I wrote this story not too long ago. I’m still trying to squeeze in a couple of winter-based sub-stories derived from my WIP. Mainly for giveaway/content building purposes. That is to say I don’t really plan on including too many of these in the main story. But you never know. I will definitely include some.
I’m still at a crossroads on whether or not I will self-publish. I will have a finished product by August through my MFA program. The further I go in this series I am writing though the more conflicted I feel. I have heard horror stories of authors with a written series of novels who are accepted for publication before learning that their series is being dropped after the debut novel. *Shudders
If any of you have ever been in this position and have advice, I’d love to hear your experiences. Feel free to drop a comment or message.
Same goes for commissions. I’m very willing to open my rusty little coin purse if it means I could get some art for the site. So any recommendations would be awesome.
Now then. Onto writing…
My novels are focused on triplets separated at birth. Duke, Trinity, and Leo. Each with special abilities in a world which doesn’t appreciate them or know how to handle them.
I introduced a short love story with Duke found here at: https://danielgatlin.com/2019/12/16/roses-are-red-and-blood-is-too/ .
This is a slightly different story with Leo.
Almond leaned against a dusty wooden chair on her neighbor’s porch. Today, in her opinion, was the warmest day of winter yet. The snow was beginning to melt on the grass. She pushed her hair away from her face and stepped out from the protection of the porch roof, letting the sun warm her cheeks. Why did it have to be such a nice day?
She looked to the skies. There were two massive falcons soaring overhead; both were coming in for a landing at the town’s post office. Their riders–who sat fastened on leather saddles that were strapped onto the backs of the swift birds–must’ve returned with their mail pouches empty, Almond believed. She knew her own shift at the post office would be starting soon.
She stepped back up to the porch and poked her head into the front door of her neighbor’s home.
“Almost ready yet?” she called.
“Almost,” came the voice of her boyfriend Leo, who was still upstairs. “Give me a few more minutes.”
“I’ve given you thirty.”
“You’re the one who told me to wash my hair first.”
Almond looked down at the door handle she was holding onto. A long pink ribbon was tied around the knob. She touched the soft lace with her fingertips. “Alright then,” she said. “I’ll wait for you.”
She hated how attached she’d become to Leo’s pink ribbon. He started using the tattered piece of old fabric to tie his hair back after the death of his older sister a few years back. His idea, Almond recalled. She untied the ribbon from the door and sat on the green bed sheet she’d lain across the chair.
When his sister had first passed, Leo’s hair had grown just past his broad shoulders. But now, as Almond and him neared their sixteenth year, Leo’s mess of locks dangled near the middle of his back like a thick web of dancing yellow spiders.
Almond’s own hair was a different story. Her natural shade of blue had already begun to show its first signs of gray. Her mother and sister would always make little comments whenever they’d catch her twirling her gray strands nervously.
“Maybe it’s lack of sleep,” her mother said one morning while dashing around the breakfast table getting ready for work. “Mine started going gray at twenty. Right when I got the postmaster job.”
“Whose fault is that? I had to make a stupid delivery all the way to Reiwania last night,” Almond remarked, sounding more bitter than she’d meant to. “Damn island.”
She had just finished a twelve-hour, overnight shift for her mother’s post office. Almond had taken on the night deliveries shortly after her father had died. The newest set of carrier falcons were still chicks, and the day crew of postmen were still too scared to try flying on Coco—the mega bat her mother had purchased from the Siegnes region. Almond was the only one who the bat wouldn’t screech at or try to bite when she’d place a rider’s saddle around his neck. Thus, Coco’s late-night route had become her own.
As Almond sat there looking at the fresh hurt in her mother’s eyes, she regretted not dressing warmer during her shift the previous evening. She wiped the crust from her eyes and blew her swollen nose into her breakfast napkin. She considered saying sorry, but her throat was hurting her. Probably still thawing out, she thought.
Her mother made a quick comment about being late for work, and then grabbed her coffee and left Almond and her younger sister Hazel alone to finish their breakfast. A stack of sticky dishes at the center of the table was the only reminder Almond had to prove that her mother, the underpaid postmaster, had been there with them for longer than ten minutes.
“Nice one,” Hazel said, as she peered at Almond over a half-eaten bowl of porridge. “Why do you always have to ruin everyone’s day?”
“Because she’s ruined too many of mine. Now shut up and go to school.”
Hazel rolled her eyes. “Gladly.” She got up and started to sashay towards the front door. “I’ll just leave the dishes for you!” she called back. “Maybe that dumb boyfriend of yours could give you a hand. He never gets so cranky when he has to deliver the mail.”
Almond hurled a fork at her, but Hazel shielded herself with her book bag. She added a final “Missed” before yanking the door open and slamming it shut behind her as if she were worried about being caught and pounded. Almond however gave no chase.
She envied the little brat. It had been nearly a year since she had chosen to quit going to school so she could help her mother full time. What’s more, Hazel’s hair still shone a vibrant royal. A color Almond hadn’t seen on herself in some time.
Before going to bed that morning, Almond placed the dirty dishes onto her sister’s bed. She then spent the next couple of hours tossing around in her sleep. Her guilt eventually won out over her grogginess. She picked up the mess of dishes she had placed in retaliation, and surrendered the next half hour of her life to washing them. She may have nodded off once or twice over the sink.
Thinking back as she played with the pink ribbon in her hands, waiting for Leo to come out to the porch, she knew he would’ve come and helped her wash the dishes that morning. It was just the type of guy Leo was. His handsome smile never seemed to leave his face. No task, job, or meaningless chore ever got him down. Or so he liked to make people believe.
Almond however had seen his other side before. Usually when they ended their dates atop the town’s clock tower. This was her favorite place in all of Kendoro. It was the one area in town where she needed Leo to scoop her up into his strong arms, and leap using that incredible, superhuman strength of his. Here, Leo would sometimes confess whatever he had been thinking about. Almond could pick up early on in their relationship that most of his smiles were a lie. She was sure he still blamed himself for his sister’s death.
She never caught him crying though. But there was always a sadness in his warm teal eyes. It was a look he reserved for their seldom, late-night dates.
“My sister hated this tower,” he would sometimes say. Almond never knew what to say back.
I wish I had said something. She fidgeted with the pair of clippers she’d borrowed from her mother. She could hear his heavy stomps coming down the stairs inside. They weren’t intentional. It was the only way someone as powerful but equally considerate as him could walk, she believed. She wondered how the staircase in his home had managed to survive all these years.
“It took some doing,” he said with a grin seconds later, running his fingers through his long, now smooth helm of hair, “but I think I finally got it clean enough for a cut. You ready?”
Almond nodded. It was all she could do to keep from breaking down right there on the spot. She stood up from the chair and had Leo sit. She wrapped him in the bed sheet that she’d found in his Uncle’s home, and then matted his hair down with her fingers as she attempted to sort out her thoughts. She had difficulty knowing where to start. Watery eyes didn’t help.
“Just don’t cut off my ears,” he joked.
Those stupid jokes. She hated them almost as much as she hated the stupid pink ribbon she’d wrapped around her wrist. His sister’s ribbon. Why did she have to die? He’d never been the same since her death. Almond hated herself for feeling so selfish then.
Before his sister’s death, Almond and Leo had been inseparable. Together nothing could stop them. Maybe he would’ve asked for marriage someday. Instead, he had to go off and move on with his life. Find a new sister no less. Some twin he claimed to know nothing about until a month ago. All this new girl was to Almond was some distant relative of Leo’s in a distant kingdom on a distant shore. Distance. That was all they were going to have now. Maybe her own sister was right about him. How could he be so stupid?
“Finished,” she managed to say.
“Hey, great job,” he said, examining his new short-cut in the hand mirror she’d left for him. “I knew I was in good hands.”
He stood up and turned to her, but she turned her back to him. She wasn’t going to let him see her cry. She gripped onto his ribbon with white knuckles.
“I guess I don’t need to tie my hair back anymore.”
He placed his hand on her shoulder and helped her twist to face him. Tears raced down her cheeks. She didn’t want to look at those warm teal eyes. They weren’t her warm teal eyes anymore. Still, she consented a peek. His own face was fresh with tears now.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m going to miss you,” he said. “I’ve been dreading this moment for days.”
She’d known this moment was coming for years. She couldn’t stop herself any longer. Almond punched Leo on his rock-hard chest, knowing from experience that her hand would feel more pain than his chest would. She embraced him. Cried onto his shirt until it was soggy. He in turn did the same on the top of her head, though not nearly as long as she would’ve liked.
“Promise you’ll visit me. Hydlix really isn’t so far away. Your bat could get you there in a half a day.”
“Sure. Of course,” she lied, knowing she’d never have the time.
Leo had been there in her life when she needed him the most. My closest hero. But now, this brave, powerful, stupid, amazing guy she’d spent so many years with was going away. To be someone else’s hero. As for her, she would always be the daughter of the stressed-out postmaster. The sister of the girl who had no idea what she’d sacrificed to keep their family going. And the rider of the megabat: a tiring, thankless job that no one else would do.
“I think you should keep her ribbon,” he told her. He took the ribbon from Almond’s hands without any resistance and he came around and tied it around her long, hair.
“There. Something to remember me by.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and went back inside.
“Thanks,” she choked out before he closed the door.
She hated how much she loved that stupid pink ribbon.