Friday, September 15, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 3

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Read past posts: Chapter One. Chapter Two.


Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete,  1,850 words
Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Three
15 years later

“The work of Specialist Voss has been commendable but her main knowledge as an asset was meant to be for capturing our primary target, William Lapointe, who remains at large. His network, the cults and supporters, have been hunted to point of irrelevance and yet, somehow he remains free.”

 “After 25 years, it’s questionable if she has any actionable intel left.” “And without capturing Lapointe, her allegiance is still questionable.”

Chrystal was in the room, she was in the meeting, but she wasn’t an active participant. Nothing she said would make a difference. Gareth, High Councilman Petran, Major Simmons, and Sergeant Major West were talking about the operation and she was an inanimate part of it. Was it viable still? Was the task force necessary? Should it be scraped for a more on the ground, intelligence gathering effort? She was the it. Even her assigned rank was meaningless.

“As the targets decrease, the pressure on Lapointe increases and our efforts are more focused. He has killed every intelligence agent before they can get close enough to be useful. Specialist Voss is the best option not only for tracking him from HQ but also if we were to send a double agent after him, she’d be the best choice then too,” West said.

“Absolutely not.”

“That’s out of the question.”

“Under no circumstances should those two be anywhere near each other.”

The other three spoke simultaneously and definitively.

Chrystal stifled a laugh.

“Something to add, Specialist Voss?” Gareth’s digitized image asked.

“Will wouldn’t trust me either. He would kill me on sight.” She didn’t bother stopping her laughter this time. “Then nothing would stand in his way of coming after all of you.”

“That sounds like a threat, Ms. Voss,” said High Councilman Petran, also present in digital form, only a voice in his case.

“It’s the truth. He had one mission in life, then I left. Now he only wants vengeance. Vengeance against the entire world. Only I know where he might be, no matter how slim the chance. Without me, he’d slit your throat before you even knew he was behind you.”

Simmons rolled his eyes, West hid a smile from the conferencing cameras.

“We are exactly aware of how dangerous Mr. Lapointe is and your failure to capture him keeps him a threat to us. You leveraged your ability to find him against your freedom but perhaps it’s time to try extraction again.” Petran was worse than Gareth in his obvious disgust, distrust, and hate of her.

“I don’t think this meeting is progressing any more. Let’s go away, make some concrete deadlines and achievable goals and action plans to meet those and schedule another meeting for the next month,” West said.

“Good point, Sergeant Major, we will stay the course for now and reconvene with actionable ideas for next time,” said Simmons.

“Fine,” Gareth said.

After a long pause, Petran added “One month, gentlemen.”

The call finished. The lights came on.

Col. Simmons stood up. West followed suit.

“Results you two. Something big. Or you’ll get reassigned, West, and . . . who knows where you’ll go, Voss,” he said.

He left.

“What do you want to do next, partner?” West said, sitting back in his seat.

Chrystal didn’t look at him. She stared at the table. She was very, very tired.

“We’re not partners,” she said. “And we’re going to find him.”

She left the conference room. West was a few steps behind her. “We’ve been trying to catch him. Do you have a new approach? New intel?”

They walked through grey carpeted halls, around other soldiers having their own walk and talks., around corner after corner, like a low-bid indoor maze.

“There’s no new intel to have. He hasn’t been in contact with anyone for years. Even the sightings have stopped.”

“Then you have a plan?”

Chrystal typed the entrance code on the touchpad, provided her thumbprint, and her retina scan for entrance to the task force’s HQ.

“My plan is to burn his havens to the ground, then salt the ground before I leave it. Give him no place to go but where I want him to be”

The office was empty, the three walls of screens and smaller banks of screens throughout the room were dark. Everyone had gone home for the day, she and West were staying late for the meeting.

“We’ve staked out every one of his hiding spots.”

“Then we’ll do it again.”

She put a map of Europe on one wall, South America on the other, and North America in the center. She remembered the cross-country and around the world trips, for pleasure, for business, for running, for hiding. The hotels, the first-class tickets, the luxury apartments, the train rides, the buses, the caves. There were so many places. His favorites. Her favorites. Could she have forgotten one?

“I know I haven’t worked this case as long as you, or even Simmons, but we are partners.” West watched her, not the maps.

“No. I’m an asset, you’re one of my handlers. I don’t get promoted, I don’t get commendations, I don’t get credit, I don’t get status. My name is not on any reports, only in them. There’s nothing you can do to protect me or have my back. We’re not partners.”

“You’ve worked with Simmons for a long time, right?”

She zoomed the European map to France. William loved France the best, when was the last time they looked for him there?

“He gave me the same speech, when I started here. That you were an asset, you could only be trusted to do the work, and not have my back like a human would, like a real partner . . . and more that I won’t repeat.”

“That sounds about right. I don’t trust myself. You’d be a fool to trust me. We work together, that’s it.”

“You might be stubborn about this but so am I. I don’t work the way Simmons does, I don’t think the way Simmons does. I trust you with my life, I have to, we’re both. I would go into the field with you and support you anyway I could.”

She started to say something, then shook her head and said something else. “We’re starting from the beginning, in France at sunset tonight. We’ll have to have an earlier start." She pulled the international clocks and sunset times to the center screens. “Have everyone back here in five hours. I’ll prep packages from home.”

“No problem, partner,” he said.

We’re not partners, she thought as she left. She walked through the building maze again, this time heading to the locker rooms for her personal effects. She still had images of the past in her mind. How many agents had she and William killed together? How many of them had partners they trusted? How many of those had they killed too? How many gave each other up to make it end?

She and Will had been partners in that endeavour, dispatching their enemies with glee. Eventually, she betrayed him. She was still betraying him. Gareth betrayed her when he negotiated her surrender. Simmons betrayed her behind her back.

She didn’t need partnership, she needed William Lapointe in shackles.

At home, Chrystal didn’t sleep. She didn’t sleep much these days at all. Her nightmares were unbearable. Even if she could get a few hours, they would be restless and futile.

Instead she worked.

Since she didn’t entertain, her combined dining and living room was her taskforce office at home. It wasn’t as high-tech as the military base, it wasn’t high-tech at all. She had her old diaries in paper, the Council records of William’s exploits, of their combined exploits, and their allies information all on paper, bound in portfolios, filling two bookcases.

There were two corkboards and one whiteboard, tacked with paper and post-it notes. On her desk, which was once a dining room table, were stacks of map references, the one used for their last failed operation was opened to Brazil.

She pulled down the files on Will’s early life, carefully chose the diaries where she wrote about their times in France and when Will talked about his life. She closed the map of Brazil and opened the one for France. She set her secure tablet in a dock and the keyboard was projected onto the tabletop.

The first thing she had to do was set the new security protocols for the French government. She and William were classified as terrorists, therefore they had to raise border and travel security and scrutinize the network activities and communications. Facial recognition software would be scanning every inch of CCTV and DNA scans for every traveler. They needed special op teams briefed and at the ready for targeted location searches and geographical sweeps. All suspicious activity and gathered data would be tagged and sent back to the task force for their analysis.

Then she needed to warn surrounding countries to be on heightened alert. They would be next in her search, for now their borders too would need to be more secure.

Next she would need to prepare the materials for her team. Most of them didn’t know the details of William’s past, only his physical description, aliases, and what he was wanted for. They needed to be as informed as she was on the details. Maybe they would see something she’d missed, though she doubted it.

She knew William as well as she knew herself, better than she knew anyone, better than anyone else could know him. But maybe that was why she couldn’t find him because he knew her too and despite the time and infidelity she was still too close to him. Maybe the team had to know what she knew because their objective view may offer something she didn’t have.

Finally she typed out her strategy. Every place that was happy for William was in France and so too was the stronghold of his enemy, the Council, so most likely he would be there. He had been born --someplace--, his mother’s people were from --someplace else--, and though he hated his father his people had some connection to --anotherplace--. He, his wife, and his son had lived in --somedistrict-- of Paris and the wife and child were buried --here-- then moved --there--, both places were sacred to him. The Council had many buildings, schools, and manors throughout Paris as well.

These would be her main focus.The most likely places he would go to lick his wounds or launch his next attack. Her two secondary focuses would be --wherever that temple is-- and her immediate surrounding area because these seemed like the least likely places he would be but Will was nothing if not audacious in his self-confidence, consistent in underestimating her, and predictably blinded by rage and revenge. She wouldn’t be surprised at all if they caught him because he was too busy ripping her throat out to hear the approach of a special operations team.

That would be a satisfying too. At least then it would be over for one of them.




Thanks for Reading!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

What the hell am I Doing with my Life?

Lately, I've been staring at a lot of this . . .

Just looking.

Staring only, not much writing. Trying to write. Struggling to write. But hating everything I do write and creating barely nothing at all.

It's been a very tough week or so.

I've been asking a lot "What the hell am I doing with my life?"

A large part of my current struggle and questions has come from a recent change in medication. Switching from amitryptiline to sertraline. I was reluctant to make the switch but I have already seen a lot of results from the change, so it is promising. At the same time, adjusting to the change hasn't been easy. As chemicals rebalance in my brain, I've experienced a lot of highs and a lot of lows.

The highs come with laughing and silliness that on the outside seem like a good fun time but on the inside feel like a loss of control and hysteria. The lows come with dark violent thoughts that make me feel like I'm not safe with my self. I'm scared to write about this part because I haven't said it out loud to anyone yet. I've hinted at it, I've joked about it but I haven't made it clear how strange this all feels. How scary it is. How insane it feels. I feel like my brain is unraveling.

I've been adjusting for a month. According to . . . everything, there's another month left before I can know for sure if sertraline is right for me. In the meantime, I'm trying not lose whatever grip I have on a sort of normal and put together life. I keep asking myself "What the fuck am I doing with my life?"

Two weeks ago I was writing. I was writing constantly. I couldn't stop writing. Well, I couldn't stop writing my novel. Thing is, I don't get paid to write my novel. I get paid to write articles and I wasn't doing that. I couldn't do that. When I tried to write an article, I instead ended up doing everything else that came into my mind after staring at a blank screen for an hour.

Suddenly have to get damn serious about Instagram photo challenges? Let's take a million photos and disarrange the house for photo shoots. Need to rethink my social media presence on every single platform? Let's fuck around on Twitter until one in the morning. Urgently have to investigate a possible yeast allergy? Let's try to make sense of conflicting medical advice on the internet.

Don't worry that writing articles for money is precarious at the best of times. Don't worry that this is such a perfect opportunity and you're completely fucking it up. Don't worry that if you keep burning bridges you're going to end up on this sinking island alone with no way out when you start drowning.

What the fucking hell am I doing with my life?

Predictably, repeatedly asking yourself this question leads to an existential crisis. And it's really difficult to write when you're having an existential crisis. Unless, of course, you're writing about the crisis.

But it's not helpful when you're trying to write anything else. Not helpful for articles. Especially not helpful for novels. When you tell yourself that writing the novel will mean I don't have to write the articles because the novel will get me a lot of money or at least some money one day in the future so just write the novel because the novel is all meaning and all life and everything will make sense if you just write the fucking novel right fucking now.

So that's my problem.

Here's my solution.

Well, not my solution. V. E. Schwab's solution. Because fucking around on Twitter miraculously paid off when she recently retweeted something she tweeted the very day I made the switch to sertraline:

I'm not writing a novel. I'm writing a line. One line. Barring that, a word. Just a single word at a time. Not the perfect word, just word. Then another word. Then a few more.

While we're at it, the articles are just one word at a time too.

And life. Life is the same way. I'm not doing something with my whole life right now. I'm doing something with this day, with this hour, with this minute.

In this minute, I'm writing.


Friday, September 8, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 2

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.





Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1,318 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Two

The meeting time didn’t come soon enough for Chrystal, who’d only gotten a little sleep, made useless by recurring nightmares. To get out of the house she went to the cafe early, ordered a coffee, and spent over an hour letting it get cold while she ripped apart beverage napkins.

There was no relief when Vik arrived. He looked happy to see her, a smile across his face, a bright spark in his chocolate eyes. She resolved that she was doing the right thing, to save this happy, decent man from pain by gently breaking his heart now.

“I’m sorry if I . . .”

“Vik, you have nothing to apologize for. You did nothing wrong, we simply want different things.”

“Oh.” It sounded like an accidental sound, like the air escaped his lungs when he realized what she was saying.

“You are so kind, and sweet, and I’m . . . not. I’m not who you think I am and I can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry that I let you think I could. It was just nice to feel like I might, for a little while.” God, she sounded like an asshole. A sad asshole but still an asshole.

He watched her intently. She didn’t know what he was looking for or what to do or say next.

“I don’t care about your past. I care about your dreams, your goals, your future,” he said in a low voice.

“It can’t be separated. I’m not completely divorced from the things that have happened to me, the things that I’ve done, nobody can be. My future is linked inextricably to my past, forever. And you could never know it and love me.”

“You don’t know that.”

“No reasonable person could.”

She didn’t know what was left to say. She wasn’t going to convince him. She didn't know if she was trying to. Maybe she just wanted understanding. Maybe it would be easier to leave if he would agree. For now she felt stuck there like she was made marble, too heavy to move.

“Simmons showed me your file.”

“What?”

“Before our first date.”

“That’s classified.”

“It was redacted but I got the . . . general idea.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head yet again. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand.”

She’d worked with Simmons for almost 10 years now. They had a good working relationship. They were partners. She thought he saw them as partners. Equals fighting the good fight. She thought she had a fresh start with him. He had said as much.

That was part of her disbelief.

“He warned me that you had a shady past. That you were once considered very dangerous. And I told him then that it didn’t matter.”

“Why would he even talk to you? Warn you at all?”

“We trained together. We’ve worked together off and on over the years. He’s my buddy, he’s looking out for me. Just like you.”

“You shouldn’t have seen that file. He shouldn’t have shown you.”

Her thoughts were stuck in that groove repeating it over and over. Vikter should not have seen that file, no one but Simmon needed to see it. Definitely not Vik. Even if it wasn’t true, she liked that he had clean image of her. That was part of what had been so nice. But that was just another fantasy apparently. A facade. He knew what she was the whole time.

“Chrys,” he took her hands in his. She’d started tearing up napkins again without realizing it. “You are worried that I couldn’t love you if I knew what you did but I do know and I do love you. All I’m asking is that you give yourself a chance to forgive yourself and maybe love me back.”

Those hands tried to tell her everything would be ok again but it wouldn’t be. She pulled her hands from his and put them in her lap.

“No, Vikter. I don’t deserve your love or forgiveness. No matter what you think you know, I’m far worse and. . . I have no goals, no future, and only nightmare for dreams. Live your life and forget about me.”

Then her feet remembered how to move and she left him in the cafe.

In her car, she didn’t drive this time. She was too angry. She prefered anger over the heartache, a mixture of sadness for Vik and for herself. Anger was an old friend she was happy to reconnect with. They got on like a house on fire. And right now the fire was blazing. She let the car drive, she would be too busy on the phone.

Simmons answered on the third ring. “This is unexpected. Is there a development?”

“Today is a day of unexpected information, like finding out you shared my classified file with Vikter.”

She waited through his pause for a response.

“He had clearance enough to see what was in it.”

“Really, Darryl? Really?! You think I’m this pissed over security clearance?”

“He could have looked it up himself.”

“I have earned the right to privacy, I have earned the right to a private life. You have no right to interfere with either of those things.”

“And I thought my good friend had the right to know that he was trying to date a dangerous. . . person. I’ve seen the full file, you know. You may be more valuable free than imprisoned but that doesn’t change that you’re a traitor, a murderer, and not to be trusted around . . .unsupecting humans.”

If there was something she could destroy in the car right now she would. Instead she took over manual controls and pulled over to the side of the road. It was dim outside already between the sun starting to set, and the grey clouds threatening to rain.

“One wonders how you can even trust me as a partner then,” she spoke through clenched teeth. Her skin itched for something to lash out at, to rip apart.

“You are an informant, a decent soldier, and a co-worker. We are not partners.”

She didn’t even get the satisfaction of hanging up on him as he ended the call first. She screamed. Then exited the car on the side of the road and slammed the door. She screamed again. There were no other cars on the road. She was surrounded by woods. Her voice echoed off the pavement and into the trees. A bird took to the sky.

Gareth was right. She apparently did value her self too highly. She wasn’t a partner, she couldn’t be a girlfriend, she was an informant. A traitor. A murderer. Outside of operations, she couldn’t remember the last time she killed something, someone.

Rain fell from the sky in heavy cold drops. Slowly, then quickly. Then more like streams and buckets than drops. She stood in it. Froze in it. Shivered. But it didn’t ease the heat in her rage and disappointment, the sadness. The itch beneath her skin that she could scratch only one way. She was going to kill something.

She stalked into the trees. She’d hunted there before. Will had taught her. Years and years ago. Before her current job, before the interrogations, before everything else. She hunted deer, goat, rabbit, wolves, transients, hikers.

She didn’t know now if she still had the skill. Dried leaves crunched underfoot, she was too loud already. Even with the rain, everything else was quieter than she.

It was always more difficult to hunt in the rain but he’d made sure she could. Hours of standing in the cold to get it right. Every other living creature had the decency to stay undercover rather than get soaked to the bone like she. But she wasn’t decent. That was the problem. She wasn’t decent and no matter how much rain washed over her, she would never been clean of the blood she’d bathed in. The blood she wished she’d let herself drown in.




Thanks for Reading!!


Friday, September 1, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine (version 10010)

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.



Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.




Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1766 words
By Stephanie Thompson

She lingered outside his apartment, her hand in his. It had a heft and warmth that was comforting. Strengthening. Encouraging. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here. Otherwise she’d listen to her better judgement. But that hand made everything seem simple. Straight forward. And she didn’t want to let go. So she lingered.

“When can we do this again?” Port said.

“You’re sweet,” She said. “I had a nice time.”

 “You’re avoiding the question, again.”

“I don’t like making plans,” she said.

“I want to be sure I’ll get to see you again.”

“You’re sweet,” she said again.

She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, what had become her standard good-bye, but he turned his head at the last moment, meeting his lips to hers. She closed her eyes and lingered.

With the second kiss, he moved closer to her. And her body awoke with a desire she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

By the fourth kiss, she had him pushed against the door, her body melting into his. His arms around her hips, her hands in his hair.

“Open it,” she said.

He fumbled with lockpad until his thumbprint unlocked the door but they never broke the kiss and feverish embrace.

The lights of his home turned on with an automatic hum as they stumbled across the threshold. She’d never been past the door before but she didn’t care to look around now. She let him lead the way again though she wanted to tear his clothes from him and have him on the floor of the entryway and comparatively he took his time. He took his jacket off and draped it on the dining table, then did the same with hers without breaking physical contact.

But they didn’t move from the spot near the door. His hands didn’t pull at her clothes or touch her bare skin. And his kisses never moved from her mouth. She didn’t know how much longer she could control her lust burning like a wildfire through her. Then he pulled away.

He took her hand again, guided her to the couch, and asked if she wanted anything to drink.

“No, Port, I don’t want anything to drink, I didn’t come in here for a drink.” She laughed. “I can go home for a drink.”

 He said nothing as he got himself a glass and filled it with water. She watched in barely hidden disbelief.

Chrystal didn’t know what to say next. What to do next. Her brain was burned out from unquenched desire.

 “Portland, I don’t. . .” “It’s just a few moments ago, you were ready to leave, didn’t even want to set a next date, then I steal a kiss and suddenly. . .”

He took a long drink from his glass. Emptying half of it and staying in the kitchen.

“I still don’t understand.”

“I mean, one minute you’re tepid, lukewarm towards me, next you’re scalding hot.”

“So you didn’t invite me back to your apartment for sex?”

 “I’ve invited you to my apartment every night since our first date. I invited you because I didn’t want our dates to end.”

“But you don’t want to have sex?”

“Chrys, I want a relationship, not casual sex.”

 She closed her eyes and shook her head. She shouldn’t have come to his door. She should’ve gotten into her car and driven home. She shouldn’t have agreed to a first date, much less a third or fifth. She opened her eyes.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I just. . .I got carried away, I guess.”

“You don’t have to apologize. It was . . .”

“I should go. I need to go,” she said standing up.

“No, Chrys, don’t go. We can . . .”

 She had her coat back on. Her hand on the lock pad.

“No, you’re right. You want . . . and I . . .” She couldn’t say the words she needed to say. They were too final. “I can walk myself to my car,” she said instead.

 “Wait. . .”

 She was out the door and down the stairs before he could catch her. She was in the car and pulling out of the parking spot when he reached the lot. She ignored a text message from him when she was halfway home. She’d come to her senses. Stupid senses that vanished with one simple kiss. She couldn’t see Portland Kapsak any more. No matter how nice, how simple, how sweet, how reassuringly normal dating him was, it had to be over now. She would do the courtesy of telling him this in person, soon, and that would be the end of it.

Her heart was heavy when she reached her own door and used her thumb to unlock it. Her lights weren’t automatic, she preferred a light switch instead, just like she preferred driving her own car. Port liked that she was old fashioned.

She shook her head like her brain was an etch-a-sketch and she could erase her thoughts that way. She would have to stop thinking about what Port liked or didn’t like. What he had said or would say. The sooner the better.

She went to her fridge and pulled out a tall glass bottle of a red liquid. Then changed her mind and returned it to the fridge. The synthesized stuff didn’t satisfy the way the real thing did so there was no point. She was destined to remain frustrated, wanting nothing she could have.

 A lighted panel in the kitchen wall flashed on in a bright blue brilliance an instant before the digital ring of a phone filled the house. She checked the caller id and answered it with a sigh.

“You’re home late,” Gareth said. His thin face filled the screen with disapproving sternness. “I’m not on probation anymore, it shouldn’t matter to you what time I come home.”

“I know but I can’t seem to turn off this notification and since I was just about to head out for lunch, I thought I should check in so my mind could be at ease during my break. How was your date?”

 “Again, my personal life doesn’t concern you anymore. Get IT or something to turn off the notifications or whatever the hell monitoring you have and only contact me for work related reasons, please.”

 “I will take that under advisement, Ms. Voss, but in the meantime, your cooperation and compliance with any of my requests are a requirement to your continued freedoms. Your restrictive probation is over but your general probation remains in effect until the end of your sentence.”

She couldn’t look at his dark satisfaction as he scolded her anymore. She looked her hands on the counter and resisted the urge to dig her nails into the fleshy part of her palm.

“So, I’ll ask again. How was the date.”

“It was fine, Gareth.”

“And you will see him again?”

“Yes,” she answered truthfully but she didn’t give details, he wouldn’t get any more than bare minimum from her.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t know, Gareth. It is what it is.”

 “You should really be putting all of you efforts into the task force. This young man of yours seems to be a distraction or there are at least a few councilors who don’t think you are putting forth your full effort, who expected greater results.”

“If it weren’t for me, there would be no progress on this task force whatsoever.”

 “Do not value yourself too highly. There are other means to extract the information we need.” She suppressed a shiver by giving into the urge to dig into her hand. She would not go back the interrogations.

“I assure you Gareth, I am giving 110 percent and whatever distraction you might think Port is, he won’t be for much longer. You can enjoy your lunch worry free.”

 “Glad to hear that,” he said with genuine cheer. He was always happiest when she was most miserable. “I will look forward to your reports later in the week then.”

Chrystal ended the call without a greeting. She took her frustration out on the faucet, hitting it hard and knocking it loose. The kitchen panel lit up again. A problem has been detected with the kitchen plumbing. Would you like a message to be sent to a plumber? She selected no and left the kitchen, turning the light off on her way out.

She got ready for bed early even though she didn't’ feel like going to bed. But she didn’t feel like doing anything else either. Plus, there was also nothing else for her to do.

Gareth had been right about one thing, Port was a distraction. A distraction from the boring, mind numbing repetitiveness of her life. She worked, she came home. She did nothing else. She saw no one else. She went nowhere else. Port was a dalliance. A game almost. How close could she get without getting too close? How far could she court disaster before pulling back from real danger?

It was an unfair game. She realized that now. Port had been nothing but straightforward and honest about what he wanted from the beginning. She had been full of vagaries and avoidances. She went on that first date out of morbid curiosity and with that satiated she should have politely refused the second date. But it didn’t matter now. In all fairness, she couldn’t continue. If she valued their lives, his life, she couldn’t not allow herself to go any further with Port.

In bed, she looked at the message she ignored earlier. Please, let’s talk about this. You don’t need to be embarrassed.

She responded. I’m not embarrassed. 

His response was so quick it was obvious he’d been waiting by the phone (nope this is dumb) I don’t understand why you had to rush away. 

She didn’t respond right away because she couldn’t think of something to say that didn’t sound like she was breaking up with him through text and she didn’t want to do that.

I want you too, you know? But I want emotional intimacy first. 

Again, she had no response.

This isn’t easy for me either.

Finally she wrote back. Can we meet again tomorrow? To talk in person?

Of course.

They set a time and said good night. But Chrystal lay in bed with her eyes wide open unable to fall asleep for hours afterwards. Thinking of the future. Thinking of the rest of her life. How it would be nothing but the same thing every day, every week, every month, every year, for decades, for centuries, until she died ancient and frail or killed herself from desperate boredom.




Thank you for reading!