Midnight Moon – “Blockhead” Part I


Music: “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, “Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd

Sunday, January 28, 1979

Rebecca Thomas Dunne was in a decidedly bad mood.

She’d had a backache the entire week previous, and her husband Griffin had been a total asshole about everything. What she truly wanted was an ice pack and a foot rub. Instead, what she received was reproach in the name of breakfast–poached eggs to be precise. Rebecca just could not get them right this morning. Griffin was unhappy, as he had been for the past six months.

“Para el Amor del Dios,” Rebecca muttered in her native language as Griffin stormed the kitchen petulantly.

“Dammit, Rebecca,” Griffin griped. “It’s the only thing I ask—that you give me fairly adequate meals.” He shoved his plate aside. “As it is, I’m late for my tennis match. I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Too tired to argue, Rebecca sighed and muttered something about making him something different. He huffed and refused her offer, leaving without his coveted breakfast.

The door slammed, shaking the house. She was left with Sister Sledge singing their sibling empowerment anthem on the LP and a growing sense of ineffectuality. She had never felt so low in her life.

Then, without any warning, she found herself standing in a puddle of liquid.

“Shit,” Rebecca found herself saying. Then, mortified that she had sworn so viciously, she covered her face. “Did I just say that?” Another contraction buckled her and her focus was shifted as she clutched her belly. “Oh wow. I’ve gotta call Irene.” Not once did she think about calling Griffin. This labor business had already started off badly.

She hoped the child came out all right or she would never forgive herself.

Of course, several hours later, the child dubbed Samantha Brittany came out angrily–and when she was cradled in her father’s dubious arms (Elizabeth and Irene suspected he was merely there because the tennis courts didn’t have reliable lighting at night and he had nothing else better to do), she screeched like a wild monkey trapped in gilt.

That probably should have been a warning. Oh well.


Being Jennifer’s big sister dominated Samantha’s early years. Jennifer had come along a little less than eighteen months after Samantha, and she was softer, kinder, and gentler than her predecessor. At first, she followed Samantha like a shadow, mimicking anything she did. It was empowering to have a permanent copycat, and thus was the state to which Samantha had become accustomed. However, as Jennifer grew up, and the sisters started socializing outward (particularly with their cousins—Irene’s daughters), she had begun to change. She preferred Barbies and My Little Pony to the jungle gym. She took pride in her E-Z-Bake and her gang of Cabbage Patch dolls.

To Samantha, that posed a bit of a problem.

Samantha, perhaps molded by those early moments in her mother’s womb, hated anything frilly or domestic. She had more scabs and scars than hair bows. And the word dress made her break out into hives all over. Nowadays Jennifer wore them all the time!

Ack! Gag her with a spoon! She couldn’t stand it.

It was a rainy Saturday morning, and Rebecca was depositing Samantha and Jennifer with her older sister so that she could take care of some important business. Samantha and Jennifer were too young to understand what was going on, and Rebecca didn’t have the heart to tell them about the impending breakup of their parents. If she had been more frank, she would have found that her girls would have been more acceptant of the severance.

Samantha used to enjoy being at her Aunt Irene’s house. She was a fan of the bigger space and of the camaraderie she shared with her female cousins, particularly Jessica and to a lesser degree her little sisters. Well, except one.

Irene had set the girls up in the living room while she did some work on a criminal case in the other room. The girls (their brother Eric was over a friend’s house for the weekend) were fairly self-sufficient, especially with Jessica supervising. Jessica was not a pushover, but she was hardly a tyrant either. Samantha admired her older cousin and hope that she grew up exuding that same amount of power.

It was nearing nine that morning. Irene had produced a sizable amount of pancakes, eggs, and bacon for the girls to consume, and then let them loose to watch some TV. Jessica had originally wanted to watch the VHS of Wildcats (Irene knew nothing of this, however) and no one had openly protested.

That is, until someone had turned it on Muppet Babies, and Samantha felt her heart sink.

Jessica, not quite eleven, sighed in exasperation as she tucked her legs under her on the couch. “Muppet Babies? Really?” She looked over the rumpled masses like an irritated general. “All right, pipsqueaks—who turned it on the Muppet Babies?

There was a chorus of juvenile denials. Jessica groaned and waved a hand. The voices stopped.

Suddenly, the tallest of Jessica’s little sisters stood and spoke.

I turned it on Muppet Babies,” announced Daniella Thomas defiantly.

Samantha rolled her eyes. She didn’t like her cousin Danie, with her hair flips and bright nail polish and fluorescent hair scrunchies that somehow ended up at the Dunne house and in her way. But even more—and she would not understand this until she was much older—she didn’t like Danie because she was stealing her baby sister away.

Jessica’s reaction was much like Samantha’s would have been. “You little brat! No one wants to watch that.”

Jennifer fidgeted. “Actually, I—”

“Maybe we should pick something that everyone can enjoy,” Moira-Selene offered, being the eternal peacemaker.

“I think everyone would enjoy the Muppet Babies!” Danie countered.

“I personally wanted to watch PBS,” nine-year-old Claudia-Michelle revealed, flipping through her music maestro book.

Danie rolled her eyes. “You’re such a bore, Claudia-Michelle.”

“Better than being an idiot,” Claudia-Michelle shot back. Danie’s eyes widened then narrowed. Samantha snickered. Claudia-Michelle, even though she was a bit too prim (especially in her lace-trimmed pajamas), had some redeeming moments as well.

“Hey!” Jessica exclaimed. Everyone went quiet again. “We’re gonna watch the movie. Anyone who doesn’t want to watch can go play somewhere else.”

Danie gave a defiant hair toss. “Well I am playing somewhere else. I have a makeup session with Barbie. Anyone else want to come be beautiful with me?”

“Go away, Danie,” Samantha snapped. “You’re just being a show-off. No one wants to play with your stupid girly toy.”

In her French braid and long-sleeved PJs barely hiding her surgery scar, Moira-Selene sighed. “Danie… Sam…”

“You don’t want to play with it,” Danie said, “but Jennifer does.” With smugness in her eyes, she turned to look at Jennifer, who fidgeted in her place as if she had shot J.R.

Samantha gazed at her little sister, cornflower blue stare intense. “Well? What are you gonna do?”

Pause. “I want to play with the makeup,” Jennifer said softly. The smug satisfaction on Danie’s face was enough to turn Samantha’s stomach. Guiltily, Jennifer bit her lip and followed Danie out of the room.

As Samantha watched the opening credits of Wildcats, fuming, little Gretchen Thomas plopped down next to her.

Gretchen was the youngest of her cousins. She had been attached to Jessica much like Jennifer had been attached to her. Jessica, however, was six years older than Gretchen, so the attachment was slightly awkward and short-lived. Jessica had found better entertainment than hanging out with her four-year-old sister.

“You know,” Gretchen began, pigtails swinging, “she is my sister but I really don’t like her.”

Samantha, a little surprised, looked at the little girl sidelong. Gretchen, big green eyes filled with boldness, stared back. After a moment, she leaned as if sharing a secret.

“I know where Eric keeps his spiders,” Gretchen whispered, eyes twinkling with evil. “We could put one in her bed.”

She was small, but she had spunk.

Samantha’s mouth twisted into a grin. She would do. Yeah, she would definitely do.

Midnight Moon – “The Middle” Part I

“The Middle”

Do you believe in miracles? I do.

I entered the world small and barely breathing during an early September afternoon. And with a companion, too: my twin sister, triumphant and vibrant with life.

So happy my parents were with their bounty: a set of twins! However, Fortune frowned upon them and rendered me deformed. No, not in a way that made people stare shamelessly. No—this dysfunction was steeped in subtlety. It existed inside of me.

I nearly died numerous times before my first birthday. The left ventricle of my heart never formed correctly—a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome; infants endure procedure after procedure before they can lift their heads, aided by the oracle of technology. Back then, such boons were not available, and the news descended from doctors’ mouths like an atom bomb.

When I flash back to the moment the stalwart Dr. Gregory Armstrong stood wearily before my shaken parents, surgical cap in his hands, my parents’ solidarity jumps out at me. Hands are linked, bodies are close. You would never know that two years later, my father would have resumed the affair that spawned three children with another woman. Thinking of that makes me wistful.

“If she doesn’t have surgery,” Dr. Armstrong informed them, “she will die. Her heart is severely malformed, and it will be a miracle if she lives past a month of age without swift action.”

My mother attempted to swallow her tears but could not. She broke down into heart-aching sobs. The thought of her precious daughter dying…inconceivable. My father nodded resolutely and told Dr. Armstrong to do everything in his power to save me.

* * *

I stand in the gallery of Audbone Heights Medical Center while a long-haired (in a surgical cap, mind you) and focused Gregory Armstrong amends my inauspicious heart with the Norwood procedure, which, at the time was fairly new. My father, versed in the discipline but sobered by the sight of his own child under the knife, observes. My little body appears blue and pitiful under the illumination. I cannot watch for long.

Later on, I hover a moment over myself in recovery. I brush a finger over my newborn fist, wishing I could feel my own skin. As a rule, I never get to touch my past, just to observe.

* * *

The plate flies over my head and shatters against a wall. Luckily I am a mere shade in this scene so the possibility of getting maimed remains low.

It is 1988. My mother carries my little sister Gretchen on her hip to her seat while the rest of us cower at the dinner table, listening to my parents argue. I didn’t know then what the pictures in my head meant, only that they scared me. My mind foretold my hospitalization, but how could I verbalize this? Outside of the family, others believed I was odd, despite Jessica and Claudia-Michelle’s fervent defense.

“I know you’ve been with her, Robert!” my mother exclaimed, banging a pot of pasta. “I can smell her on your breath.”

“How dare you accuse me of being unfaithful without any proof, Irene?” my father demanded. “It’s not my fault if you’re feeling insecure.”

At the sound of metal hitting metal, six-year-old Gretchen jumped. Danie frowned into her spaghetti. Jessica tried to calm her, bolstering the rest of us. Eric sat red-faced, inwardly cursing his parents for not being nice to one another.

But Claudia-Michelle. She’s staring at me.

With the dubious pleasure of hindsight, I now understand not only the development of myself but also that of my sisters and brother. Jessica formed into the tough tomboy because she had a great deal to protect and Eric felt, being the only boy, he had to be as tough as she was; Claudia-Michelle, gentle and sophisticated (and fierce when circumstance allowed), learned to appreciate the brief beauty of things in life and the care and respect they required. Danie refused to be lumped with her sickly twin and flourished with her vitality. Gretchen struggled with the awkwardness the inattention brought. My life impacted all of theirs; many a night there were with them bouncing around in a waiting room for me.

My seven-year-old face hurts to take in; inside of me, my heart fought to pump as infection started to overtake it. My glassy eyes fluttered with the effort to stay conscious.

Claudia-Michelle rose to her feet. “Mama!” she yelled, voice hoarse with fear and urgency.

The scene blurs; Mama rushed into the room just as my seven-year-old self collapsed into Claudia-Michelle’s arms. I can barely see past the tears before I close my eyes and move on.

* * *

Later on, Dr. Armstrong faced my parents (less than united) about my newest problem. I had an infection of my heart, and the shunt was becoming ineffective. There existed two options: transplant or death.

My father threw his hands up in frustration. I press my lips together, trying not to be angry when he suggested that the transplant is too much of a long shot. He worked in the profession, watching as hope failed for transplant patients and they died without a new organ. His assertion is steeped in reason, in logic.

“No,” Mama disagreed, eyes damp but voice firm. “We will manage. Get m’ija a new heart, Greg. She hasn’t come this far to fail now.”

Dr. Armstrong, that bullish giant with the gentle hands, nodded. He wasn’t merely interested in the positive stats and the good press; he genuinely wanted me to pull through. I believe if my parents had disagreed with the transplant option he would’ve placed me on the list himself.

“I am glad we both agree,” Dr. Armstrong said quietly. However, there resonated a bit of reproach for my father. A little amusing from this end.

* * *

Oh yes. I can’t leave out the heart. It has a story of its own.

The donor had been a vibrant ten-year-old girl who had died in a tragic car accident while visiting family in New York. Her name was Ella, and she lived in a suburb in Pittsburgh with her two sisters, mother and father. She played softball and loved Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Her health was exquisite, and her blood type matched mine. And the heart? The atria and ventricles were perfect, like they had been carved by gods while the embryo flourished inside of her mother.

I’ve visited Ella several times. She was lovely, a precocious redhead that reminds me of Jessica. She had freckles that she hated and blue eyes inherited from her mother. I am not so egotistical that I believe I deserved her heart. Every time, whether she’s sighing over Zack Morris’s smile on the TV screen, catching her breath after clearing home plate, or fighting for her life in an ambulance going at light speed, I thank her for the gift. She will not be disappointed.

Midnight Moon – “The Marking”

“The Marking”

She was angry.

Anger persisted as a side effect of her ability to control fire; the emotion rolled through her like molten lava, threatening to spew through her pores at any given moment. The mind, Aurora would always say, controlled the body, therefore the mind should always be strong. (Of course, Angelia would not always agree, being more agile than mentally controlled.)

But the soul, Felice interjected softly, superseded them all.

Her soul toiled with restlessness and fury. Perhaps that was why, when she picked up the bo, even though her mind and body had transcended to a space of peaceful tranquility, her fingertips darkened the mahogany wood.

“You can refuse you know,” he told her, back straight, the grip on his own bo firm but casually dangerous.

A muscle twitched in her thigh–the only movement of her body. Her soul, on the other hand, smoldered with contempt.

“Like hell I will,” she shot back.

The weight of the looks from their allies thickened the air between them. The wind held its breath; the sun did not blink.

She sprang first, swinging the stick as rushed forward. He stopped her onslaught with a smooth lifting of his own bo. Every move of hers, he evaded. Every blow, he blocked. Goddammit! she cursed inwardly. She wanted to win. As the blood thudded through her body and mind, her soul coveted victory. Yes, Felice won the argument this time.

However, her mind produced an idea: burn him.

Their training focused not only their physical and mental development but also on their special abilities. They were gifted. Why else were they here?

Her eyes narrowed on a spot on her opponent’s hand. Wanting to best me, are you? Her eyes went tawny. Let’s see you forget me now.

The bo clamored to the ground as a cry met the spectators’ ears. They watched as he paused, looking at his hand, then looking at the dark-haired young woman before him in stupefaction.

Her soul was smug. No matter how many times he defeated her now, that scar would be there forever.

Midnight Moon – “A Gifted Christmas” Scene Two

To all of you out there, I hope you have had a restful Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!

Don’t dread going back to the norm too much, and I’ll try not to as well 🙂



Sophia Flannery, better known as Sophie, peered at the adults before her. She barely knew them; this event marked the first time the thirteen-year-old had seen all of them since she entered the world in a hospital in Asteria, blessed by the Crown Princess. Judging from what her world had taught her, the people that formed this group were diverse and precious.

The aforementioned Princess now stood at her twin’s elbow, fighting to calm the nerves that Miyori Arashi made awry. Aurora Sanford, Sophie knew, possessed a strength of mind that rivaled a monk; from the whispers, the furtive looks in certain directions, Sophie figured something had sent her off-stride that went deeper than a parlor trick from the resident magician.

The rest of the adults continued the dinner preparations; Moira-Selene Thomas, her lifesaving talents momentarily unnecessary, laid out the silverware with unerring precision. Megami Takumi Hill, radiant in green sheath dress aimed to make Jamie Cook, her date, drool (and certain others burn with jealousy), arranged the table decorations with panache. Sophie’s eyes swept over them and did not stop until she spied Daniella Thomas holding two wineglasses by their stems in one hand and gesticulating with the other. Kaneshi Tsukimori appeared to be the other person in this exchange but held up his end rather poorly. He seemed distracted. He and Aurora both?

“A pretty girl like you does not need to be thinking this heavily at such a moment.”

The melodic voice of her aunt Bridget resembled the presence of the Gifted Nine in its rarity; ever since Bridget suffered the loss of her husband–Sophie’s uncle–she flirted with the outskirts of familial attention; she visited sporadically and never lingered. That made her touch on Sophie’s shoulder ever the more precious.

“I’m just wondering is all,” Sophie responded idly.

“Wondering what, my sweet?”

“Why they’re so sad. It’s Christmas. They should all at least be stumbling around on spiked eggnog.”

Sometimes Bridget forgot her niece’s level of perception; so long had she endeavored to protect Sophie that she had neglected to prepare her for the dissolution of her innocence. She hadn’t had time to prepare herself.

Bridget followed Sophie’s olive green gaze. Ah, she mused. She knew the shadow hanging in the background of this scene–she could almost see the flash of black hair so dark it was blue.

“As much as I wish I could explain to you,” Bridget murmured, “you’ll understand more than I would like by the time the night is over.”

Before Sophie could implore her aunt to elaborate, Isabelle entered the room, blanketing everyone in her gentle peace. Samantha, Gretchen, and Melanie tiptoed in behind her all carrying side dishes, while Miyori stumbled into the room with more than a few battle lumps and the inanimate ham. Jessica escaped virtually unscathed–status quo for the Warrior.

“I believe it’s time to eat,” Isabelle announced.

In the back of the room, the aforementioned Detective Michael O’Lara held up a bottle of wine. “And drink,” he added, earning a few chuckles.

As hostess, Isabelle only sat when her guests were seated; she initiated the passing of the food and only received when everyone else had a helping. She smiled at the exultation expressed over plates; her smile only dimmed when she noticed subtle signs of suffering.

Her gazed locked with Bridget’s. Not yet.

“So Mo’s gonna be the DD tonight, right?” Eric teased Mick.

“Believe it or not, I can hold my liquor better than some,” Mick rejoined. His light eyes flicked in Moira-Selene’s direction.

“I cannot help that my post graduate education did not include Keg Standing 101,” Moira-Selene quipped. “I believe drinking is a pasttime better partaken in the privacy of one’s own home. Men are gentler devils under their own roofs.”

“Sometimes I don’t know if it’s coming out of her ass or if she’s quoting Shakespeare,” Danie remarked, already on a second glass of wine. Jessica rolled her eyes.

“All right, gemelas,” Isabelle chided. “It’s Christmas. Save the quarrelling for Boxing Day.”

Danie leveled a jesting violet stare upon her twin. “At midnight I’m coming after you with a Nerf bat.”

“That’s if you can find me.”

Danie sat back abruptly with revelation, eyes dancing. “Oh hermana–are you staying at Mick’s tonight?” She whistled bawdily, making her sister blush.

Gretchen sipped on wine. “Good thing someone’s getting some.”

Samantha frowned. “Gretch, I don’t know why you’re complaining. I know you’ve been having fun with your–” Samantha bit off the rest of her sentence; she could feel the phantom kick from Isabelle. Sophie watched her intently.

“Your floatation device,” Samantha finished lamely.

Megami giggled. “I love when they’re waterproof!” Evident it was then what Jamie gave her for Christmas.

Despite themselves, the adults engaged in mildly mischievous conversation; Sophie, so observant of the looks that passed between her mother and aunt, hardly noticed the subject matter.

Finally, after the meat had nearly been reduced to bones, Bridget gave a nod and rose from her seat.

When she returned, she hefted a canvas framed in gilt that nearly dwarfed her. Conversations dropped off as the attention fell upon this new occupant.

“I know we agreed not to exchange gifts,” Bridget said to the quiet room, “but I believe we can make an exception for this one.” Her hazel eyes hovered on the solemn man before her. “Kane?”

Kane looked up, dark eyes wide and slightly startled. He could barely speak as Bridget presented him with the painting done by his late sister’s hand. The colors sizzled with their warmth. The touch of the artist was deft, showing skill along with care. The movement of the two figures conveyed a pause in combat, the climax of a man and woman sparring: the searing of the man’s left ring finger and the golden eyes betraying the show of power.

“It’s called The Marking,” Bridget explained.

Danie placed a hand over her heart. “The day in Victoria Field when we fought…”

“Where–?” Kane choked out.

“She asked me to keep it for her,” Bridget responded. “It’s been in a storage unit this whole time. I found it two weeks ago.” Kane raised his eyes to hers. “It’s yours, Kane. I know you’ve been missing her lately.”

Kane nodded silently, awed by his gift from the sister thought he had long lost. After a moment, he murmured, “Arigatou gozaimasu.”

After a beat: “Could someone explain what the hell is going on?” From Mick O’Lara.

Moira-Selene all but smacked her own forehead.

Laughter entered again as Angelia, who had been supervising at the time, attempted to explain the context of the picture. Blushing glances passed in-between Kane and Danie; some of the heaviness in his heart had disappeared and it showed in his eyes. Even Aurora seemed a little lighter.

Sophie understood, wrapped up in that moment, the spirits of Christmas and Sakura Tsukimori were vital in this room, and they were as welcome as life.

Midnight Moon – “A Gifted Christmas” Scene One

“A Gifted Christmas”


Bedlam had descended, and it was armed with tinsel, turkey and stuffing.

In the kitchen of the normally calm house that Isabelle Flannery usually called home, Jessica Thomas stood frowning at the gravy she stirred with a wooden spoon. So deep she existed in her contemplation that she hardly noticed her younger brother peering over her shoulder.

Muttering under her breath about viscosity, Jessica grabbed a measuring cup full of water–just a yelp sounded from the dining room. Whirling toward the clamor, she nearly back-handed her brother and the water sloshed in the cup. Luckily, Eric’s reflexes almost matched her own–or he would have been on his way to the emergency room.

“Dammit–” Jessica began.

“Please don’t kill me,” Eric pleaded. “I was just checking on dinner. Do you need any help?”

Jessica pursed her lips together. “Let me guess. Miyori sent you in here.”

Eric shrugged. “I came on my own. You wouldn’t maim family would you?” A growl was Jessica’s response. At this point, who could be sure of anything, especially fratricide?

A crash preceded the hasty emergence of the man in question with three angry females hot on his heels. Narrowing her eyes, Jessica pulled out her cache of super-quick reflexes and did her allies a favor. Within a blink, Miyori lay on the tile, staring dumbfounded at the ceiling.

Samantha Dunne cheered. The windows rattled at the outburst of energy. “Hell fucking yeah, Jess! I knew you were always my favorite cousin.”

Beside her, Gretchen, Jessica’s little sister, pouted. “Hey, I thought I was your favorite cousin.”

“Not since you’ve got that dubstep shit stuck in my head,” Samantha retorted. This time Gretchen only fumed.

Miyori sucked in a breath before rising; his collision with the floor had been rather abrupt and highly uncomfortable. “I’ll have you know that I hardly deserve such treatment. The reports of my so-called shenanigans are highly exaggerated.”

Melanie Smith crossed her arms over her chest and cocked a hip to the side. “So says the asshole who decides to turn the tinsel into a snake while we’re putting it on the tree. I really oughta kick you right now and let you bleed!”

“I thought Mo was going to have to do CPR on poor Aurora,” Gretchen added.

Faced with the discomfort of his beloved princess, Eric punched Miyori in the shoulder. “What the hell, man?”

Miyori put his hands up in a gesture of defense. “It wasn’t poisonous. I don’t know what they’re so mad about. It wouldn’t have bitten anyone.”

“That’s hardly the point,” Gretchen said. “I don’t think it would sit well with anyone if their Christmas decorations metamorphosed into a slithery, hissing thing.”

“Real talk,” Samantha agreed.

A timer dinged; Jessica disentangled herself from the scene momentarily to extract the ham from the oven. Miyori stepped forward–only to meet with Jessica’s fist. Unlike Eric’s blow, this one had him staggering a few steps.

“What?” Jessica blinked innocently, all the while balancing the pan in one hand. “It was just a little punch.”

Glowering, Miyori’s mouth twitched; a split second later, the meat blinked up at the bemused cook and let out a distinctive oink.

Jessica’s eyes widened. She thrust the squealing dinner into her little sister’s arms and dived for the already moving Illusionist.

“What is going on in here?” Isabelle asked, looking every bit the part of the Mother with her long black curls unbound framing an expression of exasperation.

Melanie shook her head. “Miyori turned the tinsel into a snake, we chased him in here, and he turned the ham from cooked to spooked. Now Jessica’s pissed at him.”

As Samantha cheered on the beatdown and Gretchen chewed on her lip with the pan in her arms (the animated ham squirming all the while), Isabelle sighed. Why had she volunteered to host Christmas dinner at her house this year? Dios Mio!

Isabelle rubbed her temples, a tension headache beginning to form. “I think we may need to start dinner before someone dies.”

“No worries,” Melanie retorted. “If she kills him we can hide him in her wine cellar. No one will even notice he’s gone until after New Year’s. He won’t even be sober until then.”

No one is committing murder under my roof–especially not while I have one of Gracia’s finest sitting with a Guinness in my living room.” Stride full of purpose, Isabelle picked up the measuring up full of water and dashed it on the dueling duo.


When they peered at her incredulously, fighting instincts to attack, she turned on her best hostess grin. “Time for dinner!”

Awed, Gretchen muttered, “Now why didn’t we think of that?”



Midnight Moon – “Men Are From Mars…”

I wrote this one back during my freshman year of college when I was dating Mr. Shameless and before I conceived Midnight Moon in this overactive brain of mine. I haven’t decided to Moira-Selene’s love interest is going to be quite yet. The best part about this, for me as I read it, is how the characters interact with one another.


“Men Are from Mars, and Women Want to Kick Their Asses”


Moira-Selene would never understand men, no matter how long she lived.

Sure she was the smartest girl in the Thomas family (aside from Jessica, of course), but she could never figure the puzzling mind of a man. No book or magazine could relax the permanent crease she had in her forehead because of her new boyfriend. She realized this, and quite dejectedly so, as she sat in the living room of the apartment she shared with her sister Danie and her cousin Jennifer. The clock blazed the numbers of eight, four, and nine, and Moira realized that her Saturday night was shot.

“I’d stop waiting by the phone if I were you,” Danie muttered from behind Cosmopolitan magazine with her raven hair in a deep conditioning. “He’s not going to call.”
“Whoever said I was waiting on him to call?” Moira-Selene inquired defensively.

Danie lowered the magazine, its cover proclaiming one hundred and one sex positions, and raised one perfectly arched eyebrow as if she were Dwayne Johnson’s long-lost younger sister. “Hello?!” she trilled. “Look at the eager, I’m-gonna-win-the-Publisher’s-Clearing-House-Sweepstakes look on your face! I know that look.” She paused with a reflective expression. “Sometime ago, I had that look on my face, too.”
Moira-Selene rolled her eyes. “Danie,” she began patiently, “if I may recall, I think a certain roommate of mine was shooing everyone away from the phone last night to make sure she got a call from a certain, oh, what’s his name again?”
If Danie’s hair hadn’t been wrapped up in the towel, she would have tossed it nonchalantly over her shoulder, but she lifted the magazine back to eye level instead. “We’re not talking about me, here. We’re talking about you.” Danie threw the pillow at her. “Now get away from the damn phone. Make some cookies or something. I’m hungry.”
Gee, what a loving sister she was.

But Moira-Selene heaved herself from the couch and walked into the kitchenette, hearing Jennifer’s giddy voice drift in. Even though Danie could be a bit brash, she had a good idea. Making cookies would take her mind off Duo, and then she could think clearly. With resolve, she turned to the pantry to take out the ingredients. That was when the phone rang. Her heart galloped, and she stalked out of the kitchenette to answer it.

“I’ll get it!” Danie sang out, diving for the phone as if it were a life preserver. Moira-Selene watched with hopeful, wide eyes. “Hello?” The longest pause in the world. Then Danie grinned. “Oh hi Danny! I didn’t expect to hear from you tonight.” She gave Moira a look that said, Go away, the phone is mine.

Aw, damn. Toll House, here Mo comes.

Moira-Selene drifted back into the kitchen. She retrieved a huge bowl and a wooden spoon. After throwing together the ingredients, she whipped them into a frenzy until her arm screamed at her. When she stopped, she found herself crying softly into the cookie batter.

Moira dropped the bowl onto the counter despondently. What the hell had made her like this?

Oh. Yeah. Right. Gotta go back and explain…

*              *              *

Ten months ago, Moira-Selene Eleanor Thomas had been a single woman. If anyone had brought it to her attention, she’d badger them with a long, verbose explanation about how she and members of the opposite gender were not compatible, and the ones with fully functioning brain cells opted to go for the silly, blond-haired type.

Then Jennifer would get all pissy like someone gave her Suave shampoo instead of Pantene, and she’d have to amend her statement: they went for the dumb girls—no matter what hair color they had. And then they understood.

“But Mo,” Gretchen said on one occasion as they were at Belvidere’s, “not all guys are hormonal football game-watching, beer-guzzling, Playboy-perusing freaks.”
“But a lot of them are,” Samantha broke in, sipping water.

“Some of them are sweet,” Gretchen insisted.

“Do you include your last five boyfriends in that category—the ones that cheated on you, if I may recall?”
After Samantha said that, Gretchen sighed and returned to her own water. Moira-Selene knew that Gretchen’s love life wasn’t exactly the best in the world, but she did have a point. There were exceptions to every rule.

“You just gotta show those guys who’s boss,” Danie declared. “Be confident. Don’t them step all over you.”
“Yeah, but no one likes to be bossed around,” Gretchen pointed out.

Danie held her hand out, bent at the wrist as if she were expecting some rich businessman to kiss it, and prepared the table for another Daniella Thomas enlightenment. “I didn’t say ‘boss him around,’” Danie said. “There are many ways to get a man to do what you want him to do.”
Samantha rolled her eyes. “Danie, holding out on sex only works sometimes. Sometimes that backfires, and he goes looking for other bestial opportunities—if you know what I mean.”
Danie laughed like a Southern debutante with magnolias up her butt and a huge rock on her finger. “Samantha, Samantha. You don’t hold out on him forever! There’s this thing called teasing. And then you…”

Moira-Selene shook her head wordlessly and tuned Danie’s Dear Abby moment out. She felt slightly disillusioned and even more confused. Ever since she had left home when she was sixteen she wondered if there would be anyone for her. And even more, how would she go about finding him?

Zeus was about to answer her, loud and clear.

*              *              *

When Moira-Selene and her missing amour had met, Moira-Selene had been shopping with Gretchen and her friends Christine and Megami. Gretchen had tricked her into going shopping for a new bathing suit since the California weather warranted one.

“Do not try on a one-piece!” ordered Gretchen as Moira came out of the dressing room. “If you get that, I will get Jennifer to make it a bikini.”
“Teeny weeny itty bitty yellow polka-dot bikini!” exclaimed Christine and Megami at the same time. They fell into laughter and Moira shook her head.

Gretchen tossed a sky blue number at her that would have had Justin Timberlake in cardiac arrest. “Try this one on. I wanna see it on you.”
Moira peered at the two pieces of scant fabric in her fingers. “I don’t think Barbie could wear this, Gretch.”
“Well, not with that so-called ‘anatomically correct’ body.” Gretchen pushed her into the dressing room. “Now put it on! No one’s around but us. I promise.”
Moira disappeared into the fitting room, half-wondering what the hell had gotten into her. She was the demure one, the one who opted for class instead of flash. And now Gretchen had pressured her into squeezing into something that she could have cleaned the bathtub with. What was the world coming to?

Moira nearly fainted when she saw her reflection.

Is that me? Is that woman me?

“Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
Moira panicked. She could see the drool pooling at men’s feet already. She couldn’t go out there in that bathing suit. There was no way. Over her dead body!

Gretchen was going to make a scene if she didn’t get out there, so Moira stepped out of the fitting room. Gretchen fell into silence. Megami looked stunned.

“Nice pecs, mate,”Christine retorted.

Before Moira could say anything, a loud voice broke the silence.

“Damn! Look at that hottie!”
Moira was suddenly glad that she hadn’t eaten or drank anything yet.

Frozen in disbelief, Moira stared at the young, long-haired man with her mouth open wide. Gretchen leaped up and ushered Moira back into her fitting room, jerking the curtain shut. Gretchen turned her older sister around and helped her with the strings. Quickly, they got Moira back into her regular clothes. After sharing a knowing look, they paused to listen to the conversation outside, peeking out from behind the curtain.

“Hey, where did that girl go?” the guy asked. Apparently he hadn’t left.

“Um, she’s gone, mate,” Christine lied, talking loud enough so Moira and Gretchen could hear. “You just missed her.”
“Yeah,” added Megami.

“You know her?”
“No!” Megami and Christine said in unison.

Meanwhile, Gretchen sighed and shook her head. “This little shopping trip was a disaster,” she whispered.

“You had good intentions, Gretch,” Moira whispered. “I know you didn’t intend on a warm-blooded American male happening by just as I was in that bathing suit.” She gathered all the bathing suits up. “But I’ve got to take care of this. If I don’t, he’ll never go away.”
Gretchen could only watch, flabbergasted, as Moira opened the curtain and stepped out casually into store. Megami and Christine halted in their Three Stooges-caliber lying. The guy grinned impishly at Moira.

“Well, I must say, the bathing suit looks better on you,Ehe commented flirtatiously.

Moira tilted her head and gave him an expression Jessica would have been proud of. “Oh? Like a muzzle would look better on you?”
Christine snickered loudly. She turned sharply and dragged a red-faced Megami away as the guy’s smile faded. Gretchen was still slightly openmouthed.

“Oh, so you’re one of those types,” the guy said.

“I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about,” Moira said, standing straight. “But I do know this: I do not associate with guys who find interest in me solely based upon my physical appearance.” Then she added, “And I know you’re of that type. So if you will, please get out of my way.”
But the guy was persistent. He remained firmly in front of Moira with his arms crossed. Even though his expression was slightly serious, there was a twinkle in his eyes.

“Not until you tell me your name,” he persisted.

Knowing that she was two steps away from punching him, Moira mustered up her patience. “The only thing I am going to tell you is that it would be wise to get out of my way.”
Was he laughing? Was the guy actually laughing at her?

Something inside her snapped. She thrust the bathing suits on a nearby rack and crossed her own arms.

“Are you getting out of my way or what?” Moira demanded.

“Not until I get what I want,” the guy told her, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes.

He was never going to move. She stepped to the right. So did he. She stepped to the far left. So did he. She snorted with anger and grabbed his arm. He began to grin, only to realize that he was sailing over her shoulder in air. When he fell to the ground with a big whoosh, Gretchen, Christine, and Megami all went slackjawed. Moira did a Danie-like hair toss and stalked off past a startled sales associate.

“Ay, mate! She bloody near broke that bloke in half!” marveled Christine.

Gretchen sighed once again as Megami led the two of them away from the recovering guy. “Why do I have a feeling this is far from over?”

To Be Continued…

Midnight Moon – Happy Birthday, Danie and Moira-Selene

In honor of Danie and Moira-Selene’s birthday, on September 2nd, I wrote this story. Moira-Selene closely resembles me in temperament  so it’s not surprising that she feels uneasy about birthdays. Danie, of course, arms herself with a wearisome itinerary and alcohol.

Gotta love being a twin 🙂

The Fall Girl

September 2, 2009

You don’t have to be a clairvoyant to know a birthday will reek of mild embarrassment. It’s a fact of life that permeates through time and space. And it usually wears a sombrero.

That feeling that comes over you when you are dining in a restaurant when, all of a sudden, the room is alive with singing, clapping, felicitations in a different language (depending on the kind of restaurant). Sympathy. That poor person, uneasily, uncomfortably in the middle of the chaos. You feel sympathy, but deep inside you’re glad it’s not you. And if you are the one in the middle of the whirlwind, well, nothing more than the ground swallowing you whole will suit the moment.

When it comes to birthdays, I think of them like I do a tempestuous thunderstorm–I would rather cover my head and wait for it to pass.

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Midnight Moon – Hummingbird

Angelia Sanford–formerly Angelia Bucchannan in my Pretty Soldier Midnight Moon days–was borne out of a wager with myself to see how many characters I could create with the base name “Angel.” No I am kidding, really. But I did make five of them in quick succession (the Wolfe triplets Angela, Angelica, and Angelique, and their little sister Evangelina aka Lina).

Each character’s value is precious; Angelia, in her current form, is one-fourth of the Novenine and the Crown Princess of the Kingdom of Asteria (my own made-up country of course–and sounds much better than Novena). Her beauty belies her strength and agility; bluntly, I wanted to capture Angelia roughing someone up. Though, her skirmishes are going to seem like tea parties next to anything Danie or Samantha gets into (which will be proven soon, no worries!).

Not to mention, even though I am wary of romance at the moment, I do rather enjoy the entrance of the Duke of Elwen. In my little movie Lee Pace would play him. Perfect fit, don’t you think?


Music: “Ah” by Superfly, “Idiot” by Lisa Marie Presley, “Anytime” by Crystal Kay, and “All I Need to Know” by Emma Bunton

Sunday, September 28, 1980

Generally, when a woman is due to give birth, there is a certain protocol; bags are gathered, family members and friends are called to make the pilgrimage to witness the coming of life. For the twenty-four-year-old Crown Princess of Asteria, the expectations were quite different. Preparations were made on a grander scale. The family tree branched out over geographical boundaries; therefore mass phone calls were made at varying degrees of an hour. The King of Asteria, softened by the impending grandfatherhood, spoke on the front lawn of the Palace Heulwen before departing for the medical center, revealing that his eldest daughter and successor was currently in transit to the hospital.

Everyone held their breath for the safe delivery of the firstborn of the heir.

Well, almost everyone.

The labor was difficult for Princess Katharine; fears that she would perish or her daughters would dominated her moods. The Prince Consort made great effort to console his young, terrified wife as the same feelings coursed through him as well. He figured that the only one who could give her any reassurance had not been born yet.

So he prayed that she would come soon.

She emerged from the womb that she had shared with her sister for thirty-six weeks, deep blue eyes gaping and hungrily taking in the sight of the delivery room. Katharine was uplifted with relief at the first hurdle being surpassed. The newborn barely made a peep until startled by the crash of thunder from an autumn storm outside. The irregularity was noted and was discussed, that is, until her companion made her entrance into this new world as soundlessly as her older sister had. The events were regarded with rapt interest by two new parents as the rest of the world waited for the Grand Reveal of Princesses Angelia Madeline and Aurora Magdalene.


The knobby-kneed, tawny-haired little girl who was to run the land had begun to understand certain things by the time she was five.

The first: she possessed power. Not just the mere ability of a gifted child to coerce others into doing what she desired, but something deeper—and grander. This thrilled her a bit because she always imagined that she could impose her own laws (mandatory ice cream for children was at the forefront of her legislation) and place her mark on the world.

“Sister,” Aurora would say to this whenever Angelia mentioned it, “I believe mandatory ice cream would be bad. Mommy says it would make everyone plump.”

And to that, Angelia would shrug and say, “But it’s made of milk and proteins, Mags. It simply can’t be all that bad can it? It’s sorta good for you.”

“But Annie…” And that was usually all Aurora would be able to get in edgewise.

Second: because of that power, she was not loved by all. When she was smaller, her parents had sheltered her from the brunt of it. They still did—however, there were moments when resentment leaked through the bonds of family.

One moment was particularly momentous in her history: the entire family had gathered at the Palace Heulwen with a sense of urgency. When the little ones had asked, the adults assured them all was fine, not to worry. Around them, in print, on television and radio, the country—the world—speculated about the impending death of King Galen IV and its aftermath.

Crown Princess Katharine had already begun assuming her father’s duties gradually as she became of age and it was determined that she was going to be his successor. Dissent came from Galen’s younger children, namely his son Francis. Because Clare, Francis’s mother, was the current Queen Consort, he felt he should follow his father to the throne. It was his birthright as the eldest son. However, since Anne, Katharine’s late mother, had died giving birth and still married to Galen, Katharine, by law, was the next sovereign.

The young children of the Sanford issue generally played together, but verbal jabs occasionally soured the dates. Francis had bestowed the honor of the bitterness he felt toward his older sister to his son Patrick, who was a year older and at least twenty pounds heavier than the twins. Bennett, the twins’ little brother, hated playing with him because he was rough and generally vulgar.

While the adults kept vigil around Galen’s deathbed, the Palace nanny kept watch over the Sanford-Randolph twins, their little brother, and their cousin. Since the quartet had been playing quietly, the nanny momentarily shifted her attention to what was going on with the adults.

“I wanna see Grandfather,” Bennett whined, three-year-old expectations flattened by the current state of things. He absently kicked at a toy—one that had happened to belong to Francis when he was little.

“Oi, that’s mine you little—” Patrick stood, towering over the small boy. Aurora, who had been reading Agatha Christie, looked up sharply. Angelia vaulted off of the couch and stood guard to her little brother. The plaid jumper in which her mother had fastidiously dressed her had not hampered her in the slightest.

“Don’t you dare lay a hand on my little brother or you’ll regret it,” Angelia warned.

Patrick narrowed his eyes at her. “You can’t order me around.”

“That was not an order,” Angelia shot back. “It was a warning.”

“What could you do?” He shoved at her shoulder.  She glowered but did not reciprocate. Aurora had stopped her cold with that look that said, Don’t Annie! You could get into trouble! Again! Damned that she was so predictable to her twin. “You’re just a skirt.”

“Annie’s not just a skirt!” Bennett piped up. “She’s a princess!”

“Quite right,” Angelia affirmed with a nod. “And someday this skirt’s gonna be your queen.”

Patrick stuck his tongue out at his cousin. “Whoever said you would be Queen?” he demanded petulantly. “Girls shouldn’t be allowed to run the country.”

If Angelia had known the term, she would have called herself a feminist. However, she found fault with her cousin at this moment simply because he was being a prick. Her young, supple mind understood that perfectly.

Brows furrowed in fury, Angelia gave the bigger kid a hard shove. He stumbled backwards and fell onto his ample behind. A lamp with a beaded fringe shivered slightly.

As he yelped, Angelia snapped, “My mommy is going to be queen! That is what Grandfather said. What he says goes. And if he heard you…”

Patrick, emboldened by his own fury, climbed to his feet and launched a rather sizable decorative rock at his little cousin. Aurora gasped and Bennett’s little face fell as he struggled with the urge to hurtle himself forward into the fray.

“Annie!” Aurora cried.

It was a moment in time that seemed to be slowed down for dramatic effect. Even as an adult, Angelia still didn’t know how she had managed it.

Blue eyes narrowed, Angelia caught the rock barehanded and launched it right back at Patrick like a seasoned baseball player. Its jagged edges left a rather painful indentation on Patrick’s broad forehead, and for a split second, surprise reigned until the pain took over.

Time zipped by, and suddenly they were no longer alone. Her mother stood at the door, tearstained and mortified at the scene before her. Angelia scented the shift in the air like one could smell smoke downwind from a burning house. She whirled as the other adults filtered into the parlor at the sound of Patrick’s mewling. Francis’s wife Jane went for her crying son, shrieking hysterically. Francis himself entered to assess the scene, then threw down the gauntlet at his older sister.

It was war with flowers flying.

As his parents carried Patrick away, Angelia went to her mother, sick with reprehension. Trembling, weak with this predicament on top of the death of her father, she shook her head at her eldest and went back into the Palace. Nigel watched Angelia’s little face scrunch, feature by feature. His heart cracked for them both.

“Papa,” Angelia began, tears starting to fill her eyes.

“It’s all right, sweet,” Nigel murmured, pulling her close. It was a little lie they could both cling to in the chaos that was rushing forth.

Late Adolescence

Because of her responsibilities, Angelia was often admonished about her growing insolence. The little girl who had deftly defended herself the day that her grandfather had passed had morphed into a young woman with a polished exterior—her mother’s doing. She had made superficial alliances with daughters of allies—also her mother’s doing. It was her father who reminded her that duty to the crown surpassed any base emotion or urge that came over her. It was her father she thought of disappointing more often than she did her mother.

In the twelve years that Katharine had been Queen, Angelia’s awareness had grown exponentially. She had also begun to chafe against her mother’s rule as a teenager did, amplified by the fact that her evolution was in view of the entire world.

Aurora and Nigel often acted as bystanders when the two women quarreled. Bennett usually escaped to find trouble of his own. To anyone watching, it was the equivalent to two snarling bulls brawling. Those two were too alike, and neither wanted to admit it.

However, in this stage of Angelia’s life, Katharine had all of the cards, made all of the rules. Angelia found herself consigned to events and roles that made her skin crawl.

“I don’t want to go to this bloody shindig!” Angelia cried on a particular night, tossing a red silk dress aside. “It’s just a breeding ground for sycophants and rubberneckers. I’d have more fun getting oral surgery with no anesthesia with a rusty butter knife.”

Aurora picked up the dress and put it properly away. “Well, Annie…you could just think of it as target practice.”

Eyebrows cocked, Angelia whirled. “Target practice?” She smirked. “Mags, you evil girl, you. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

Aurora chuckled. “I didn’t mean it in that way.”

“Blast. I was considering packing a pellet gun in my evening bag.” With an evil smile, she went for the closet. “I may still do it. Mother has me going to this thing with Harold Gray.”

Aurora choked on bile. “Excuse me—I’m sorry, Annie…did you say…Harold Gray?” She shuddered—and with good cause. Harold Gray was Asteria’s answer to Billy Zane’s character in Titanic. All Angelia wanted to do was hit him in the face. All anyone wanted to do was punch him in the face.

“Bennett’s idea,” Angelia muttered, eyes dark. Aurora winced. She only imagined what Angelia had in store for retaliation. “You know, they’re all like that at this age.”

“I wouldn’t say that.”

“That’s because you spend most of your time buried in books.”

Aurora threw at pillow at her twin. “There are all kinds of characters in books, you know. Where do you think authors get them? Thin air?”

Angelia caught the pillow. “Hey, who could tell with all those rampant imaginations?”

The duo laughed, not aware of what was in store for the evening.

Much to Angelia’s chagrin, Katharine was overjoyed in Harold’s presence. In front of her, he was charming, demure, and respectful. Nigel, being a typical father, distrusted Harold immediately. However, he was astute enough to sense his nefariousness when Katharine didn’t.

He had tried to voice his concerns. Katharine chattered them away.

Unfortunately, this time Her Majesty had made an egregious error.

During the event, Angelia had tried to escape from Harold. He had found liquor and was up to nothing but debauchery. She would have gleaned some satisfaction from preserving some evidence of this and proving her mother wrong, but she was too disgusted.

She walked outside to get some fresh air. Harold was attentive enough to follow. Bollocks.

She tried to keep her voice even as she spoke. “Harold, I think you need to go home. You are embarrassing yourself. You obviously have had too much to drink.”

Harold snorted. “Angie, you are far too uptight.”

Angelia inwardly bristled at Angie. She fought a full-body shudder. “No, I am not. I am the future Queen of Asteria, and it would hardly do for me to start stumbling around here like you and slurring my words.”

Harold leered at her. “You royal girls are all the same. All breeding and stiff upper lip.” His leer deepened with the weight of experience. “That is, until someone gets you out of your knickers.”

“I assure you, you will not have the honor, sir,” Angelia said, well, stiffly.

“I don’t know about that,” Harold shot back and reached for her crotch.

Angelia’s eyes went wide. “You cheeky bastard!” She twisted deftly out of his grasp. When he made another drunken pass at her, she firmed her mouth—and punched him in his with all of her power. He went flying backwards and landed with a thud. As he groaned with confusion and pain, she shook out her throbbing hand. Damn he’s got a hard head.

“Your Highness?”

Aw bloody hell, was all Angelia could think. If this part got back to her mother, she would never hear the end of it. At least before she had been free of reproach. Now? She whirled around, a dozen excuses and rebuttals on her lips.

They all withered when she rested her gaze upon the person who had spoken.

He was tall, slightly taller than convention. His brown hair was slicked back elegantly, and he was quietly debonair in his tuxedo with the white jacket that his mother insisted that he wear. True concern emanated from every pore. This was not your run-of-the-mill looky-loo. He was in a different league altogether.

“I…” Angelia began, unsure.

He made a minuscule step forward. “I heard you…were having difficulty with your…date.”

“Using the term date for that steaming pile of horse excrement would be an insult,” Angelia remarked. Pissed all over again, she kicked Harold in the crotch. She was pleased at the whimper that came from him and turned on a smile to her attempted rescuer. She didn’t realize the effect she was having on him; it was like she had socked him one, too. She squared her slim shoulders. “But no worries here. I’ve resolved the matter.”

He chuckled nervously at Harold curled up in pain. “So it appears.” Then he frowned. “But your dress…”

“I’m sorry?” She realized what he meant, and looked down. In the struggle, Harold had ripped the right strap of her dress, and a dangerous amount of precious skin was exposed. As she gasped, her mysterious counterpart worked off his tuxedo jacket and offered it. Perplexed at the gesture, she hesitated before taking it. Deciding it was not perilous, she slipped it on.

“Who are you?” she inquired.

“I am the Duke of Elwen, Duncan Bernard Ainsley.” He bowed before her. “At your service, Your Highness.”

She was startled at his manners, and covered herself to preserve her propriety. “I am forever in your debt, Your Grace.”

“You owe me nothing,” Duncan assured her, and led her toward the lights and away from the waiting, prying eyes.


Angelia felt that she became a woman the moment she began not to fear anything.

During the years that had passed between that annoying moment at Hartsborough Prep with Harold Gray and the present, she had learned a great deal about herself, her history, and her destiny. She was not merely a princess, and she would not merely be a princess either. Princesses were meant to exist in fairytales where everything was given to them. She had to learn to grapple and felt herself expert at it. Cinderella probably could not say the same, that humble dame.

She had looked Death in its eyes. There was nothing more terrifying than that. Anything that came after was elementary.

Even her first official Parliament appearance.

“Fear,” Nigel said to her prior, “does nothing but limit the things you can do.”

Angelia turned from the grand window in her father’s study. He tried not to be staggered by the sight of her looking regal beyond her years. The robe suited her. “But isn’t fear useful in some aspect, Father? Fear can control, can coerce.” Her lips curved in an ironic smile. “Fear can even repel when it’s handy.”

Nigel gave a small, considering nod. “Perhaps, my dear. Your mother would certainly agree with that tactic on some level and it should not be ignored. But which would you cherish more? A leader you feared and reviled or a leader you could truly count upon?”

Angelia frowned thoughtfully. Nigel continued. “Yes, fear can be useful against an adversary. But on those with which we should work?—no. It breeds mistrust and mutiny, Annie.” He rose, towering over her, but not by much in those heels she wore. “Charm them. Regard them with the respect they deserve.” Something flickered in Angelia’s eyes—indignation, if knew his eldest. “But at the end of the day, the biggest weapon you have is your authority. By the law of the land and the blood of our ancestors coursing through your veins, you have it. Use it.”

As his words fortified her, John Larson, the head of Palace security, came into the study. He was a dark suit and a comm. piece in his ear. He was accompanied by Queen Katharine and Princess Aurora. Aurora wore a gray suit while padparadsha earrings glittered at her ears. Katharine was dressed in an identical robe as her daughter. When she saw her daughter, she lifted her chin, assessing, then nodded in approval.

“I think we are ready to depart,” Katharine announced.

“Very well, Your Majesty,” Larson demurred. “I will alert the rest of the detail.”

Katharine thanked him. She turned to her eldest daughter, her successor. Something like pride gleamed in her eyes. She placed a hand on Angelia’s shoulder.

“I know we may not always see eye-to-eye—”

“Huge understatement, Mother.” Angelia couldn’t help it. Nigel coughed to conceal a laugh.

“But I always want you to know,” Katharine continued, “that I am proud of you. And that if your grandfather were still alive, he would be very, very proud of you, too.”

Years of battling vanished momentarily. They were just mother and daughter, and Angelia felt love blooming in her heart. Fighting tears, she embraced her mother.

At that moment, Larson entered the room. He paused respectfully for the scene before him. Angelia and Katharine disentangled themselves and straightened their garb.

“The cars are here,” he announced.

“Thank you, Larson,” Nigel said.

The family left, departing with their full security detail. Nigel and Katharine took the first while the twins (Bennett was on a diplomatic trip to Russia) took the second one. The women sat in the backseat jittery with nerves.

Larson nodded, and spoke into his comm. piece. “The hummingbird is coming for the flower patch.” He paused for a moment, listening to the answering call. Then he looked over his shoulder at the blonde behind him. “Everything’s in place, Your Highness. Never to fear.”

Never to fear. Angelia grinned to herself when Larson faced forward. She? Scared?

Not in a million light years.