Monday, September 17, 2012

Life has been hectic.  I have been working at the same job that I had left when Jake and I went to Florida.  In fact, we both got our old jobs back. 

Since being back, it has dawned on me that writers have such a lonely and sedentary career.  In light of this epiphany, I have decided to try a new sport and start working out.  So, every Tuesday, Jake and I will trek to Tacoma and attend a Kendo class.  For those of you that don't know, Kendo is like Japanese fencing..., that uses bamboo Shinai swords..., that hurt like heck.  Tomorrow will be our first official class.

In addition to this, Jake and I have signed up on  It's a great place where we can find new people that share common interests.  I have joined quite a few meet-up groups: board games, hiking, camping, socializing in our local community, etc.  I'm just sad that there isn't a meet-up group that does community service in our county as well.

I have also kept in touch with the Pensacola Critique Group and started attending the Writer's For Pete's Sake Writing Group again.  I love those two groups so much!

So I will post these questions to you, fellow writers: What do you do in order to stay in shape and how do you socialize?  Do you socialize with fellow writers?  And if you do, how do you do that?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

So no sh*t, there I was...minding my own business, when out of no where I hear a voice that seemed to come out of no where: "If you are on the American Airlines flight from Pensacola to Miami, you're flight has been rescheduled because of mechanical issues.  If you have a connecting flight in Miami, you will miss it.  I will call you up, one by one, as soon as I can book you a new flight."

In light of this change of plans, our writing prompt has to do with flying:

You're on a plane, seated between a man in a Hawaiian shirt holding a camera and a man handcuffed to a briefcase.  You suddenly remember one of their faces from the file on your desk at work....

My flight was rescheduled for tomorrow.  Wish me luck!  When I get back, we're going camping for the weekend for one quick vacation, and then straight into work. the next day (or even perhaps the night we get back from camping).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, amirite?

I am saddened to say that the events as of late have been keeping me from my blogging duties.  I hope to be more active on both "On the Writing Front" and my tumblr page. 

Along with my deepest apologies (not to mention excuses), I am also offering a link to a wonderful creative prompt blog called Dragon Writing Prompts.  It's a wonderfully whimsical site that I use often when I am feeling uninspired or need a boost of creativity.  With the blogger's permission, I will be posting a few of the prompts that appeal to me the most.  Unless, of course, she says no.  In which case, I will sob in my pillow, eat some chocolate, and chug some Sugar Free Red Bull.  Who knows, I may just do those last two things anyway.

But for now, I may be absent for a few more days until I get settled in Washington again.  I will be camping next week and, after that, starting a "new" job.  Although I will not be working for a publisher (as I had hoped), my "new" job will allow me plenty of time to write.  So that'll be good. 

Anyway, in my absence, know that I am sending you my most creative writery vibes, in your writing endeavors.  I am with you in spirit.  Not in a weird, stalker way.  More, in a motivational, hot, cheerleader way.  Rah rah!

~ iScribe

Friday, August 10, 2012


I’ve seen some of the most creative methods for getting a desired result from parents.  I’ve also seen the opposite from parents, but that’s for a different day.  I’ve decided to condition myself using some of these methods as well.  As the days go on in Florida, my motivation for anything seems to have dwindled.  Although I still get things done, I do so with spite and disinterest.  Yes, I know…, that’s just a part of growing up.  However, I like being happy while I do things.  Call me crazy.  Anyway, I thought to myself, “Self, how will you motivate your kids to do their chores when you become a mom?”  My answer?  A “chore” reward chart.  Mine looks like this:

Dishes (wash and put away)
2 minutes on tumblr
Clean off kitchen counter
2 minutes on facebook
Set up coffee pot
Cup of coffee (okay, this one was kind of silly)
Sweep and spot mop
2 minutes on the NaNoWriMo forum
1 cup of tea
Pledge furniture
1 can of Zero Carb Red Bull
Get something ready to be turned in to Critique Group
Upgrade the Red Bull to a sugar free

1k of progress
2k of progress
Dessert with dinner
3k of progress
1 episode of “How I Met Your Mother”
4k of progress
1 episode of “Firefly”
5k of progress
Movie Nite (fill popcorn bucket)
6k of progress
Game Nite with Jake
Blog Post
30 minutes of reading

Most of the tasks weren’t really chores but writing goals that I need to accomplish.  I allowed myself less than 10 minutes of INTERNET time, hoping that would get me to be more productive.  Most of my rewards have to do with caffeine, which makes me happy and more productive.
I do this type of thing every day but I do it subconsciously.  "If I can write just one more page, I'll take a tumblr break."  However, seeing it on paper, reminds me of my goals and what I want to really achieve today.  It makes it seem more real.  What are your productivity techniques?  What do you do to keep yourself motivated?

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I believe that the world is a more peaceful place when I stay inside my writer bubble and don't let anyone else in.  Of course, that world wouldn't be very interesting.

Artists are silly people.  They pour their hearts and soul into everything they do, then place it in full view of the world.  If they let you in to see their work before it's finished.  Now that' something.  To be able to see something in its raw form.  It's a very special moment.  A very vulnerable moment.  They must think very highly of you if they let you into their bubbles like that.  You should cherish their vulnerability.  It's a critical moment as well because the feeling of vulnerability that they allow upon themselves is immense and can be overwhelming.  Don't take advantage of that.

Writers are artists.  They create visual works that are meant to stimulate the mind.  They create beautiful works and well as grotesque pieces as well.  They pour just as much of their hearts and souls into their work as painters and and other traditional artists do. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Status Update

It has been a crazy and hectic week..  Because I have been in and out of the house so much lately, I haven't gotten a chance to really sit down and write.  I've decided that if I really want to make writing a career, I have to create a portable writing station.  At the minimalist level, a pen and notebook should do just fine.  But because I am a child of this technologically sound century, I have decided that old school paper will not be enough.

My Swiss Gear laptop case now carries:
  • my laptop
  • laptop accessory pack
  • multimedia storage pack
  • laptop fan
  • notebook
  • 3 pens (orange, blue, and black)
  • Post-Its of various shades of the rainbow
  • headphones
  • snackies
This baby's going to go with me everywhere and I will...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Story for Jensina

I challenged my friends to “send me a one word or first line prompt and I will write a story about it.”  One of my friends, Jensina, suggested a plethora of words: edlritch, shadow, faerie, magic, red, moon, hunt, oak, staff, and wild. These strike me as strictly fantasy which will be interesting considering, I don’t normally write fantasy. So here’s to treading on new territory! Huzzah! I hope you enjoy!

By Joy Bernardo

The door to their home burst open. Her mother quickly motioned for her to hide under the bed and she did; just as they had practiced in the past. She watched in horror as her mother was dragged out the door by her hair, screaming and flailing about. Her gaze followed her mother’s tear stained face as it contorted in anguish as she was pulled through the door. The sudden burst of noise was followed by complete silence. It wasn’t until after the noise has subsided that she realized that she was holding her breath. She slowly exhaled. Her tears fell down her dusty cheeks and onto her tiny, dainty fingers, which clutched her necklace. The necklace that held her mother and father’s wedding ring.
They had led a minimalist existence. They were deprived of the luxuries of life and most necessities as well. She would often go without meals and baths. She watched as her mother would go out and bring the company of men home with her in order to obtain enough money to pay for their survival. She watched as her mother deteriorated from syphilis and although she didn’t know exactly what was happening, she was a smart girl and came to a conclusion on her own, rather quickly. Of all the things that she missed about her mother, she missed her sanity the most. Because when her coherence left like a ship in the night, as did her affection for her child.
In her lucid days her mother would do the motherly things that Ilyra found so lovely - play with her, cook, clean, and even scold her for being disobedient. Her favorite thing, though, was when she would tuck her into bed and tell her stories of the forests just beyond the village. Her stories were filled with the wonderment of life free from poverty.
“As long as you respect the forest,” her mother would say. “As long as you respect the forest, it will provide for you and keep you safe.” Then she would continue on about he faeries that lived in the trees. “If you are standing at the clock tower and walk straight into the woods, you will find a gigantic oak tree with a knothole in it. Inside, it is painted deepest of red. If you are able to climb the tree and crawl into the hole, you will find yourself transported into the world of the faeries,” her mother would tell her.
“Tell me about the land of the faeries,” Ilyra would beg.
“Its a wonderful place filled with magic and everything that you could ever ask for.” Her magical tales would keep Ilyra’s mind reeling until she would eventually fall asleep from the sheer exhaustion of transporting herself to such a miraculous land.
That night, she fell asleep under the bed, dreaming of her mother leading her to the big oak tree. She awoke to the sound of her stomach, begging for attention. She crawled out from under the bed. The moonlight shone through the rotten, wooden planks that made up the walls of her home. She looked out through the window, her eyes just barely reaching the window pane. Ilyra looked up at the largest moon that she ever saw. It nearly filled the entire sky and lit the town like it was daylight. It was then that she heard it. Her mother. Calling to her from the town square.
She dashed out the door, slamming it shut behind her as she left with a cloud of dust in her tracks. When she got to the town square, it was empty. The only living thing besides her were tiny lightening bugs fluttering about the clock tower that stood in the square. She snuck up to them and held her hand out. Their delicate feet tickled the back of her hand.
“Hello,” she whispered to them. They took to the air again, flurrying around and over her head. She followed them as they led her to the woods, in between the trees, and through the dry vegetation on the ground. The ground was hard and dehydrated. The trees around her were nearly bare of leaves. She wandered deeper into the woods, following the tiny flickering lights. Stones poked at her feet and dry vines wrapped in thorns scraped at her legs. Then, like a monolith, the giant oak appeared in the distance. The fireflies disappeared into the tree. At first it looked as if the tree swallowed them whole but as she got closer she realized that they had flown into a knothole, high up amidst the branches. She took to the tree, limb by limb, climbing up until she could reach the hole. Her tiny fingers finally seized the edge of the opening. She slowly pulled herself up and into it, crawling in and falling inside, getting enveloped by the deep red hue of the interior of the tree. The fireflies danced above her head. She smiled as they flounced about in front of her face forming various shapes with their lights. First a star, then a heart, then a smile and a face. She blinked, not believing her eyes. The longer she stared at them, the more prominent the facial features became until…
“Eldritch” a little voice said. Ilyra watched the face form in front of her. It was a beautiful, young woman. “Eldritch, who are you?”
“Eldritch? My name is Ilyra. Who are you?” She looked the woman up and down; at her blond curls, her thin lips, her fair skin, her beautiful clothes, her delicately woven wings… Her delicately woven wings?
“My name is Aevery. What are you doing in my home?” the faerie retorted.
Ilyra looked around at the cramped space. “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just,” she stopped suddenly, not knowing how to continue. “My mother,” she started but her voice trailed off. “I’m sorry,” she repeated again before crawling back through the hole. She reached for the branch just outside but couldn’t grasp it before gravity led her straight to the ground.
“Watch that first step,” Aevery called. “It’s a doosey!”
Ilyra rolled over onto her back. She pouted at the faerie as she fluttered down beside her.
“Are you okay?” Aevery asked.
“Yes, maam,” Ilyra said. She sat up and dusted herself off. It wasn’t until she was on her feet that she noticed that the ground was no longer covered with sharp stones and dry grass. Instead, soft blades of grass tickled her feet. She looked around. The ground was covered in lush vegetation and ample trees that were lush and robust with the brightest green leaves that she’d ever seen. She looked up at the sky, which was a light, bright blue speckled with fluffy white clouds. She reached up, wanting to grasp the cotton balls in her hands.
Aevery giggled at the little girl. “Haven’t you ever seen clouds before?” she asked.
Ilyra grinned. “Not like these ones,” she replied. Ilyra looked around. This wasn’t the same forest as the one just outside her village. And if this wasn’t the forest, then where was her village? She walked toward the direction she thought was her home, reveling in every step. The young faerie watched her wander off and followed in curious wonderment.
“Where are you from?” she asked, touching the child’s back. “Where are your wings?”
“I don’t have wings,” Ilyra responded. “And I’m from Spain. Where are we?”
“We’re in Olix. Where is Spain?”
Ilyra stopped and looked up at the faerie. “It’s in, um, Spain.” They both stared at each other. Ilyra shrugged and continued to walk. “Are we still in Spain?”
“I don’t know what Spain is, dear child. So I don’t believe so. Is that where you want to go?”
“Yes, I need to get home so that I can save my mommy,” Ilyra explained.
“Well, let’s go ask my dad. He will be able to tell us how you got here and how we can send you home.”
Ilyra stopped and turned toward the tree.
Aevery cocked her head to the side. “Where are you going?” she asked.
“To your house. The big oak tree.”
Aevery laughed. “That’s just my treehouse.” She pointed to a castle on a hill that loomed above the forest. “That’s my home and the home of my father. The King.”
When Aevery presented Ilyra to her father, his eyes began to well with tears.
“Oh, dear child,” he said to the little girl. “You finally came.” He was huge man, with no wings, built like a linebacker on steriods. His muscles were easily the size of the little girl, who cowered in front of him. His beard was white, speckled with gray, and was long enough to tickled the ground. A large, golden crown clung to his head and nearly hid his receding hairline.
“Do I know you?” Ilyra asked.
“No,” he replied. “No, I don’t suppose you do, child. I am King Macias, ruler of Olix. We’ve been waiting for you for a very long time.”
“Waiting for me?” she asked. She looked over at Aevery, who shrugged.
“We’re looking for something that has been taken from us,” said the King. He pointed to an empty stand next to his throne. “My staff.” He got up and made his way down the steps, kneeling before the little girl so that he could look into her eyes. “My staff is very important to me, child. Whoever holds it, has the power of Olix.”
“What’s the power of Olix?”
He smiled at her and lifted her up, setting her on his shoulder. “You see all of that out there?” he asked, pointing to the forest below them. She nodded her head. “That is our land and the staff helps keep in safe. As long as I have the staff, our land won’t succumb to the evils of the Shadowland.” He pointed to the land just beyond theirs, which was covered by the shadow of an ominous cloud that hovered over it. “As long as we have the staff, that cloud doesn’t move and the creatures of the night won’t invade us. But once that staff leaves this land, we will no longer be able to stave off the evils of the Shadowland.”
“How am I supposed to help?” Ilyra asked. “I’m just a little girl.”
“You’re not just any little girl!” the King declared. He picked her up off his shoulder and set him back on the ground. “You’re our savior.” He reached toward her chest and pointed to her heart. “You have a pure heart and it can lead you to the staff. All you have to do is follow your heart.” He looked up at the clouds in the distance. “If we don’t hurry, those shadows will engulf our land and we will be hunted by the evils of the night. You must hurry,” he urged her.
She nodded her head. “I know what must be done,” she said. She bowed deeply to the King.
“Take my daughter with you,” he said. “Only a being with royal faerie blood running through their veins can touch the staff without being turned to stone.”
Aevery led Ilyra out the door. They walked through the halls of the castle; long, lean, and slender like Aevery.
“Do you feel anything?” Aevery asked as they made their way through the forest.
“I don’t feel anything special,” Ilyra said, looking around. The trees towered over her, filled with hues of luscious greens.
The overcast moved across the sky like a huge wall. Ilyra and Aevery could see the shadows move across the land. They felt like they were in the incredibly shrinking room.
“Where is it?” Aevery asked the sky.
“Your dad said that I would feel it when it’s here but I don’t feel it at all. Who took it if it can’t be touched?” Ilyra asked.
It was like the sun was being eclipsed as the darkness grew nearer. All at once they were engulfed in the night. Ilyra looked around but she couldn’t see anything, not even Aevery.
“Averey,” she whispered. But nothing, nothing but silence. “Aevery!” she screamed. She reached all around her but could find no one at her side. Paralyzed by the darkness, she fell to her knees and began to feel around the ground. The lush grass was now dry and brittle, cracking and breaking at her touch.
A low, guttural growling filled the air like a fog, rolling in across the hills and getting louder by the second. She was weak. Too weak to move. She hadn’t eaten in a very long time. She looked up at the blue sky and smiled as she fell to her knees. The growling got louder as the creatures drew near, surrounding her. They towered over her, shielding her view of the sky. Without the sky her world was dark. She scampered between their legs, trying to get away but there was just too many of them. They growled and barked. Their voices booming. She scampered underneath a fallen tree and covered her eyes. Tears overflowed into her hands. When she opened her eyes again she was back home, underneath her bed but the monsters were real and they were still all around her, growling and barking at each other.
“Blasphamy!” they growled.
“Grab the witch’s child!”
The monsters tried to drag her out from under the bed.
“No!” she screamed and dug her fingernails into the wooden floors but what she ended up grasping instead was a large wooden staff. She took it into her hands and looked up at the men, who were uneasy with the glint in her eye.
“Child, don’t even think about it,” one of the men screamed but it was the last thing that he would say as she began to swing wildly, catching him upside the head. The other men backed away, forming a circle around her.
“Just come with us,” one of them said.
Ilyra closed her eyes. “Help me, King,” she said as she swung.
“You shall survive,” echoed the voice of the King in her head. “I shall make sure of it.”
As the sun began to rise in the small town. Ilyra stood, panting heavily, the staff held in tight in her left hand, in the center of a macabre seen. Her gaze dropped to the ground. Blood was smeared on the wooden planks underneath her feet. She looked over at the staff, which was no longer covered in blood. It was etched with hieroglyphics. She held it up to her face. Any other day, she wouldn’t have been able to tell what the intricate designs were that covered the wooden rod.
“To whomever holds this staff, holds the power of Olix. Able to defeat the darkest of evils and keep away the evils of the night. Only the holy and those of royal blood may carry the power, lest they be stricken down with the plague.” She paused. “Only those of royal blood?” she asked, grasping it in her hands. She pondered the unbelievable conclusion in her mind while swatting at the flies which tickled her ears. That’s when she saw them. Fireflies, glowing in the daylight.
“Aevery?” she asked.
Follow me, they seem to say. And she did.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Story for Katy

I challenged my friends to “send me a one word or first line prompt and I will write a story about it.”  One of my friends, Katy, suggested “Dybbuk”. When researching what a dybbuk was, I came upon a few different definitions. I finally settled on “A malevolent possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person who has been denied entry to heaven for serious transgressions (such as suicide). According to belief a soul that has been unable to fulfill its function during its lifetime is given another opportunity to do so in dybbuk form. They are, supposedly, able to leave the host body once the dybbuk has accomplished its goal.” So here you go, Katy! I hope you enjoy.

By Joy Bernardo

Sara watched the sun rise over the rooftops of the sleeping city. It morphed the sky into fabulously warm hues of red and orange. She laid her head back, feeling the rough texture of the shingles against her bare shoulders. The sky above her head was spotted with soft, bleached cotton swabs. As she lay prostrate, her eyes finally felt the haze of sleep overwhelming them. She slept soundly on the rooftop of her parents’ Palms Springs estate. A cool sea breeze ruffled her hair and brought in a new day and a new beginning.
It must have been at least four hours later when Otho awoke. He carefully sat up and took a gander at the view. It was gorgeous. Copper rooftops and palm trees until the beach and beyond that was the vast ocean. He steadied his step, trying to get used to his new dainty legs.
This was an interesting predicament. When he was told that he would be moving on to a different body, he assumed that it would be another male. He looked down to examine his new home he was surprised to find a bikini top filled to the brim and a pair of denim, cut off shorts. He snickered. Thunder was heard in the distance.
He was told that in order to gain acceptance into heaven, he’d have to find a way to redeem himself. With another body as a vessel, this was his chance. He’d already been transplanted into another body previously but was unable to figure out what the hell that guy needed. The thunder rolled.
“Yeah, yeah,” he thought to himself. He carefully made his way off of the roof and slid into the first open window. Millions of thoughts roamed around in his head like a herd of mice milling around inside the walls of an old rundown house. Was there going to be a time limit this time? What if he can’t redeem himself? Her thoughts were in there too. And the main thing on her mind was that, judging by the clock, he was going to be late for school.
Otho planted his bare feet onto the hardwood floors. The room was spacious and sufficiently filled with teenage memorabilia. He glanced at himself in the vanity mirror. He smiled at his blond hair, his brown eyes, and his pouty lips. “Yes. Yes, this will do just fine,” he murmured. More thunder. “Well what is it that you want me to do?” he growled. His voice caught him off guard. He looked around. Notes from friends. Soft, fuzzy pillows. Pictures of her with her friends. He moved the mouse to her desktop, on the heart shaped mouse pad. Her computer screen blinked to life. On the background was the name “Sara” with a picture of her in a bikini, hugging an attractive young man.
“Sara?” a woman’s voice called from downstairs.
“Um, yeah?” Otho replied.
“Sara, if you don’t hurry, you’re going to be late for class,” the voice replied.
He quickly threw on the first shirt that he could grab out of her closet and a pair of flip flops before running out the bedroom.
“And I even made you pancakes,” her mother whined. She stood in the kitchen, her hair slightly disheveled, wearing a gingham apron and a faint smile. “Good morning, dear,” she said. She motioned toward a plate on the bar.
Otho sat down in front of the plate. “Morning,” he mumbled, his mouth already filled with maple syrup covered pancake.
Her mother watched him intently and smiled. “You’re never this hungry in the morning.” Her smile turned into a frown. “Have you been skipping dinner again? Honey, you know that you don’t need to lose weight, right?” She was interrupted by a loud, impatient honk coming from outside.
Otho continued to eat his breakfast. It had been a while since he had a good home cooked meal. Pancakes, sausage, and eggs. He might not ever want to leave this body. Sara’s mother stared at him.
“What?” he asked.
“That’s probably Mandy. You should get going,” she said slowly, staring at her daughter. “Are you okay?”
“Ugh, yeah,” he muttered, shoveling the rest of his breakfast in his mouth. He looked up at her mom. Getting up from the barstool, he quickly gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Sorry, mom,” he said, spraying food from his mouth. But all she heard was, “Mmmmm mmm.” He looked around and headed toward front door, which was ridiculously tall with glass windows on either side. Each of which was equally as tall. He looked up at the tall ceilings and elaborate decorations. “Hmm,” he thought.
Waiting in the driveway was a yellow jeep with a petite brunette waiting in the driver’s seat.
“Come on,” she pleaded. “You’re going to make us late for class.”
Otho jumped into the passenger’s seat. “Hey,” he smiled.
Mandy gave her a cockeyed grin and laughed. “So…” she said, pulling out of their driveway. “You gonna tell me what happened last night?”
Otho thought for a moment. “Sara, I know you’re in here,” he thought. “What happened last night?”
“I mean, I totally understand if you don’t want to tell me but, I am your best friend and you’re supposed to tell your best friend everything and-”
“No,” Sara suddenly spouted. Otho wasn’t sure if he was more shocked than Mandy was.
Mandy looked over at her. “I didn’t mean…I mean…”
The rest of the car ride was spent in silence. Otho tried desperately to look through Sara’s thoughts but he couldn’t find anything indicating that last night was spend anywhere other than crying on the rooftop.
At her locker, Otho found a note taped to the door.
“You looked lovely last night,” she read.
Mandy wrapped her arms around her. “Oh, Sara.” She tried to console her. “Let’s go tell someone.”
“No,” Sara shouted.
Mandy tried to calm her down. “I’m sorry. I know that you said that we can’t. It’s just…this can’t keep happening. It’s just ridiculous and insane.”
She walked Otho to the girls bathroom so that she could splash some water on her face.
“I’m sorry,” Mandy said again. “I won’t bring it up anymore.”
Sara gave her a big hug. “No, I’m sorry.”
And that was that. They went to class and tried to act normal. Sara’s mind kept wandering to other things. Images of her mom and her family back when she was younger.
“Ms. Garder,” a stern voice called.
Sara snapped to. “Huh? Oh, I’m sorry, sir,” Sara apologized. “Can you repeat the question again? I-”
“It’s not a question, Ms. Garder. You don’t have a choice. The principal would like to have a word with you.”
Sara couldn’t move. In fact, it took all of Otho’s will power to finally get her out of the chair. He squeaked through the classroom until he got to the empty hallway. Mandy peered at her through the window of the door. She mouthed something but Otho couldn’t figure out what it was. He shuffled down the hallway to the principal’s office. He could feel his heart sink as he turned the doorknob. “What could you have done to be so nervous?” he wondered.
“Why, hello Ms. Garder,” the secretary said as he walked through the door. She was a stout woman with a thick southern accent. “In for more career counseling, hmm?” The woman’s smile was warm and friendly.
Otho could tell that Sara wanted to tell her something but he couldn’t force anything out of her mouth except a, “Mm hmm…”
“Well, Mr. Dyviak is in his office. Go on in. He’s expectin’ you,” she motioned towards the door and gave her another warm grin.
Otho stepped into Mr. Dyviak’s office. It was a small room with a bookshelf and a small loveseat next to the door. His office chair faced the window behind the massive desk that nearly took up half the space left in the room.
“Shut the door,” Mr. Dyviak said.
Otho did as he was asked. Sweat dripped from his temples. “What’s the matter, Sara?” Otho wondered. “The principal? What’s he doing to you?”
“It’s come to my attention that you’ve been somewhat unhappy with our agreement,” he said. His back was still toward Otho.
“Umm…” was all that Otho could muster.
Mr. Dyviak spun around in his chair, revealing his face and well tailored suit. He was a handsome man in his late thirties, maybe early forties with dark, inviting eyes and shaggy brown hair. He didn’t seem so scary.
“Do we need to go over the details again?” he asked. He stood up and walked up to her. He was taller than Otho expected. He placed his hand on Otho’s shoulder. “Meet me for dinner tonight at the Roxberry. I have a dress waiting for you at Macy’s. Just go there and make sure it’s the right size. Tell the associate that it’s being held for you by me,” he said. He ran his fingers across her shoulders. “You’re going to look stunning in it.” He walked towards the door and grabbed the handle. “I’m sorry that our date got interrupted last night.” He turned the knob but didn’t open the door just yet. “Wives,” he said under his breath. “Always nosey.” He opened the door and held it for her. Otho walked out with the taste of vomit in his mouth.
That night, he slipped on the tight fitting, sleeveless black dress with the plunging neckline and matched it with black nylons and the tallest heals that he could muster without falling down the stairs. He stuffed a black clutch purse full of the “essentials” and clop-clopped down the hallway towards the front door, trying his best not to roll his ankle.
Mr. Dyviak picked him up at Sara’s house. He watched Otho slide into the passenger’s seat of his sports car and licked his lips. Otho’s stomach turned.
“I thought we were going to go to the Roxberry?” Otho said as they drove further and further away from town.
“I decided that maybe we should have dessert before dinner,” Mr. Dyviak explained, pulling over into a secluded parking lot. Otho looked around at the deserted lot and finally stopped at Dyviak, who didn’t have such inviting eyes any longer.
“Mr. Dyviak,” Otho started.
“Yeah?” Dyviak said, unbuckling his seat belt. “I can’t really hear you, darling. Why don’t you come over here.”
Otho’s hand grabbed for the door handle.
“Our agreement!” Dyviak screamed after him as Otho jumped out of the car and ran through the lot. “You do as I say or you’re never going to see your mother again!”
Otho stopped and turned around.
“I can get her locked up for a very long time, Sara. You just remember that.”
Otho walked up to the car. Dyviak walked around to meet her at the passenger’s side door and pushed her up against the hood of the car. “Don’t you ever forget that,” Dyviak whispered into Otho’s ear. He grabbed a handful of Sara’s hair and pulled. His other hand wandered elsewhere. Otho immediately reached for the knife that he kept on a garter and jammed it as hard as he could into Dyviak’s abdomen. He could feel the warmth of his blood as it dripped all over his hands. Dyviak coughed and back pedaled, finally falling onto his knees. He looked up into Otho’s eyes but he looked different.
“You can’t take a life,” Dyviak’s voice boomed.
“B-b-boss?” Otho asked.
“You can’t take a life, Otho. That’s against the rules.” Dyviak looked up at him, his face no longer anguished because of the pain and yet he continued to bleed all over the pavement. “How is killing him fixing the problem.”
“She doesn’t deserve to be assaulted like that,” Otho explained.
“Yeah, but now she’s going to jail and without his help, her mom will end up in jail as well.” Dyviak looked down at himself. “He may be a jerk but death isn’t the answer. You of all people should know that,” he explained to Otho.
Otho threw his hands in the air. “Well, what happens now?” he screamed.
“Oh you know what happens now,” Dyviak laughed and snapped his fingers.

It was cold when Otho woke up. He lifted his head up and looked around. He was lying prostrate on the snow covered ground. Rolling over made his head ache. Lying still made his head ache. Thinking made his head ache. He groaned and stood up. The fur coat that he wore shielded him from the bitter cold bite of the wind that whipped his hair around. He reached down to clench his coat tighter to his body. That’s when he realized that a fur coat was his fur coat.
“A polar bear? Really?!” he roared into the sky. Thunder boomed loudly laughing at him. He had every intention of cursing the sky but he was shushed by a low growling that seemed to surround him. He looked around, trying to distinguish shapes in the quickly forming blizzard. One by one they began to appear. Wolves in the night, quite literally.
It was an amazing sight to see, a polar bear round house kicking a wolf in the face. The Inuit hunters that gathered around thought it was interesting as well, calling the rest of their dogs back.
“Well, if I knew this is what it was going to take for you to save a life and redeem yourself, I would have transported you into a bear sooner,” one of the wolves noted as he slinked away toward the hunters.
Otho let out a loud sigh as he sat back down in the snow for the last time.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Plight of Pen's 30 Day Writing Challenge, Day 1: Introduce Yourself in Detail

She stepped into the nearly vacant room. Inside the studio were two men who sat behind an oak desk with a tripod propped up on top of it. The camera atop the tripod was pointed toward a green sheet held up with some wire and clothes pins. Joy looked down at herself. She was dressed in blue jeans, worn at the knees and cuffs; a blue, plaid, button-up shirt (her favorite) which could only be buttoned across her abdomen so underneath it she wore a black wife beater with a local band scrawled across her chest. Her hair was disheveled. No make-up on her face. She had changed her mind and was about to turn around and walk out the door when the door slammed shut.
“Number 42?” one of the men called. “Number 42, why don’t you step on the x taped on the floor. Joy walked over to the front of the green sheet and placed her Converse cloaked feet on the gray duct taped "x" on the floor. One of the men reached over the table and adjusted the tripod legs, dropping the camera a couple of inches. He smiled at her. She gave the camera a cheesy, toothy grin.
“All right, number 42, why don’t we start with your name,” the other man instructed. He was a taller man with a shiny, bald head and a comforting grin.
“Uh, my name is Joy,” she squeaked.
“Could you say it a bit louder?” the first man asked. He was a bit more intimidating with his sunglasses and slicked back hair. “Louder and into the camera,” he explained. He tapped his pen against the desk.
“My name is Joy,” she said, smiling sweetly.
“Tell us about yourself. Let’s start off with the things that you like,” the bald man suggested.
“Um,” she thought out loud. Her eyes wandered around the room as she tried to think of something interesting to say. “I like to read. A lot. I like to go out but staying in can be fun too. My favorite thing to do besides reading is watch those old, sci-fi/horror, B-movies. You know the ones. The old, black and white ones with the horrible scripts and worse special effects.  Um, I like to bake and sew and do all of those housewife-y things from the fifties.  I like bulldogs and kittens.”
The bald man chuckled. It comforted her enough to open up a little more.
“I don’t like long walks on the beach,” she continued. “Because sand is hard to walk on. I’d rather build sandcastles and sit and watch the sunset.”
“What kind of guys do you like?” he asked.
“Um, I like nice guys. Er, gentlemen. Ones that open doors and give their girlfriends flowers for no apparent reason. You know, just cause it’s Tuesday and they like having girlfriends.” She thought a bit harder. “I like guys who go on adventures. Anything from, like, a spontaneous day trip to a planned vacation to New Zealand, or whatever.”
“You seem like a sweet girl. Why did you decide to come here?” he asked.
She stared at him through her rectangular glasses and smiled. “Because everyone could use a little extra help finding someone, right?” she stated.
He chuckled. “Indeed.”
“What do you do?” Mr. Sunglasses asked.
“I’m a writer,” she stated.
“Oh,” he seemed surprised. “Have I read any of your work?”  He sat up in his chair.
She shrugged, “I don’t know. I write short stories and have some blogs up at different places.”
“Oh, so probably not,” he said, leaning back again.  He started scribbling down some notes. “Is that, like, your day job?” he asked.
“Well, it doesn’t pay the bills,” she explained. “So I take up odd jobs like waitressing and the like. I have a degree in elementary education.”
“So…why aren’t you a teacher?” he inquired.
“Because that’s not where my passion lies and I would rather save the job openings for a teacher that can be more passionate about teaching and because kids need more dedicated teachers.  And less teachers that just want to pay the bills and go home.”
“What kind of music do you like?” the bald man interrupted, sensing the anxiety in her voice.
“Oh, um…anything, really. I’m not picky. The only thing that I don’t like is opera.”
He scribbled down some notes. Mr. Sunglasses rolled his eyes.
“All right,” Sunglasses said as he stood up.. “Thanks for coming in. We’ll compile your footage and get back to you.” He reached over the table to shake her hand. As soon as he let go her attention was diverted to his associate.
He gently took her hand and shook it. He cleared his throat. “What kind of relationship are you looking for?” he asked.
“Right now? I’m just looking for a date. And we’ll see where it takes us.”
He smiled. “I’ll get back to you with any results that we find.”
She nodded her head. They continued to shake hands.
Sunglasses threw his hands in the air. “I’m going to lunch,” he said, walking toward the door.

“That’s how you met daddy?” Elizabeth asked her mom.
“Yeah.” Joy smiled. “He was a big jerk then. He’s always been this impatient,” she said looking over at her husband. He rolled his eyes and slipped on a pair of sunglasses.
“Come on, let’s go get lunch,” he said, kissing her on the forehead.
“What happened to the bald guy?” Elizabeth asked.
“Oh, Uncle Frankie? You know Uncle Frankie. He’s living with his boyfriend in a studio apartment in Los Angeles.”

A Story for Kate

I challenged my friends to “send me a one word or first line prompt and I will write a story about it.”  My Facebook friend and fellow North Kitsap graduate, Kate, suggested both “Even if it breaks your heart” and “believe in love,” which I have utilized in this story. Here you go, Kate. I realized while I was writing this that I don’t often write happy stories. That thought in and of itself made me sad. Thanks for making me tread on new territory. I hope you enjoy.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart
By Joy Bernardo

He watched her from afar. It was the only thing that he could bear to do. As close as they were, he knew her well enough to know that if he overstepped any boundaries, she would dissolve their friendship in a heartbeat. She was sick of heartache of all forms and refused to take another chance at love, especially if it risked a loss of her best friend.
“Eli?” she asked. “Eli, are you okay?”
Eli was suddenly brought back to the real world. He patted her hand. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” He smiled at her and brushed her curly, auburn hair away from her face. “You’re awake.”
“Gawd, I probably look like a train wreck, huh?” she jeered. She tried desperately to fix her hair.
“You look beautiful, Ashley,” he said.
“You are a horrible liar,” she retorted. She sighed. “I hate hospitals. They make me feel like I’m sicker than I really am.”
“You are si…” Eli couldn’t bear to finish the sentence.
“Oh no you don’t.” She grasped his hand. “You’re my rock, Eli. You’re what keeps me strong. You’re not allowed to break down.” She looked straight into his sorrowful eyes. “Stop it, I’m fine.”
He smiled. “I’ve got to head to work in a couple hours. I should probably go home and shower.”
“What time is it?” she asked. She looked at the clock. “Seven? I thought they didn’t allow visitors until 9 unless… Where you here all night?” she sputtered.
He laughed nervously. “Well, yeah.” She smiled and got that look in her eyes like she was going to pat his head. “Well, who else is going to put videos of you snoring up on YouTube.”
“You’re an idiot,” she laughed. “Go home and shower. You smell like as bad as I look.”
He laughed again. “The doctors said that they are going to release you today. Your mom’s going to take you home. I’ll swing by after work to see how you’re doing,” he said, getting up from his chair. He stretched and cracked his neck.
“I’m so lucky,” she said to him. His eyes glazed over as he felt a grin creep across his face. He took her hand. “I can’t believe that they found a donor that fast.” His grin faded.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s pretty awesome, isn’t it? Talk about fate.” He smile returned. “I gotta get to work. I’ll see you later.” He quickly turned around and saw Ashley’s mom standing in the doorway. She smiled sweetly at him.
“Hi, Eli.”
“Hey, Mrs. B. I was just headed to work.” He coughed nervously and shuffled his way past her.
“That Eli is such a wonderful boy.”
“Aw, Mom, not again.” Ashley rolled her eyes. “He’s just my friend.”
“Do you ever think about being more than friends?” her mom asked.
 “With Eli? That’s like dating your brother.”
Her mom rolled her eyes. She sat down in the warm chair next to her hospital bed. The one that Eli had been sitting in all night. “The things that he’s done for you.”
“Did you stay last night too?” Ashley asked.
“Of course. We haven’t left your side since the procedure.”
Ashley laid her head back on the pillow and thought of the sacrifices that her best friend had been putting himself through.
“He won’t stop,” her mom replied to her thoughts. “No matter what you tell him.”
“Won’t stop going holding my hand through the procedures?” Ashley asked with a grin.
“He won’t stop loving you,” her mom replied.
Those words echoed through her mind all day: through the car ride home, through her mom’s doting, through the silent house. She used the stillness of the moment to rehearse her speech as she laid in her bed. She should have known that as soon as she saw his face all of her practice would be for nothing.
The front door creaked open. Ashley sat up in her bed.
“Hello?” Eli called from the front door.
“Come on in!” she called back. She heard him stumble through the door and make his way up the steps to her bedroom. His sweet, smiling face was a refreshing break from counting the bumps on the ceiling.
“You okay?” he asked, setting down a duffel bag.
“What’s the bag for?” she asked.
He shrugged. “Your mom said that she’s gonna be out of town for tonight and asked if I could stay on the couch tonight. That’s okay with you, right?”
“Of course.” She shrugged.
“You okay?” he asked again, taking a seat on the edge of her bed. He brushed her hair away from her face.
“You’re killing yourself for me,” Ashley sputtered. Well, that wasn’t the way that she wanted to start the conversation at all. She rolled her eyes at herself, for being a horrible conversationalist and for harboring feelings for him all along. “I know it was you. The bone marrow donor.”
“What?” The look on her face made him realize just how serious she was. “I’m trying to keep you alive. I love you.”.
“I love you too,” she said. The words came out unexpectedly, freezing time for a split second. Ashley shook free of the trance. “That’s why I can’t let you do this,” she finished.
“No, it’s…” his voice trailed off. “I’m in love with you.”
She shook her head. “I can’t afford to be in love.”
He cocked his head to side. “Why can’t you be in love with me?”
“Not just you. I can’t fall in love at all,” she explained.
“You’re not incapable of it. No one is incapable of it.” He swallowed hard, trying not to burst into tears.
“I didn’t say that I was. I’m just…I can’t fall in love because I’m dying.”
Eli was speechless. The room went silent as he watched her eyes drop. She tried to hold back tears.
“I’m dying,” she said again. “And I don’t want to fall in love with you because when I do die… I just…I don’t want to hurt you like that.”
“Newsflash, Ash. When you die, I’m going to be heartbroken whether say that you’re in love with me or not. Let me just…” He took a deep breath. “Let me just make the last years of your life the best that I can.”
Tears streamed down her face. She had never said those words before. “I’m dying…” she repeated. Eli’s heart sank. He wrapped his arms around her.
“Shh, shh…” He tried to comfort her. “You know what’d make you feel better?” he asked. He felt her head tilt back as she looked up at his face. He looked down at her and smiled. “I’m going to take you to Disneyland tomorrow.” She laughed. “All you have to do is get dressed and…”
“And just believe in love…” she added.
“Just believe in love,” Eli whispered into the mic. “That’s what she taught me with her life.” He took a deep breath. “Well, that and that you shouldn’t have four corn dogs before you go on any roller coasters,” he added. He clicked the remote in his hand. The overhead picture changed to Eli standing next to Ashley’s wheelchair; her arms held high in triumph as he pointed to the “You must be this tall to ride” sign that pointed to her cheekbones as she sat in her chair.

A Story for Guy

I challenged my friends to “send me a one word or first line prompt and I will write a story about it.”  Fellow pen wrangler, Guy, suggested a plethora of awesome words including "inveigled," "wainscoting," and "cassette," which I have totally butchered in this story.  Here you go, Guy.  I had initially written this about two days ago but I haven't gotten a chance to read it after or post it until now.

By Joy Bernardo

Part I: Inveigled

Rachel turned to Ashley. “Okay,” she started. “So you’re playing The Game. You, along with everyone else in the world, always is, always has been, and always will be playing The Game. You might never know it and you probably never wanted to but you are. It’s pretty simple. Every time you think about The Game, you lose. Loss is temporary because as soon as you forget about The Game you stop losing. The object of The Game is to forget that it exists.”
“That sounds lame,” Ashley said rolling her eyes. “So you can’t REALLY win.”
Rachel smiled, “Well, you can…”
“Lame,” Ashley interrupted. “Still sounds lame.”
Rachel pouted. “You sound lame…”
Ashley put her arm around her shoulder. “Honey, look around you. We’re going be in a fantastic club that is filled to the brim with attractive men that want to get into our pants simply because we have breasts.” She looked into Rachel’s eyes. “Please don’t play your silly game in there.” She patted Rachel on the head. “In other words, please stop being a dork.” She turned her attention towards the club and leered at the line in front of them. “Hmm…” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Rachel watched as Ashley sauntered up to the front of the line. Her short skirt fluttered in the breeze. She didn’t have a plunging neckline like the rest of the women in line, however her shirt did appear as though it was painted on.
Once at the front of the line, she sized up the two bouncers and chose the heavier set one as her target. The other was an athletic, shaggy haired beefcake. He watched intently as she tried to seduce his friend. She whispered into his ear and rubbed his arm. She motioned toward Rachel, who waved awkwardly and smiled. The bouncer whispered something back in Ashley’s ear and sent her back on her way.
“What happened?” Rachel asked.
“He told me that he’s gay,” Ashley replied.
“Let me try,” Rachel offered.
Ashley scoffed. “Honey, no offense but if I couldn’t get us in, I don’t think that you can.”
Rachel looked down at her frumpy sweater and short black skirt. She pushed her glasses back up her nose and pouted. There was an awkward silence as Rachel looked at the long line that wrapped around the building. She took a deep breath. The air smelt of cigarette smoke and urine.
“I’m sorry,” Ashley offered. “I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just sayin…” her voice trailed off as she realized that there was really no way to fix it. She motioned toward the bouncer and took Rachel’s spot in line as Rachel stepped out onto the sidewalk and brushed off her sweater. She walked up to the front of the line and smiled sweetly at the bouncers. The both smiled back. Rachel talked to the one that Ashley had paid her attention for a few minutes before finally leaning in and whispering something in his ear. As she did, she took a gander behind him at the other bouncer and the door. He nodded, looked up, and motioned for Ashley to come to the front of the line. Rachel waited for her and took her hand, leading her into the front door.
The club was hot and packed. The inside of the building smelled of sweat, hooch, and stale air. Rachel wasn’t sure what was worse, breathing inside or outside. They made their way to the bar.
“How’d you get us in?” Ashley finally asked.
Rachel smiled at her.
“Did you offer him drugs?”
“Sexual favors?”
“Of course not!”
“Money? Babes? Boys? Toys?”
“I told him that his bouncer friend was checking him out while you were flirting with him.”
“Did you really mean that?”
“Did you really mean what you whispered in his ear?”
“Well, no.”
“At least mine was true.”
“Is that all you told him?”
“I also told him that you’re really a man dressed in drag, and that when you get plastered, you like to hook up with heavy set men in hawaiian shirts.” She met Ashley’s unimpressed gaze. “And that in about an hour, he could take you in the alley and do…whatever it was that you whispered in his ear.”
“I thought you said that you didn’t lie.”
“I didn’t. Can I buy you a drink?”
Ashley gave her a dirty look.
“Well, then, can I buy you a drink?” asked another voice.
“Aren’t you a bit overdressed for a night of clubbing?” Ashley asked the man.
He was a well dressed man in a tailored business suit and sunglasses. “It helps me pull off the mysterious persona.”
Ashley grinned. “What’s you’re name, Suit?”
“If I told you, I’d have to kill you. So let’s just start with me buying you girls some drinks.”

Part II: Cassettes

“Good morning. My name is Agent K and I am enlisting your services for the length of my next operative. Included in this box is a couple red dresses, a pocket knife, a roll of duct tape, a confidential file containing a detailed description of our mission, and a plane ticket to St. Petersburg, Russia. While, it is not imperative that you put on the red dress at this particular moment in time, it is rather important that you read the documentation in the box. I will send a suit to your door momentarily to take you to the airport. Your cooperation is non-negotiable. This tape will self destruct in approximately five seconds…”
Rachel stepped back from the box as the tape began to sizzle in the cassette player. The box was addressed to Ashley so she probably should have been the one to hear those instructions.
“Ashley!” Rachel called from the hallway. “Someone left a box here for you…with an exploding tape in it…”
Ashley ran to the second story banister and looked down at Rachel. “What’d it say?”
“Um,” Rachel thought for a second. “You don’t have to put on the red dress…”
“What?” Ashley scratched her head. “What else did it say?”
“I don’t remember,” Rachel admitted. Ashley shot her a dirty look. “What?” Rachel wined. “I haven’t had my coffee yet…”
“Well, then play it again,” Ashley snapped.
“But it’s an exploding…” Rachel looked over at the box, which was now engulfed in flames. “Um, nevermind.”
Ashley rolled her eyes. “I’m going to jump in the shower.”
Rachel ran to the box. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

Part III: Wainscoting

The room was spinning when they came to.
“Morning, ladies,” Agent K said.
“Where are we?” Rachel asked. She tried to make her eyes focus but the only thing she could make out was the strange man in front of her. “Oh, wait, I remember you…” she said to him.
He leaned down to look at her eye to eye. “Oh, good.” He smiled. “I’m glad that I had made an impression on you.” He turned to her friend, who was tied to a chair next to her. She was trying desperately to shake loose of her bonds. “Don’t struggle too much, Darling,” he said to her. “You’ll wear yourself out before you can become any good to us.” He stood up tall and stretched. “Besides, you’ll shake your towel lose.” He walked towards a table at the far end of the room.
Rachel looked around at the bare room. It was a clean room. Like someone’s spare bedroom. With sea foam green walls and white wainscoting. The only things in the room besides her semi naked friend and Agent K was the desk at the other end of the room, which held a couple of small cardboard boxes and some files.
“Since you decided to burn the box that we sent you, we had to come up with a different wardrobe and some new documentation.” He sat down on the desk and looked at the girls from across the room. “Now, you have to promise me that when I untie you two, you won’t do anything stupid.”
The girls looked at each other and then back at Agent K.
“Stupid?” Ashley asked. “Stupid like what? Slug you? Shank you? Shove those damn sunglasses up your bum?!”
“Yes, stupid like that.” Agent K smiled.
“Why would we do anything stupid like that?” Ashley screamed as she flew into a rage. She writhed around in her seat, trying desperately to loosen the rope that held her wrists together behind her back. But the only thing that she succeeded to loosen was the towel that kept her naughty bits under-wrap, which promptly fell on the floor.
Agent K grinned as he watched her wriggle around.
“You’re a perv,” Rachel accused Agent K.
“Hey!” K pointed toward Ashley. “I gave her a towel! What do you want from me?” He walked over and tried to drape the towel over her. All the while, Ashley stared him down.
“What do we need to do?” Rachel asked.
He thought for a minute. “If you want the abridged version… We’re going to fly you into Russia where you will sneak into the Kremlin and deliver an envelope. After which, we will fly you back home like nothing had happened and you must never speak of this again.”
“Can’t you just mail it?” Ashley spouted.
K shook his head. “Noo.” The girls stared at him. “It’s complicated.”
“Is it a bomb?” Rachel asked.
“No,” he stated, very matter-of-factly.
“Is it drugs?” Ashley asked.
“I don’t want to be a terrorist,” Rachel wined.
“You’re not going to be a terrorist.” K said, rolling his eyes.
“What are we delivering?” Ashley asked.
K froze. “One of the stipulations is not to ask any questions about…”
“What are we delivering?!” Ashley commanded.
“These documents are top secret and you are not to ask questions. Just accept your assignment and once it’s completed, you can…”
“I want to go home,” Ashley interrupted. “Untie me now.”
K rolled his eyes and looked over at Rachel, who had been strangely quiet for some time now.
She shrugged her shoulders. “She won’t shut up before she gets her way. I know. I live with her.”
K took a deep breath and untied Ashley. She wriggled free and stood up. As she wrapped the towel around her she turned to her friend. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”
K turned to Rachel again, who smiled sweetly at him. He untied the rope around Rachel’s wrists. Suddenly they heard the pitter patter of Ashley’s bare feet against the hardwood floors. They both turned in time to see Ashley picking the envelope off the table.
“You can’t open that!” K screamed. But it was too late.
Ashley tore open the envelope revealing a sheet of paper which simply read, “You just lost the game.” Ashley looked up at Rachel, who was smiling like the Cheshire cat.