Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Love's True Sight

Love’s True Sight
Posted on January 24, 2018 by Peggy Rockey
Prompt: The Bridge Word Count: 1200 Words Genre: Fable

Once upon a time, in a village surrounded by the deep forest of olden Bulgaria, there lived a man who was in love with a fair maiden. Mikhail Stoyanov had loved Katerina Ivanov for as many years as he had known her. Indeed, he had loved her since he first laid eyes upon her fair beauty, while he was still a young boy in knickers, and she a fair maid in pigtails.

Alas, Katerina did not appear to know that Mikhail even existed.

Eventually, the time came when Mikhail knew he wanted this fair maiden for his wife, and he arranged events so that he could meet his heart’s desire at the most romantic place in all the realm, which was an enchanting bridge that spanned the Danube River. There, with glowing words of praise and poetry, he pledged his love to the fair maiden and asked for Katerina’s hand in marriage.

But the fair maiden, being young and self-centered, fancied herself in love with another, a man ever so much more handsome and wealthy than this one; and without nary a thought to Mikhail’s feelings, she rejected him with harsh words and cruel laughter.

The hurt and the anger at this rejection burned so hotly within Mikhail’s heart, and it angered him so much that his response was perhaps more forceful than he intended. “This man does not love you the way I love you, Katerina Ivanov! May your eyes be opened to love’s true sight so you may see the truth of his heart, and see for yourself the blackness that exist within him. May love never touch your heart again, until you see with Love’s True Sight, and you come again to stand upon this bridge with love’s true sight within your heart!”

The words were said with such force and resolution that they became a binding curse upon the fair maiden. For this was a place of magic.

When, a few days later, the other man came to call upon the fair maiden, she now saw him with love’s true sight, as the curse demanded. And with the blinders of supposed love removed, Katerina now saw the true nature of Boris Gruev’s inner person. She saw that beneath his handsome good looks, his wealth, and position within the realm, Boris was, in reality, a selfish and controlling brute. Katerina saw now that what she had mistaken for charming, tongue-tied shyness, was really just contempt for women in general; and Katerina could see that Boris only pretended to love her. She knew this was true, for her father was a goldsmith, and Boris had thought that by possessing the fair maiden, he would possess her father’s gold as well.

Katerina was appalled at the situation. She wondered how she could ever have loved this man in the first place, and she called off their engagement immediately. Boris was outraged, and his displeasure at the rejection was great. He threatened to tell damaging lies to the villagers if she did not marry him, and said other hurtful words that gave truth to his nature. Despite the threats, the fair maiden remained steadfast in her refusal to marry Boris, and as a result Katerina suffered much abuse from her father and the villagers, who all believed the foul lies that Boris told about her.

Many years passed, and the fair maiden became a lonely spinster; for though Katerina had had new suitors, she was never able to see past their individual flaws without love’s forgiving sight to blind her to their nature. Her heart hardened with each suiter that she rejected, until, eventually, no one could penetrate the hardness that now encased her heart.

Over the course of time, Katerina grew more and more lonely. She attempted to make friends with the villagers, but the curse that Mikhail had unwittingly laid upon her heart did not allow even for the love of simple friendship. For with the curse she was forced to always focus on the falsehood and the insincerity that existed within the human heart. Eventually, she had shunned so many people that the opportunities for friendship had dwindled, and then disappeared altogether. Even her father barely tolerated her in his home, for she constantly berated him for his character flaws; and what man likes to be nagged in his own home, day after day after day?

Then one day, as Katerina went to market, she came across the man who had once loved her and who had put the curse upon her, all those years ago. It seemed odd that they had not encountered each other throughout the years, but perhaps not, as Mikhail would have made an effort to avoid her. Katerina thought she should have been angry with him, but to her amazement, she found no anger in her heart for Mikhail at all. For Katerina knew, in her heart of hearts, that he had, however inadvertently, prevented her from marrying a man that would have made her life even more unhappy than the lonely one she’d lived in the home of her aging father.

For Mikhail’s part, he found he still held a stirring of love for this woman, who had once been his heart’s desire. She still consumed his thoughts and hopes and dreams. He was therefore wonderfully surprised when she approached him, for he had thought never to speak with Katerina again, after the rough words he had spoken to her upon that enchanted bridge.

She lingered in his company, there in the market, and when he asked about her well-being, she told him of her unhappiness and how lonely her life had become. She never thought to give this man the time of day again, but he treated her kindly and sympathized with her loneliness.

Katerina had learned to see people for who they really were, and now knew the curse was actually a blessing. For it had given her an ability to see beyond the outward appearance, the fa├žade with which people chose to portray themselves. And though Mikhail was far from handsome, he was neither wealthy, nor did he hold a high position, yet he was a kind man and she found herself drawn to his company, and found that she enjoyed being with him, and the way he made her feel.

There followed a time of courtship and, eventually, he brought her back to the bridge. There he pledged his undying love and asked her again to marry him. This time, his words sent a thrill of love throughout her being, for she saw him with Love’s True Sight; and when that happened, she felt the hardness of her heart fall away like scales, and the curse that had once been laid upon her lifted. And though she could see all his flaws, she knew without doubt that she would love this man, and she agreed to be his wife.

They rushed away to tell his friends and brought her father and the preacher back to the romantic, enchanting bridge. There they were married, and she left her father’s house to make a new home with her husband. And after that, they lived happily ever after.

The End.

Published as my first of twelve short story prompts for 2018 at 12shortstories.com

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Joy Comes Late

Georgina saw the younger woman enter the shop and felt as if God had just blessed her with a gift. It seemed to the elderly lady that the whole store brightened, lit by the blond hair and pale skin and delicate frame of the woman; though Georgina thought she looked sad, with her solemn expression and downcast eyes.

The woman didn’t see Georgina, nor did she make eye contact with anyone in the shop. She went straight to the sales rack and riffled through until she pulled out a plain blue skirt, then wandered to the blouses, fingering the material and examining price tags, finally selecting a white short sleeved, button up blouse and a light blue cardigan. As if she knew exactly what she was looking for, and no need to look any further.

The elderly woman ducked behind a clothes rack as the blond one passed her on the way to the fitting room. She slipped out of the store as the other went to try on her clothes, then positioned herself so she could see the sales counter, yet not be seen herself.

Georgina fidgeted with her purse, fluffed her hair in nervous anticipation and found herself struggling with emotions she’d thought long laid to rest. Her heart beat erratically, feeling as if the dead had been raised to life and was even now heading straight towards her, full of life and energy and totally unaware of the chaos she’s wrought within the old lady’s memories.

Georgina had always been bold, not one to let opportunity slip by and so she moved quickly, following the girl just to the mall door, then called out, tremulously.

“Virginia?” Her pulse raised and her heart seemed to constrict when the other woman turned towards her. “Yes, it is you! Oh, Virginia!  I would know you anywhere. Why, it’s like looking in a mirror at myself, forty years ago!”

“Nana?” It was said in the barest of whispers, the blue eyes widening in recognition, and for the barest of moments a glimmer of warmth shone from them, only to be replaced with steely ice and cold reserve.

“No!” She turned away from the elderly woman, her body ridged, tensed. “No! I’m sorry, but I have nothing to say to you. Excuse me.” Virginia turned away, but Georgina moved quickly, need propelling her forward, cutting off the exit the younger woman would have taken.

“Is that right?” Anger, and grief, strengthened Georgina’s voice. “You’ve nothing to say to your Grandmother, whom you haven’t seen or spoken to in twenty-five years? Why are you here?”

“That’s none of your business. I didn’t come to see you.”

“No. I’m sure you didn’t. But here we are. Could you not spare just ten minutes to sit and talk with me?” She hated that she felt the need to beg.

“And talk about what, Nana? How you drove my mother away and broke my father’s heart? How you… “ Her voice broke on a web of emotion, and she clutched the bag with her new clothes hard against her chest like a shield.

Two teenage girls brushed past them, chatting unconcernedly and letting a warm breeze filter in through the door as it opened and closed behind them.

Neither woman moved, as if frozen in time.

Georgina swallowed the lump in her throat, knowing that this may be her only chance to say the words and bridge the gulf that had separated them for so long. “I know that’s what you think. George must have thought it too, else why move so far away, so soon after Gloria left? But I was not to blame, Virginia. I only wanted your mother to get help, not to abandon her family.”

“I was there, Nana. I heard what you said to her. ‘You’re no good to them,’ you said, ‘you’re not a fit mother’ and ‘you’re not a fit wife’. I heard you!”

“Yes. God help me, I did say those things. And it was the truth. She was not a good mother…”

“But she was my mother!”

“And all I wanted was for her to get help. Twenty-eight days, Virginia, that’s what I suggested. As God is my witness. Twenty-eight days. She could have gotten the help she needed and come back to us.” The tears spilled over, the words caught in her throat. “I loved her too.”

“I don’t believe you. She would not have just left me.”

“I’ll not malign your memories of her. Either you don’t remember what it was like or you were unaware; which, given how young you were, seems more likely. But your father’ll remember. You ask him”

Her heart ached, and she could barely speak now through the tears that fell freely. She wiped at the tears with a finger, then reached out and stroked the younger woman’s face before turning away. “You ask him,” she said, opening the door, “and if it makes a difference in how he remembers, please have him call me.”

It was the hardest thing she’d ever done, Georgina thought, leaving her granddaughter behind.



“Virginia?” The voice on the other end of the line emanated concern, “What’s wrong, honey? Where are you”

“I’m in my hotel room. Remember? I told you I had to go to Walnut Creek for business. Daddy, I…. I saw Nana today.”

“Nana? You saw Nana? Where? Why?” Was that anger she heard in his voice?

“Oh, it’s a long story. I flew in this afternoon, but the airlines lost my luggage and I needed to find an outfit to wear to work tomorrow, and she was there, at the mall and she said…”

“You saw Nana at the mall?” He sounded puzzled, obviously not connecting the dots to the story she was telling.

“Yeah. She was there, and she recognized me and she stopped me and wanted to talk.”

“And what did she say?” It was definitely anger and it made her feel as if she had somehow betrayed him for even speaking to his mother. A woman he had disowned over twenty-five years ago. A woman she had loved, and desperately missed, especially after her own mother had disappeared from her life.

“I didn’t want to talk with her. I told her it was her fault that Mom split on us and she said that she was only trying to help.”

“To help!” He laughed with bitter sarcasm, “How was convincing my wife that she had screwed up our lives supposed to help?”

“She said she only meant for her to go away for twenty-eight days. She said I wouldn’t remember what it was like, but you would and that I should ask you. Dad? Did mom have a problem with drugs? Or alcohol?”

“Oh, honey. No!”

“She did, didn’t she? I remember coming home some days and the house would be a mess and she’d be sleeping on the couch and I couldn’t wake her up. I remember! You used to argue all the time and she’d leave and not come home until late at night. You were so angry with her, and so was Nana. That’s why Nana said what she said, isn’t it? ‘You’re not a fit mother.’ Well, maybe she wasn’t.”

Virginia fingered the ring on her finger, thinking of her boyfriend and the grief his brother had caused to so many people. “Why did we blame Nana all these years, Dad? It’s no different than Justin’s brother, David. Always lying and stealing so he could buy his drugs, then promising he wouldn’t do it any more once the drugs were gone and he was no longer high. But David got help, didn’t he? He went to one of those programs, a twenty-eight day program, if I remember rightly!”

“No,” her Dad’s voice had grown quiet, contemplative. “No. She was doing better, she didn’t need ‘help,’: as Nana liked to call it.”

“You know what, Dad? You sound just like Justin’s mother! I’m sorry, but you do. She never wanted to believe that David was to blame for his own problems, she was blind to his addiction and the trouble he caused.”

“Oh come on, sweetheart. You know that Nana never liked Gloria, and she never tried to hide it. She was always putting Gloria down, telling her how she should keep the house or learn to cook. It was Nana’s fault that Gloria left.”

“I don’t believe that, Dad. Not anymore. I think Nana truly loved Mom, at least for our sake. I can only imagine what it must have felt for her when we left too. At least we had each other. She had no one!”

“So what? Are you saying we abandoned her, like your mother abandoned us?”

“Yeah, Dad. It kind of seems that way. Maybe we needed someone to blame for our hurt and we took it out on Nana.”


“Hello?” Georgina answered the phone, her heart full of joy when the voice on the other end asked:


This story was written in response to a short story challenge, the prompt "Joy", 1500 word count exactly.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Daily Writing Prompt 9/4/15

Write the saddest scene you can think of between a little boy and a little girl. Except it's the first time they've ever met.

The little girl gladly took the ice cream cone from the man behind the counter, admiring the single, hand-scooped cone as she turned away. She barely noticed the little boy who was next in line, although it registered that he ordered the same flavor as she did.

Rocky Road was her favorite, and she took a small lick, and then another. But the next lick dislodged the scoop of chocolatey goodness and there was nothing she could do to stop the ice cream from falling to the floor.

The boy had just paid for his cone, and witnessed the whole scene. Feeling sorry for the pretty girl, he gallantly offered his own cone to her, heroically trying to stop her tears and bring a smile to her captivating eyes.

"Oh,thank you," she replied, "but I just couldn't." But her eyes spoke the lie as she hungrily gazed at his cone.

"But I insist," the boy was raised to be polite and generous, and he smiled in delight when she accepted.

She would have liked to pay him back, or buy him a cone as well, but she had used all her money with her own cone. She took the cone from the boy, thinking him the cutest boy she'd ever seen, and at his prompting she gave the cone a lick.
The boy, happy with himself, but sad that he didn't have any more money himself, watched as she licked the ice cream, once, and then again.

She smiled at him, and took one more lick. But then, again, to her utter dismay and disbelief, she did it again! The sound of the ice cream plopping on the floor was the saddest sound either of them had ever heard.

Horrified, she burst into tears, but this time there was nothing the little boy could do to help, and, feeling rather lousy as this turn of events, he felt his own eyes well up with tears.

Of course, not being able to end a story on such a sad note, I should tell you that the man behind the counter gave the little boy and the little girl each their own Rocky Road ice cream cone, as well as one for himself, and proceeded to give them a lesson on the proper way to lick an ice cream cone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Daily Writing Prompt 8/26/15

"Whatdy want to do now, Maisy?"
"Let's go down to the crik and git some crawdads?"
"But yer mama don't like us to git wet an' dirty."
"Then we just got to be careful a'n not git wet, Laney."
"But how do you not git wet gitten crawdads?"
"I don' know, but we cin try!"

Friday, July 24, 2015

Daily writing prompt 7/24/15.

Write about a deserted city. Use all five senses to describe the scene

Sunlight reflected off shattered windows, shards of glass crunching under my boots. The road was deserted, as were each and every building I had gone into since entering the city. There was no sign of life anywhere. The only thing moving, other than myself, were these little pieces of paper, swirling, tornado-like in tight little circles among the cars and busses and bicycles left abandoned in the streets. The sound of the wind whistled eerily as it shrieked through the broken windows; eerie because it was the only noise in what should be a bustling city. I snatched one of the papers as it fluttered near; it was thick and stiff, and gritty in my fingers. My curiosity piqued as I read the words written there. I grabbed up several more of the papers, but when I realized they all said the same thing, my curiosity drained away and left only one emotion in its place. Fear.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

By the sea - daily writing prompt 7/14/15

I jog across the empty beach, winded and looking for a place to catch my breath and enjoy a moment of solitude as reward for having just run three miles. Up ahead, I see what looks like an old abandoned dock, or maybe it’s a pier, made of roughhewn planks across railroad ties, and I make that my destination. I sit carefully on a jagged board, mindful not to get splinters on my bare legs, feeling the coolness of the wood and the morning breeze that shivers across my sweaty skin, raising goosebumps on my arms. The action of the waves breaking upon the shore is somewhat hypnotic, and I can tell that the tide is out, because the breakers are far away, and mostly what I hear is the susurration of the water as it creeps upon the wet sand, leaving brackish foam in its wake. The cry of a seagull rings across the sky, and I watch as it soars and circles and gracefully lands in the water, joining more of its kind, lazily floating and bobbing in a shallow outlet.
In the distance, I watch tanker ships making slow progress across the horizon, and I find myself entranced by the whitecaps dancing upon the surface of the sea, whipped in to frothing motion by the ever rising wind, which carries the scent of salt and brine. And then my stomach growls with hunger, reminding me that I have not yet eaten this morning, and I think how lovely a nice hot cup of coffee would be right now; and with thought, I push off and begin my return jog, back the way I had come.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

And I Dance

What am I doing here? I don't even like ballet! Night after night, the same routine, the same costumes, the same stage; the same, the same, the same! And then, here I am. On stage. The familiar racing of my heart as adrenaline surges through my body, and I barely have time to register the hush of the crowd as the lights dim and we take our places. The music and the dancing begins, and I am caught up in the motion and there is no more time to think, only to dance; and I forget, for the moment, that I hate ballet. And I dance...