Monthly Archives: October 2013

Security risk

She was happy that morning, overjoyed as she was holding the brown envelope with all their ship’s crew around, eagerly waiting for her to open it. Three years she had studied for this day. She carefully removed the strip and pulled out the paper. Then flipped it over and couldn’t believe her eyes – the diploma!

They all congratulated her and shoved her towards the boss’s office. “Show him it!” they said. “He’ll be pleased!”

At the same time another man entered the building. He was refined and earned several amused sights.

He entered the office before she could go, interrupting her intentions. After an hour she was called in there too and she took the envelope with her.

Her face stiffened the moment she saw how familiar they were talking to each other. There was something wrong here and by the looks of it, she was in the centre of it.

He started in fatherly tone. “Now, I know I promised you the post if you receive your diploma, but the post has to be refilled and I have waited 3 years already. You do understand, I can’t wait any longer.”

She paled considerable, scrambling the papers behind her.

“Now, I wanted to talk to you before I announce it to others, knowing how much you wanted the place.”

He continued for a while, apologizing for his decision and explaining her how she must now stay steady and not feel hurt and how great security risk it would be if she would blurt out something inconvenient if she’d decided to give in to her emotions. He explained her thoroughly that as she had the past of abusing drugs, she must now be careful not to give in to them again.

He was already dismissing her, when he noticed the papers she was holding.

“What are these?”

“Wha… oh, um, nothing. Some papers for Ciril.” She shook her head.

The man behind the boss didn’t consider them nothing, he knew they had brought smile to the faces of the entire office and how they bit good will to her. In that light, he thought it a bit cruel for the old man tell her not to get angry. If he thought right…

The old man ordered them both out and followed fast, gathering all the staff around them.

He didn’t dare to let her out of sight though, but after observing her for a moment, he knew she wouldn’t go into some mindless rampage – her eyes were too empty for that, she seemed cold all of a sudden.

He announced him taking the position of the master there. Captain Marches. He was immediately held back by the deafening silence that fell upon the staff and the new captain knew she had something to do with this.

“Dismissed!” the man ordered and he watched how they slowly, like after a heavy blow, starting moving back to their positions, sending the silent female behind him biting looks.

She immediately took her leave back to her desk and she shoved the papers in the empty trash can beside her table, trying to shrug off the betrayal.

Not a word, she told herself, not a single word – it wasn’t worth it.

“Kathy…”

She shot the young woman angry stare and shook her head, still not able to say another word. Then the buzzing orb arrived that took its place right behind her and her shoulders slump. She was under surveillance, too. Another shockwave ran through the people around her and she just rose quietly, walked straight to the elevator, waited for the orb to enter, too, pushed the button and disappeared.

He watched the whole thing from his post and though it was strict rule violation, he didn’t say a word. Instead he walked straight to her desk and picked up the papers from the pin, asking, why she had thrown them there if she said they were for Ciril.

The man called Ciril stood up, surprised and reached for them automatically.

“She must of…” he didn’t know how to explain it, especially as he already knew, what those papers were and he himself had encouraged her to go and show them to their boss.

He didn’t give him the papers, instead opened the envelope and dragged out the diploma and he heard the silence again.

“Damn.” He stared at the piece of paper with a silver branch.

He hadn’t considered that in his plans when he took up the post. He was here to protect her, instead he had just caused her lose what she was heading for in years. He was angry now, loathing himself for proposing sending the orb with her. He only thought about the security and as she at the moment was a considerable trust risk, she surely understood, he thought. Damned, had he been in her position, he wouldn’t have understood it either – to be cut off from her goals in mere minutes before receiving them and be stamped as a possible trust risk – he would gone in rampage himself!

What he needed to avoid, he had just doubled the risk of getting.

She better be a smart girl and worth the cause, he thought sourly.

“I wish to speak with her when she returns.” He said coldly, slipping the paper back inside and heading to his office, taking it with him. He was in no mood of discussing something so trivia with a grown up woman as not tossing her diplomas away, but he was knew at the same time that there was nothing to do with that diploma anymore. It was a special course, necessity on his work, but useless anywhere else.

She did return, but she didn’t go to speak with him. She was in mode of avoiding saying anything and her face didn’t gain color the whole day, making others stay away, too. The moment the clock struck the end of the shift, the whole place emptied in a single swooshing move. She didn’t’ stay behind either.

He watched her leave and scanned through her speech monitor, the orb. It was usually full by the end of the day, the recording device, and they had to replace them every 24 hours. Hers was empty. Besides a mild ‘thank you’ to the lunch lady she hadn’t spoken a word.

To get on the better side with his new employees, he decided to go around the premise and saw and old man behind the counter while cooking at the same time. He instinctively offered his help and was gladly taken up.

“My niece usually helps me while Mikos is sick,” he explained for the lack of hands in the establishment, while piling him up with the new punch of orders to cook, “but she does have a day job and she arrives later.”

He was struck cold the next moment when a stripe of gold ran pass him, realizing it was Kathy. She went straight through the kitchen, welcomed some of the guests and seek for his uncle asking if she could help with something and the old man said he was covered for the day.

“Oh? Did Sparath come?” she shot her eyes at the counter and froze. Not even an oh came from those lips anymore.

“You have an orb with you, dear – have you been naughty again?” he joked, prickling the thing with his finger.

“No, uncle, just something I said brought it’s attention.” He calmed the man. “If…um… if you’re covered, I’ll…” she showed the door and a moment later was through there.

“Hmm, she’s in trouble again, I can tell – I haven’t seen the orb on her for five years now! Not after her boss agreed to take her word and let her go through the rehab without it. I thought more of the man to keep his word!”

He damned himself triple this time and decided to redeem his position in her eyes somehow. In order to help her, he had to get close to the girl, but he seemed to be in best terms on pushing her away.

The next few days were like working in a morgue again. He didn’t get his workers to co-operate, earning more slanders in one week than usually.  Her voice detector was also empty, bearing nothing more than few polite comments or one longer explanation on some papers.

Then her birthday came. He was also invited as everybody in her crew were. He had learned they loved the girl and were shocked by his arrival, but thought she’ll turn to herself soon enough if they’d give her more work to dig in. That had saved her several times in the past, they said. They were friendly people though and after getting past the first shock, they welcomed him in the community as an old friend.

She arrived home at six that day. Sighing, switched the light on and got a SURPRISE from around her. She looked indeed surprised- there were almost 50 people there. Then her eyes fell on the captain and her smile vanished. She clomped for the door behind her, backed out fast and without another word, walked away.

She vanished the same evening. He couldn’t believe it at first, for a woman to vanish from a starship, but the orb returned to base that evening as they usually did, but the next one couldn’t track her down anymore. He checked the voice and there were four words only: “Where to, miss?”
“Anywhere.”

It took him less than an hour to track down all the possible vessels taking passengers and who might have taken her away. He went after her and after landing on the first stop point he saw her sitting there, in the cafeteria with hot coffee between her fingers, staring at the stars above them.

He didn’t approach at first, fearing she might run again, just observed her there. She looked calm now, too even, for a woman who had in less than a week lost anything she thought worth to fight for – her job, life and friends. And she just sat there, stared at the stars above and drank coffee.

He landed on the chair against her.

“Why are you here?” she asked coolly, without even looking at him. “You have them all – go back to them.”

“That’s nonsense! I could ask you the same question.”

“I’m having the only cup of coffee worth tasting.” She murmured and showed the girl behind the counter that she wished for more.

He arched a brow.

“I’m thinking, ok?” she offered another excuse.

“About…?”

“My life. How nicely it turned out… Six years of struggling and all blown to heaven.” She chuckled. “And I’m not even allowed to speak about it, because as once an addict – always an addict. And addicts can’t allow themselves to get talkative.”

“Yes.” He scolded himself for that honesty.

The girl filled her cup again and she motioned her to bring him one too.

“Well, you really are top of a nudge talker.” He suddenly smiled. “I’ve heard even monks say more than what you said in a week.”

She wasn’t amused. Instead, she finished her coffee in one long zip, took her gloves and rouse.

“Congratulations on your job, Captain Marches.” She said bluntly and walked out the door, where she suddenly shuddered, let out a sigh and fell. Another casualty in the damned war.

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Saint of the mountains

Carpathian mountains

Primoz had been on the road for days. He went through lifeless mountains and had no way of refilling his vivers. One midday, when the cold had past – it was almost autumn now – he found himself near small brutally destroyed village. He followed the small pathway to it and was appalled by the cruelty used – half of the houses were burned, the rest made inhabitable. Except for few, but it seemed unlikely to hide any survivors.

“What happened?” he asked himself, before hearing clutching sound of an ax hitting wood.

A woman rose from behind the bushes. She was young grown up with charmingly beautiful figure hidden by the dress that now licked her back in the wind. Her bleached hair was entwined into long braid that reached to her middle, why her grey eyes shined in the evening sun.

“What happened happened ten years ago.” She said, eyeing the intruder carelessly. Though he was a huge man, tall and not the best looking, she didn’t seem intimidated by the site at all and he didn’t know what to think of that. In ten years he’d been travelling, it was common to be chaised away as most took him for criminal of some sort.

“Good day, ma’m.” He gave her a little bow, before she motioned him closer. Women had the habit of running when he closed in, but she didn’t seem to know it. In fact, her eyes seemed warm, welcoming as if seeing someone she’d known her whole life.

“Day is late, my friend.” She put the ax down and started collecting lugs where they had landed. For a moment she stopped, thought and turned to gaze his muscled arms he didn’t bother to cover and reached one of the lugs to him, giving a silent request he’d help her.

He was here for good relations he thought and accepted it, allowing the woman place quite a pile of them on his right arm, before gathering some herself. His left arm was holding his gear and sword.

He couldn’t help but observe the burned buildings, wondering if it be polite to ask, what happened.

“War went through here.” She said, collecting her armful before he could ask. “They took our food, burnt our houses and then went, leaving us to die.” She didn’t sound emotional, rather cold even. “What was left of them didn’t last for long and most of the villagers left. My family couldn’t – mom couldn’t keep anything down and grew week. She died. Me and my sister, we buried her in the hole in the ground. People say – I rather die. But then, dying is not that simple, even if you search dead yourself. On her grave I made a promise – I’ll do anything not to end up in there. So far I’ve manage to keep it.”

She rose. “Come – let’s find you something to eat then.” Her voice was calm, half sleepy even.

He froze. Did he just hear her right?

She went, but sensed then he wasn’t following and turned. “That is, why you are here, isn’t it? To stack up? I’m afraid I have nothing to sell, but I can give you some fruits and bread to get to the next village.”

It took him a moment to evaluate her words, before he felt able to move again and followed her to one of the remaining houses. It was small, but cleaned up and it had glass windows.

“I just finished supper, so I don’t have much left, but the breads are coming out soon.”

So that was the smell he sensed in the woods! He knew there had to be a reason he felt sudden urge to come here.

“You can put the logs there.” She nodded towards the small stove as she entered. The wooden floor seemed firm enough for him to walk on it, though it looked old. The room was warm and dark, but he didn’t mind it – he never had problems seeing in the dark, being most of his life in dark. There wasn’t much furniture, but enough for few people.

“Sit, you are probably tired, it seems you’ve walked for long time.” She didn’t put more attention on him, but turned to attend the fire.

He watched her. He didn’t know what to make of her – it was so calm he thought he was dreaming. Not even his own sister welcomed him so willingly in her home after learning who he was – a human with wild soul, yet this young woman called her in without showing any signs of being afraid or intimidated by his looks or by his weapons, which he wore many and most openly. He was used to being attacked and mistrusted for this, but he was never wrong to expect it either. Or wouldn’t she be afraid of him misusing her? Why was she being so nice?

She filled two cup with basswood blossoms and violets, before adding hot water from huge tank above the stove and gave it to him sitting against him on the other side of the table.

He thanked her. “You live here on your own?” he asked, not asking what he really wanted to know – about why she had so much hot water?

“Yes. My sister married five years ago and has six children of her own now. They come to see me once a week, to make sure I’m alright.” Her calm face filled with joy when she said it and to Primoz this had to be the face of an angel. “When you go to the village, ask for Oana – she’ll help you with food. Her husband has a shop there.”

They sat in silence for a while, stearing at each other. The wind outside had risen and it sounded harsh, playing with the roof.

She rose her eyes and listened. “Well, it seems you have to rest here for the night, though.” She sighed and went for the stove.

“It will pass soon.” He marked, but felt little truth in it.

She gave him an amused gaze. “No, not in this part of the mountains – it usually lasts ‘til morning.”

The weather in mountains was capricious and unpredictable. He had seen days when the morning was so cold you nearly survived when the evening brought heat so burning you could drown in your own sweat. Or you started your journey in thick fog and ended with giving praises to wind gods for blowing the insidious fog from your bath seconds before you’d step over the cliff and get yourself killed in fall too deep to remember.

She interrupted his thoughts when removing the slab from the stove’s mouth. A warm aroma of freshly baked bread filled the room and his hungry stomach constinged immediately reminded him why he was here.

She took out four good smelling loafs and covered them with white linen cloth. Then she fixed the fire again and brought one of the loafs to the table. She broke off a slice and gave it to him but took none for herself.

He thanked her and sank his teeth in it while watching her return to the stove and preparing a basin. She first put on an old apron and brought a towel near her. Then she turned her sleeves up and mixed hot and cold water ‘til she was satisfied.

“Bojan will be back soon, he is never late for his meal.” She explained, when noticing his curious look.

“Who is Bojan?”

“My dog.” As for sign, he heard a low bark behind the door and she hurried to open it. “He always gets muddy in days like this – it’s easier to wash him right a way when he arrives or he’ll make a mess all over the house.”

In came a huge sheep-size black wolfhound. He immediately took interest in him –animals often sensed, who he was – and growled, but a sharp order from his mistress and he turned back to her with devious puppy face, tale fiercely wagging behind him. The monster was indeed dirty as he could see from the water turning light milky grey.

He observed her placing the dog inside the basin – suprised by her strength in doing so – and watched how Bojan enjoyed her every steady stroke and hug while she washed the dirt off his fur. The site made him yearn for her touch too, so much even he found himself drawn to her, yearning she washed his fur like that too.

Soon the dog was free and paced off on his little place near the fireplace while she discarded the water outside. He had a bowl with food there waiting.

She then fixed new water in the basin and came to offer him a towel. “Here, you can refresh yourself while I see if I can find you a blanket and pillows.” He simultaneously took the offer and headed for the bowl. “The stove is hot now, you see, but it will cool off soon. Then sleeping on the floor will be hard to bare.”

It was indeed hot here, he admitted, but he doubt the heat was caused by the burning logs. Instead he started to wonder if the reason wasn’t more with human form, like him?

But he had no wish to ruin this perfect time by forcing her into something she might not wish to do. She had welcomed him in her home and shared the little she had with no requests involved. In his eyes, hurting her would be sacrilege, because at the moment, she was near being a saint.

“Athala.” She said suddenly, placing the bedding before her bed, which was on the other side of the stove, where it was warmest in the room to sleep.

He rose his water dripping face to give her a puzzled look.

“My name, “ she explained, “it’s Athala.” She brushed her hand over the soft pillow to clean away some dust. “I thought as we do need to spend the night here together, I might as well know your name.” She shrugged.

He seldom used his real name. His father had said the names bared much power in them and trusting someone with it meant you really trusted someone. Because of that he used many fake ones, giving one after another, never revealing his true identity so no one could use it against him.

“Primoz.” He said quietly, before realizing he had said his own name.

“Primoz.” She repeated it for few times, trying to get the pronation right. Then she gave him a respectful nod and turned back at doing his bed.

Less than an hour later they were in their beds.

“Good night, Athala.” He said yawning, digging in.

“Good night, Primoz.” Her voice disappeared in the dark, but he heard every sound of it and it felt good. The wind outside grew louder, but he felt only warm in his heart.

First time in his life he slept well, waking rested, against the fact it was cold that woke him. She had been right, the stove had cooled off in the night and it chilled the floor so, making it almost impossible to sleep on.

He stretched himself long, before rising from the bed. He tried not to wake her, she didn’t. Her dog was now laying almost in full length next to her, showing him some teeth. Warming her, he thought.

He started a small fire under the stove and watched her arouse from her bed sheets. She smiled at him calmly and put her long grey dress over her just as grey under dress. She sent the dog out and left with him, only to return with apples, some cheese and dried meat.

They ate in silence and she packed him some of it in a scarf. Before he went, she showed him, which turns to take to get to the village and gave her the meal, saying it will be dark before he gets there.

He accepted the food and thanked her. She gave him a lovely smile and kissed him on his cheek for good luck.

As she had promised, her got to the next village just as the sun was settling behind the high mountains he had left behind only few hours before. He asked children about the woman called Oana and they showed him the way to a huge house not far from the town center.

They were closed, but a woman of spitting image opened the door. She was carrying a child and two came right after her. Her belly was bigger too.

“I came here from the mountain village.” He started when realizing he was staring at her. “I was sent here by your sister, Athala.”

She froze and colours left her cheek.”Athala?”

He didn’t understand and repeated what he had just said.

“Yes, I had an older sister, Athala, but she died two years ago in cold.” She watched the man take a step back, before catching his hand and leading him in. “But anyone she sends is welcome.” She gave her a big smile and took him to the kitchen, where young servant girl made fast leaving, recognizing the assassin.

She pore him some ale and took a seat against him on the chair.

“But I spoke to her just now.” He started, in shock. “She gave me shelter for the storm.”

“She still keeps her promise then,” she smiled warmly, “and it was indeed stormy night yesterday.”

He didn’t understand.

“Some children say they’ve seen a young lady up in the mountains near the old village. That she called them in before the storm racked over. I thought they were merely joking. I’ve never seen anyone with full mind say that before.”

His hand moved up where she had kissed him on his cheek. The woman he saw was dead?

“…keep going as far as you can see and you’ll eventually find the one you are seeking. Good luck.” Were her last words to him.

“Come – let’s find you something to eat. With this cold, you aren’t going anywhere. Tomorrow, my husband will help you restock your bags.” Oana’s cheerful voice flew over the kitchen when she disappeared in the conservatory.

He didn’t move. The woman he’d seen was dead! Beautiful saint of the mountains he had promised himself to visit again was but a ghost in the wind.

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Photodermatitis part 3

“Hey – your eyes!”

“Mm? What about them?” she instantly looked back in the bowl, where she mixed the flour.

“They were green yesterday, now they’re blue…”

She had to be stupid to think he wouldn’t notice in this shady place. Forget the obvious was her weakness – he had to be used to seeing things in dark.

“I wear contact lenses.” She dismissed him fast. “I have poor eyesight.”

“And that’s why you wear those pointless pieces of plastic that have no optical need?”

“Huh?”

“People don’t usually wear colored lenses because they just have poor eyesite.” He sounded pleased from catching her from such simple lie.

She didn’t comment, wrinkled her nose instead and pressed her lips together, forming a straight line.

He smirked – that was interesting to see her rattle up on something so trivia.

“Ok, what’s the story with the contacts?” he folded his arms and leaned back on the chair, waiting.

She stopped stirring the dough and let out a slow sigh.

“You’re not the only weirdo around, alright?” That didn’t gratify his appetite, only made him grin wider. “I have freaky eye color. People tend to call me names when they happen to look in my eyes, they want it or not, so I don’t…”

“What’s so freaky about having odd eye color?” he didn’t get her problem. He thought it was fascinating to have different eye color, but she didn’t seem to agree.

“They are…” she searched around until she found a glass and filled it with water, placing them on the table in front of him.

“See the color of the water?” she asked. He stared at the glass, then her eyes, then back on the glass.

“Yes.”

“That’s my eye color.” She said bluntly.

“Water grey eyes?”

“Not exactly. Look through the glass. Water has no color, see? It takes up the color of the glass.” She waited for him to say something, but as he did nothing more than stare her blank, she turned and searched out the eggs, smashing one after another in the bowl.

“You’re telling me you are an albino?”

“No,” she corrected, “I just have so light irises, people think I must be one.” She smashed the last one in the bowl and started stirring again. “Actually, the usual references are a zombie, evil eye and – oh, and I love that! – demonic possession!”

“What?”

“Oh yes! Happened to forget lenses one time I went to the church and some true believer picked me up for being possessed. She even convinced the priest to have exorcism and I gotta tell ya, this was no amusement park for an eight year old! Sure cured me from religious decease.”

He stared at her open eyed.

“You don’t believe in God?” he asked, shocked.

She frowned. All that babbling about her eye color and that was all he took out of the conversation? She didn’t answer him, but turned to search out the pancake pan instead. Her religious beliefs were her own problem, she thought, she didn’t have to explain them, especially now when she wasn’t in good terms with them. She still believed in God, only she had no trust on the system praising him.

“I have priest come here on every other Sunday to give me communion – I hope it won’t be against your belief.” He explained.

She stopped her fussing and sighed, looking at him. “I believe in God. I just… I don’t get involved with congregations anymore.”

“You’re not very religious then?” he continued prickling the subject, before she snapped.

“I don’t know, what world you live in, but those same people, who live only few blocks away from here, belayed me to my bed, yelled at me, spat on me, whipped me and all that in the name of freeing my spirit! I will not take communion from a priest, who sent me to hospital with broken hand and then said he did the right thing! I was tortured by this flock of sheep they call themselves mild mannered Christians! Just because I have white eyes! God has no place in this parish and if you try to turn my faith back on track as they did, I swear that is the last day the church will stand on its ground, ’cause I’ll burn it down!”

Her voice had grown into a roar of pain and she suddenly gasped, tears flowing from her eyes. Promising to burn the church down before a man, who just talked to you about a communion was bad.

She sagged on the chair against him, avoiding looking him in the eyes.

“Brother Thomas is a good man from Lawsonville, who has been employed by my overprotective mother to take care of my soul and has been my friend more than five years. He was eager to meet my new ‘chaperon’, but if you don’t feel comfortable near religious man, you may have a day off on Sunday.”

“I’m sorry.” She whispered quietly.

“You are forgiven and to get you started – you don’t have this Sunday off as I wish you to meet him.” He nodded. “Now, I may be an idiot in making pancakes, but as far as I know, pans don’t have brains of their own, yet that pan is giving me smoke signals.” He changed the subject and laughed as he watched her wake from her misery, let out a yelping scream and turning back to pancakes.

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Photodermatitis part 2

The problems started already on the next day, when he walked bye from the hall in the centre of her part of the house and he thought he saw something yellow lashing across the floor. The illusion was so appalling, he almost crooked over wishing to see it again.

“What is going on here?!” he bellowed, breath stuck in his throat, seeing another sunbeam flying across the floor.

She yelped from her spot on the top of two chairs and had to pull out several very risky stunts to keep her balance. After gaining it, she thought better to clime down as judging by his face, he was just starting with yelling.

He jumped around the rays as if he was dealing with lasers and pulled the curtains closed again, leaving them both in the dim light. She observed his hand that he had forgotten exposed between the slides, jaw dropping – it was covered with deep scars and the tone was almost ivory, shining through.

“I’m cleaning.” She stated the obvious, gathering all her power not to look at his hand. He hissed at the same moment she managed to get her eyes away from the horrid site and he jolted it as if he just touched a fiery iron.

“I can see that! Why are you doing it?”

“Because it’s my duty list and…”

“I did not…” He was taken back.

“Yes you did. Last night. You had me repeat your every order and you nodded vigorously.” She sighed, turning her attention back on the curtains. “Seeing the place, I’d say the last cleaning lady left hundred years ago…”

“Curtains are not to be removed during the day – I assumed my mother already explained you, why!”

“You get blisters from Sunlight.” She repeated her words. “But if you’re not even in the room, you won’t get any sunburn!”

“I’m very sensitive to light!”

“Ludicrous!” she grunted and stooped up on the back of the massive sofa to pull down the thick dusty curtain to shove them into the washing machine.

“You touch that and you’ll be the first one I come haunting!” he shout out with real fear filling his voice.

She stopped cold, then stepped down, feeling she’d fall the moment she burst laughing. That was the most idiotic reason not have a clean house she had ever heard.

He glared her rolling over laughing, before nailing her between him and the couch.

“I said I don’t want anyone touching the curtains! What part from my order did you not understand?”

Her good mood vanished and after filling herself up with the anger, she shoved him off with a heavy punch to his stomach that sent him crouching on the floor.

“I will wash them and that’s that! You may enjoy living in the house that makes you sneeze fifty times a minute, but it’s unhealthy! And you won’t die from mere minutes in sunlight – you’ll get few blisters and that’s all. Tough! I know! But life is touch! Get used to it! Besides, you said I can do what I need with this side of the house and I’m not gonna spend my time fighting with mites.” as she said it she climbed back on top of the couch again and freed the first snatch from the rod, wondering, what color those might have been.

The light that penetrated the dusty glass made him take rapid steps back to the door. He stared in shock how she removed one fabric after another sneezing like crazy.

“They look like… They look as if they haven’t been washed since they were put up here. Tell me, did you buy the house with the furniture and the curtains?”

“I only wanted some peace and no fuss with decorating!”

“Oh you did manage that!” she mumbled, letting out another loud sneeze. “Oh!” she struck him cold, when he had jumped away from another spot of light. “In the light of the recent fact – I’m planning the same tour with your side of the house!”

“You will not!” he roared, but his anger was short as he pulled another inch further back.

“Oh yes I am!” she stood in the straight sunlight, hands akimbo. “You don’t buy a house that was last cleaned the last century, move in and start living there!”

It took him half a minute to understand her anger – he was stunned how she shined there, standing on the backside of the couch, angry as a devil and glimmering like an angel.

“Why not?”

“You really wish to play that vampire thing?” she asked suddenly and earned a deep scowl. The angel turned back into tiny pest he had thought her to be the first time he laid his eyes on the little woman. She took it as agreeing to her point. “Then don’t ask, why! Besides,” her voice picked up bell like glimmer, “if you allow me this – I have a surprise for you.”

“I hate surprises!”

He hid himself in his room for the whole day, pretending to be reading, imagining how he will march up to her and tell her she was no longer welcome in the house. He was thoroughly agitated by every noise that came from the house – the batting steps, the noise of the washing machine… He would gladly walked over her room, scrambled her clothing back together and thrown her out on the street, but he was stuck in his room with no passage to out.

When all finally quieted, he didn’t go out. He feared the daft girl had removed all the covers, so he decided it was best to wait for the sunset before going exploring and then tell her she was fired.

The first thing he noticed was indeed what he had expected – all the curtains were pulled back. And it smelled different, fresh. He automatically reached his hand to pull the curtains closed, but stopped a second before the deed. His eyes landed on the centre of his garden and on Kristin, sitting there, head back and observing stars with hot drink warming her hands. The Moon was high now, fully glowing and bathed her in smoothing blue shine.

“It’s quiet.” She said, when hearing him walk behind her. “And beautiful.”

“Yes.”

“Do you come out often?” her voice was dreamy and he figured she had thought about it a lot.

“No.”

“I opened the windows.” She continued, calmly zipping her hot drink and sighed, pushing her head way back so she could see his face. “I’m sorry I did this.” She apologized fast. “I know I must look like some lunatic, but…” she had to pull her head up again. “Well, I’ve been afraid of this house for so long and… I don’t know, I just had to do something to like, gain control over it I guess…”

He watched her tiny neck shudder for a moment and smiled in recognition. When he first came here, he had felt the same thing. Only his way of dealing with it was scowling at it for a long time, like scaring the building before entering.

And it did need cleaning, he found himself thinking, remembering the flowery smells from home, where he remembered his nanny constantly cleaning something. He felt like smacking himself – he was now making up excuses not to send her away! What was wrong with him? And what was wrong with her? She talked with him as if they’d known each other in years while one of the girls never got over formalities.

He sat on the chair next to her, wondering when the last time he had stepped outside was. It had been too long for sure – he remembered daffodils blooming. Now it was near the end of the dandelions.

“You said something about surprise…” he murmured half loud, laying back and staring at the sky, eyes wide.

“Surprise!” she giggled and offered him her cup, filling it from the thermos. It had hot chocolate in it. He let out a loud sigh, seeing the drink. “I found the closed package on the shelf.” She explained. “Judging by the thickness of the dust and a handwritten February on the cover, you haven’t made it for long time.”

“No I haven’t.” he purred, eagerly gaping it in. “Brother Thomas brought it to me, he said it will cheer me up on a damp day.

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Photodermatitis part 1

She stopped before the old mansion next to the old cemetery. She remembered it from her childhood, before moving away ten years ago. It was still as ugly and untended as she remembered, only with little difference – she was older now and didn’t run home crying when a shadow happened to pass the window. She had seen quite some for her tender age and that had only toughened her for jobs like this.

Only, this wasn’t the job she went after when phoning to the family searching for a companion for a sick child. She had studied nursing in school for a year thinking it might be helpful in future, so she didn’t bolt from the add, when searching for work. Anything will do, she reminded herself often, anything that keeps the bills paid and her away from turning back to her aunt Sandra, who effortlessly filled in the evil stepmother role. The four children soon discovered after their parents death how ‘having a relative to take care of them’ can prove worse than entering the foster family system.

Still, youngest from all the four, she had survived living with the woman for all six years and now, finally on her own, she wasn’t eager to look back in the past and analyze it, keeping her eyes only forwards, strictly on future. Loosing her job as pharmacy aid wasn’t helping, but her boss had no other choice and she knew it too well to blame him.

It had taken her a week to find the new job and though she had called in several advertisements, this one was the only one that didn’t ask for specific diploma and they sounded happy to arrange a meeting, especially after hearing she lived in the other end of the state. It had seemed odd even then, but now, comparing the card in her hand and the house number, she understood, why they had been so eager.

“Never irritate the master of the house.” The woman, who hired her, had told her. “He searches excuses to get rid of the chaperons we hire and you wouldn’t be the first that doesn’t work there more than an hour.”

Well, one thing was sure – he couldn’t dismiss her before morning even if he wished – the next bus back home went seven in the morning. It took twelve hours in a hot, damp bus to get here. Unless he was some miserable young brat, who thanks to avoiding human contact had grown to be a vile excuse of mankind and sent her off to find a hotel in this god forsaken town. She knew there were none here – there wasn’t in the past and it was unlikely they had built some in her apsence.

It was a trick knot not many knew about, even she herself had learned about it by accident when seeing the old gardener leave one evening. It was there to keep away strangers she thought, but found the idea utterly amusing, considering the glass panels right next to the main door and huge glass windows – they were like open invitation to any robber willing to look past the ugly rumours.

If she could only get the knob in the right angle… “There!” she let out a glad sigh and entered.

She took a deep breath, preparing herself to move that old gate she had so despised as a child. The thought of someone actually buying the place with other intentions than just pulling it to the ground racked her nerves pretty good and she felt chilled, realizing the new owner had heard the front gate and was already standing behind the thin curtains of the French doors that surrounded the main door, still figure staring at her fingers working on the knot.

“This is child’s game!” she reassured herself when she took the last sixty steps left to the balcony. “Yup, nothing more than a…” she rose her eyes and viewed the dark brown exterior, “horrid little game…” she sighed, turning her light eyes back on the curtains, behind which the man was already waiting her to scoop up her stamina and climb up.

She unwind her wrist, before rising the hand to knock. It seemed ridiculous as he was watching him right there, but as he seemed to have no intentions of fastening the process, she knocked two times and waited, staring him back.

He didn’t want to move and she was starting to think this was too weird and perhaps it was better to turn back, find some old dweller willing to take her in for the night, travel back home, to her little apartment and find a job as a clerk in the market or something.

Then she noticed her shadow and immediately agnized her mistake. The woman had said he can’t come in contact with direct sunlight, yet she was standing right in the middle of it, feeling the warmth of the hot summer sun on her half exposed back. Weather forecast had promised hot day and she had dressed accordingly – light jeans and vest top with simple blue flowers embroidered on the back.

Well, there was nowhere to go from the balcony either and as she figured, she was going to stand here for the next hour before the Sun set or any of the clouds reached to cover it up. Either way she had no other alternative than to wait and stare back at the man hiding behind the curtains.

He wasn’t much taller from her when she was wearing high heals. She couldn’t make out much else as the curtains disfigured him a lot.

Five minutes passed and he didn’t move. She didn’t either, only slammed her traveling bag on the floor.

There was a back door she knew would be hidden in shadow if the Sun was bathing the front, but his arrogance about opening the door, which as far as she was aware opened inwards, thus giving him a good hide, made her stand her ground and not move.

After another five minutes she started wondering if the figure behind the curtains was even alive – it would be awfully painful to keep that posture for more than few minutes, she thought, but then his weight lifted from one leg to another, like answering yes, he was alive. But the door staid closed.

She was starting to feel hot soon enough, the lack of anything that would lessen the heat was making her lightheaded and now, quarter an hour later, she was ready to leave, thinking the paycheck they promised wasn’t even close to what they should pay for putting up with someone, who was obviously enjoying testing others.

She let out disgruntled sight, dig out her red phone and the card she had got from the employer and dialed the number, turning her back to the door and the figure in the window.  She had had enough of this game and decided to call ends to it.

“Hey,” she span the carton between her fingers, “Kristin here.” She paused, not really knowing how to out this. “Yes, I just arrived…” she drawled, “um… I was wondering if I got the address right, could you repeat it for me, please.”  She read the card while listening intently the voice on the other end of the phone. “Uh-uh, the big brown ugly house on the edge of the cemetery,” she repeated vaguely, turning to judge the building behind her, “no-no – I think I see it.” She confirmed disappointedly. “I walked past it, but I see it. Thanks!” she closed the lid and stared at the closed door.

“What an ass.” She marked then, dug in her bag, searched out a notebook and a pen and scribbled simply Hi! I’m off to find something to drink. I’ll come back later when the Sun has set.  Best, Kristin Havel And dug it in the letter box lid in the door.  Then she pushed her bag in the shadow of the balcony guard rail, searched out her wallet and walked back from where she came from.

She knew he had taken the letter and was probably reading it as she was taking off, but she didn’t really give a damn anymore – the headache was getting stronger now and she wanted something cool enough to dig in before fainting. The shop ought to be still open, she figured, confirming it on her watch which showed forty minutes past five. It was only ten minute walk from the house and she knew if she hurried, she’ll make it in time before the owner closed.

The little shop had only changed its color from inside since she last was here. The owner was the same old grumpy man she used to call Mister. She had been scared of him, his huge belly, his peering eyes and mouth that let out any gossip the little town could bosses. Now that she thought of it, she’d been scared of almost anything that was taller, higher or bigger.

Thankfully the man didn’t recognize her, she had changed a lot since she left, changing anything from eye color to her hair. She had hoped to keep away from the town as long as she could, hoping the man had someone else to do the shopping or have the goods delivered right to his doorstep.

“Are you new here or just passing through, miss?” the old man drawled with his slow local accent when she placed the cola bottle on the counter.

“I haven’t decided yet.” She tried to keep her eyes sparkling and smile shining, hoping he’ll dismiss her as a mindless traveler.

She finished him off with wishing good evening and rushing back on the mansion. The clouds had covered the Sun up and so she hoped she’ll get to see the inside before the evening chills arrived. He wasn’t staring at the window anymore and she took a seat on the stairs, before noticing her bag had vanished from the hidden corner.

She drank half the bottle empty, staring at the corner, then sighed deep and strolled back to the door, knocking again.

This time the door opened and without even a welcome an almost milky hand reached out, took the cola and raised it up to his lips. He finished the bottle, glaring at her, before stepping aside and letting her in.

“Hi! Kristin Havel, nice to meet you.” He reached out his hand to shake hers and contrast to his look, his hand was warm. Inside, hidden from distracting bright light, it also seemed as if he did have slight sunburn, but only enough to keep the veins from shining through. He wasn’t a bloke from a block, but wore dark office pants and fitting wine colored blouse. His dark hair was cut short to frame his not very friendly grey eyes and firm jaw line.

“Ruslan Dobrev – I guess my mother has already done the honors,” he said with malice, letting her finish her observations.

“Well, she only said you weren’t a toddler anymore.” She gave him a cute smile, but only managed to wheedle a tiny hint of a smile from him.

“Come, Kristin” he continued, “I gather you are hungry after long day – I prepared the dinner for us.” He showed her in. “As you probably noticed – I don’t go outside with Sun at all, I apologize for the inconvenience.”

“Well, I should have chosen the rainy day to arrive, but I gathered they don’t have many here.” Her voice didn’t hide the temper that little outside show had raised in her.

He smiled openly now. “No, they don’t.”

The dinner conversation went slowly as neither of them had much to start with nor much will to continue. He explained the endless details on what was allowed and what was not, what he didn’t like, who worked there besides her and how little he acknowledged his parent’s tries on getting him more sociable.

“Say, how you knew about the knob?” he started after another long pause he had used to bring them a bottle of red wine and had taken his seat in the shadow. He seemed to enjoy staying hidden, so only the lower half of his face was viewable.

She shrugged. “I lived near here when I was a child. The gardener showed me.”

“I don’t think so – he said he never showed it to anyone to keep the children away.”

She laughed. “The old man is still alive then?”

“Yes.”

“He was a nice man – little daft, but nice.”

He agreed. The man was eager to keep the secrets the garden and the house obsessed, but he spent less and less time noticing anything else going on around him, which made him an open book for any man passing by.

“Repeat my commands.” He said suddenly, grabbing his drink.

“You never repeat yourself. You never contact anyone outside your employees or your parents. I must cook, clean and spend time with you. I must be available all times. You never go out in the sun.” She continued listing the facts. “Why don’t you stand out from the shadows?”

“So…” he drawled, “who am I?” he had heard everything and not one of them amused him more than being called the prince of darkness.

That stung. She knew what he expected from her and felt desire to irritate him with answering exactly what he wished to hear – it wasn’t her problem to cure the man from his prejudgments.

“A vampire?” She let the word out. It tasted vile even to say it out loud.

“Now… wouldn’t that be romantic.” He carp at her.

“No.” she snapped. His grin vanished. “I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but I have no interest in becoming somebody’s evening snack or have a predator with sharp teeth hang that near to my Jugular vein. Romantic or not, such men should stay dead.”

He swallowed his wine and coughed. So much of playing the vulture with the girl to scare her off – it had worked with the two previous companions his parents had put him up with and he hoped they’ll eventually stop hiring ‘friends’ for him. It was embarrassing and even more was that they had developed some sort of fantasies about him being a vampire and them damsels, who could give him back his soul. He didn’t know, where they got it, but that was the last time he asked his mother send him someone immature and foolish.

“You don’t like getting ravished by a vampire?”

She gave him a pathetic stare. “You’re not one, so how can you even come up with the offer?”

“It wasn’t an offer.” He passed the not being one part and moved straight to where he could have an argument with her.

She did not know how to react on that statement. What did he mean by that? That he’ll rape her? Or that he hadn’t meant a word he said? She disliked such double meaning sentences and decided to wait until he adds something more meaningful to it. He didn’t, but seemed to understand the light it gave to the conversation and he rose fast, moving in the back of the house, gulping in the wine.

The way he emptied the glass and pour himself another gave her an early warning to do something about that or be indeed in danger of loosing one’s virginity to a man who hardly gave himself sense on what he did.

She rose and went after him, determined to make him loose this habit of his. Even if not a rapist, she still didn’t wish to spend the rest of the night and all the following with a guy, who either slept through the conversations, got too talkative, got too depressed or too cocky. Any of those seemed a beginning of disaster.

She entered the kitchen just to see him empty a palm full of medicaments in his throat and reaching after the wine to rinse them down, but she smack his hand away, frowning in disbelief. He reached after the glass once more and she placed it further away, filling another glass with water and giving him that one instead. Hadn’t he had his mouth full of pills that started to melt and tasted vile, he surely would have said something nasty to her, but instead grabbed the goblet with water and drank it harsh to get the awful taste off his tongue.

“I’ll banish all the alcohol from the house if I see you do that again.” She said harshly, turned around and walked back in the living room.

He stared her with wide eyes. That was first! She had just changed the endless chain of those little follow-up girls, who had never understood, that being hired as a companion didn’t mean sucking up, but standing up! He liked that.

“Chaperon’s quarters are on the south side of the house.” He jumped on the next thing. “I took your bags there. As the house is mostly the only area I move around, never forget to close the curtains.”

“Yes, captain!” she saluted him suddenly, giggling like hell.

He frowned. “What’s wrong with you?” he was confused.

“I’m drunk.” She admitted. “I usually don’t drink after receiving sunstroke – it goes straight to my head.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” He nodded, trying to scowl at her, but couldn’t.

She looked so strange, different from the youngsters he had put up with so far. Her eyes were laughing, like she’d seen something funny, though her smile was sad and utterly tired. She was dressed well though, better than he expected from a simple girl, yet the sassy hair and the girlish string she had gathered her hair back gave a hint of one very childish joys.

He watched her eyes close as if they had will of their own and just stared at her sleeping there, on the other side of the table, stretched out on the cushions on the chair. His first impression had been of an office worker, who had come to gather offerings for the poor. That was enough to play the stupid game of who’d give up first. Then he heard her phone call to his mother, realized too late of why she was standing behind his door even fifteen minutes later, but then she let out that little remark that fired him up and than the little note through the mailbox. Drugging her meal had been his little revenge that now gave him time to explore her whole body for signs of what sort of person she was. He never skipped that part of getting to know them – the body didn’t lie, the brain did.

For some reason he felt nervous. It was easy with girls. She on the other hand was no girl nor did she smell like one – wine mixed with tropical flowers made his head swim just as hers must have before she passed out. Her upper part had no secrets – the blouse was more than revealing, the fabric hardly covered up the tiny bra underneath.

No, she had nothing to hide, he decided, nothing she would have memorized on her body and for once he was glad.

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