She was sitting at the bar looking tired and lost. She was also quite attractive, though he was sure she didn’t feel particularly interesting right then. He knew he could change that, at least. He was good at that. Everyone seemed to think of him as a harmless old widow, but a surprising number ended up in bed with him. He smiled, remembering a few of his more interesting companions.

The stool next to her was empty. He walked up to the bar a few seats away and began chatting with the bartender. He was here often enough that they conversed easily. The bartender was a young, handsome man who seemed amused by the considerably older man’s ability to coax women to bed. Both of them had standards; neither would sleep with a married woman or even one just involved with someone else. They weren’t willing to hurt anyone, and, in a world of rakes and rogues, that gave them a place to begin a friendship.

After a few minutes of light banter, the older gentleman looked over at the woman. “Hello, my dear. Would you mind if I sat next to you? I’m rather short on company tonight and you look like you could use someone to talk to.”

She blinked up at him, surprised and a little wary. Her expression softened as she took in his appearance. He was at least seventy years old, quite dapper, and he had a kind face with many laugh lines. He looked comforting and comfortable. She did not enjoy people hitting on her, but he seemed genuinely interested in her company, not just her cleavage. 

“Sure, why not.” She smiled.

“You should do that more often. It brings out the green of your eyes when they catch the light. May I buy you a drink, since I’m taking up your time?”

“Um, sure, I guess. I’ll have a gin and tonic.” She sounded slightly wary now, suddenly not as sure as she had been that his intentions were honorable.

Over the next two hours, she changed her opinion again. He really was a sweet old man. His wife had been dead for about ten years, but when he talked about her there was still joy and love in his voice and his face. They had been together for almost forty years, had three children, and had traveled extensively. She, in turn, told him about her breakup six months ago. She had not been happy, really, but she hadn’t expected him to cheat on her, either, and she was still recovering from that blow to her ego. She was a nurse and loved her work. Some days, like today, she was exhausted by the end of her shift. She worked hard and did well, but it was a difficult profession, especially since she did not have family or really close friends in the area. She had moved here five months ago, determined to start over and make a better life for herself, but it was not moving very quickly. She listened avidly to his travel stories and wished she could visit some of the exotic places he described. He did not ply her with drinks, but he paid whenever she asked for another. Near the end of the evening she switched to fruit juice so she could sober up and get home safely.

He walked her to the door of the bar and told her how much he had enjoyed the evening. She found herself thinking about how nice it would be to see him again.

Over the next two weeks, they saw each other three more times, always at the bar. After the third time, as their discussions carried on until closing, she impulsively asked if he would like to come over to continue talking. She did not have to work in the morning and the idea of going home to her empty apartment was suddenly too dreary to contemplate. He agreed and followed her home.

She made hot chocolate and put together a plate of crackers, cheese, and cookies. He appreciated everything and was, as always, quite courtly. She enjoyed his company, his sometimes wicked sense of humor, and his intelligence, and she felt more comfortable around him than around any man she could think of. She told him all of this when she was tipsy enough to blurt out her innermost thoughts, then blushed furiously and muster that he could just ignore that.

He gathered her into his arms and hugged her. “I take that as a high compliment, my dear. Please don’t be embarrassed.”

She leaned into him, smelling a whiff of pipe smoke and brandy. She snuggled closer as he began to rub her back. Non-sexually, she told herself, but it felt very good. It kept getting better, too. He took his time, making sure she was relaxed and happy. She looked up at him to ask if he was comfortable and found herself kissing him instead. This was not a bad thing, she decided, enjoying the kiss.

Events continued to unfold at a relaxed pace, both of them enjoying sensations and feeling relaxed and happy. At one point she stopped and said, “I’m sorry to ask this, but, well, can you get it up? I know older men sometimes have a problem.”

“Oh, no, my dear. I took my pill; I’m sure we can figure out how to get my rocket to stand up straight enough to give it a good polish.”

She laughed out loud and settled back into his arms.

They spent the night together.

The next morning, as courtly as ever, he made a simple breakfast, ate with her, and then took his leave. They agreed to meet at the bar the next week. They discussed the previous night, agreed that it was enjoyable for both parties, and agreed that neither was looking for a relationship. They parted as friends, both happier for the dalliance.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Brad MacDonald challenged me with “‘I polish the rockets and swallow those pills.’-Monster Magnet” and I challenged Allyson with “‘All our kids are screaming but the ghosts aren’t real’ U2, Get On your Boots”

The dogs of war

“Which one of you did it? Which one of you started this war?”

The boys cowered in the corner, clearly terrified of the hulking man bellowing at them. None of them answered; one whimpered.

“Fess up, you lot, or it’s the dogs for you!”

A low growl came from the shadowed back of the room. One of the boys began babbling.

“It was all of us! I mean, we didn’t mean to. We didn’t want any of this to happen. We were just pushing buttons! Who would be stupid enough to leave a real missile silo unguarded? We thought it was a mock-up or something! It was just a place Hank found, a tunnel, and we went in to explore. You aren’t supposed to leave dangerous things out like this! We’re teenagers. We were just screwing around. We were doing what teenagers do, and we didn’t know it would hurt anybody. Honest.” He abruptly stopped talking and leaned his head on the wall. After a few moments, he added, “We didn’t know anyone would die.”

The large military man sighed. The dog came from the back of the room and sat next to him, a large, hulking beast, a perfect match for the man. The four boys, seeing the dog, sat up a little straighter. The reality was less terrifying than any imagined creature.

“You have loosed the dogs of war. You have killed off at least a third of the world’s population in one day, and another quarter, at least, will die from what comes afterwards. You have no idea of the number of lives you cut short because you were stupid children who wanted to push buttons. If I had my choice, I would feed you to my dog, but I doubt that would be accepted any more readily than your actions. That many people dead is a statistic. If I kill you four, however much you deserve it, people will hate me. You are four faces, four young, stupid, faces, on which their hopes and dreams can be pinned.” He sighed again. “You are going to spend the rest of your lives atoning for this mess. It was a stupid act that changed the world, and you are going to do your damnedest to make it better.”

The boys just stared at him, wide-eyed.

“Here’s the deal. I will not tell anyone what you did. At this point, they’re blaming anyone and everyone in power. No one will know it was you. Trust me on this; you never want them to know. Everyone lost someone dear to them. Most people lost more than one. If they knew, they would tear you limb from limb, and I am not exaggerating. Do you understand?”

The boys nodded in unison. The one who had been babbling said, quietly, “Yes, sir.”

That was the end, and the beginning.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Grace O’Malley challenged me with “Fess up, you lot–or it’s the dogs for you!” and I challenged Mediocre Wayne with “Flying in the dark, completely comfortable.”

A purple love story

She sat in front of the simple mirror, running the boar-bristle brush through her ebon hair. She smiled as she thought fondly of her handsome fiancé for whom she waited with trembling excitement. Their love was deeper than the deepest ocean and, according to their families, they fit together like hand and glove. They had fallen in love at first sight, and today would be another full day spent together, a joyous meeting of the minds. Tomorrow they would be married, and her heart yearned for him.

The door to her private bower was flung open with great force as he stumbled over the miniscule threshold. “My love!” he exclaimed passionately as he landed on his well-formed knees. “At last we shall have time to truly know the bliss of each others’ company!”

She noticed that his clothes were exceptionally sturdy, but even so there were small patches and rents just as her patient handmaidens were forever repairing in her appealing garments. She felt a frisson of excitement at this evidence of their similarity.

She stood and extended a hand to help him up, her delicate sleeve sweeping the small table clear of all of the bottles and colorful jars. She had learned early to make sure to put caps back on bottles, so the mess was minor. In any case, she had more important things to consider. “Ah, darling! How I have desperately awaited your arrival! We have such pleasure to look forward to for the rest of our blessed lives.”

Their fingers met–hers lovely and delicate, his rough and strong–and they both sighed at the electric magnetism that coursed through their bodies. He was suddenly hungry for her, and she was throbbing in places she had thought herself too innocent to know about.

She blushed and pulled away, but he pulled her to his manly chest and breathed in her intoxicating scent. She pushed futilely against his iron muscles. “We must not!” she whispered. “Not until tomorrow!” He reluctantly released his powerful hold, his fingers brushing her alabaster cheek. “I suppose you are right,” he said.

They proceeded to the private nook in which the servants had set up an intimate repast. He pulled her chair out with a flourish that ended with the chair in pieces against a wall, and a servant quickly brought another. She sat down, flustered by his might. He settled across the small table from her. She picked up a succulent grape and reached across to place it into his inviting mouth. Her other arm knocked over the sturdy water pitcher. Both ignored the servant who put the replacement carafe on another table just out of reach.

He bit the grape gently and pulled it out of her fingers, then leaned forward to kiss the delightful extremities. The garnet wine next to his well-turned elbow spilled in a flood over her ivory dress. She stood up quickly, tripped over her chair, and managed to sprawl in a way that left her looking radiantly mussed. A single, jewel-like tear crept down her fair skin.

“Are you all right?” he gasped.

“I believe my leg is broken,” she sobbed daintily.

He rushed to pick her up, forgetting, in his haste to be dashing and romantic, that tripping over her broken leg would probably not help matters any. He came down on the table with a resounding crash, and when he stood, white-faced, his arm was at a very unnatural angle.

Servants came rushing in to help, but he manfully waved them away, the rippling bicep on his unbroken arm making her gasp a little with desire despite her pain.

“I shall take her to the car!” he cried.

The servants looked very worried, but acquiesced, as they must.

He gently picked her up, feeling her faint as he put her over his muscular shoulder. “You’ll be fine, beloved.” His gallant voice was ground between his teeth, but he was determined to take care of her as he had promised her family he would.

Unfortunately, the path to the car included stairs.

As the lovers lay next to each other in pristine white traction, only their fingers touching, they both felt the depth of their love through that subtle caress. They knew that once they were both healed, they would have the wedding of their dreams and ride off into the sunset, forever for eternity.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Major Bedhead challenged me with “Give me your purplest prose, your heaving-est bosoms, your ebony-est hair, your single-est tear slipping down your alabaster-est cheek, your manliest man, your most delicate-est of maidens. Unleash your inner romance novelist.” and I challenged Fran with “Globe lilies and glide paths: include them in your piece.”