Friday Snippet #32

Not even 9:00 in the morning and I’m already done with my weekly appointment with X. I redeemed Boarderlands’ codes for my husband—someone has to do it. Called the vet because Nero can only drink warm water, otherwise he throws up.  I even went around the house and did some chores. It feels rather satisfying.

More or less, the view from my desk this morning:

The View Banner

From X:

Without moving a single muscle, she looked up. A kid was looking down at her. Big, blank eyes staring at hers. The boy didn’t express any emotion in seeing her. His face was a mask sharing nothing with the rest of the world. The absence of any recognizable reaction scared Allegra more than anything else. The moment stretched until it was impossible for her to maintain the lock on his gaze. She blinked. And then she recognized the kid. They had met yesterday. Or the day before. Or one hundred years ago. It was difficult to think. He was the boy at her house.

A subtle pressure on her side told her Julius had reached the same conclusion, probably several heartbeats ago. The boy kept staring at her, through her, as if she were nothing more than air. Finally, when she thought she couldn’t hold the scream inflating her lungs anymore, the obsidian eyes revealed consciousness. It was brief. No more than a breath, if she were breathing. A glimpse of recognition flickered behind eyes that were hazel and warm. Hope colored her hazy thoughts. Then, the blank stare was back. A blink later, the boy was gone.

Friday Snippet #32

Friday Snippet #31

The sun is shining upon this small stretch of Northwest. I’ve been dieting and exercising the whole week and I didn’t have a single headache. I haven’t checked my weight on the scale—according to the app I’m using, I’ll be three pound less in two years anyway—but I do feel lighter. Since the day promises to get better, after lunch, I’ll go out for a walk with Nero.

From X:

Allegra was already out of breath and looked at the steep climb with dread.

“To the right!” Julius pulled her out of the path and they fell on the ground and were swallowed by the tall grass. “Stay low.”

Heart pummeling against her ribcage, she kept her eyes on the brown dirt. “What is it?” Then she cleared her nose and the scent of the looters reached her nostrils. They were coming from the Royal Palace, but still on top of the hill. She was scared, but didn’t want her aura to show it. She forced her lungs to work and breathed in and out a few times before saying, “Did I tell you lately how thankful I am I got paired with an unseer?”

He squeezed her hand. “Of course you are.” If he had said out loud, “Good try,” it wouldn’t have been clearer.

The looters were descending, running toward them, but apart from the noise their shoes stomping on the ground made, no words were spoken. It was unsettling.

Julius pulled her closer to him. “They won’t find us.”

She smiled against his shirt at his attempt of calming her. A small pebble pocked her right tight and she focused on the discomfort rapidly morphing into pain. The ache grounded her in the moment and didn’t let her think of what would happen if the looters saw them.

“The grass is tall enough to cover us,” he whispered in her ear.

The sound of approaching steps made her heart skip several beats.

Friday Snippet #31

Friday Snippet #30

Here we are again. The fog is finally gone. It rained. In the attempt of keeping the headaches under control, I started a new exercise regime and I’m checking the daily calories intake. Still alive. My productivity isn’t back to normal, but I’m working on that.

From X:

Her nose caught a scent she didn’t like. “We can’t stay here.”

“Where to?”

“Out.” She pulled him out of the bed and a moment later they were already downstairs, having mindlessly run through the bedroom where they had slept, Clarissa’s bedroom, the hallway, and the stairs.

They were at the main door, when Julius stopped her. He brought one finger to his mouth and then pointed it at the shadows dancing behind the opaque glass composing the door panels.

At the same time, the smell she had barely perceived a few minutes earlier became too strong to ignore and Allegra gagged. She stepped back, her lungs burning and her heart racing. She looked right and left, but when he shook his head, she turned toward the large window overlooking the gardens.

“Yes.” Julius squeezed her hand and they ran to the back of the room.

Allegra was lowering the handle of the back door, when she heard the sound of the main door being forced.

“There must be a treasure inside.” A muffled voice. A crack.

Julius propelled her outside and then tore through the garden, only to stop a few minutes later behind a tall bush. “Looters.”

She had already reached that conclusion. Julius’s house was going to be violated as hers had been. She couldn’t help two tears to escape her control, but was fast in drying her eyes. The sound of broken glasses reached them and Julius startled. She resisted the urge of looking back at the house to see what was happening and looked straight ahead instead. The Royal Palace dominated the view on top of the hill. “Not sure where else to go.” So many questions unanswered and no time to think about anything.

He nodded and she moved forward.

Friday Snippet #30

Friday Snippet #29

The fog is descending upon the houses outside my window. And it’s freezing cold. I don’t think Nero and I will go for a walk after all. Good news is my desk faces a big window. Also, it’s my mom’s birthday today. Have a wonderful 70th birthday, Mom. Love you.

From X:

“I was worried for you.” Julius moved the few steps from the wall to the bed and then sat on its edge, without coming any closer to her.

It wasn’t right. Touching for them was a necessity regulated by guide-and-guided code of conduct. Allegra felt his warmth and longed to reach out and take his hand, but she didn’t, which only increased the awkwardness. “Thank you.” Her voice came out too low.

But he had heard. “Of course.”

Of course he’s worried about me? Or what? “Couldn’t you sleep?”

“No. Do you mind if I stay with you for a while?”

She finally outstretched her hand and found his closer than she expected. “Can you help me relax?”

“Of course.” He moved on the bed to lie side by side with her, his head on the pillow, only a few inches from hers.

It wasn’t the first time they slept on the same bed. Before exams, they used to quiz each other the whole night. Sometimes, they did it just to prove they could without being caught. A few times, Allegra had asked him, like now, if he could ease her tension. Yet, now it was different.

She felt his gentle invasion at the edge of her thoughts. Spring and singing birds. The scent of washed linens drying outside. Warm breeze playing with her hair. Her eyes closed and she let him in.

“Something’s wrong.”

Words echoed in her head.

“Wake up.”

She turned the other side.

“Allegra!”

Hands turned her over.

“Smell the air.”

The request was repeated twice before she managed to open one eye and find Julius sitting on her bed. Memories of a few hours earlier rushed in. “What’s going on?” But she had already activated her senses. “I can’t feel her.” Clarissa’s smell was gone. She inhaled deeply and then shook her head. “I can’t feel any of them.”

Friday Snippet #29

Friday Snippet #27

After Nanowrimo, the trip to Italy, publishing my fairytale, and the Christmas holidays, I’m slowly getting my routine back. Journey to the City of Men is under revision and I should be done with it shortly. Then it will be placed in the capable hands of my trusted beta readers. Then, re-writing, editing, proofreading, formatting, copyrighting, publishing, marketing… head spinning, hiding under a rock, etc. Rinse and repeat.

Anyway, Allegra and Julius are still at his parents’ and she has a tête-à-tête with his father. From X:

“Care for a stroll outside?” Carolus took her arm under his in a paternal gesture. “In all of this… we’ve forgotten to enjoy the little things, haven’t we?”

Allegra didn’t answer since she didn’t know what ‘all of this’ meant and looked back at Julius who was several steps behind and engaged in conversation with his mother.

“Shall we?” Carolus gently tugged her and she followed his lead.

Nobody else did and she found herself with the Right Hand of the king all alone, without knowing what was the protocol with a person of his station.

“Allegra, may I call you Allegra?” He looked at her from his considerable height.

She nodded, taken by surprise.

“Good. Allegra, I heard you didn’t find your family…”

She nodded again.

“I wish I could tell you what happened to them, but the truth is I know little.”

There was only one thing Allegra wanted to know. “Are they alive?”

Carolus didn’t answer right away. “If they escaped soon enough, they might be.”

“What do you know, sir?” Little knowledge was preferable to not knowing at all.

“The Malady is something that affects our brains—” Carolus caressed his chin with his free hand. “It makes people see things.”

“What kind of things?” The image of the terrorized boy they had met outside her house came back to her.

“Haunting things. Worse than nightmares.” Carolus’s voice wavered. “People commit suicides to stop seeing those things.”

“What is it?” The boy’s eyes were vacant, but Julius had seen through him and she had felt the horror he had experienced. “How are people infected?”

“We don’t know. That’s why cities are walled and exed. We’re trying everything in our power to stop the Malady from spreading.”

“Why wasn’t Cartaghena walled?”

Friday Snippet #27

Must Post Something Today!

Pink Paradise InkedHow apropos, it is a Friday. Last week, after writing  a lengthy snippet, I didn’t publish it. Not sure why. X is now 11k and I’m still having fun with it. Maybe it will be my  first serial? Stay tuned.

From X. Allegra has just met Julius’s family and they’re now having a moment of playful respite with his two brothers and sister:

“Can I change the scenery?” Clarissa had her hands on a remote control and was already pushing buttons before one of the brothers could reply. The luminosity in the room changed and the placid sound of waves washing over pebbles came seemingly out of nowhere. “Much better.”

Allegra looked at the ceiling where lazy clouds were floating over a cerulean sky. She could have sworn a marine breeze had carried to her nostrils a tangy flavor. As if to answer her question, a seagull’s cry echoed in the distance.

“I prefer the sound of rain and a moodier setting.” Julius was looking at her.

Allegra knew because Andres who still held his brother was staring at her. She felt a strange satisfaction in the knowledge Julius was truly looking at her. It was new. And then she realized what he had just said and wished they were alone. The memory of a picnic came back to her. It had happened only a few days before the whole madness of the Malady started. The world was a different place then. Boring, always the same, never exciting. It was the end of the quarter, all the finals done, and the weather was terrible. The sun had shone through the whole time they were confined inside to study, and now was freezing and incessantly raining. Allegra felt caged and her mood was affecting both of them. After a few days of listening to her complaints, Julius had enough and organized an outing of sort. He said he wanted to go for a walk and led her to the Winter Garden. If Allegra closed her eyes, she could still hear the sound of the rain hitting the glass walls of the conservatory enclosing the Winter Garden. They had spent the whole afternoon lying on the floor on a plush carpet, their eyes to the ceiling, talking of the silliest things. To this day, the aroma of tangerines was connected to that afternoon. “Me too.”

Must Post Something Today!

Friday Snippet #23

Still under the weather. Last week flu has progressed into a long-lasting cold. Outside the window, fall is in full swing, leaves have found their final resting places on the ground, and the oranges, yellows, and reds have relocated with them. Still, lots of green left standing and with them my hope the universe will re-align itself for my sake.

From X, Julius decides to take a shortcut through one of  Cartaghena’s most talked-about neighborhoods:

Before some of the buildings—the more colorful ones—elaborated signs waved from their poles, some of them sporting cut-outs figurines self-explanatory of the kind of services offered by the establishment. Others were just paintings. Allegra saw a cute rendition of an embraced couple and blushed, her eyes went to the curtained windows and she wondered what happened behind them.

“I was never there. I was told great things about the owner though,” Julius commented.

She opened her mouth, but words failed her and couldn’t help to turn to take a look at him.

He arched his brow, lips turned up in a smile. “You were dying to ask me that.”

“Was not.” She faced the street again.

“I told you I was with a friend.”

“And?”

“She wouldn’t have been happy if I had gone visiting those places.”
“Oh, that kind of friend.” She wondered—and not in kind terms—about that unknown girl who had been free to visit such a neighborhood. At night and with a boy.

“She used to live… right there.” He moved her to face a small cottage on the far left.

“Charming.” She knew Julius was a few years older than her, but she didn’t like he had much more experience. Especially if the way he had obtained such experience hadn’t had anything to do with her. She tried to rationalize her emotions with the fact that guide and guided shared a special bond, but her voice had betrayed something different and she hated it.

“Lucilla’s dad was a renowned painter and her mom was his favorite model. Maybe you saw some of his portraits—” Julius kept her looking at the cottage.

Awful name. “Highly doubt so.” She moved and for a moment they lost contact. Sometimes, she did that on purpose. She wasn’t sure this time whose eyes she was blinding.

Friday Snippet #23