The Mermaid’s Promise: A Short Story and Artist Collaboration.

Happy hump day folks!  I hope your week is going well so far.  For this blog post, I will be featuring the next instalment of my collaborative series I call, ‘Inspired.’  For those of my readers unfamiliar with the series, I collaborate with artists and crafty people from all over the world, writing a short story, which they bring to life by creating a piece of art inspired by that story.  For this piece, I am so excited to have collaborated with the incredibly talented Amaryah, the artist behind the Easy shop ‘The House of Worry Dolls.’  Amaryah takes all of our favourite characters from page and screen, and meticulously recreates them in worry doll form.  She can even personalise the dolls to look like you, your family and your pets to create the ultimate unique family portrait.  Her dolls are incredible, and you can see more of them on her Instagram.  For our collaboration, I wrote a short story inspired by her beautiful dolls, and she took my story and created two unique dolls just for me!  This one was a really fun one to work on, so I hope you like it!  As always, leave me a comment to let me know what you thought, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to stay up to date with all my latest posts.  Happy reading…

The Mermaid’s promise

mermaid 2She is a stealer of hearts. That is how she controls the ocean, with unspoken promises never fulfilled. Her whispers are carried on the winds, and her songs on the beating of the waves against ships. All who listen falter, turning their vessels into shallow waters or crashing against jagged rocks; a watery grave, welcomed with a smile, the spell unwavering even in death. It is said, that she can take the form of desire itself, changing her hair colour or face to appeal to the souls she subdues. One thing always remains true however, her tail. The scales are the colour of the clearest skies, but change with the moving sun, becoming navy or perhaps silver depending on the weather. They reflect the light with every movement and lead men to their deaths, a lighthouse beacon born of flesh and skin, a diamond in the rough.

I saw her once, when I was a just a lad. I was just a deck hand then, given the menial and unlikeable tasks. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were on our way to the Americas. The men were singing and joking, laughing or brawling, the noise of their chatter mixing with the cry of seagulls and the ocean’s sleepy drawl. I was peeling potatoes, when suddenly I realised it had become deathly quiet. I made my way on deck to find all the men aboard standing stock still, the tasks which they had been doing, becoming an after thought to whatever now consumed their minds. They stared, all of them, into the horizon, with wide eyes and calm smiles, as the ship simply drifted, as lost and submissive as the sailors.

I followed their gaze, squinting in the early morning light, when I saw her tail rise and fall amongst the waves, sending flashes of light all around her. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, with deep red hair, and bright green eyes, the colour of the sea after a storm. I too was momentarily agape, watching her beckon us towards her, enticing us with a tender smile and parted lips. But my gaze soon fell upon the jagged rocks protruding from the ocean like a hand, grasping for the surface. It was then I knew her beauty to be only skin deep, a lure for her prey.mermaid 1

I began to shout and scream at the men, even resorting to slapping them or throwing water over their heads, but nothing stirred them from their blissful ignorance. The ship was slowly drifting towards its destruction, and these men were welcoming it with open arms. The ship’s wheel was also trying to get the attention of her passengers, swinging and turning wildly, causing our vessel to shift and jolt, but even her efforts went unheeded. I grabbed the wheel, using all of my strength to turn the ship away from the rocks, away from danger, before securing it with a yard of rope. And then I simply waited, for I knew that senses would not return to my crew until we had distanced ourselves from the siren’s call, her promises and seductions carried on the sea breeze.

I could hear her screaming as the vessel moved away, a terrible, guttural scream like a dying animal. It pierced my ears, and stabbed at my chest, and seemed to surround me, or perhaps it was inside my head. I must have lost consciousness, for when I woke, I was in the Captain’s room, the ship’s medic tending to me, my wrist in one hand, a pocket watch in the other. I felt cold, as if all heat had been drained from my body, and my head thumped to the beat of my heart.

“He’s awake.”

The Captain approached my bedside, and placed my hand in his.

“How do you feel boy?”
“Alright, cold, tired.”
“We’ll soon warm you up. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
“Thirsty sir.”
“No sirs or Captains, not today.”

It was as if my senses had suddenly returned to me in a flash, my knowledge of the creature and the danger she posed. I jolted upright, as if awaking from a nightmare.

“The sea witch…”
“Shhh calm yourself boy. She’s gone, and danger has passed, thanks to you.”

I lay back down, the pillow clammy against my skin. The cook brought me water, and they even gave me a dram of whiskey, to help my senses return to me. I regaled them with the day’s events, leaving no detail out, lest I convince myself of my own insanity. They nodded and listened, and finally, after a pause, the Captain spoke.

“I could hear a voice, more beautiful and tender than any I have ever heard before. It was like liquid gold. She whispered promises and declarations of love to me, asking me to join her forever, offering her heart and her breast. I became enamoured, besotted, overwhelmed. Suddenly, she was the only thing of importance in my life, and I yearned to be with her with every fibre of my being. I am embarrassed to say, I would have gladly given my life, for one kiss.”

Now it was the cook’s turn.

“Aye, I heard the same thing. Her voice rang ’round me head and I could not think of anything but her. I could not, would not, go on without her hand.”

Finally, the Doctor confirmed he too had experienced the same song, and felt the same overwhelming desire to be with the creature, whatever the consequences.

“It was as if, in an instant, she had become my everything, my very reason for existence. I truly felt that, without her breast to rest my weary head, and without the kiss of her lips upon mine, my life would not be worth living. She enchanted me, she possessed my very soul.”

I mulled their words over in my mind. At such a young age, I had no understanding of such things. I had not yet felt the grip of love, nor felt the sting of heart break. I could not imagine losing my head in such a way over a woman, even one as beautiful and magical as the Mermaid. I suppose that’s why I was immune to her song. My youth and inexperience saved me from the Mermaid’s promise, yet to this day, I dream of her red hair spreading on the surface of a clear sea, and I hear her voice beckoning my return. Perhaps one day, I’ll answer.

Finding Time: A Short Story & Unique Jord Watch Collaboration.

Hello readers! It’s nearly Valentines day, my first as a blogger and social media addict, and I wanted to do something special. As this is the time of year when we show our loved ones how special they are to us, I have been lucky enough to collaborate with Jord Watches in order to show you all how much I love and appreciate your support! If you are unfamiliar with Jord, they make the most stunning watches, craved from wood. As a lover of nature as well as classic minimalist design, these watches are right up my street. watch 1I am partnering up with them to offer one lucky person $100 off one of their stunning timepieces- to enter, just click here. Not only can you win this amazing prize, but everyone who enters also gets 10% off any Jord watch.

To celebrate the collaboration, I have also written a short story entitled, ‘Finding Time’ and I sincerely hope you can find the time to read it and to enter this aweseom giveaway. As always, I would love to hear from you guys, so leave me a comment or head to my social media and follow me! In the mean time, happy reading…

Finding Time

This was to be a year of firsts for them; their first house together, their first anniversary, and coming up, their first Valentines day in their new home. But more notably, it was also their first fight. Robert had been working a lot lately. In fact Beth felt like she saw less of him now than when they lived apart. Last night had been the last straw; not only was he late coming home, with no message or phone call to stop her from worrying, but he had very casually dropped into conversation the fact that he would be working late on Valentines day.

The conversation had went something like this:
“I can’t wait to spend our first valentines day together in the house…maybe we could get a takeaway and have a romantic dinner in, just the two of us?’
“Sounds good, but may need to postpone it a day or two after, maybe the 16th of 17th. I have a meeting on Valentines day, so won’t be home until late. Could you pass me the soy sauce?”
“What? But it’s our first Valentines in the new house. In fact, it’s our first any kind of holiday since moving in together. I wanted to make it special. Can’t the meeting be moved?”
“Not really Love.”
“Don’t you ‘Love’ me…”
And then the drama. She had told him he was spending too much time at work, that he had his priorities skewed, that he wasn’t making enough time for them, for her. He told her she was his priority but things were temporarily hectic at the office due to some people leaving, and that it would all calm down once they recruited some new staff. He said she made him feel guilty about his job, something he couldn’t help, and he called her a drama queen. She called him a rather choice word, too explicit to repeat, and that was the end of that.

Two days had since passed, and bar small talk and the occasional necessary conversation about bills or furniture, they had barely spoken a word never mind made up from the fight. She knew it was stupid, but that’s the funny thing about hurt and anger, they are so easy to hold on to even when you know how ridiculous you are being. The truth was, Valentines day wasn’t exactly a monumental holiday. It wasn’t their anniversary or a birthday, but she had had this idea, an image of the two of them eating takeaway out of the boxes because they still hadn’t bothered to unpack the plates, candles lit, a cosy night in just the two of them. She had waited for so long to have a place they could call theirs, and she wanted to christen it. Now, it seemed as if it would just be another date in the calender, February 14th, nothing special. She sighed.

On the day itself, she didn’t even hear him leave for work he had got up so early. She was off that day, using it to unpack and clean, a list of jobs which no matter how long she spent on them, never seemed to decrease in length. After several hours, becoming more and more sick of the sight of newspaper and packing peanuts, she had unpacked a framed photgraph taken at the beginning of their relationship. Robert was standing behind her, arms wrapped around her waist, both smiling widely at the camera. One look at that picture and she realised what a daft idiot she was being. She had complained about hardly seeing him, about spending so little time together, yet in the days since their argument she had spoken to him even less, BY CHOICE. It was time to make amends.

She knew he was working a double and wouldn’t be home until very late, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t make the day special. She gathered the discarded pieces of newspaper and made a Valentines day banner with red sharpie and string. She set out all the candles she could find to light when he got home, and after a trip to the local card shop, placed some red heart shaped balloons around the room. She also bought a card, nothing too soppy, just a simple ‘Be my Valentine.’ Inside she inscribed, “My dearest Robert, I love you more than words can express. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and selfishly, I want to keep you all to myself. I’m sorry, Beth.”

She placed it front and centre on the fireplace. Normally, she would make a meal or order them in something special, but given how late he would get home, this wasn’t exactly practical. So instead, she baked. At the local shop, she bought the ingredients she needed to make her Grandmother’s shortbread recipe, and she spent the afternoon making heart shaped biscuits. When she was done, placing them down with the card, she looked around at her handy work and smiled. If this didn’t put an end to the silent treatment, nothing would.

She yawned. Checking the time on her phone, it was just after five pm, she realised Robert wouldn’t be home for hours. Beth put her head down on the sofa, and decided to close her eyes for half an hour, but exhaustion took over and she fell fast asleep.

“Beth? Sleeping beauty?”

She awoke to a gentle kiss on her forehead. The room which had been bright when she lay down, was now pitch black. She wondered what time it was.

“It’s late, about eleven.”

She had no idea how he managed to read her mind the way he did, but she loved him for it. He reached beside the sofa and turned on the lamp, revealing her hard days work. He smiled.

“You’ve been busy.”
“I have indeed. I wanted it to be special. Do you like it?”
“Of course I do. You didn’t have to go to so much trouble.”
“I wanted to…look, I’m sorry about the fight.”
“No, I’m sorry. You’re right. I’ve barely seen you these past few weeks and it’s not fair. I told them tonight I would be scaling back, new staff or not.”
“You did?”
“I did. I had to get my priorities in order.”

They both laughed, and she threw her arms around his neck and breathed him in, relief washing over her. Fights always create a distance between two people, and every time, there is the chance it may become too great a space to close.

“I have something for you.”

He reached inside his brown leather satchell, papers and books filling the majority of the watch 2space, and removed a wooden box. The box itself was beautiful, just able to fit in one hand, it was smooth and cool to the touch.

“What’s this?”
“Open it and see.”

She pulled off the lid, to reveal a watch inside. It was made of a dark, rich wood, with an emerald green face. She held it into the light, the wood smooth in her hands.

“It’s beautiful, I love it.”
“Check out the inscription.”

She excitedly turned it over, revealing the words etched on the smooth, wooden disc, ‘I will always find time for you.’ She could feel tears fill her eyes as she once again embraced him, and there they sat a while, just holding each other, the only sounds in the room was their quiet contented breathing, and the ticking of the watch.

About my watch

watch 3If you like my watch, and fancy it for yourself, it’s called the ‘Frankie’ watch, and mine is made of dark sandalwood with an emerald face.  You can buy it here.  Or you can click to have a look at their women’s collection and men’s collections.  Don’t forget, every entry into the giveaway also gets you 10% off, so get shopping for that perfect Valentine’s day gift!

Wooden Wrist Watch

The Bookish Box: Official Unboxing.

Happy New years Eve everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful evening ahead of you, including a glass of bubbly and a kiss at midnight.  To celebrate the end of December, and 2017, as well as the beginning of a new year, I thought I would share with you the unboxing of The Bookish Box’s December edition, which is the perfect theme for the coming of a new year: Destined.  I have had the honour of recently becoming a rep for this amazing company, and I was so excited to receive my first box, I simply couldn’t wait to share it with you all.  If you love it as much as me, you can get 15% off at the Bookish Shop and $3.00 off your first subscription at The Bookish Box  by using my exclusive discount code MARIE.

And to celebrate December’s theme of Destined, I have written a short story in the same theme, which is at the end of the unboxing!  Enjoy the unboxing, enjoy my story and enjoy your New Year’s Eve…it’s destined to be a good one!!

bookish box 1Just look at this selection of bookish goodies!  I practically squealed when I opened it.  The first thing I came upon was this gorgeous Throne of Glass mug, featuring a fabulous watercolour illustration by Aelin Fireheart.  As if this wasn’t amazing enough, inside I found the most beautiful wooden Christmas ornament created by Hello World Paper Co.

Next, I came upon the sweetest Harry Potter candle, created by Whiskey Diamond Candle bb3Co. and decorated with a hint of gold.  I wish I had the ability to capture scents in my images, because it smells heavenly!! And to match my candle, a badass Harry Potter tee from The Bookish Shop, with one of my favourite quotes, ‘When in doubt, go to the library.’ Wise words!!

Beneath this, a stunning Game of Thrones print by @DaniMarieDraws, featuring the Queen of Dragons herself, as well as the monthly theme doodle created by Doodles by Christina, because who doesn’t love a bit of colouring in?

bb4Finally, the final finishing touch, a new read: Roomies by the New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren- keep an eye out on my blog for the upcoming review!

I honestly think it might be the best thing I have ever received through the mail!


Running from Destiny

When Helena was born, she was told, “You are destined to be a great leader.” It had been written in the stars they said, and foretold by the elders of the kingdom. As she grew, they told her almost every day of her life, “Take your lessons Helena, so you can grow up to be the great leader you are destined to become.” “Eat your vegetables Helena, so you grow up to be the strong leader you are destined to become.” If she heard her nanny say it once, she heard it a million times, until Helena decided she didn’t want to be a great leader anymore. She decided she wanted to be something else, anything else, somewhere else, away from here. And so, on her sixteenth birthday, under the cover of darkness, she packed a bag and left the kingdom, turning her back on the destiny everyone else had picked and choosing her own.

When the people awoke the next day, and discovered their beloved Princess gone, they wept, for they knew that darkness lay in wait within their boundaries, poised to strike at any moment, and without Helena, their great and brave leader, they were surely doomed.

Helena walked through the most treacherous mountain paths, and faced the worst of all weather. She hunted and climbed and swam and ran, and grew tall and strong. Her life time of training kicked it, almost automatically, and she did not simply survive, she thrived and grew stronger than ever, for now she breathed free air, and could choose her own path.

Sadly, the kingdom grew weaker, as fear took hold. Those amongst them, with greedy intentions and selfish inclinations, took advantage of the climate of uncertainty, and anointed themselves leaders and governors, tearing the kingdom into pieces to rule as their own, fighting to rule the biggest piece, until it lay in wreck and ruin, unrecognisable to any who had known her in happier times.

A decade came and went, and Helena, now strong and fierce, never tiring of her adventures, hurried onwards until she came upon a town in the dark woods. The people were fearful, cowering at the slightest sound. Every time Helena tried to speak with them, to buy a loaf of bread or enquire as to the name of the town, they would run and hide, locking their doors. Only one would talk with her, the eldest of the residents, and therefore the one with the least to lose. She told Helena of a great and mighty kingdom, filled with happy people, who after losing their Princess, found themselves torn apart by greedy, selfish men, who decided to fill the void left behind with their own version of leadership. And so, under the shadow of such corruption and deceit, the kingdom fell apart, and it’s people now feared their own shadows, and struggled with the daily chore of survival.

Helena was touched by this tale of woe, and after seeing how poor the people were, and how even the children were worked as slaves so the men in charge could live in wealth and luxury, she made it her mission to help them. One by one, she faced these men, and one by one they fell on her sword. She freed the enslaved, and opened the castle doors to the poor and the starving, ensuring all were fed and clothed and had a roof over their head. She restored the light to the darkened woods, and the kingdom once again united, began to prosper, it’s people happy for the first time in so many years.

One day, as Helena was helping the villagers rebuild their school, the old woman came to her with a smile on her face, “I told you you would be a great leader one day. I’m glad I made you take your lessons and eat your vegetables.” Helena cried with joy as she hugged her old Nanny, and the people rejoiced at the return of their beloved Princess. Although she had left, she returned stronger, having lived her life her own way on her own terms, and discovered that often, we meet our destinies on the paths we take in order to avoid them.



Christmas Tail: A Short Story.

santaMerry Christmas everyone!  We are nearly there now.  There’s just a few days left to wrap your gifts, make your Christmas cake and hang the mistletoe.  With that in mind, tonight’s short story is a festive one.  I hope you like it!

A Christmas Tail

I bury myself further into the dead leaves and detritus, seeking out whatever warmth I can from my make shift bed, but it’s so cold now I can see my breathe. There have been so many nights like this, where I shiver myself to sleep, teeth chattering, and with the temperatures continuing to drop, and the imminent threat of snow, I am terrified that at some point, I won’t wake up again. My stomach rumbles. I haven’t eaten for hours, and what I did have, the remnants of a discarded coffee shop sandwich abandoned by a satiated patron before I was shooed away by staff, wasn’t much to begin with.

It wasn’t always like this. I had a home once, I had someone who loved me, who I loved in return. But they died, and my life fell apart without them. I think of her now, her smile, her comforting touch on my face, the scent of her skin. I look up at the stars, millions of tiny pinpricks in a backlit canvas, and I imagine she is up there, somewhere, watching over me. But the thought brings little comfort on this cold and lonely night, and I feel a tear make it’s way down my cheek as I lay my head down to sleep.



“Yes sweetheart?”

I can hear she’s distracted, only half listening as she stirs the wooden spoon in the big bowl. We are making cake, which smells so good, and I am waiting to lick the spoon.

“What if he forgets me?”

“Who dear?”

“Santa. What if he forgets me. There’s so many children. My teacher says there are squillions all over the world. He might forget one or two, it’s understandable.”

“Santa won’t forget you. You wrote him, remember?”

I remember. I had asked for a puppy but my mum told me he couldn’t bring live animals in a sleigh, that it’s super cold up high in the air where it flies, and a puppy wouldn’t be able to stand it, so I changed it to a pink bike. I still wish for the puppy.

“Grown ups forget things all the time, even if they write it down. You make lists on the fridge and still forget stuff.”

“He won’t forget Sara.”

“But what if he does?”

“He won’t. He’s magic.”


“Sara, mummy is trying to concentrate. If I can’t make the mixture properly, there will be no spoon to lick and no cake to eat on Christmas day.”

“I stop talking. I want the spoon.


I feel like I’ve been walking for hours now. My feet ache, and my coat isn’t warm enough for this weather. I need some heat and some food. I move back into the town centre, following the smells and sounds. I take the back alleys and entry ways. People don’t like my kind, the waifs and the strays, the unwanted and undesirables. We are something to sneer at sitting outside their shiny department stores while they throw away their money on trinkets and baubles. We are the ugly thing you ignore when we beg for food. I learned early on that I got on a lot easier when I stayed in the shadows, out of sight and out of mind.

I find the place I’m looking for, a restaurant near the University. Their bins are always overflowing with food, and there’s a spot by the basement level kitchen, a grate used to vent air, which will be warm and dry. I lie against it, chewing the old loaf I have found by the bin. I can usually get an hour or so here, until one the staff emerge for a cigarette and move me on. Then it will be more hiding, more sneaking, seeking out another spot to survive where I won’t be in someone’s way. I always seem to be in their way.


I stare at the boxes under the tree. I know Santa hasn’t been yet, and these are just the gifts from Uncle Tom and Aunt Betty, and Granny and Grandpa, but I check them one by one just in case. None of them are bike shaped and none of them have little barks coming from them. I keep checking the time. It’s almost my bed time, and that means Santa will be coming soon, but I already know I’ll be far too excited to sleep. The night will drag, and I will feel every single minute as I count down until Christmas day.

Last year I got yelled at because I got up too early. I could see that the presents were there, and that Santa had been, but Mummy said that he was still watching, and that only naughty girls got up at 4am and woke up their parents, and we all know what happens to naughty girls…they get coal. She said that my gifts could still be magicked away if I didn’t go back to bed. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I believe her, but there is way too much at stake to risk her being right.

So I will just have to wait and listen and hope that he hasn’t forgotten me.


It’s night again, and it’s colder than I have ever felt before. I did’t know this kind of cold existed. It’s in my very bones, along with the damp, and I can’t stop shivering. I have been walking for an age, trying to stop the numbness spreading from my feet into the rest of my body. I know what will come of me if that happens. I think I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the road, as the streets I am in now are unfamiliar. The moon is shrouded in thick, black clouds and only the yellow street lights illuminate my path. They cast long and ominous shadows, and I find myself afraid, of what I am unsure, but I feel it nonetheless.

It’s Christmas eve, and the houses I pass all have cheerful coloured lights on strings outlining their shapes in the darkness. Through an occasional open curtain, I can see families gathered, drinks being drunk and food being eaten, and I can hear their laughter carried faintly on the wind. This is the worst time of year for the lonely. There is so much emphasis on family, on parties and gatherings of friends and embracing loved ones or kissing them under mistletoe. But I don’t have any of that. I don’t have a family, or friends, or mistletoe. I feel so alone.

I pass a garden, the gate hanging from rusted hinges, and inside I can make out the outline of a shed. I hesitate, always reluctant to risk showing myself, to face their rejection, that expression on their faces, disgust mixed with annoyance. But as I feel the first snow of winter begin to fall from the black inky sky above, the decision is made for me, and I carefully, and quietly make my way across the lawn to what will be my bed for the night.


I check the clock. The big hand is pointing at the 12 and the little hand is pointing at the 5, which means I’m still not allowed to get up. I hate waiting; it never leads to any fun. You wait at the Doctors to get jabs and gross medicines, you wait at school for your teacher to start the lessons, you wait in lines and at bus stops. No good ever came from waiting. I try to resist the temptation to get up, but I can feel my toes wriggling and my feet tapping and I know they have already made the decision to get up on my behalf.

I walk quietly and quickly, avoiding the squeaky floorboard and stick to the very edge of the stairs, taking each step as delicately as I can. I pretend I am a spy like in the movies, on a super secret mission. I feel a little bad for getting up, and I know I could get in trouble, but I won’t open the presents or anything, I’ll just check they’re there, and perhaps give one or two a squeeze to try and guess what’s inside. That’s not naughty really is it?

I poke my head into our big living and dining room, to find the tree lights reflecting off lots of shiny paper and bows. I barely contain a scream as I run towards them, forgetting how a spy would act, and becoming a child again. I place my ear to a few of the bigger boxes, but there is no whimpering, no barking. There is a pink bike in the corner with a big gold bow. I should be happy; it’s pretty and has streamers on the handlebars to make you go faster, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed about the puppy. If Santa is really magic, I don’t see why he can’t bring me a puppy. Maybe next year I should write to Amazon, they seem to deliver anything.

It’s just then I see him, walking across our back garden, towards my play house. He sees me and stops, and for a moment we stare at each other.



I only make it half way across the yard when I spot her. She is small, perhaps 5 or 6 years old, wearing red pyjamas covered in smiling ginger bread men. I freeze, as we stare at each other. It’s so cold now, and I am beginning to feel so sleepy. The little wooden shed in the garden is so close, and I so desperately need a place to sleep, to seek shelter from the snow now falling in great waves of white. If only she would look away for a second, I could perhaps dash inside and hide, but I know I won’t make it, and I know I haven’t the strength to find somewhere else.

And so, I sit down in the snow, and close my eyes, and wait for the people to come and yell at me, to kick me or curse me. I’m too tired to stay hidden any longer, and besides, I have already been seen. Perhaps these people will be kind, perhaps they will let me sleep in their little wooden house, and give me a blanket and some food. But in my heart, I doubt the thoughts almost as soon as their formed, and I know the cold will take me, like it took my love.

I’m just so tired. I’ll just close my eyes for a second.


“That’s enough blankets Sara.”

“But he’s still cold.”

“He’s fine, let him have some air for goodness sake or you’ll suffocate him.”

“Maybe we should get your hot water bottle too. Mine is only small.”

“He’s fine Sara. Look, he’s wagging his tail.”

And he is. It’s just a little movement at first, slow and deliberate, but soon he is wagging it like the puppies on the TV and the thumping noise it makes as it bangs off the chair makes me giggle. He was so cold when we got him inside, and mummy even rang an animal Doctor to check what to do. I learned in school that they are called Vets. The Vet said to make him warm and comfortable, and see if we could get him to eat something. No trouble there, he wolfed down my Mummy’s turkey and gravy potatoes, and he even ate the bones!!

He is little, and white with a big black spot over one eye and one black foot, as if he lost all his other socks except that one. Even his tail has a little black end, like it’s been dipped in paint. I stroke his head as he sleeps in the giant blanket fort I have made him, and occasionally, he licks my hand, which tickles.

I tried to pick a name, but Mummy says we have to check to make sure he doesn’t already have a family and another little girl before I name him, in case we have to give him back. I named him anyway; he’s called Spot.

“Now, don’t get attached Sara. He may belong to someone who is out there right now, worried sick.”

“No, he’s mine. Santa brought him. He looks exactly like the pictures I drew for Santa, see?”

She takes the page I thrust at her, and looks at me the same way she does when I have a cough or the chicken pox.

“I suppose he does, but…”

“I guess you were right though.”

“I was? What about?”

“About it being too cold in the sleigh for puppies. He was shaking when Santa delivered him.”

“Yes, well…”

“And you were right about Santa, he didn’t forget me. He remembered me, and he brought me my Spot. This is the best Christmas ever.”

I kiss her on the cheek, before going back to stroke Spot’s little nose. She looks like she may say something, but seems to change her mind, and instead she just takes Daddy’s hand and mine in hers, and we all stroke Spot together, until his tail is wagging so fast, it’s just a blur.

And it is the best Christmas ever, because I have Spot and he has me. Next year, I’m going to ask for a kitten.

Broken Wings and Wall Clocks: A Collaborative Short Story.

Merry Christmas everyone!  We are nearing the big day, counting down until we get some time off work, battling our way through crowded shops and snow laden streets and sickening ourselves of mince pies!  This is my favourite time of year, because everyone is just that little bit more generous and thoughtful, and generally kinder.  Whilst this is a season for joy and happiness, it can also be a struggle for some.  I try to be open and honest about my mental health issues, having suffered from depression and anxiety for several years, and I know how stressful, and sometimes lonely this time of year can be as a result.  There is an overwhelming pressure to be happy, and that forced merriment can sometimes have the opposite effect.  If you are struggling with your own issues, I would encourage you to speak out and talk to someone…it genuinely helps.  With that in mind,  for tonight’s blog post, a collaborative short story and the next in my ‘Inspired’ series, I have written a story about my own experiences, inspired by a painting by the very talented artist Lyle Schultz.

Lyle is an artist based in Canada, and a man of many talents.  As well as creating incredible mixed media works of art, which you can find here, he is also a writer, you can check out his writing here, and even a fashion designer, check out his clothing here!  How to describe his work?  I will use the artist’s own words, because he is infinitely more qualified than myself and also has a far more extensive vocabulary:

My paintings are a maelstrom of images and scratches, furious and open, the pictures a window into a mind that is furiously working, a plethora of cartoon madness and pop art motifs running rampant in vibrant colours and bold mark making.  This is a life laid bare, the expression of an artist living to a rhythm of his own making, a riff that sucks in everything contemporary culture throws its way; film, comics, advertising, graffiti, and reinventing it, re-appropriating it, creating a new pictorial language that echoes the work of De Kooning, Basquiat and Grosz, all artists who railed against the status quo, took the outsider in, never moved an inch, fought for their space and demanded to be heard.

My paintings reflect a modern world in which visual saturation is at breaking point, my work is a distillation of the tsunami of images that hurtle through our screens, from the pages of magazines. Everything is here, everything is for sale, our lives imprisoned in a gonzoland of farce and materiality, it is a place that I frenetically describe over and over again, each mark a wake up call, a realisation, an indictment, an attempt to strip away the artifice and indulge in a little bit of magic.

I couldn’t have put it better myself (I genuinely couldn’t).  I was immediately drawn to his vibrant and edgy pieces, and was honoured when he agreed to collaborate with me.  I chose one of his many paintings, which trust me was not easy, and created the story below based on it.  The image inspired me to look inwards at my own struggles and chaotic mind, and to write a story filled with issues and problems, but also hope.  And on that note, I sincerely hope you like it!

Broken wings and wall clocks.

lyleThere are two wall clocks in this office, one directly facing me, and one behind my head. Time is inescapable here, and the ticking away of every passing second, is in surround sound. Sometimes, when I’m not in the mood to discuss my feelings, I stare hard at the little black hand, making it’s way around the clock’s face, willing it to go faster. It never does. In fact, time slows down within these walls, every second dragging and limping by.


Oh shit, she’s looking at me. Did she ask a question? I suddenly wish I could read minds.


“How does that sound to you?”

“It sounds, fine, yes. Fine.”

I have no idea if this is the correct response, but I figure I’ve got a fifty fifty shot of getting it right, so it’s worth a punt.

“Excellent. I’ll get those printed off for you then.”

Result! Just another one of Doctor Ferguson’s little exercises, designed to make me change my ‘thought patterns’. I fucking hate the exercises. How can a person change the very way they think? Our thoughts, are as much a part of us as our limbs. I think therefore I am.

The Doctor gets up off the threadbare seat, and leaves the office to locate the printer. I relish these little moments alone, with no questions or analysis. There is a faded poster hanging above the filing cabinet, a ginger cat, hanging from a branch and the words ‘Hang on in there.’ written in bright yellow lettering. I don’t find this particularly motivating, in fact, it pisses me off. If you see a cat in distress, dangling from a tree branch, you go and help it, not take a picture. Dumb fucking poster. The door opens again, before slamming shut of it’s own accord. It is designed to do this, to prevent the spread of fire, but it always gave the impression of being sentient, or perhaps controlled by an invisible presence.

“Here we go.”

Dr Ferguson always falls into her chair, rather than sitting in it. It’s a low piece of furniture, and she is a fairly heavy woman. She always dresses the same, wearing some hideous pastel coloured

cardigan, despite the broken radiators in here producing sauna like temperatures. There’s the same cameo brooch and pearls, as if she is dressed up as a therapist for halloween. The worst part is her lipstick, always the same garish pink, and always smeared on her teeth. Doesn’t she own a mirror?Maybe it’s some kind of test, to see if I’ll notice, to see if I’ll say something. I won’t. After shuffling the papers, she hands them to me, pointing at the boxes marked with the days of the week.

“Just fill in what you do each day under the appropriate heading. Try to include everything, but no need to go into minute detail. I don’t need to know your toilet habits for example.”

She laughs at this. She often laughs at her own jokes. I don’t laugh, mainly because they’re never particularly funny. Sometimes, as in now, I smirk in return, out of pity rather than actual amusement.

“Wait until you see just how much you get up to each day. I am willing to bet you accomplish far more than you give yourself credit for.”

I don’t.

“Even getting dressed and washed is an accomplishment in your circumstances, so think of it like one.”

She always called it that, my ‘circumstances.’ I suppose it sounds better than calling me mental, crazy, broken.

“Will do.”

“Excellent, well that’s the end of the session today. Do you feel like you benefitted from it?”

“Yes, of course.”

I don’t.

“Excellent. Well, then I’ll see you same time next week.”

She walks me to the front doors and buzzes me out. You aren’t allowed to walk about this place unattended. I often wonder what happened to create the necessity for that rule. The building was beautiful once, all red brick and stone roses, but it has been painted and repainted so many times

over the years, that it gives the impression of having some kind of disease, the flakes of paint flaking off like scabs, exposing the red brick flesh beneath. It looks sicker than the patients within.

I start walking, pulling my jacket tighter in a feeble attempt to keep out the cold. The hospital was built long before the need for car parking spaces, and so I was forced to abandon my car a few streets away on a single yellow line. I’ve been over an hour now. I hope I don’t get a ticket. I wonder what the place looked like a century ago, and what those Doctors and nurses would think if they saw it now. I often let my mind wonder this way. It’s easier to think about pointless nonsense than think about the ever increasing anxiety at the thought of a parking ticket, or the many other possible scenarios which regularly clog up my mind. The Doctor says I focus so much on the ‘what ifs’ that I miss out on the here and now. No shit.

I pass two men wearing hard hats and high vis vests, sipping from steaming paper cups. They stop talking, watching me pass. Do they know? I can feel their eyes on the back of my head, boring holes deep and inescapable. I hate that feeling of judgment, the idea of people sizing you up and deciding you have come up short. Dr Ferguson told me, ‘No one is thinking that about you. They have their own battles to fight.’ I think that’s bullshit. Everyone judges everyone else, all the time. Hell, I’m guilty of it often enough. No, it’s easier to retreat and withdraw, than risk rejection.

It starts raining. The entire colour of the sky seems to change in an instant to a dark and foreboding grey, casting a dull filter over everything. Bloody Irish weather! There’s a large oak tree nearby, and I make a b-line for it, taking shelter under its thick canopy. I hate the feeling of water hitting my face; it makes me shudder. I won’t even let it land there in the shower, choosing instead to bend and twist at odd angles while washing in order to avoid it. I try to think of things like this as personality quirks or cute little foibles, but they aren’t. They are dumb and annoying, and they make everything harder. Sometimes I feel like my own mind is against me.

Huddled against the trunk, I hear a faint noise, a kind of chirping, nearby. I look around, and near the tree, under a bush, I find a small bird. It’s brown and mottled, with little flecks of green throughout. Is it a greenfinch? I’m no ornithologist. It’s looking right at me, still chirping, flapping just one wing in a panicked motion, causing it to bob and thrash but not actually go anywhere. It’s other wing stays against it’s little body, and it’s breathing heavily. It must have hurt it’s wing poor thing. I step towards it and it flinches, backing away.

“It’s ok sweety, I won’t hurt you. I just want to help.”

What am I doing? I’m talking to a bird, as if it can possibly understand what I say. All it knows is that it’s small, and I’m big, and I could kill it easily if I were so inclined. It’s a familiar feeling to me, that overwhelming helplessness. I’m not sure what to do. If I leave it here, it would inevitably be killed by a cat, but if I take it home what exactly can I do for it? I’m not a vet. I have no idea what to do with an injured bird. Shit…I’ll have to leave it.


Now I’m apologising to it. If Dr Ferguson could see me now, she would probably have me committed. The rain has become a slight drizzle now. I should make a dash for it before it picks up again. When I was little, I thought rain was God draining his bath water. Mental illness aside, I have always been a bit odd. I get three or four feet before I stop. I can just make out the little cheep cheep of the bird now, and the sound causes me physical pain; that familiar stabbing pang of guilt. I can’t leave it, I’m a vegetarian for God’s sake.

It’s further inside the bush now. I have to get down on my hands and knees to reach it. It takes me four attempts, but I manage to catch it with my leather jacket. I’m now mucky and dishevelled. I look like I’ve escaped from the hospital. This is quickly becoming one of those days.

I don’t know how to hold it. I need to hold it tight enough to keep it trapped within the fabric, but I’m afraid if I squeeze too hard, I’ll kill a bird and ruin my favourite jacket in one go. It’s getting colder. Without my jacket, goose pimples appear all over my outstretched arms, little droplets of rain clinging to the hairs like spider webs. I begin to do a half walk half run towards the car, but stop when I realise how ridiculous I must look.

When I finally reach my car, I realise my keys are inside my jacket pocket. Great! I just about fish them out, almost dropping the bird, and climb inside. I don’t have a bird cage or cardboard box handy, but I do have an extensive collection of rubbish lying about, including a brown paper bag from yesterdays sandwich. Better than nothing. I keep meaning to clean my car, but it inevitably gets put off; too much self pitying to do. There’s bird shit on my jacket and I know the little bugger did it deliberately. I’m beginning to think Hitchcock was right.

I start her up, and edge my way out of the space. Thank God it’s not too busy. Heavy traffic gives me anxiety. In fact, most things give me anxiety, that’s who I am now: Miss Anxiety. Some kind of

mental illness pageant winner. Heaters turned full blast, I flick through the radio channels until I find one playing music. I hate radio DJs; they talk so much shit and expect people to jump through hoops for the privilege of a mug and pen. No thanks. I like music, especially something I can sing along to. It offers temporary relief from my thoughts. Intrusive thoughts, that’s what Dr Ferguson calls them. Involuntary thoughts which are often unpleasant and are always difficult to eliminate. I call them Dick head thoughts, because thinking them makes me feel like a dick. If people could hear what was going on up there, what insignificant, meaningless thing I was panicking about today, they would try to avoid eye contact and walk very quickly in the opposite direction.

We are on the carriageway now. I keep looking over at the bag, I’m not sure why, it’s hardly going to fly off. But I need to know it’s still there, still safe. I do this with people sometimes too, reaching out to my boyfriend in the darkness, checking that he hasn’t left me. There is a small fear, ever present at the back of my mind, that everyone will some day realise what I already know about myself; that I’m worthless.

It takes longer to get home than usual. Despite Northern Ireland being perpetually damp, every driver seems terrified of a little rain water on the road, and slows down to the speed of molasses. I get road rage, yelling obscenities at people who can neither see nor hear me. It makes me feel better; regular, small releases of pressure are better than one sudden explosion. By the time I get home, it’s beginning to get dark.

I carry in the bag and carefully place it on the kitchen counter. What now? I didn’t think this far ahead. A quick google search brings up various unhelpful pages, plus the number for the USPCA. I don’t understand how people survived without google. I read once, that we are losing our ability to retain information, because it is so conveniently located at all times, in our pockets. I am guilty of this. I have a memory like a sieve and without my phone telling me where to go and when, how to get there and what groceries I need to get, I dread to think where I would be. Lost and hungry I assume.

“Hello USPCA, my name is Jack. How can I help you?”

“Um, hi, yes, I’ve found an injured bird and I was just wanting some advice on what to do.”

“What kind of bird?”


“What kind of bird is it?”

“I dunno, a small one.”

“Well, what does it look like?”

“It’s small with a kind of browny, greyey greeny coloured body and a little fat beak.”

“Hmm that doesn’t really narrow it down does it?”

He sort of scoffs at this, as if he is being incredibly witty. I’m losing my patience.

“Does it matter? I just want to know what to do. Surely the advice is the same whether I have a blue tit or a bald eagle?”

“Well bald eagles are native to America.”

Seriously? Could this man be anymore of a pleb? I don’t suffer fools gladly. I’m not overly fussed on people in general, but I am particularly averse to condescending jerks. I don’t want to say something I might regret, and I still need the information.

“It’s hurt it’s wing. I’ve managed to catch it, but I’m not sure what I should do now.”

“Oh dear, well more often than not, being caught by a person or animal actually kills the bird. Shock you see. You should have left it, and just observed it.”

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“Well I didn’t provide remote observation, I caught it. What do I do now?”

“Place it somewhere outside, where it can leave if it wishes, but where it is also safe from cats. If it is fit, it will fly off of it’s own accord. If not, take it to your local vet. There isn’t much you can do with wild birds if their wing is damaged, so it would probably be euthanised.”

“Well that hardly seems fair, can’t they splint it or something?”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that for birds.”

He scoffs again and I immediately hang up. Smug bastard. I stand a moment, staring at the bag, still unsure what to do exactly. Could I have killed it with good intentions? I peer inside. It’s moving, but it looks scared. I feel like shit.

Without anything else to go on, I take the bag outside to the garden, along with a shoe box, in which I place a few pairs of socks in lieu of saw dust or straw, and a bottle top filled with water, and I place the bird inside it. I leave the lid off, so it can fly off if it wants to, if it can. Then, I sit down beside it, keeping guard. I can’t leave it. I’ve basically boxed up a packed lunch for one of the

neighbourhood cats. At least the rain has stopped.

We sit watching each other, sizing each other up. I wonder what it thinks I am? A predator? A friend? I don’t want it to be frightened. If it does die, I want it to die knowing some kind of kindness. I lean in and gently stroke it’s feathers, “Shhhh, it’s ok. You’re ok. It will be fine.” I speak softly, like a mother reassuring a crying child. I hear words coming out of my mouth that have been said to me so many times over the years; words I never believed. “It’s ok, you’ll be fine.” I suppose that’s just what you say to someone when they’re sick or upset, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s true. It’s kind.

It closes it’s eyes, and it’s breathing steadies. I watch it sleep. I know it’s just a bird, it’s not even my bird, but I genuinely feel upset at the thought of it dying. Sometimes, I imagine things which are unrelated, are signs or signals from the universe. Dr Ferguson calls it ‘magical thinking’, like those people who think if they don’t flick the light switch on and off fifteen times before they leave the house, their family will die. I think, everything is a sign that I’m a failure, that things will always be this way, and they’ll never get better. I want the bird to get better. I want to get better.

I hear my mobile phone ring inside the house. It will be fine for a minute. ‘Mum’ flashes on the screen. I take a deep breath.

“Hey mum.”

“Did you go to the Doctor today?”



“And what?”

“Are you feeling better?”

I wish it was that easy. I’m the only person in our extended family who has suffered from mental health issues. My mum is used to applying plasters and administering medicine. She doesn’t understand how long this process could take to work, if it works at all.

“I feel the same, but it was only my third session. You have to give these things time.”

“Are you taking your tablets? You know what your memory is like.”

“Yes mum.”

I’ve lived away from home for years, but she still treats me like a child, checking I have clean clothes and I’m eating right. I hate it and crave it at the same time; it’s comforting to know a safety net exists. As I listen to her unsolicited advice, I see movement from the box outside. A small flutter at first, before the bird manages to jump out of the box. I watch it try out it’s wings, moving them back and forth, hovering a foot into the air before coming back down, then two feet, then onto the glass table. I can’t hear my mum now. I hold my breathe, and stand as still as a statue, terrified I’ll spook it and ruin it’s recovery. After a minute or two, it simply flies away. I run outside, but it’s already gone, a black dot in the sky.

“…but you know that right?”

“What’s that mum?”

“You know you can get through this? You’re going to be alright.”

I smile, “Yeah, I’ll be alright.”

The Magic Box Part 2: A Short Story Inspired by the Once Upon a Book Club Box Subscription.


Hello readers!  We have officially made it past hump day, and are well on our way towards the weekend.  And I have the perfect thing to get us through the rest of the week- Part 2 of my take on a classic fairy tale, inspired by a very special book subscription box.  If you are unfamiliar with the Once Upon A Book Club Box subscription box, it is a monthly subscription box which contains a carefully chosen book and a series of wrapped gifts, each one marked with a specific page number.  When you reach that number, you open the gift, and it will be tailored to that specific point in the book.  It is a very immersive experience and I have enjoyed it immensely- the full review of the book and the box will be up next week.  I felt inspired by this immersive experience, and posited the question: What would happen if the box LITERALLY immersed you in an adventure, and that each gift was your tools to survive?  The first part was posted last week, and this is the final part of the story.  I hope you like reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it!  If you like the sound of the Once Upon a Book Club Box, you can get 10% off a subscription with my exclusive code MARIE10!!  Happy reading….

The Magic Box

Part Two

The woods began to darken slightly, shadows lengthening, branch like hands spreading across the forest floor. After a few minutes, she came to another clearing, almost a perfect circle formed by the gap in the trees. In the centre, stood a statue, twice the size of Ella, made of dark, grey stone. It was cracked in places, aged, ivy climbing it’s way up and twisting around the figure which stood tall and wide. It was a man, with broad shoulders and long hair. He wore some kind of uniform, and held a sword aloft. She stared at him a moment. He had a handsome face, and his eyes stared off into the distance at some unknown object.

She went to walk around it, and suddenly the sword dislodged and landed in front of her, mere feet from where she stood. She fell back in shock, scrambling away from the gigantic stone blade. Then it spoke, a deep voice, echoing through the trees. “Only the worthy shall pass.” She lay still a moment, feeling her heart beat, which had suddenly began to crash within her rib cage, begin to slow again along with her breathing, as the sword was slowly brought back into it’s original place, and the statue became still and lifeless once more.

Swallowing hard, she dragged herself to her feet, and approached the statues base, being careful not to walk beyond it. She noticed what appeared to be writing on the stone base, so slowly, and carefully, keeping one eye of the stone warrior, she pulled the ivy off, revealing the message beneath. “Only those who have worth of self shall pass beyond this point.” She read it out loud, hoping she could decipher some hidden message or discover the answer to a secret riddle, but no answer came. She continued, talking to herself, for she had resigned herself to the fact that she was going insane anyway, and thought she might as well go the entire way and seek her own counsel, “What does that mean?”

“It means what it says.”

She leapt back, expecting the sword to once more make it’s way towards the earth, and was surprised to find that, not only did it remain in place, but the stone face was now staring down at her.

“But what does it mean, ‘worthy’? What makes someone worthy or not?”

“You’re asking the wrong questions.”

“What is the right questions?”

“You’re asking the wrong questions.”

She began to find his deliberate vagueness irritating, impatience growing along with the darkness. She closed her eyes, exasperation succumbing to weariness. How long had she been in this place? For the first time since her Father had passed away, she found herself missing home.

She reached into her apron, and finding the small round parcel with gold spots, she tore the paper off with one swift movement, revealing the gift within. In her hand, she held a compact mirror. It was gold in colour, and on the front, there was the image of a rose, with maroon red petals and dark green leaves. She ran her finger along the smooth, enamelled surface. It reminded her of her mother, who always carried one. Ella opened it, so her own eyes stared back at her. Only those who have worth of self shall pass. Slowly, she began to understand.

“Who decides who is worthy?”

“Now, you are asking the right question.”

“I decide. That’s what it means isn’t it? I decide if I am worthy?”

“That is correct.”

It sounded so easy on the surface, to decide that about yourself, to give yourself credit, to believe in your own self worth, but reality is a different matter. Ella had spent most of her life being told she was a thorn in her families side, a pebble in their shoe. Her step mother had reiterated time and again what a burden she was on her. The sad truth is, that if people tell you you are worthless often enough, you yourself will start to believe it.

She thought of her mother, of how kind and beautiful she was, and of her father, such a clever and loving man. Tears began to fill her eyes. In an instant, she imagined a life where they had been able to watch her grow, a world where every day, they had told her how much they loved her, how perfect she was to them. Tears forced their way from her, snaking their way down her cheeks, and almost as quickly, tears of sadness became tears of anger. What right had her step mother to treat her the way she did? Not once had she given cause for such bile, never had she deserved such mistreatment. For years, she had cooked and cleaned after her and her two lazy, idiot daughters, and not once had she been told thank you.

“I am worthy…” It was spoken so softly, that the words were barely audible to Ella, but she realised, once they were spoken aloud, that they were words of truth. And so, she repeated them, louder, “I am worthy,” and then louder, “I am worthy,” until she was shouting at the stone knight, tears of anger rolling down her face, “I AM WORTHY.” It turned it’s face towards her, as if it had only just noticed her existence.

“I am worthy. I may not be the best of my kind, but I am a good person. I am kind and loving, in spite of the way I am treated by others. I am just as worthy as any other soul who may come by this place, and you shall let me pass. Do you hear me? You SHALL let me pass.”

Without waiting for a response, she walked around the base, passing the large gouge in the earth’s surface, marking the spot where his sword had fallen, passing the statue entirely. In fact, so determined was she to walk where she pleased, that before she realised it, she had walked so far, the statue was no longer visible amongst the trees. She stopped, leaning against a nearby tree, the bark rough beneath her hand. She withdrew the mirror, and with the small amount of light left, she looked at her own reflection and smiled. She decided there and then, that she would no longer take the insults and the cruel jabs. She was Ella. She was her Mother and Father’s daughter, and she was worthy.

Darkness had fallen on the forest. Ella tread slowly and carefully, moving from tree to tree. On more than one occasion, she felt eyes watching her from the black, following her, observing her. At one point, she thought she had seen something moving, but forced the idea from her mind, trying to hold on to what little strength and courage remained within her. She could not stop to rest; she had no provisions, no shelter, no food, and even if she did, the dangers of her surroundings were completely unknown to her, her environment totally alien. She had to keep going until the final task, she had to get home. As if to reassure herself, she touched the last parcel, turning it over and over, feeling it’s weight in her hand.

After walking for what felt like hours, she began to feel her eyes growing heavy, her feet weary of their trek. She began to fear she would never leave this place, when a light appeared in the distance, stark and bright in the enveloping darkness. She approached cautiously, glad she could once again see her way. As she neared, she realised it was several torches, the flames causing shadows to pulse and vibrate. Even from a distance, she could feel their heat emanating through the thick forest, and she suddenly realised how cold she had been.

The torches were staked into the ground. There were three in total, each in front of a tree, and each tree containing a door. She walked from tree to tree examining each door in turn. The first, made of a dark, mahogany wood, was carved with hundreds of faces, all of which were distorted in pain or twisted with fear. She shuddered at the sight of it, and quickly moved on to the next one, deciding a closer inspection of the first was unnecessary. The second was metal, silver in colour, with chains decorating it, some of which had shackles hanging from their ends. Moving quickly to the third, she found a dark stone door, engraved with thorns and skulls. Each door seemed as unappealing as the other, and Ella began to pray this was not her final task.

Suddenly, the flames of each torch grew, as if being encouraged by invisible bellows, and a booming voice came from nowhere, echoing all around her, making the source impossible to discover, “CHOOSE.” The flames remained tall, casting a heavy, smoky heat all around. She remained firmly planted to the spot, fear gripping her, as she made the impossible choice between whatever was there with her, in that terrible place, or to face whatever horrors awaited her behind each door. Shock had paralysed her, and growing in volume, and impatience, the voice sounded again, “CHOOSE.”



She swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly dry. She took a deep, slow breathe, and steadied herself against a nearby fallen tree, staring at each door in turn, none appealing to her in any way.

“Please, where do they lead?”

Laughter filled the air, not just from one voice or one person, but dozens of different creatures all laughing at once. It came from all around her and lasted several seconds before suddenly ceasing. Then, another voice came, this one higher in pitch, more feminine, with a sharp edge to it, each syllable leaving a mark.

“That’s the game. You choose, without knowing, because really, it doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t understand.”

There it was again, that laughter, those dozens of voices building quickly to a crescendo.

“Of course you don’t. You’re a weak and stupid child, I’m surprised you even made it this far.”

Anger began to build within her, “I am not weak.”

“You are weak and pathetic. This is the only time you have even ventured from your tiny little life. You hate your existence and yet you do nothing to change it, and that it why it doesn’t matter what lies beyond each door, because no matter what it is, no matter what challenges you will face, you will lose. Whichever door you pick, you won’t be strong enough. Whichever door you choose, the ending is the same.”

The laughter came again, this time lasting much longer. Sometimes, it would seem the invisible beings taunting her, were right beside her ear, and then in a split second they were somewhere else, further away. Each one felt like a stab to her heart, and angry tears began to fill her eyes. She closed her eyes, a memory burning bright behind her eyelids. Her step mother had found her crying in the barn after her step sisters had tripped her up in the mud and told her she should sleep with the pigs. She had a sly smile on her painted lips, and her eyes glinted with hatred, “I’m ashamed to call you step daughter. Such a weak and pathetic little creature, such a burden. If it wasn’t for the memory of your father, I would have cast you out years ago. But we all know what would happen if you left this place…you wouldn’t last a day in the world beyond this village. My daughter’s were wrong about one thing though, you are no pig, although you certainly look like one. Pigs at least have intelligence.” And with that, she had left her crying, alone in the dusty shadows of the barn.

But her step mother was wrong. She had faced creatures beyond the imagination of most, and survived. She had discovered courage and strength within herself, which she never knew existed. Ella proven herself worthy, and no band of disembodied brutes would convince her otherwise. She pulled the third package from it’s hiding placed, and tore the paper off. Inside was a heavy brass key, polished to a gleaming shine. The teeth of the key were more elaborate that any she had ever seen, and the elaborate knot at it’s other end was quite beautiful.

Every door seemed equally menacing, and so she decided on a whim to choose the middle door. She had no idea what she would find on the other side, and she would never know if this had been the right choice, but she had to make one, and whatever she faced, she knew in her heart, she could stand her ground. The laughter died off, and before any of the voices had the chance to speak again, she turned the key. The door opened of it’s own accord, and a bright, blinding light flooded into the black void of the forest, illuminating every knot in every tree, and every pine needle or spiders web within it’s reach. She closed her eyes, the brightness almost paining her, and she felt herself being pulled within. It felt like she was falling, air rushed around her head and her body became weightless. The light made it impossible to open her eyes, and so she continued to fall into the unknown, dreading the inevitable impact to come. And then, it stopped.

Slowly, she opened her eyes and found herself on the straw bed floor of the barn. Light was streaming through holes in the wooden ceiling, and particles of dust danced and tumbled in the beams. The familiar smell of hay and horse manure filled her nostrils, and she could feel the weight of her own body once more. Ella lay there for several minutes, wondering if it had all been a dream, until her hand found the three objects within her apron, tracing every part of them with her fingers: a box, a mirror and a key. She smiled. It had all been real. Magic was real, “You were right Father.”

“Who on earth are you talking to?” She jolted upright with a start, that familiar voice bringing her crashing back to the here and now. Her step mother stood at the door, the light behind her, casting her in an ominous shadow. It made her look even more evil than usual, “I asked you a question child. Who were you speaking to?”

“None of your business.”

Shock spread across her face, furrows and lines lengthening and shortening as the shock subsided into rage, “How dare you speak to me like that you insolent little brat.”

“No, how dare you! How dare you treat me like a servant! How dare you abuse me and treat me like dirt! How dare you step mother!”

Ella had never seen her step mother so enraged, and at one point she thought she saw her eye twitch. She stomped towards Ella, until her nose almost touched hers, spittle hitting Ella’s face as she yelled, “How many years have I put up with you burdening this family? How long have I put up with you out of charity? How long have I fed and clothed you out of the goodness of my heart?”

“You have no goodness in your heart.”

“Well, I never…”

Ella began to close the gap between them, her step mother moving backwards to increase it again, as bewilderment replaced anger.

“How long have I put up with you? How long have I cooked for you and cleaned for you? How long have you treated me like a servant, like an animal? How long have you degraded me and bullied me? Well no more. I am no longer your punching bag.”

Ella had forced her back so far, her step mother suddenly found herself forced to sit on bails of hay, almost toppling over them entirely. Ella didn’t wait for a response, she no longer cared what her step mother had no say to her. As she pulled the heavy door completely open, her two step sisters bolted upright, having been caught eavesdropping. They did not wait to feel the lash of Ella’s tongue, and both immediately turned and ran towards the house. Just as she was about to step outside, her step mother spoke once more, her voice transformed from a shrill and domineering tone, to that of a meek child, “You won’t make it out there. You aren’t strong enough.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I am strong, I am brave and I am worthy.”

And with that, she left. She walked away from the only home she had known her entire life, she walked away from her only family and she walked towards a new life. A life on her terms, a life worth living. She saw Jacob appear on the path, a bunch of wild flowers in his hand. She smiled to herself. She had no idea what awaited her out there, but she knew that whatever it was, she could handle it.

The End

The Magic Box Part 1: A Short Story inspired by the Once Upon a Book Club Subscription Box.

magic box

Happy Hump day everyone…it is half way to the weekend, and I have a treat to get you through the rest of the working week!  Tonights blog features part 1 of a very special short story, called ‘The Magic Box.’  If you missed my blog on the 26th of October, go check it out now, because it features the unboxing of a very special monthly subscription box: The Once Upon a Book Club Box.  This is a very special book subscription box, which creates an incredibly subversive experience.  In a nut shell, not only do you get an amazing and carefully chosen book, but you get a series of gifts, tailor made for that book and individually wrapped.  You are prompted to open each gift in turn, by the page number it is associated with, and the gift is something directly linked to that specific part of the book.  It truly brings the book to life, and I am enjoying it immensely so far (keep an eye out in a week or two for a full review).

Inspired by that immersive experience, I thought to myself: Imagine if the book box actually pulled you into your very own adventure?  Happy Reading…

The Magic Box

Part One

Ella stared hard at her reflection, willing herself to transform into another person, to suddenly wake up in another life far away from here shaking off this one like a bad dream. But no amount of wishing would bring about the changes she so desperately craved, she had long since given up on magic and other childish ideas, and so, she wiped the soot marks from her tear stained cheeks and went to feed the chickens and muck out the pigs.

It hadn’t always been like this; she had been happy once. When she was small, and had both of her parents, life was wonderful. She remembered games and laughter and softly spoken words to sooth her sores or rock her gently to sleep. First she lost her Mother, a kind and warm woman, who sang constantly and gave the best hugs. Then she lost her Father, a clever man who laughed at his own jokes and told the most fantastical bed time stories, of ancient magic and adventures in foreign lands. Before he departed, he provided her with a Step Mother and two sisters. Selfish and spoiled, they treated her like a servant, not family, and reminded her constantly of what an inconvenience she was.

She sighed wearily. She wished she could run away, but where would she go? How would she survive? The world was so big to a girl from a small village. She had heard the town cryers bringing news of pirates and highway men, of thieves and murderers, of cut throats and tricksters of the highest order. She wouldn’t last a day.

The familiar whistling of Jacob, the postal boy, snapped her back to reality. He was approaching her from the path, a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. Ella liked Jacob, he was sweet and honest, and unlike so many people from the nearby town, he treated her like an equal, not something to be ignored or overlooked.

“Good morrow Ella, ’tis a fine morning.”

Almost out of habit, she turned her face towards the sky, and assessed the pureness of the blue, the absence of cloud, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin.

“That it is Jacob. What news have you from town?”

“Well, the Mayor announced a posh dinner for all the well to dos, the blacksmith had two horses stolen and someone pilfered the head from the statue of Sir Lancelot from the town square. Apart from that, just the usual comings and goings.”

Another sigh escaped her lips. She yearned for something bigger than this repetitive country life, something beyond her village, perhaps even beyond the walls of the town. She yearned for escape.

“There is something unusual to report however…,” a sly smile began to spread across his face, which widened as he spoke, “…and I think, no I’m sure, it will bring a smile to your face.”

She waited a moment, anticipation swelling, until impatience burst forth and spilled from her lips, “For heaven’s sake Jacob, out with it.”

He pouted, feigning upset, before pulling a parcel from the well worn leather satchel he carried. It was wrapped in brown paper, tied in twine, nothing unusual about it, until one looked closer at the name inscribed in slanted gold writing, the name of Ella Decor. Shock quickly subsided, replaced by overwhelming excitement, as she snatched it from Jacob’s hands. She held it tightly, assessing it , as if at any moment it may begin to tick and explode. She had never received a single letter, never mind a package. Her heart faltered slightly as she wondered if, perhaps, it was some trick being played by her Step Mother. Jacob as usual read her mind, and placing his hand on hers, he quietly said, “There’s only one way to find out.”

She kissed him on the cheek, only momentary contact but with a lasting effect as his face reddened and shyness spread across his face. She ran towards the barn, knowing there she would never be disturbed, imagining a million scenarios, each as unlikely as the next. Jacob watched her skipping away, growing smaller with distance, and he wished more than anything that he could be brave enough to tell her how he feels. But the moment was gone and his chance had passed, and so, with a heavy sigh, he carried his heavy load to the next farm; there was post to deliver.

She landed on the pile of hay with such force, it sent up a cloud of dust and scared the horses nearby. They quickly quieted, although they made their annoyance known with the occasional huff and puff. Oblivious, Ella clutched the parcel, staring at the gold lettering, tracing the letters with her finger. She wanted the moment to last, but excitement overtook her and she tore the paper off in one quick motion, revealing a box beneath. It was pink in colour, the colour of wild roses, and it was painted to resemble a book. On the front, where the cover of the book would be, were the words, ‘Once Upon a book box.’ She stared, confused, turning it over and over in her hand. She had never seen such a beautiful box, and she couldn’t imagine who would have sent it to her. She read and re-read the title, but the words held no meaning.

And then she noticed it, right at the back, in tiny writing, ‘Fairy Godmother Industries.’ She recalled her father’s stories, of magical creatures granting wishes to those in need, of pumpkin carriages and midnight dashes. She shook the idea from her mind as ridiculous. There was no such thing as magic. And yet, something about the box called to her, a whisper in the wind, barely audible. It told her to open the box. Slowly, she opened the lid, but before she could see what it contained, she was blinded by a light, emanating from within it, brighter than any candle or flame. She covered her eyes and fell back, hitting the soft earth with a thud. She could smell moss and rain water, and could feel soil beneath her face. It took her a moment to realise that this was not the bare wood floor of the barn. She blinked hard, circles of light still swimming in her vision, and saw above her a blue cloudless sky where the barn roof should have been.

Slowly, she sat up, taking in her surroundings. She was in a thick, dark forest, ever green trees as tall as houses flanking her on either side. She could hear birds singing nearby, and could feel the damp earth underneath her. It smelled of pine needles and there was an early morning chill hanging in the air. The only familiar sight was the box, it’s pink colour a stark contrast to its brown and green surroundings. She picked it up, and three small parcels fell from the open lid, and landed on the earth beside her. She examined them in turn. Each was wrapped in a different coloured and patterned paper, tied with the same twine as her package had been, and on each, hung a cardboard label. The first was small and thin, and felt heavy for its size. It was wrapped in silver paper, and the label read, ‘Number 3.’ The second was slightly larger, but much lighter. It was wrapped in a pink tissue paper with white stripes, and the label read, ‘Number 1.’ The third was round, wrapped in brown paper with gold spots, and the label unsurprisingly read, ‘Number 2.’

Perplexed, she pulled the now empty box towards her, and examined inside. On the lid, in the same slanted gold writing as her own name had been inscribed, was a message from the sender, ‘Dearest Ella, I have heard your cries and I will grant your wish. Take the gifts on your journey, and open them when the time comes. Do not open them before, or out of order, or the spell shall be broken. I believe in you, love from your Fairy Godmother. P.S. I can only take you so far, you have to do the rest on your own.’ She read those words a dozen times, she shook the upturned box, and read them again, but none of them made sense. The words were familiar, but their meaning was a mystery. How could this be? She looked around her and thought, for the first time, that perhaps her father’s stories were more than they had seemed, perhaps magic was real.

Gathering the packages, she placed them inside her apron pocket, and not knowing where to go, she chose a direction, and began to walk, hoping that she would find the answers she sought, or at least, perhaps, find her way home some how. The dry needles crunched underfoot and a slight mist hung amongst the trees. “This must be a dream.” She said it out loud, to no one in particular, hoping in doing so, she could convince herself. She pinched her arm, and immediately felt the short sharp pain emanate from that spot. She did not feel reassured.

She felt like she had been walking for quite some time, when she began to hear voices. She crept forwards, using the thick foliage as cover, until she came upon a small clearing. Within it was three of the ugliest little creatures she had ever seen. They came to waist height, and had warty, wrinkled skin and mud coloured eyes, a row of horns was visible along their hair line, and they had rows of sharp yellow teeth. They were laughing in grunt like spasms, while they threw something from one to the another, although Ella could not see what it was. They reminded her of the tales her father told, of ogres under bridges or goblins inside dark caves.

Suddenly, the smallest and fattest of the three, missed it’s target, and the object they were throwing landed on the earth and rolled towards the bush Ella was using as camouflage. It was a glass jar, with a number of small holes drilled into the gold metal lid. Within it lay a tiny girl, with lilac hair and two large oval shaped eyes the colour of lavender flowers. She shone and glittered within the jar, creating the illusion it contained a candle, and most astonishingly of all, she had two large dragon fly like wings protruding from her back, which glistened with all the colours of the rainbow when they caught the light. Ella had never seen a fairy in real life before, but she knew straight away what it was. The poor creature looked sickly, and sorrowful, and no wonder, with three little monsters throwing you around like a ball.

The skinny ogre, with long, greasy hair, shuffled towards her hiding place and picked up the jar. It stopped suddenly, staring right at her, sniffing the air like a dog on the hunt. “Come Tobias, bring her here. I haven’t had my fill of fun yet.” It was the largest of the creatures, who wore armour made of wood and rope. The skinny ogre let out a huff, before turning back to the group.

Their game began again, their laughter growing with every throw, and before Ella could stop herself, she was running towards the short, fat one, brandishing a large branch as a weapon. The element of surprise aided her with the first assailant, as he fell to the earth with a pained cry, a stunned expression on his ugly little face. The second attempt was not so lucky. She swung towards the skinny, greasy one, once, twice, as hard as she could, but it managed to jump back, narrowly missing a thump to the face. She stood over the jar, trying to protect it without letting go of her make shift bat and her heart sank as she realised she was surrounded. She now stood between all three, the fat one having recovered from his initial shock, green blood oozing from a cut on his forehead. They snarled, and growled, circling her like a pack of dogs.

Panic began to rise in her chest, and she could hear her own heart beating inside her skull. She swung the branch wildly back and forth, trying to keep them back as they circled. The largest ogre raised his fist, and they came to a halt, “What manner of creature are you?”

Her panicked mind swam, so she barely managed to answer, “Ella.”

“I’ve never ‘heard of an Ella. Your awful ugly things Ella.”

The others snorted a laugh.

“Why have you attacked us, Ella of the shadows?”

“I couldn’t stand there and let you torture this poor fairy any longer.”

He laughed, the others joining in.

“And you’re gonna’ stop us eh? You, and your twig?”

They laughed again, this time louder.

“That fae be ours, we caught her fair and square. Walk away from the jar now, and we won’t eat you.”

Her mouth felt dry, and her palms were sweating, the branch becoming heavy in her arms.

“What do you want with her?”


The laughter started again, and the small, fat one, flinched towards her so she swung wildly in his direction on reflex. They laughed all the louder.

“When you eat a Fae, you eat it’s magic. I wonder what happens when you eat an Ella?”

She heard the skinny one licking his lips, her heart beating so hard within her chest, she feared it might burst through her ribs.

Just then, she felt something vibrating from inside her apron pocket. In the excitement, she had forgotten about the gifts. Could this be the moment she needed to open parcel number 1? There was only one way to find out. She threw the branch at the leader, sending him falling back with a thud. Grabbing the jar, she ran between the other two, narrowly missing being grabbed, and began to run. She swapped the jar for the parcel, and tearing the paper, discovered a brown, glossy box within. On the lid, in shiny brass, was the picture of a bee. She could hear them gaining on her, so she opened the box. Suddenly, a swarm of bees flooded from within. There was thousands of them, and Ella had no idea how they could have all fit within such a small box. The swarm grew to form a black cloud, blocking what little light made it through the thick canopy of trees. The cloud flew and moved as one, a sentient, black cloud. Suddenly they came together and formed the shape of a human head. To Ella’s utter surprise, the mouth then moved, and buzzing, static words could be heard. “Why have you disturbed us?”

“Please, I need your help. I am being chased by monsters. They are trying to kill me and this fairy.” She held the jar up to where she supposed eyes should be, but realised the foolishness of her actions. There was thousands of tiny eyes looking at her from within the swarm. She could hear them close now, any second they would appear and attack her.

As if things couldn’t become stranger, the fairy within began to buzz in a language Ella could not understand, although she supposed it was Bee. Suddenly, the face shifted, and became angry, before the swarm moved at speed in the direction of the three ogres, now mere feet from where Ella stood. They split, surrounding all three, as they batted and swung to no avail. Their cries could be heard for several minutes, as they ran away, the swarm following, until the noise died away with distance.

Ella fell to the earth, panting, tears of relief filling her eyes. She scrambled to open the jar, and gently poured the fairy onto a soft bed of moss nearby. After a moment, it spoke, it’s voice soft and melodic, “Thank you Ella of the shadows.”

“It’s just Ella actually.”

“Thank you Ella Actually.”

She opened her mouth to correct her, but thought better of it.

“What were those things?”

“We call them Dwellers. They live in the swamps, and poison the earth with their bile and hate. They have no magic, and so, out of jealousy, they steal it from other creatures. That’s what I told the bees. Many of their kind have been killed by the Dwellers.”

“Bees are magic?”

“Of course they are, haven’t you seen the honey they create? The flowers they grow?”

Ella had never thought of it before, but she supposed bees were magic.

“You have great courage, Ella Actually. In your land, you must be a great warrior”

“No, I’m just a servant. I’m nobody.”

“Don’t ever say that about yourself. It takes great courage to stand up to bullies, and even more so when it is to save another. You are kind and brave, and I thank you with all of my heart.”

It’s wings began to move so quickly, only a blur could be seen, and the fairy flew towards her face, kissing her lightly on the cheek. Warmth spread throughout her body, emanating from that spot, and she suddenly felt filled with happiness and love.

She began to fly away before Ella could gather her thoughts, “Wait! Where am I?” She could just make out the voice, though she could no longer see it’s owner. “The wayward woods.”

“How do I get home?”

No answer came, and after she had taken a moment to collect her thoughts, she picked up the now empty box and placed it back inside her apron pocket. She had no idea where she was in relation to where she had began her journey, and so, once again, she simply chose a direction, this time the opposite way from where the Dwellers had been chased, and she began to walk, wondering if, this wasn’t a dream, then perhaps, she had lost her mind.

Part two will be uploaded soon! Subscribe to my blog so you never miss a post!