At Romancing the Capital, I met Kayleigh Malcolm, who is hysterical, talented, and you should be following her and reading her stuff if you’re at all interested in some smoking hot romance. She also organized a monthly photo prompt.
Now, “Write this picture!” doesn’t have a lot of rules around it (another reason to love Kayleigh Malcolm), but the bare-bones idea is to once a month use a photo as a writing prompt. Beyond that, what each author does with it is up to them, but as the other authors post their prompts, I’ll link to these posts so you can see how a single picture is worth so much more than a thousand words.
The first photo last month reminded me of one of my favourite places – Sooke, B.C. I began writing stories set in a fictional – but similar – town called Fuca a while back, and have been there twice in published short fiction. Last month’s photo prompt was Sunlit, a short piece introducing two guys from Fuca having a very unscheduled meeting.
When I saw this month’s picture, I decided to keep going with the Fuca tale, and shifted to Ashley Bradley for this piece, which takes place shortly after the first.
“Can I talk to you?”
Ash looked up from his desk, surprised. “Michiko?” He blinked. “Sorry. I mean, yes, of course. Hi.”
Michiko’s eyebrows rose. “I’m interrupting.”
“No,” Ash said, but he closed his lap-top. The search page full of results for Samuel Avner was still on the screen. Most were stories of the assault. “I was just…” He wasn’t sure where to go after that. He shook his head. “It’s nothing. Please, have a seat.” He gestured to the chair opposite his desk in the small office.
Michiko sat. Tall and beautiful, she wore an ivory blouse, a dark blue pencil skirt, and heels that made him wonder how she could possibly have walked on the grass outside. She had a soft leather bag with her that he assumed was from a top-end designer. He’d always thought she’d look more at home as a high-powered CEO than as an interior decorator. Then again, if someone had told him he’d be running his uncle’s rental cabins, he’d probably have laughed in their faces.
He waited for Michiko to speak.
She didn’t. She just kept looking at him with that patient almost-smile.
“So…” he said, annoyed at himself for breaking the silence. This was a game he never won with her.
“Is there anything you want to talk to me about?” she asked.
“Nope. No. Everything’s good.”
Michiko’s perfectly groomed left eyebrow rose just enough to tell him what she thought of that.
He leaned forward. “I thought you weren’t delving into other people’s lives any more.” He tried to sound annoyed by what she’d obviously done, but it was hard. Michiko had gotten him through some pretty rough times when he was younger. She was from another one of the families in Fuca like his, and had a similar inheritance.
“I’m not. But sometimes I don’t get a choice, as you know.”
He glanced back to the closed lap top. “Dare I ask?”
Michiko smiled at him. “Sunlight. Fire. A version of you I haven’t seen before.”
Ash leaned back. “A version of me you haven’t seen before.”
She nodded. “You were laughing. Smiling. You looked – what’s the word? I never use it with you…” She tapped her finger against her temple. “Oh! Right. Happy.”
“Ouch,” Ash said.
“Seriously,” Michiko said. “It was a quick vision, but it was pretty powerful. And it was very much about you.”
“Being happy with sunlight and fire. So I’m a pyromaniac, maybe?”
Michiko shook her head. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”
“I don’t want to sound crazy.”
Michiko laughed. “You heard me just now mentioning having visions, right? You do remember high school, no?”
Ash flinched. She noticed, and her smile faded.
“Yeah, I remember,” he said.
Michiko softened. “I’m sorry. Wasn’t much fun for either of us.”
They sat in silence for a while, but it was comfortable.
“So. This vision,” Ash said.
Michiko leaned forward again.
“Tell me,” he said.
She closed her eyes. “You’re in the woods, by the Strait, I think. You’re looking at the sunset, and then you’re not alone. There’s a fire near you, and it’s suddenly very bright. And then you turn and you smile and…” She opened her eyes, but didn’t quite meet his gaze. “You’re, uh, happy.”
Ash frowned. “Happy.”
“Yes.” She still wasn’t looking at him.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“You’re very happy,” she said. Was she blushing?
“I don’t follow,” he said.
“You’re maybe not wearing any clothes,” Michiko said. “So when I say ‘happy’ I mean—”
“Stop!” Ash threw his hands up. “Enough. Got it. Thanks.”
Michiko grinned at him. “I like your tattoo.”
“Okay! Already mortified, now you’re making it worse.”
She chuckled. “I brought my crystals.” She reached into the leather bag and pulled out a small satchel and a large glass orb. “I thought maybe you might want a reading? It’s clearer if I’m near you, you know that, and maybe we can figure out who’s triggering this vision.”
Michiko blinked, lowering the ball. “What?” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“He sort of… popped in… the other day.”
She looked surprised. “Popped in.” She raised her free hand. “Here. He just… popped in.”
“It was outside, but yeah.” Ash leaned forward. “Is he…” He frowned, then shook his head. “Did you know he was… like us?”
Michiko’s eyes widened. “Sam?”
“When I say he ‘popped in’ I mean… literally. Like, ‘poof!’ Or, I guess, he popped out – I didn’t see him arrive, but I was there when he left.”
Michiko was staring at him, open mouthed.
“That was more or less my reaction,” Ash said. “I touched his arm, before… uh… the outbound poofing, and there was a…” Connection? Soul-searing shock? Jolt to the heart? “Kind of pulse. Between us. I get that from you sometimes, too. And my uncle. The others.”
Michiko nodded, but she was looking into her glass ball now. “I didn’t know about Sam. His family isn’t…” She shook her head. “I have no idea. But…” She frowned. “Have you noticed we’re all coming back?”
Ash frowned. “What?”
“Dylan Hurley. And your uncle’s boyfriend. Oh, and I hear Jennifer’s niece, too – I always wondered about whether or not she inherited anything. You. Me. Over the last year or so, a lot of us have come back. Why?”
“Dylan came back because his father died. You had the opportunity to open your dream business. My uncle never left. And I just needed a job.”
“Because your other job fell through – and uncle happened to have a spot for you here.”
“You’re telling me fate got me fired and decided I should manage cabin rentals?”
Michiko shook her head. “Not exactly. It’s just…” She sighed. “Look, your parents won’t talk to you about it, mine wouldn’t talk to me. If it hadn’t been for your uncle and Jennifer, we’d have been completely in the dark. They thought… I think they thought it was never going to happen again. Like, the blood was too thin, and it wouldn’t pass on anymore. Our parents don’t have anything. And then we came along, and… something’s starting.”
“Something,” Ash said.
“The best part of my visions has always been how incredibly concise and straightforward they are,” Michiko deadpanned.
Ash laughed. “Fair enough.” He bit his bottom lip. “So, Sam.”
Michiko nodded. “Sam.”
“He grew up well.” Ash knew he was blushing.
“All I remember are his eyes.”
“Well, they’re still amazing. As is pretty much the whole package.”
“Ah. He has an amazing package.”
“You are a filthy pervert,” Ash said.
“It’s why we get along,” Michiko said. She lifted her crystal ball. “Do you want me to maybe see what I can see?”
Ash hesitated. Samuel Avner. They’d barely spoken a few words to each other. But he remembered when Sam had been friends with his older brother, and he remembered how the whole town had reacted after the incident. Fuca wasn’t a cruel place, and in his heart, Ash knew the town’s pity had come from a place of compassion, but that didn’t mean Sam had suffered any less. He could only imagine.
Now he wasn’t even sure anyone had known what had really happened. It might have been something very different. Something uniquely Fuca after all, like his own family tree.
And if that was the case… If it was possible…
“I hope he comes back,” Ash said. He looked at Michiko. “I really hope he comes back.”
Michiko smiled, and raised the ball. “Let’s find out.”
If you want to see what other authors have done with this image, check below…