite the scare, Eirwin,” he remarked once they had established I was unharmed. “Maybe just remember to let someone know where you’re going next time, ay?”

I nodded sheepishly. Thankfully, they had bought my story about simply getting lost in the forest. I hadn’t really been in Franklin all that long so it was perfectly plausible. 

“Sorry, Jakes,” I replied with just the right hint of bashfulness.

“Alright then, we’ll go let everyone know that you have been found and that you’re okay. Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you. I’ll be fine.” I stood to see them out the door.

Officer Jakes turned back. “Angie? You’ll be sticking around for a while, right?”

“Yeh, I’ll keep an eye on her,” Angie promised.

“Good.” Jakes grinned at her, his gaze lingering a moment then, with a wave he hopped into the patrol car with his partner, Officer Landen. Angie sighed dreamily as we watched them pull away and I went back inside to make some tea.

“Want some?” I asked Angie, indicating the kettle.

“Sure.” She watched me silently as I prepared the tea, an air of expectation about her. Should I tell her? I knew she wouldn’t push me to talk but Angie was a patient woman. She would simply wait me out until I caved.

“So, when are you going to ask Jakes out already?” I implored, feigning exasperation. 

Usually, the subject of Brandon Jakes was enough to distract her for hours. Now, she just looked at me cynically.

“That isn’t going to work this time, sweet heart.”

I sighed and dropped my head into my hands. We sat in silence, sipping our tea while I mulled over what to say.

“How far have you ventured into the forest?” I finally asked her.

“Um, I don’t know exactly. Pretty far, I guess.”

Taking a chance, I stepped out on a limb and asked another question. “Have you ever come across a castle?”

Angie blinked at me over her teacup. “I can’t say I have, no. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I… I, um, sort of found one.” I held my breath as I waited for that to sink in.

Her expression was nothing short of pessimistic. “You found a castle? In the Nantahala Forest?”

I nodded. “That’s where I was last night. I did get lost,” I professed adamantly, “and a man found me.” My cheeks immediately blossomed into a bright shade of crimson.

“Must have been some man,” Angie smirked, raising her eye brows. I don’t think she believed a thing I was saying.

“It’s true. You wanted to know what happened and I’m telling you. This man found me and I passed out. He must have carried me back to that castle because when I came to, I was lying in a luxurious bed in a room I’d never seen before.”

Angie studied me closely, a slight frown creasing her forehead as she chewed on her bottom lip. “I think I should take you to see Doc,” she repeated her suggestion from the day before. “Dizzy spells and now this… Maybe you were hallucinating. Have you started any new medications? Or, ah… Not that I would judge you if you did but…”

“I don’t take drugs,” I interjected. “And I haven’t started any new meds. I considered hallucinations as a possibility but, that doesn’t explain the nightgown and robe.”

“Hmm, true. You got me there.” I could almost see her brain working, the cogs slowly turning as she tried to comprehend my words. “Okay,” she continued. “Say you are telling the truth. What happened after that?”

Tentatively, I told her the whole story in chronological order. She listened, transfixed as I described the strange bird of fire.

“A phoenix,” she interrupted. “You’re talking about a phoenix.”

Phoenix. At the sound of that word, my body shuddered and my head began to spin. I felt drunk with immense power, caught in its grasp like a fly trapped in a spider’s web. “Oh no! No no no! Not again!”

As before, a bright, powerful light wrapped itself around me, flickering like flames. Angie almost fell flat as she leapt up in shock or fright – probably both – and bounded several paces away from me, exhaling in a barrage of expletives. Angie never swore. Any other time, I would have found it funny. Now, as I watched, feathers sprouted from my skin and a wonderful sensation gripped me with a warm, gentle caress. This can’t be happening! Straining with effort, I tried to force it to stop, willed it with all my might. Just when I thought I had lost the battle, the light faded and I was completely human again. Angie was huddled in the corner of my kitchen. Her face had lost all colour and she was trembling from head to toes.

“Angie…” I whispered. I was still shaking and I felt completely exhausted. Everything became hazy and I reached for Angie one last time before my head crashed to the table and my world was plunged into darkness.

************

I awoke in my own bed. I could hear two people having a quiet discussion outside my door. I recognized one voice as Angie’s.

“No, she doesn’t take drugs,” Angie was saying.

“What about any medications?” The other voice was male and not one I could put a face to.

“You would have to ask her. She did say she had not started taking anything new but I don’t know if she was already taking something else,” answered Angie.

My door swung open, revealing the owner of the male voice to be Doctor Norton, better known as Doc. “Ah, I see our patient is awake.” He smiled at me and his blue eyes sparkled. 

Doc was great. Everyone loved him. Despite being in his sixties, hardly any lines marked his cheery face and he still moved about with ease, making mobile visits to patients and running his clinic. Only the grey in his hair hinted at his mature years. 

“How are we feeling?” He sat on the edge of my bed to check my pulse as he spoke.

“I feel alright, actually.” I couldn’t believe Angie had called him after what she had witnessed. Should I be angry? No. What would be the point in that? She had done what she thought best under the given circumstances and to be honest, I probably would have done the same.

After a thorough examination and Doc’s assurance that I would be fine, he left, leaving behind strict instructions for plenty of rest and fluids. Angie saw him out and returned to my room, taking Doc’s place on the edge of my bed heaving a great sigh. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly, concentrating on her hands folded on her lap. “I didn’t know what to do.”

“It’s alright,” I assured her. After that, I didn’t know what to say. What had just transpired was not supposed to happen in real, everyday life. It was the stuff of fantasy and make-believe.

“So…” Angie started, glancing at me dubiously. “You’re, what? A shape shifter?”

Anxiety bloomed in my chest. Hearing her confirm what had transpired made the reality of it hit home. I couldn’t deny it anymore. “I don’t know what I am. Whatever this is, it started a while ago I think.”

“What do you mean?”

It was pointless to hide now. I told her everything; all about my life in Miami, how I had started to change and how it had all led to me moving here. The longer it went on, the crazier I sounded. I had to give Angie credit for listening so calmly.

“I don’t really know much about the phoenix myths and legends,” Angie admitted.

“So, are you saying that you actually believe me?” I asked incredulously.

“Not exactly, but, I can’t deny what I just witnessed. Maybe you have some foreign disease or something, who knows.”

“I don’t feel sick,” I informed her. “I actually feel pretty good, the best I have felt in a long time. In fact, I think I could even go to the party tonight. It would do us good to let our hair down and have some fun.”

Angie looked doubtful. “You heard what Doc said; plenty of rest and fluids. A party isn’t exactly restful. Besides, what if… um, what if it happens again?”

It was not hard to guess that she was referring to my shape shifting display. “It won’t.” I felt certain that it didn’t just happen spontaneously. There had to be a trigger of some kind. “Plus, we still have ages before we have to leave. I’ll rest until then.”

“Okay, well, I’ll stay here and we will see how you feel by this afternoon. In the meantime, why don’t we do some research? It might give us a bit of an idea about what’s happening to you?”

I had never been so grateful for a person in my life. “Sounds like a plan.”

So, for the rest of the morning we researched everything we could find on obscure diseases and illnesses. When that revealed nothing helpful, we moved onto the more far-fetched theories about phoenixes and shape shifters, though it was hard to take such research seriously. In the end, we didn’t really come up with much of a conclusion. 

“This is getting us nowhere,” Angie sighed in frustration. “If only there was someone else we could talk to.”

“Technically, there is,” I reminded her.

“Oh right, the recondite Kaido.” She cocked her head, considering the options. “Here is what I think we should do. Tomorrow, we will head into the forest together and see if we can find this castle of yours. How long do you think it took for you to make it back home when you left yesterday?”

“A few hours? I’m not sure. I just wanted to get home. But it couldn’t have been more than a few hours.” Had I really been able to run for that long though? I wasn’t as fit as I had once been.

“So, we should make it there by afternoon if we get an early start. Right, that’s what we will do. Now, how about we forget all this weirdness until then and watch a movie? I don’t know about you but I feel like my brain is going to implode.”

“Angie,” I called as she got up to put a movie in the DVD player. “Thank you. Really. You’re the best.”

“I know,” Angie acknowledged dramatically. “Make sure you don’t forget it.”

We both chuckled then settled back in my bed to watch the movie.

That afternoon, it started to rain and the party was rescheduled to the following weekend. Admittedly, I was quite relieved. Instead, Angie and I watched a couple more movies then went to bed so we could start out bright and early in the morning. My stomach flip-flopped around like a fish out of water, full of nerves. What would we find? Would we find anything at all? I buried myself deeper into my blankets and closed my eyes but sleep was a long time coming.

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Written by writernxtdoor in portal Fiction

Fetish.

You passed by me. Your Scarlet hair blew over your shoulders and a mild fragrance touched my palate. I looked back and saw your fragile back walking away from me. My heart pounded so loudly that everything else around me turned deaf. I could feel my pulse rising and I became eager to see your face. Howeve, the green light turned red and you disappeared from my sight. I thought I lost you, I thought I would never see your face and I thought that it just wasn't meant to be. But I guess I was wrong the whole time.

We met. It was really an unexpected meeting. And also surprising. I was at the library reading a book called, "Can love bring surprises?" I was at an empty table. All for myself because that's how I like it.

I was at a very beautiful scene. What happens is that the boy finally confesses to the girl. You might be thinking why it must be beautiful when its just the same old story. But, there's a twist to it. The boy was in a coma for the past thirteen years and yet the girl waited for him to wake just in the belief that it was her best friend. She had no extra emotions for him. She didn't know how he felt about her. But she was surprised when his first words were 'Will you marry me?'

What do you think must have happened? Did she say yes or did she reject him because a love can never succeed unless both of them share the same feelings.

Anyway, I was about to know the climax of the story when something distracted me. It was a very pretty thing that caught my eye. It was a pair of red lips.

It might sound insane but the entire time from the time my gaze were set on her lips till the time she left, my eyes never left the color of her red an plush lips.

I had given up at this time. I thought I wouldn't be lucky enough to see her again. I mean I always hoped but luck is just the other side of the same coin. Heads you lose, tails you win.

My heart pounded so loudly that day, I thought I was going to die because I saw the fascinating death of me. She was magnificent. Like a sculpture made from gold or rather, if I have to say in a dark way, made from deepest of the blood.

At this point, I thought of speaking a few good words to her. Maybe a formal greeting or even an exchange of a smile would make me content.

But it wasn't easy. Coincidents and accidents are rare. I never got to see her again. Months passed but my longing to see her wouldn't fade. Rather, it grew each minute and It does sound stalker-ish but I was getting a little vexed.

Right now, I only knew how her lips curved and how her hair blew. I can't stop thinking about her...It's like she plagued my mind. No, my entire body. I can't sleep well, I can't eat well and my scores have dramatically dropped.

I asked myself what I have to do to forget her. What will make me be normal again and what will stop me from this strange addiction.

However, I didn't get an answer.

I hoped to see her again. Guess all I was doing was incessantly wishing for something that wasn't written for me.

But I think people need to start believing in fate and stuff because life gives us so many surprising and unexpected things. It gave me one too...

All I remember was that it was a summer night and I was locked up in a room. The smell of cigrettes, strong cologne and alchohol was heavy in the air. And then the door opened and her lips that I thought I would die without seeing, was spread wide like a grim reaper.

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Written by writernxtdoor in portal Fiction
Fetish.
You passed by me. Your Scarlet hair blew over your shoulders and a mild fragrance touched my palate. I looked back and saw your fragile back walking away from me. My heart pounded so loudly that everything else around me turned deaf. I could feel my pulse rising and I became eager to see your face. Howeve, the green light turned red and you disappeared from my sight. I thought I lost you, I thought I would never see your face and I thought that it just wasn't meant to be. But I guess I was wrong the whole time.

We met. It was really an unexpected meeting. And also surprising. I was at the library reading a book called, "Can love bring surprises?" I was at an empty table. All for myself because that's how I like it.

I was at a very beautiful scene. What happens is that the boy finally confesses to the girl. You might be thinking why it must be beautiful when its just the same old story. But, there's a twist to it. The boy was in a coma for the past thirteen years and yet the girl waited for him to wake just in the belief that it was her best friend. She had no extra emotions for him. She didn't know how he felt about her. But she was surprised when his first words were 'Will you marry me?'

What do you think must have happened? Did she say yes or did she reject him because a love can never succeed unless both of them share the same feelings.

Anyway, I was about to know the climax of the story when something distracted me. It was a very pretty thing that caught my eye. It was a pair of red lips.

It might sound insane but the entire time from the time my gaze were set on her lips till the time she left, my eyes never left the color of her red an plush lips.

I had given up at this time. I thought I wouldn't be lucky enough to see her again. I mean I always hoped but luck is just the other side of the same coin. Heads you lose, tails you win.

My heart pounded so loudly that day, I thought I was going to die because I saw the fascinating death of me. She was magnificent. Like a sculpture made from gold or rather, if I have to say in a dark way, made from deepest of the blood.

At this point, I thought of speaking a few good words to her. Maybe a formal greeting or even an exchange of a smile would make me content.

But it wasn't easy. Coincidents and accidents are rare. I never got to see her again. Months passed but my longing to see her wouldn't fade. Rather, it grew each minute and It does sound stalker-ish but I was getting a little vexed.

Right now, I only knew how her lips curved and how her hair blew. I can't stop thinking about her...It's like she plagued my mind. No, my entire body. I can't sleep well, I can't eat well and my scores have dramatically dropped.

I asked myself what I have to do to forget her. What will make me be normal again and what will stop me from this strange addiction.

However, I didn't get an answer.

I hoped to see her again. Guess all I was doing was incessantly wishing for something that wasn't written for me.

But I think people need to start believing in fate and stuff because life gives us so many surprising and unexpected things. It gave me one too...

All I remember was that it was a summer night and I was locked up in a room. The smell of cigrettes, strong cologne and alchohol was heavy in the air. And then the door opened and her lips that I thought I would die without seeing, was spread wide like a grim reaper.
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Written by Terra

Don't... stop... please

You see when we stoped speaking. I stoped eating. When we stopped speaking for some odd reason i stoped sleeping. When we stoped speaking. I stoped laughing. When we stoped speaking I stoped smiling. When we stoped speaking. I stoped living. When we were speaking... it was because I love you. God do I love you. When we spoke, I saw you smile, I smiled. when we spoke you laughed and I would laugh. When we spoke you would fall asleep next to me on the phone and I would fall asleep with you. When we spoke and you told me about your day. I never felt something wrong with you. I want to fix that. I never want to let you go. Why should I start now. When we spoke you fought for me I fought for you. When we stoped speaking. I haven't stopped fighting for you. Please don't stop for me.-terraburnettt

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Written by Terra
Don't... stop... please
You see when we stoped speaking. I stoped eating. When we stopped speaking for some odd reason i stoped sleeping. When we stoped speaking. I stoped laughing. When we stoped speaking I stoped smiling. When we stoped speaking. I stoped living. When we were speaking... it was because I love you. God do I love you. When we spoke, I saw you smile, I smiled. when we spoke you laughed and I would laugh. When we spoke you would fall asleep next to me on the phone and I would fall asleep with you. When we spoke and you told me about your day. I never felt something wrong with you. I want to fix that. I never want to let you go. Why should I start now. When we spoke you fought for me I fought for you. When we stoped speaking. I haven't stopped fighting for you. Please don't stop for me.-terraburnettt
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Chapter 1 of RED
Written by ChanelleJoy

PART ONE

Red – the colour of the Outback. Everywhere I looked was red; red sand beneath my feet, red rocks standing tall and proud. Even the sky was red as the sun threw out his final rays in a glorious grand finale. It was not farewell. He would be back in the morning to shine once again on these magnificent, rugged plains of red. I breathed deeply. It was my first day here in the Australian Desert – the first day of a four-week trip. Already I felt small and insignificant, like I was buried by the sheer grandeur of this vast, great land. But I didn’t feel smothered or overwhelmed. I felt free. This was my journey, my voyage of self-discovery. Here, I was alone. Here I could unpack the heavy baggage I carried within my soul. No airs or graces, no pretending, no acting like everything was fine when really, I was dying inside. No fake smiles, no holding back the tears, no lying. Just me, open, honest and raw. Raw like this desert.

Life had not been easy of late. Well, life had never really been easy. Somewhere along the way I had lost all the pieces of myself. I was like Humpty Dumpty after his great fall, only, there were no king’s horses or king’s men to help put me back together again. There was just me. That was fine. This way, no one else could try to tell me who I was. No one else could dictate my steps or coerce me into submission. I smiled. It felt odd, still a foreign thing to me. I could not remember the last time I had given a genuine smile. Wanting to capture the moment I lifted my camera to my eye and clicked. I wanted to document as much of this journey as possible.

I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I hadn’t told my parents, or my brother. They wouldn’t care. They performed their obligatory family duties towards me; birthdays, Christmas, my wedding – but that was the extent of their affection. For the most part, I was invisible to them. I had no friends to tell and I especially had not told Simon, my husband. He would have arrived home from his business trip by now to find the house empty of all my belongings. I had finally worked up the courage to leave. I hadn’t, however, worked up the courage to confront him. So, I ran. And what better place to run to than the desert, I’d thought. No one would expect me to go there. At least, I hoped anyway. Simon would be angry. Of that there was no doubt. Angry enough to warrant searching for me, though? It was very possible, but that was a risk I had to take. I was done being his punching bag. When I’d first met Simon, he had seemed so wonderful. A few years older than me he was mature, settled in a good career and he looked at me as though I was someone. He treated me like a queen. Expensive dinners, expensive jewelry, expensive cars and an expensive house; I had it all. What I hadn’t noticed at the time was that he was quietly and subtly training me. The abuse started slowly at first. Just a little smack every now and then when I would make a mistake, or when I displeased him. Then on the other hand, I would receive gifts whenever I did something that Simon deemed correct. I was his dog and he was training me to obey my master.

I’d grown up in a home where I was taught to not be seen or heard unless the circumstances were dire. My parents had never wanted me. As far as they were concerned, my older brother was their only child. I was just an inconvenient nuisance; which was why I was so swept away by Simon at first. Then, when the abuse started, I didn’t even realise what was happening. I was so used to being told what to do, to being kept in my rightful place. I thought it was just normal behaviour.

One day, I was out doing the grocery shopping. Even though it was just groceries and I had to make sure I got everything Simon wanted, I quite enjoyed the experience. It was one of the only times I was allowed out on my own while he lounged about at home. I’d just finished paying for my purchases when I felt a hand on my shoulder. A dear little old lady with brilliant white hair was standing behind me.

“Excuse me, dear. I was wondering if you might help me unload my trolley. The arms and back aren’t like they used to be.”

I glanced nervously at my watch. I was allocated 2 hours to complete my shopping and I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone unless I had to. Thinking about it now, there was no way Simon could have known if I did speak to someone, but back then I thought he was capable of anything. My watch told me my time was almost up. The old lady looked at me from wise blue eyes.

“Is everything okay, dear?”

“Um, ah, yes. Yes, yes. Everything is fine,” I stuttered. “I’d be happy to help.” 

I quickly began to unload her trolley onto the conveyor belt. She thanked me then asked if I would wait and help her to the car. I glanced nervously at my watch again. I was going to be late yet I couldn’t refuse. She clearly couldn’t manage on her own. I hurried to unpack her trolley into the boot of her car, slammed the boot closed, said goodbye and began to dash off to my own car.

“Wait,” the woman called after me. 

Gritting my teeth, I turned back. “Yes?”

“You don’t have to stay with him you know,” she said.

I blinked in astonishment. “I don’t know what you mean,” I muttered unconvincingly.

The woman placed a hand on my arm. I flinched at the light touch. “Yes, you do. You don’t have to acknowledge it to me, but you need to know that you can leave. Heaven has someone else set aside for you, someone far, far better.”

I was shaking. How did she know? I started backing away. “I… I have to go.”

“Don’t worry. He will be asleep when you get home. He won’t even know.”

I turned and ran as best I could while pushing a loaded trolley. I threw everything into the boot, praying that nothing broke, jumped in the driver’s seat and floored it. I threw a glance to where the old lady had been. She was gone. Her car too. I scanned the car park but the little, old red Corolla could not be seen anywhere. She couldn’t have got away that fast. I glanced at my watch again. It wasn’t far to go but I was still going to be at least half an hour late. My heart hammered in my chest, pounding out a beat worthy of the dance floor and a cold sweat enveloped my body. My hands slipped on the steering wheel and I almost went crashing into the gutter. Amazingly, I managed to get my grip again just in time. There would have been a whole other level of punishment if I damaged the car. I slowed down when I reached my street and crept into the driveway. Inside, all thoughts of the old woman evaporated. I took the bags straight to kitchen and began to put everything away. I was on edge waiting for Simon to come raging in. He never did. It wasn’t until I went into the lounge room that I saw him, snoring, fast asleep on the lounge in front of the TV. Just like the woman had said. I broke out in goosebumps. Who was she? Some kind of psychic? I didn’t believe in God or angels so a psychic seemed the only other plausible explanation. That is, if you could call psychics plausible. I didn’t really believe in them either yet, if she was right about Simon being asleep, perhaps she was right about the rest as well.

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Chapter 1 of RED
Written by ChanelleJoy
PART ONE
Red – the colour of the Outback. Everywhere I looked was red; red sand beneath my feet, red rocks standing tall and proud. Even the sky was red as the sun threw out his final rays in a glorious grand finale. It was not farewell. He would be back in the morning to shine once again on these magnificent, rugged plains of red. I breathed deeply. It was my first day here in the Australian Desert – the first day of a four-week trip. Already I felt small and insignificant, like I was buried by the sheer grandeur of this vast, great land. But I didn’t feel smothered or overwhelmed. I felt free. This was my journey, my voyage of self-discovery. Here, I was alone. Here I could unpack the heavy baggage I carried within my soul. No airs or graces, no pretending, no acting like everything was fine when really, I was dying inside. No fake smiles, no holding back the tears, no lying. Just me, open, honest and raw. Raw like this desert.

Life had not been easy of late. Well, life had never really been easy. Somewhere along the way I had lost all the pieces of myself. I was like Humpty Dumpty after his great fall, only, there were no king’s horses or king’s men to help put me back together again. There was just me. That was fine. This way, no one else could try to tell me who I was. No one else could dictate my steps or coerce me into submission. I smiled. It felt odd, still a foreign thing to me. I could not remember the last time I had given a genuine smile. Wanting to capture the moment I lifted my camera to my eye and clicked. I wanted to document as much of this journey as possible.

I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I hadn’t told my parents, or my brother. They wouldn’t care. They performed their obligatory family duties towards me; birthdays, Christmas, my wedding – but that was the extent of their affection. For the most part, I was invisible to them. I had no friends to tell and I especially had not told Simon, my husband. He would have arrived home from his business trip by now to find the house empty of all my belongings. I had finally worked up the courage to leave. I hadn’t, however, worked up the courage to confront him. So, I ran. And what better place to run to than the desert, I’d thought. No one would expect me to go there. At least, I hoped anyway. Simon would be angry. Of that there was no doubt. Angry enough to warrant searching for me, though? It was very possible, but that was a risk I had to take. I was done being his punching bag. When I’d first met Simon, he had seemed so wonderful. A few years older than me he was mature, settled in a good career and he looked at me as though I was someone. He treated me like a queen. Expensive dinners, expensive jewelry, expensive cars and an expensive house; I had it all. What I hadn’t noticed at the time was that he was quietly and subtly training me. The abuse started slowly at first. Just a little smack every now and then when I would make a mistake, or when I displeased him. Then on the other hand, I would receive gifts whenever I did something that Simon deemed correct. I was his dog and he was training me to obey my master.

I’d grown up in a home where I was taught to not be seen or heard unless the circumstances were dire. My parents had never wanted me. As far as they were concerned, my older brother was their only child. I was just an inconvenient nuisance; which was why I was so swept away by Simon at first. Then, when the abuse started, I didn’t even realise what was happening. I was so used to being told what to do, to being kept in my rightful place. I thought it was just normal behaviour.

One day, I was out doing the grocery shopping. Even though it was just groceries and I had to make sure I got everything Simon wanted, I quite enjoyed the experience. It was one of the only times I was allowed out on my own while he lounged about at home. I’d just finished paying for my purchases when I felt a hand on my shoulder. A dear little old lady with brilliant white hair was standing behind me.

“Excuse me, dear. I was wondering if you might help me unload my trolley. The arms and back aren’t like they used to be.”

I glanced nervously at my watch. I was allocated 2 hours to complete my shopping and I wasn’t supposed to talk to anyone unless I had to. Thinking about it now, there was no way Simon could have known if I did speak to someone, but back then I thought he was capable of anything. My watch told me my time was almost up. The old lady looked at me from wise blue eyes.

“Is everything okay, dear?”

“Um, ah, yes. Yes, yes. Everything is fine,” I stuttered. “I’d be happy to help.” 

I quickly began to unload her trolley onto the conveyor belt. She thanked me then asked if I would wait and help her to the car. I glanced nervously at my watch again. I was going to be late yet I couldn’t refuse. She clearly couldn’t manage on her own. I hurried to unpack her trolley into the boot of her car, slammed the boot closed, said goodbye and began to dash off to my own car.

“Wait,” the woman called after me. 

Gritting my teeth, I turned back. “Yes?”
“You don’t have to stay with him you know,” she said.

I blinked in astonishment. “I don’t know what you mean,” I muttered unconvincingly.

The woman placed a hand on my arm. I flinched at the light touch. “Yes, you do. You don’t have to acknowledge it to me, but you need to know that you can leave. Heaven has someone else set aside for you, someone far, far better.”

I was shaking. How did she know? I started backing away. “I… I have to go.”

“Don’t worry. He will be asleep when you get home. He won’t even know.”

I turned and ran as best I could while pushing a loaded trolley. I threw everything into the boot, praying that nothing broke, jumped in the driver’s seat and floored it. I threw a glance to where the old lady had been. She was gone. Her car too. I scanned the car park but the little, old red Corolla could not be seen anywhere. She couldn’t have got away that fast. I glanced at my watch again. It wasn’t far to go but I was still going to be at least half an hour late. My heart hammered in my chest, pounding out a beat worthy of the dance floor and a cold sweat enveloped my body. My hands slipped on the steering wheel and I almost went crashing into the gutter. Amazingly, I managed to get my grip again just in time. There would have been a whole other level of punishment if I damaged the car. I slowed down when I reached my street and crept into the driveway. Inside, all thoughts of the old woman evaporated. I took the bags straight to kitchen and began to put everything away. I was on edge waiting for Simon to come raging in. He never did. It wasn’t until I went into the lounge room that I saw him, snoring, fast asleep on the lounge in front of the TV. Just like the woman had said. I broke out in goosebumps. Who was she? Some kind of psychic? I didn’t believe in God or angels so a psychic seemed the only other plausible explanation. That is, if you could call psychics plausible. I didn’t really believe in them either yet, if she was right about Simon being asleep, perhaps she was right about the rest as well.
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Chapter 2 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy

MAGIC IN THE AIR

I settled effortlessly into my new life. The people of Franklin are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They cared but did it without being overly pushy or nosy. If you didn’t want to talk about something, they would let it be. If you wanted to be alone, they would leave you alone. It was perfect. After only a few weeks, I began to feel much better than I had felt in a long time. My strength and energy returned, I slept a full eight hours every night, the chatter that constantly invaded my head calmed to a barely audible voice and I was getting reacquainted with happiness. The open wound that had dug itself into my soul began to close and become refreshingly numb. I knew, though, that it would not close completely until I found what was missing. How I wished I had known to come here sooner rather than wasting four years searching for a cure to my elusive illness. Although, I probably hadn’t been ready. I had grown up a lot in those four years. Sometimes I felt more like I was seventy-two rather than twenty-seven. Thankfully, I was starting to feel physically younger again but mentally, I would never be the same. I had matured in a way that only happens when you go through something difficult. It was hard for me to relate to people, especially people my own age; which was one reason why I had stuck to myself at first, taking long, solitary walks in the forest, always searching for that missing piece for which I ached so desperately. I picked up a job in a small, friendly coffee house and everything was going smoother than I could have imagined. The dreams continued to plague me only, they were different now. Something still called to me, but it was no longer the forest. It was something else, something within the forest. The dreams never revealed what it was, always keeping it just out of reach. Whenever I thought I was about to catch a glimpse, I would wake up. It was extremely frustrating. At least I had the coffee house to distract me. I was even starting to make a few friends. As for my studies, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick up where I had left off. Dancing was emotional. For me, it was a way to release pent up feelings, a way to express myself in ways that words never could. I wasn’t sure if I could handle that just yet. I wasn’t sure if my knee could either. Thankfully, the surgery had gone well and my knee functioned normally yet, I was still terrified to try and dance again. I didn’t want to fail but I wasn’t sure I wanted to succeed either. So, I decided to just leave it alone for the time being. I even avoided music as much as I could, which was incredibly difficult. I loved music and had a very broad taste from reggae to rock. Music was another way for me to vent. There was always a song that could relate to what I was going through. I felt an almost spiritual connection to both dance and music. When I listened to a song or a piece of music, it felt like I was listening to the artist’s soul as well as my own. It was my opinion that life could not exist without music. Now, I avoided it as much as I could. The emotions behind it – the passion, the sorrow, the joy, the heartache – were too much for me. They made me feel as though I was drowning in a bottomless ocean that I would never swim my way out of. Since coming here however, I had learned to somewhat block this sensitivity of mine. Well, perhaps block was not the appropriate word. More like cope; like I had somehow grown bigger on the inside and now had more space to put everything I felt. I was also learning how to single out a specific emotion from the swarm, to differentiate between people and animals and from person to person. It was encouraging, giving me hope that one day, I would be able to carry this with ease.

“So, do you want to come?”

I blinked. “Huh?” I shook myself out of my ruminations and focused on the source of the voice; Angie, one of the waitresses. Angie was lovely. She was only a few years older than me and had this completely laid-back way about her that made anyone feel relaxed and comfortable in her presence. I liked her immediately, though I still kept my distance. Getting close to people scared me. Everyone back in Miami had left and I was petrified of that same thing happening again. Making friends had not been a part of my plan. In fact, I had thought I would be much better off alone. It would certainly be more peaceful. Then I’d met Angie and she slowly inched herself into my heart without even really trying. I had to admit, it was nice having someone else to talk to again. She was genuine. She wasn’t trying to be somebody she wasn’t. Not like the people I had thought were my friends in Miami.

“The party tomorrow night?” Angie prompted. “Do you want to come? We can go together of course.” She smiled at me, aware of my reticence.

“Oh, right! I had completely forgotten about that.”

Angie rolled her eyes at me. “Why does that not surprise me?”

I shrugged my shoulders innocently. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Sure,” Angie scoffed. “I swear you are living in another world sometimes,” she said, nudging me fondly.

Another world. Why did that set bells ringing in my head and a flag waving frantically, trying to grab my attention? An intense shock ran through my body. I felt like I should know something – something I had known all my life and had forgotten. The wound inside me gave a shudder. It could sense I was drawing nearer to the cure, the soothing balm that would make it whole. I gasped as the bells picked up their tempo. It was all I could do to not clap my hands to my ears.

“I… um…” I could hardly hear myself speak.

Angie’s green eyes were brimming with concern as she peered at me. “Eirwin? Are you alright?”

I took a deep breath to try and clear my head. I wanted nothing more than to run into the forest, to lose myself among the trees. A map formed itself in my mind; a perfect picture of the layout of the forest with a clear-cut line tracing a path into its very heart, further than I had ever ventured. It took all my willpower to keep my legs standing still instead of letting them whisk me away. Where did that path lead?

“Eirwin?” Angie’s concern was growing rapidly. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“N.. Nothing,” I managed to say. As I spoke, the din in my head eased somewhat, becoming more of a background noise. The map was burned into my memory, waiting there patiently until I could follow it. “Sorry,” I stammered, glancing sheepishly at Angie. “I… I have dizzy spells sometimes. It’s nothing. I used to get them a lot more but they’re not as bad now.” It was a weak cover story but it would have to do. Besides, it wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Do you need me to take you to Doc?”

“No. No, I’ll be alright.”

Angie frowned, not quite believing me. “Did you eat breakfast? Maybe your blood sugar dropped.”

“Yes,” I answered. I rarely skipped meals anymore. I was enjoying my food a lot more and had managed to put on some weight. “It’s just something that happens every now and then. Low blood pressure I think. I’m fine,” I added in what I hoped was a reassuring manner.

Angie pursed her lips a moment. “Okay. I’ll leave it be for now. Just promise me that if it gets worse, you will let me take you to Doc.”

I nodded, grateful I had been let off the hook.

“So,” said Angie, picking up where she had left off. “Do you want to come to the party?”

“Remind me what it is?”

“A bunch of us are heading out to Standing Indian Picnic Grounds. There was supposed to be a fire and marshmallows but in this weather… Phew!” She wiped a hand dramatically across her forehead. “Anyway, there will be music, wine, and…” she paused with a smirk, “you can check out some of the local scenery.”

“Cool. It’s so pretty here I could never get enough of the scenery.”

Angie rolled her eyes again. “My gosh, Eirwin. You can be so dense sometimes. I mean the male scenery. A new girl like you will draw plenty of attention.” She grinned and winked.

“Oh. I’m not really interested in anything like that right now. I’m sort of trying to rediscover myself first.” I gulped, realizing I had just revealed something personal but Angie went on as though it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“That’s fair enough. Doesn’t stop you from being able to have a browse at what’s available, you know, for future reference.”

I smiled. She was right. What harm could it do to have a peek? It had been so long since I’d had a girlfriend to giggle over silly things with and I did need to start broadening my horizons. I was quite comfortable and cozy where I was but it wasn’t moving me forward. It was time to be brave and dip my toes in the deep end.

“I’ll be there.”

Angie’s plump lips stretched into a beaming smile. “Awesome! It’s going to be so much fun! We’ll figure out the details later. We better get back to work or Bernie will pop a vein.”

I was on the morning shift and it was still early on what was promising to be a beautiful winter’s day. The weather had remained unusually warm since I had arrived in the Fall and everyone was grumbling about global warming and climate change. All valid points although, was that really the cause? For some reason, I felt like the weather and I were connected. While the heat chased some of the internal chill away, I could still feel it, running in the deep currents of my blood and bones. How could the weather be dependent on a person? It was a foolish thought and I tried to dismiss it only, it clung to me, sticking like glue. I couldn’t shake it no matter how ridiculous I told myself it was.

As if she had heard Angie’s and my conversation, Bernice appeared in front of us. “Having a nice chat, ladies?”

Bernice and her husband Mark were the owners of this little café and though both were wonderful people, they ran a tight ship and wouldn’t let anyone get away with being lazy; which was fair enough. They were running a business after all.

“Sorry, Bernie,” I volunteered. “It was my fault. I just had a little dizzy spell but I’m all good now.”

Bernie frowned. “Do you need to see Doc?”

“I already suggested that,” Angie cut in. “But she says she is fine now.”

Bernie looked to me, eye brows raised in question.

“I really am alright. If it gets any worse I will be sure to tell you.”

“You’d better,” she demanded, pointing a finger at me.

I made the cross sign over my heart. “Cross my heart.”

She sighed and patted my face. “I worry about you, kiddo. Don’t push yourself, okay, and get something cold to drink. This blasted heat will be the death of us all,” she groused.

I smiled at how lucky I was to have found such wonderful people. “Thanks, Bernie.”

With that, she gave a firm nod and shooed us off back to work.

The café was always busy and the rest of my shift passed by quickly. When it came time to finish, I flew out the door, calling my goodbyes as I went. I couldn’t wait to head into the forest and I had all afternoon to explore. Discarding my work clothes, I threw on a comfortable pair of soft denim shorts, tugged on a loose tank, laced up my walking shoes and threaded my thick, white-blonde braid through the back of a cap. People always assumed my hair was dyed and they were quite surprised when I told them it was natural. I would never dream of dying my hair. I absolutely loved the colour. It made me unique and if I dyed it, I wouldn’t be me anymore. Grabbing a bottle of water and a snack, I was ready.

The forest welcomed me with open arms and my body tingled as I stepped into the shade of the cedar trees. I savored the air for a moment then let my restless legs take over. They carried me onwards for a good hour, heedless of the heat as they followed the map that still filled my mind’s eye. It was like they were on autopilot and I had no control at all. I could have closed my eyes and my legs would have continued walking, always drawing me nearer to this mysterious destination. A part of me wanted to be afraid. The other part was excited, a touch impertinent and almost desperate. Hours drifted by and still I walked, unaware of the dimming light. Without warning, I stopped short of crossing a shallow stream. The bells were tolling in my head again and I had the distinct feeling I was being watched. A shiver made its way along my spine. I stood still, scanning my surrounds. Hesitantly, I opened my mouth and called, “Hello?”

Only the gentle breeze answered my call. Even the birds had fallen silent, a reverent silence as though they knew they were in the presence of something sovereign and majestic. The air vibrated tangibly and my hairs stood on end. Goosebumps coated my skin from head to toe.

“Is someone there?” I ventured in a hushed voice.

This time, it was more than the wind that answered. From behind, I heard a snuffling sound followed by a soft, low growl. My eyes widened in fright. Ever so carefully, I turned around and faced what I had already suspected would be there. A large bear stood about ten feet away with beady eyes locked straight on me. Frantically I searched my brain for what I was supposed to do in this situation. Before I moved here, I had educated myself on what to do in the case of a bear encounter.

No sudden moves.

Right. Don’t move. Check. What else was there? Yes, that’s right. Identify the bear. There was no doubting that it was a grizzly bear. Briefly, I berated myself for not investing in some bear spray but I knew I could never use it. I sure wouldn’t appreciate being sprayed in the face with pepper spray. No one would. So why should I subject a bear to that fate? In my opinion, it was just cruel. I remained still and tried to appear outwardly calm. This bear didn’t look like it was going to attack me. Staying calm was crucial. My brain recalled another piece of advice: speak passively.

“Hey there,” I said, amazed when my voice didn’t tremble. 

Oddly, I came to the realization that I was no longer afraid. Had I gone insane? Stranger still, my legs began to work again, moving me step by small step, closer to the bear. The bear dropped to all fours and mirrored my movement until we were nose to nose. I was in awe. This kind of thing just didn’t happen in the wild. Cautiously, the bear began to sniff at my face, my hair, my clothes and then, the biggest shock came when it pushed its head into my hand. I stroked the fur on its face and the bear let out a contented growl. Time seemed to stop as the bear and I got to know each other. It was utterly surreal. I didn’t know if it had been five minutes or fifty when the bear finally decided to take leave. I watched it amble away and disappear among the trees. My heart felt so full it could burst. There had been a connection between the bear and I, that of two kindred spirits. The bear was now out of sight yet, the sensation of being watched remained. Something else was still out there watching me and I got the sense that it was close by. At that moment, I noticed the lack of daylight and checked my watch, discovering that it would be full dark in less than an hour. There was no way to tell how far I had come. At least I could ascertain easily enough which direction I had to go. I’d barely taken two steps when I heard a voice behind me.

“Hello.”

My heart leapt in my chest as I spun around. People could be far more dangerous than bears and not only was I alone, I hadn’t told anybody where I was headed either. Idiot!

“Are you alright? You seem lost?”

This was who had been watching me and the sight left me stunned. It was a man and undoubtedly the most beautiful man I had ever seen. He was so elegant that I found myself wondering if he was even human. No human male could look like that, surely, and despite the gathering darkness, I could still see him clearly. I shouldn’t have been able to tell that his eyes were warm, liquid amber or that his face was smooth, unmarred by blemish or wrinkle. His hair was the blazing colour of fire and cascaded past his shoulders in a satin waterfall. As I faced him with nervous uncertainty, his face filled with wonder and joy emanated from him. He almost seemed to glow as he smiled at me – a slow, gentle smile. Transfixed, I swallowed around the lump that had formed in my throat. My mouth had gone parch dry. I wasn’t sure if it was from fear or lust. There was something about this man that hinted at power, that made me want to throw myself at him and submit to his sweet torture. Tall and broad, his muscular physique gave off the sharp impression that he was strong and agile, a skilled predator; and I was his prey. The way he looked at me, so intense and confidant, dismissed any chance I had of escaping. As I stared at him, wide eyed, I felt two things happen simultaneously. The air grew noticeably sharper and crisper until it was the way it should be in winter. Secondly, as I shivered in the sudden cold, my soul convulsed in an almost painful shift. In contrast to the frigid air, the aching chill trapped in my body dissipated, replaced with warmth, and the open wound that had been waiting patiently for healing gave a great sigh that made its way up my throat and through my parted lips. The man watched me attentively and his gaze darkened with seductive promises. My heart pounded furiously in my chest and my breath quickened. What was happening to me? He took a graceful, languid step towards me, never taking his eyes off mine. My own feet responded, taking a shaky step towards him. My insides were churning. I felt like my body wanted to turn itself inside out and I could hardly stand under the assault. It was not an entirely unpleasant feeling. We continued to take slow, careful steps towards each other until we were inches apart. He was even more beautiful up close. I gave a start when he reached out a hand to caress my cheek. 

“I found you,” he whispered.

“What…” I began to ask what he was talking about only to be halted by his lips covering mine in a fervent, concupiscent kiss. 

His hands moved down, coming to rest on each side of my waist and pulled me closer. It was like something else – or someone else – had taken over my body. I was no longer in charge as I pressed myself to him and met his kiss with equal passion. Half of me was screaming, demanding to know what was happening and why I was allowing this incursion, this violation of my body. The other part was completely lost, reveling in this fast and furious intimacy. It was as though summer had come at last to melt my icy heart and I relished the warmth, clutching at his arms still encircling my wait. Eventually, rationality returned and I pushed the man away, moving several paces back. The man blinked, obviously surprised and a little taken aback at my sudden resistance.

“What the hell am I doing?” I exclaimed. “I don’t even know you!” 

Fighting to breathe, I could sense the anxiety rising profusely. If I didn’t calm down I would fall into an all-out panic attack. Every inch of my body wanted to throw itself back into this man’s arms. Gritting my teeth against the tenacious desire and the returned familiar chill, I closed my eyes, scrabbling to regain control. When I opened them again, he was watching me with a troubled expression.

 “Who… who are you?” I managed to ask.

His expression went from troubled to one of pain. “You… you do not know me?”

I shook my head. “I’ve never seen you before in my life.” 

Anger was beginning to replace the fear and I planted my fists on my hips while glaring at him. “Just who do you think you are, catching a woman alone in the forest and thinking you can have your way with her? You’re just some sick freak, aren’t you?” 

My words shocked even myself. This was the old me talking, the me before I had gotten sick; the me that was bold and brave. I drew myself up and continued to glare at him defiantly.

He winced as if my words were physically hurting him and his eyes implored me to stop. “Leira…” He said softly.

Leira? “Argh!” I grabbed my head. “Argh! Why does it hurt?” 

My legs crumpled and I started to fall. The man lunged forward, catching me before I hit the ground. On the edge of consciousness, I gazed up into his beautiful face. Why did my heart ache so sweetly? I was sure I didn’t know this man. Wasn’t I? 

“Who…?” The question was cut short as my vision went black and my body limp.

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Chapter 2 of DANCE OF THE PHOENIX
Written by ChanelleJoy
MAGIC IN THE AIR
I settled effortlessly into my new life. The people of Franklin are some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. They cared but did it without being overly pushy or nosy. If you didn’t want to talk about something, they would let it be. If you wanted to be alone, they would leave you alone. It was perfect. After only a few weeks, I began to feel much better than I had felt in a long time. My strength and energy returned, I slept a full eight hours every night, the chatter that constantly invaded my head calmed to a barely audible voice and I was getting reacquainted with happiness. The open wound that had dug itself into my soul began to close and become refreshingly numb. I knew, though, that it would not close completely until I found what was missing. How I wished I had known to come here sooner rather than wasting four years searching for a cure to my elusive illness. Although, I probably hadn’t been ready. I had grown up a lot in those four years. Sometimes I felt more like I was seventy-two rather than twenty-seven. Thankfully, I was starting to feel physically younger again but mentally, I would never be the same. I had matured in a way that only happens when you go through something difficult. It was hard for me to relate to people, especially people my own age; which was one reason why I had stuck to myself at first, taking long, solitary walks in the forest, always searching for that missing piece for which I ached so desperately. I picked up a job in a small, friendly coffee house and everything was going smoother than I could have imagined. The dreams continued to plague me only, they were different now. Something still called to me, but it was no longer the forest. It was something else, something within the forest. The dreams never revealed what it was, always keeping it just out of reach. Whenever I thought I was about to catch a glimpse, I would wake up. It was extremely frustrating. At least I had the coffee house to distract me. I was even starting to make a few friends. As for my studies, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick up where I had left off. Dancing was emotional. For me, it was a way to release pent up feelings, a way to express myself in ways that words never could. I wasn’t sure if I could handle that just yet. I wasn’t sure if my knee could either. Thankfully, the surgery had gone well and my knee functioned normally yet, I was still terrified to try and dance again. I didn’t want to fail but I wasn’t sure I wanted to succeed either. So, I decided to just leave it alone for the time being. I even avoided music as much as I could, which was incredibly difficult. I loved music and had a very broad taste from reggae to rock. Music was another way for me to vent. There was always a song that could relate to what I was going through. I felt an almost spiritual connection to both dance and music. When I listened to a song or a piece of music, it felt like I was listening to the artist’s soul as well as my own. It was my opinion that life could not exist without music. Now, I avoided it as much as I could. The emotions behind it – the passion, the sorrow, the joy, the heartache – were too much for me. They made me feel as though I was drowning in a bottomless ocean that I would never swim my way out of. Since coming here however, I had learned to somewhat block this sensitivity of mine. Well, perhaps block was not the appropriate word. More like cope; like I had somehow grown bigger on the inside and now had more space to put everything I felt. I was also learning how to single out a specific emotion from the swarm, to differentiate between people and animals and from person to person. It was encouraging, giving me hope that one day, I would be able to carry this with ease.

“So, do you want to come?”

I blinked. “Huh?” I shook myself out of my ruminations and focused on the source of the voice; Angie, one of the waitresses. Angie was lovely. She was only a few years older than me and had this completely laid-back way about her that made anyone feel relaxed and comfortable in her presence. I liked her immediately, though I still kept my distance. Getting close to people scared me. Everyone back in Miami had left and I was petrified of that same thing happening again. Making friends had not been a part of my plan. In fact, I had thought I would be much better off alone. It would certainly be more peaceful. Then I’d met Angie and she slowly inched herself into my heart without even really trying. I had to admit, it was nice having someone else to talk to again. She was genuine. She wasn’t trying to be somebody she wasn’t. Not like the people I had thought were my friends in Miami.

“The party tomorrow night?” Angie prompted. “Do you want to come? We can go together of course.” She smiled at me, aware of my reticence.

“Oh, right! I had completely forgotten about that.”

Angie rolled her eyes at me. “Why does that not surprise me?”

I shrugged my shoulders innocently. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Sure,” Angie scoffed. “I swear you are living in another world sometimes,” she said, nudging me fondly.

Another world. Why did that set bells ringing in my head and a flag waving frantically, trying to grab my attention? An intense shock ran through my body. I felt like I should know something – something I had known all my life and had forgotten. The wound inside me gave a shudder. It could sense I was drawing nearer to the cure, the soothing balm that would make it whole. I gasped as the bells picked up their tempo. It was all I could do to not clap my hands to my ears.

“I… um…” I could hardly hear myself speak.

Angie’s green eyes were brimming with concern as she peered at me. “Eirwin? Are you alright?”

I took a deep breath to try and clear my head. I wanted nothing more than to run into the forest, to lose myself among the trees. A map formed itself in my mind; a perfect picture of the layout of the forest with a clear-cut line tracing a path into its very heart, further than I had ever ventured. It took all my willpower to keep my legs standing still instead of letting them whisk me away. Where did that path lead?

“Eirwin?” Angie’s concern was growing rapidly. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“N.. Nothing,” I managed to say. As I spoke, the din in my head eased somewhat, becoming more of a background noise. The map was burned into my memory, waiting there patiently until I could follow it. “Sorry,” I stammered, glancing sheepishly at Angie. “I… I have dizzy spells sometimes. It’s nothing. I used to get them a lot more but they’re not as bad now.” It was a weak cover story but it would have to do. Besides, it wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Do you need me to take you to Doc?”

“No. No, I’ll be alright.”

Angie frowned, not quite believing me. “Did you eat breakfast? Maybe your blood sugar dropped.”

“Yes,” I answered. I rarely skipped meals anymore. I was enjoying my food a lot more and had managed to put on some weight. “It’s just something that happens every now and then. Low blood pressure I think. I’m fine,” I added in what I hoped was a reassuring manner.

Angie pursed her lips a moment. “Okay. I’ll leave it be for now. Just promise me that if it gets worse, you will let me take you to Doc.”

I nodded, grateful I had been let off the hook.

“So,” said Angie, picking up where she had left off. “Do you want to come to the party?”

“Remind me what it is?”

“A bunch of us are heading out to Standing Indian Picnic Grounds. There was supposed to be a fire and marshmallows but in this weather… Phew!” She wiped a hand dramatically across her forehead. “Anyway, there will be music, wine, and…” she paused with a smirk, “you can check out some of the local scenery.”

“Cool. It’s so pretty here I could never get enough of the scenery.”

Angie rolled her eyes again. “My gosh, Eirwin. You can be so dense sometimes. I mean the male scenery. A new girl like you will draw plenty of attention.” She grinned and winked.

“Oh. I’m not really interested in anything like that right now. I’m sort of trying to rediscover myself first.” I gulped, realizing I had just revealed something personal but Angie went on as though it was nothing out of the ordinary.

“That’s fair enough. Doesn’t stop you from being able to have a browse at what’s available, you know, for future reference.”

I smiled. She was right. What harm could it do to have a peek? It had been so long since I’d had a girlfriend to giggle over silly things with and I did need to start broadening my horizons. I was quite comfortable and cozy where I was but it wasn’t moving me forward. It was time to be brave and dip my toes in the deep end.

“I’ll be there.”

Angie’s plump lips stretched into a beaming smile. “Awesome! It’s going to be so much fun! We’ll figure out the details later. We better get back to work or Bernie will pop a vein.”

I was on the morning shift and it was still early on what was promising to be a beautiful winter’s day. The weather had remained unusually warm since I had arrived in the Fall and everyone was grumbling about global warming and climate change. All valid points although, was that really the cause? For some reason, I felt like the weather and I were connected. While the heat chased some of the internal chill away, I could still feel it, running in the deep currents of my blood and bones. How could the weather be dependent on a person? It was a foolish thought and I tried to dismiss it only, it clung to me, sticking like glue. I couldn’t shake it no matter how ridiculous I told myself it was.

As if she had heard Angie’s and my conversation, Bernice appeared in front of us. “Having a nice chat, ladies?”

Bernice and her husband Mark were the owners of this little café and though both were wonderful people, they ran a tight ship and wouldn’t let anyone get away with being lazy; which was fair enough. They were running a business after all.

“Sorry, Bernie,” I volunteered. “It was my fault. I just had a little dizzy spell but I’m all good now.”

Bernie frowned. “Do you need to see Doc?”

“I already suggested that,” Angie cut in. “But she says she is fine now.”

Bernie looked to me, eye brows raised in question.

“I really am alright. If it gets any worse I will be sure to tell you.”

“You’d better,” she demanded, pointing a finger at me.

I made the cross sign over my heart. “Cross my heart.”

She sighed and patted my face. “I worry about you, kiddo. Don’t push yourself, okay, and get something cold to drink. This blasted heat will be the death of us all,” she groused.

I smiled at how lucky I was to have found such wonderful people. “Thanks, Bernie.”

With that, she gave a firm nod and shooed us off back to work.

The café was always busy and the rest of my shift passed by quickly. When it came time to finish, I flew out the door, calling my goodbyes as I went. I couldn’t wait to head into the forest and I had all afternoon to explore. Discarding my work clothes, I threw on a comfortable pair of soft denim shorts, tugged on a loose tank, laced up my walking shoes and threaded my thick, white-blonde braid through the back of a cap. People always assumed my hair was dyed and they were quite surprised when I told them it was natural. I would never dream of dying my hair. I absolutely loved the colour. It made me unique and if I dyed it, I wouldn’t be me anymore. Grabbing a bottle of water and a snack, I was ready.

The forest welcomed me with open arms and my body tingled as I stepped into the shade of the cedar trees. I savored the air for a moment then let my restless legs take over. They carried me onwards for a good hour, heedless of the heat as they followed the map that still filled my mind’s eye. It was like they were on autopilot and I had no control at all. I could have closed my eyes and my legs would have continued walking, always drawing me nearer to this mysterious destination. A part of me wanted to be afraid. The other part was excited, a touch impertinent and almost desperate. Hours drifted by and still I walked, unaware of the dimming light. Without warning, I stopped short of crossing a shallow stream. The bells were tolling in my head again and I had the distinct feeling I was being watched. A shiver made its way along my spine. I stood still, scanning my surrounds. Hesitantly, I opened my mouth and called, “Hello?”

Only the gentle breeze answered my call. Even the birds had fallen silent, a reverent silence as though they knew they were in the presence of something sovereign and majestic. The air vibrated tangibly and my hairs stood on end. Goosebumps coated my skin from head to toe.

“Is someone there?” I ventured in a hushed voice.

This time, it was more than the wind that answered. From behind, I heard a snuffling sound followed by a soft, low growl. My eyes widened in fright. Ever so carefully, I turned around and faced what I had already suspected would be there. A large bear stood about ten feet away with beady eyes locked straight on me. Frantically I searched my brain for what I was supposed to do in this situation. Before I moved here, I had educated myself on what to do in the case of a bear encounter.

No sudden moves.

Right. Don’t move. Check. What else was there? Yes, that’s right. Identify the bear. There was no doubting that it was a grizzly bear. Briefly, I berated myself for not investing in some bear spray but I knew I could never use it. I sure wouldn’t appreciate being sprayed in the face with pepper spray. No one would. So why should I subject a bear to that fate? In my opinion, it was just cruel. I remained still and tried to appear outwardly calm. This bear didn’t look like it was going to attack me. Staying calm was crucial. My brain recalled another piece of advice: speak passively.

“Hey there,” I said, amazed when my voice didn’t tremble. 

Oddly, I came to the realization that I was no longer afraid. Had I gone insane? Stranger still, my legs began to work again, moving me step by small step, closer to the bear. The bear dropped to all fours and mirrored my movement until we were nose to nose. I was in awe. This kind of thing just didn’t happen in the wild. Cautiously, the bear began to sniff at my face, my hair, my clothes and then, the biggest shock came when it pushed its head into my hand. I stroked the fur on its face and the bear let out a contented growl. Time seemed to stop as the bear and I got to know each other. It was utterly surreal. I didn’t know if it had been five minutes or fifty when the bear finally decided to take leave. I watched it amble away and disappear among the trees. My heart felt so full it could burst. There had been a connection between the bear and I, that of two kindred spirits. The bear was now out of sight yet, the sensation of being watched remained. Something else was still out there watching me and I got the sense that it was close by. At that moment, I noticed the lack of daylight and checked my watch, discovering that it would be full dark in less than an hour. There was no way to tell how far I had come. At least I could ascertain easily enough which direction I had to go. I’d barely taken two steps when I heard a voice behind me.

“Hello.”

My heart leapt in my chest as I spun around. People could be far more dangerous than bears and not only was I alone, I hadn’t told anybody where I was headed either. Idiot!

“Are you alright? You seem lost?”

This was who had been watching me and the sight left me stunned. It was a man and undoubtedly the most beautiful man I had ever seen. He was so elegant that I found myself wondering if he was even human. No human male could look like that, surely, and despite the gathering darkness, I could still see him clearly. I shouldn’t have been able to tell that his eyes were warm, liquid amber or that his face was smooth, unmarred by blemish or wrinkle. His hair was the blazing colour of fire and cascaded past his shoulders in a satin waterfall. As I faced him with nervous uncertainty, his face filled with wonder and joy emanated from him. He almost seemed to glow as he smiled at me – a slow, gentle smile. Transfixed, I swallowed around the lump that had formed in my throat. My mouth had gone parch dry. I wasn’t sure if it was from fear or lust. There was something about this man that hinted at power, that made me want to throw myself at him and submit to his sweet torture. Tall and broad, his muscular physique gave off the sharp impression that he was strong and agile, a skilled predator; and I was his prey. The way he looked at me, so intense and confidant, dismissed any chance I had of escaping. As I stared at him, wide eyed, I felt two things happen simultaneously. The air grew noticeably sharper and crisper until it was the way it should be in winter. Secondly, as I shivered in the sudden cold, my soul convulsed in an almost painful shift. In contrast to the frigid air, the aching chill trapped in my body dissipated, replaced with warmth, and the open wound that had been waiting patiently for healing gave a great sigh that made its way up my throat and through my parted lips. The man watched me attentively and his gaze darkened with seductive promises. My heart pounded furiously in my chest and my breath quickened. What was happening to me? He took a graceful, languid step towards me, never taking his eyes off mine. My own feet responded, taking a shaky step towards him. My insides were churning. I felt like my body wanted to turn itself inside out and I could hardly stand under the assault. It was not an entirely unpleasant feeling. We continued to take slow, careful steps towards each other until we were inches apart. He was even more beautiful up close. I gave a start when he reached out a hand to caress my cheek. 

“I found you,” he whispered.

“What…” I began to ask what he was talking about only to be halted by his lips covering mine in a fervent, concupiscent kiss. 

His hands moved down, coming to rest on each side of my waist and pulled me closer. It was like something else – or someone else – had taken over my body. I was no longer in charge as I pressed myself to him and met his kiss with equal passion. Half of me was screaming, demanding to know what was happening and why I was allowing this incursion, this violation of my body. The other part was completely lost, reveling in this fast and furious intimacy. It was as though summer had come at last to melt my icy heart and I relished the warmth, clutching at his arms still encircling my wait. Eventually, rationality returned and I pushed the man away, moving several paces back. The man blinked, obviously surprised and a little taken aback at my sudden resistance.

“What the hell am I doing?” I exclaimed. “I don’t even know you!” 

Fighting to breathe, I could sense the anxiety rising profusely. If I didn’t calm down I would fall into an all-out panic attack. Every inch of my body wanted to throw itself back into this man’s arms. Gritting my teeth against the tenacious desire and the returned familiar chill, I closed my eyes, scrabbling to regain control. When I opened them again, he was watching me with a troubled expression.

 “Who… who are you?” I managed to ask.

His expression went from troubled to one of pain. “You… you do not know me?”

I shook my head. “I’ve never seen you before in my life.” 

Anger was beginning to replace the fear and I planted my fists on my hips while glaring at him. “Just who do you think you are, catching a woman alone in the forest and thinking you can have your way with her? You’re just some sick freak, aren’t you?” 

My words shocked even myself. This was the old me talking, the me before I had gotten sick; the me that was bold and brave. I drew myself up and continued to glare at him defiantly.

He winced as if my words were physically hurting him and his eyes implored me to stop. “Leira…” He said softly.

Leira? “Argh!” I grabbed my head. “Argh! Why does it hurt?” 

My legs crumpled and I started to fall. The man lunged forward, catching me before I hit the ground. On the edge of consciousness, I gazed up into his beautiful face. Why did my heart ache so sweetly? I was sure I didn’t know this man. Wasn’t I? 

“Who…?” The question was cut short as my vision went black and my body limp.
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