Layering & Slips

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Slip: Similar here and here

Bralette: Similar here and here

Hat: here

Shoes: here (sale!)

Sorry for the infrequent posts as of late, it’s been a busy past couple of months. Some good news though: my fiance and I invested in a new camera. It’s something we’ve been thinking about a lot this past year, and seeing as our honeymoon is coming up, we figured we would go ahead and buy it. I’m hoping that we can use it to increase the quality of photos on this blog as well.
Anyway, this is a pretty old look (and shot with my ipone in case you couldn’t tell). I’ve been getting into the bralette trend recently, especially ones like this because they have patterns around the collar and neckline. I’ve got a ridiculous collection of loose mini dresses and slips, so I find that bralettes like this are the perfect thing to layer with them. I’ve also managed to find a few super cheap ones on Amazon and linked them above. This slip is old, but I’ve linked a few similar ones from Free People that would work well with this look!

Dark Spring Look

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Shirt: similar here

skirt: similar here

shoes: similar here

hat: here

This skirt used to be one of my favorite dresses. Supposedly it was fine to put in both the washer and dryer, but that ended up shrinking it drastically (don’t you hate it when that happens?)  I loved the print so much that I couldn’t bear to throw it away, so I ended up chopping it into a skirt. This has been something I’ve been doing whenever I wreck one of my dresses or am simply bored of a maxi dress that I own. Personally, I’d rather alter something to my current style than have it hanging in my wardrobe never used.  I paired it with a simple graphic T-shirt and my anklet flats for a casual day look.

Hope you guys like the look. I’ve got a few new collaborations coming soon, stay tuned!

ILoveMyDogJewelry

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For this post, I partnered with IloveMyDogJewelry, to show a few ways to wear my favorite pieces from their collection. As far as jewelry goes, I tend to be quite lazy. Although I frequently admire other’s jewelry, it is not the sort of thing I will spend time pairing with my outfit in the morning. For this reason, I tend to gravitate towards very simple, versatile pieces, which is what drew me towards IloveMyDogJewelry. Their jewelry is very unique, yet classic; perfect for everyday wear. That, and the fact that they donate a portion of their profits to animal rescue groups to improve the lives of homeless and abused animals, an issue very close to my heart.

I snapped a few of my favorites above (obviously my favorite is the machine gun earrings).  All of them can be found on their Etsy shop here

Check out their website here

Millennium Falcon Mini Dress

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Dress: similar here and here

Shoes: here

I found this dress in the giftshop at my work and immediately became obsessed with it.  I’m not the biggest fan of most Star Wars T-shirts I find, so I figured this was a good alternative.  Unfortunately the dress doesn’t exist online, but I linked some other awesome dresses from Black Milk above.  I paired it with my usual Lug Sole Creepers for a pretty simple look.

Anyways, sorry for the infrequent posts.  I did a photoshoot recently so there will be more coming soon!

 

Liza Printed Babydoll Shirt Mini Dress

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Dress: here

Shoes: here

Hat: here

Shift dresses are a great thing to throw on during a lazy summer day.  This is a super simple outfit, yet I tried to accessorize it in a way that looks planned and put together.  I paired it with my favorite pointed toe flats from Aldo and my usual Peter Grimm hat.  I am usually not into flats, but these ones have quickly become a staple in my wardrobe.  They are extremely comfortable and go with just about everything (linked above).

In other news, Kevin and I are planning our honeymoon today.  We’ve decided on Paris and Italy.  Neither of us have really traveled, so we are doing quite a bit of research.  Any recommendations of places to eat for a vegetarian in: Paris, Rome, Venice or Naples?

 

Chapter 2: Mel

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I figured I’d go ahead and post the second chapter of my novel.  Chapter 1 is here, in case anyone missed it.

This second chapter introduces another one of the main characters: Mel (probably my favorite character actually).  Hope you like it!  As before, feedback is welcomed.

Chapter 2: Mel

The girl’s not clever”, Madame Eshra said as she crumbled a dry scone between her impressively long fingernails, “And she’s not pretty”. Her beady grey eyes darted to the young girl seated next to her. The girl was skinny and miserable looking, her blonde stringy hair covering her face like a veil. She didn’t even appear to know that they were speaking about her.

The girl’s uncle cleared his throat awkwardly and began twirling a silver ring around his finger. “And?” he asked.

“And so I want you to take her”, She replied matter-of-factly.
He stared at his sister, stunned, and placed his tea down carefully. “Take her…where?” he asked.

“Travelling with you”, she replied, “Just for a while, just until she’s out of this phase”.

“And what phase would that be?” he asked. He glanced at his niece once again, wondering if she was sickly.

Madame Eshra sighed and delicately pulled the girl’s hair aside as one would a curtain. Her head was tilted downward and in her lap was a thick book with a red binding. She did not look up, but even so, he could tell that she was a bit older than he had thought originally. Fifteen? Maybe sixteen? He tried in vain to remember what year she had been born.

He glanced at his sister, trying to understand what it was she wanted to show him. She nodded at the book in the girl’s lap. “Reading?” he asked finally, “The phase you want her to get over, is reading?”

“Nasty habit”, she replied. “And you know what they say about people who read, don’t you?”

“That they are literate?” he asked with a laugh. Why, if his sister only saw the amount of books he has in his caravan this very moment.

But she frowned, and placed her cane sternly on the floor as if she was about to stand up. “It’s not enough that we are descended from those people”, she hissed, “That we have to live isolated away from everyone in this old house with only a skeleton crew of servants to keep us alive”-Her brother almost laughed at that statement. If forty servants weren’t enough for two people, he didn’t know what number was- “Now my daughter is showing signs of one of them”.

She was quite disheveled; her hand shook as she raised her tea to her lips. He looked her over carefully. It had been at least ten years since he had seen his sister, but the two exchanged letters at least once a month. The years had not been kind to her. The wrinkles beneath her eyes were made more prominent by their deep purple color. Her mouth seemed to be caught in a permanent frown, and despite the pink powder she put on her cheeks, he could tell her skin was pasty. He wondered if she left the house at all.

“One of them?” he asked. He wasn’t entirely sure what she was getting at. He couldn’t see a whole lot else to do in this huge desolate mansion aside from read.

“You know”, she said, her voice lowering considerably, “like her father”.

He laughed again. “Magic? You can’t actually think she’s got magic? Magicians are obsolete. They disappeared even before the creatures themselves did.” He glanced at the girl. He could not deny that she certainly looked unhealthy, far too skinny and pale.

“She is just lonely”, he said, “She’s stuck all the way out here with you in this wasteland, and you won’t let any of your maids speak to her. If you would just consider moving to a town. Somewhere where there are people to-”

“You know why I can’t leave”, His sister snapped. “You know why I’m out here”.
He sighed and nodded in submission, because unfortunately he did know. And there was no talking to her when she was like this.

“But what about you?” he asked, “I don’t feel right leaving you here all alone”.

“Tell me where you plan to go for the next year”, she said, “Make a schedule. If I need you, I’ll send a messenger”.

He nodded halfheartedly. He didn’t know how to tell her that his business wasn’t predictable enough to have his entire year planned out. “All right then”, he said, “I suppose it may do her some good, after all”. His sister’s face transformed into a very slight smile, but it was still the first one he had seen since he arrived, so he welcomed it.

“How do you feel about that Kathryn?” he said to the girl in soft voice, “That might be nice, don’t you think?”

His sister’s smile faltered. “That’s the other thing”, she said, “She doesn’t speak anymore”.

At first, he thought he had misheard her. “What do you mean?”, he asked.

“No words, not for a few years now”, she waved her hand as if it was nothing. “Like I said: a phase”.

But as they sped away in his caravan, the girl’s eerie stare on him as steered his horses, he couldn’t help thinking that it was not, in fact, ‘nothing’. And he quite wished he had been told that bit of information before he had agreed to take her.

‘Perhaps she’s a fool’, he thought to himself, as he remembered a certain boy who’d lived in his town growing up. The boy was dim, and every time he spoke, his words came out jumbled and peculiar sounding. After a while, the boy stopped speaking altogether.

But then, after an hour or so, the girl opened her satchel and pulled out that same book she had been reading before, and he began to think otherwise. It couldn’t have been less than five hundred pages, and the writing seemed quite dense. Not many knew how to read anymore, and even less enjoyed it.

‘She’s just odd’, he thought to himself, ‘And how could she not be? After all, she grew up in that house without another person her age for miles and miles. Interacting with only her strange mother, and all those servants who refuse to speak to her.’

“Kathryn”, he said to her. At first she gave no sign of acknowledgment, but then slowly, she lifted her head and her dark blue eyes reached his. “Should you ever choose to speak, you can just call me Mel. Your mother used to call me that growing up because she couldn’t pronounce Melvin”, he said. She made no movement but he had a feeling that she was listening. “Should you never choose to speak again, then that is perfectly fine. However it will be a year of seeing new places and meeting new people. And I have to say, you’ll only be getting about half the experience should you decide not to speak to a single one of them.”

Her mouth didn’t move, but she looked thoughtful. Eventually, she gave a slight nod, and turned back to her book.

Though it was a small step, Mel was quite sure he had just accomplished something.

It was two weeks before they passed anything other than a ghost town. “You mother doesn’t do anything halfheartedly, does she?” Mel said to Kathryn, “She decides to move away from people, and so she moves two hundred miles from a single soul”.
Kathryn smiled slightly. This was how communicating with her had become. Not a sound escaped her lips, but when he said something funny or clever, he got some small response.

The town they had come to was called, “Murder’s Brook”, even though a brook hadn’t run through it in at least a hundred years. There was a sole inn, and his horses trotted directly to it. He had stayed there a number of times, and they knew the sign of it meant fresh hay and water.

“Take them to the stables and see that they are well fed”, he said to a boy who came to meet them. “Come along Katheryn”. Slowly, she stepped down from the caravan. Her eyes were wide, and she took in the boy, then the inn, then the street as people walked along it going about their day. She was still for some time, looking like a deer frozen at the sound of danger.

“Is…she all right sir?” the boy asked.

“She’s just fine. Come along”, Mel lead her inside.

Kathryn seemed even more stunned at the interior of the inn. A few men crowded around dirty tables eating and drinking, while women in aprons hurried about collecting used plates and bowls. Everything seemed to be covered in a thin layer of grease and dirt. ‘She’s probably never seen anything like this before in her life’, he realized as he studied her expression. He couldn’t entirely comprehend whether it was intrigue or disgust.

He purchased two rooms from the surly innkeeper, and handed Katheryn her key.

“Are you hungry?” he asked. She shook her head.

Her eating habits had quickly become one of his main concerns. He offered her food about five times a day, all in large portions. Usually, she would shake her head and turn back to her book. Occasionally, she would pick at a few pieces of dried fruit or nuts. He wouldn’t have been so adamant about it if she wasn’t so skinny; he didn’t know what was holding her together. He was terrified at the idea of returning to his sister and explaining that her daughter had starved herself to death.

An idea occurred to him, however, and he turned to the innkeeper and said, “Two cinnamon cakes please”. She nodded and disappeared for a moment.

“They are very good here, the best I’ve ever had”, he explained to Kathryn, who was still wide-eyed and staring at the men eating a few feet away.

The innkeeper returned and led them to a table. She placed two small cakes covered in thick yellow icing in front of them. Kathryn looked at them skeptically, and wrinkled her nose. Mel took a bite of his, as she watched him with a strange curiosity. “Go on”, he insisted.

She took one tentative bite of it. The moment it touched her tongue, he could see her eyes light up a little. She chewed it delicately and then took a much larger bite.
All the food served in his sister’s house seemed to be bland, and he had to admit, the food he brought travelling wasn’t much better. Perhaps he just had to present her with things that were too good to turn down.

He was pleased when she finished the whole cake. “We’ll get a good amount of those to take with us when we leave”, he assured her, and she smiled slightly in return.
They spent the rest of the day wandering in and out of the town’s few shops. He bought all kinds of snacks, the best, most flavorful ones he could find. They looked through toy shops, and marveled at painted dolls. He bought her a blue dress that he caught her eyeing in a window, and she smiled brightly when he handed it to her, boxed up with a ribbon. By far her favorite part was the chickens, which seemed to wander the road freely. She tore up bits of bread and fed it to them, not even minding when they pecked her hand. She even gave out a shrill laugh when one climbed atop her shoulder
He’d never had a daughter, but he couldn’t help wondering if this was what it felt like.
At the end of the day, before she went to her room for the night, he presented her with something: a small leather-bound book, sealed shut with wax.

She gave him a gracious nod and tore open the seal. Her expression turned very quickly to confusion when she saw that the pages were empty.

“You see, no one prints books anymore”, he explained, “Not for about a hundred years or so, when the magicians disappeared and the Dark Years passed. Of course, most books were about the magicians. Once magic was marked illegal, there wasn’t too much to write about, was there? So I thought maybe you could write your own story. You’ve read enough books after all; perhaps you can be the one to bring them back into this world.”

She stared at it as if it was an entirely new object than she had been holding one moment before. And then, something truly miraculous happened. She parted her lips and said, “Thank you”. Her voice was strong, and clear as a bell. He almost thought he had imagined it.

Then she smiled and walked into her room. He couldn’t help but wonder if she just chose to save her voice for special occasions, or if this was the first time in a number of years she actually had something to say.

Pale Pink Platforms

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Slip: here

Shoes: here

I’ll admit that this outfit is mostly about the shoes. I picked these up at Topshop the other week, and am completely obsessed with the nude/pink color. I just paired them with one of my dozens of Free People trapeze slips, and layered a pale pink slip beneath to match the shoes.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been doing too many outfit posts recently. This is because of two reasons:

1.) My phone broke, and all my photos, including a week’s work of looks were lost.
2.) Our apartment is being remodeled, and there has been clutter everywhere, including this hallway.

You may have noticed that there is now a door in my hallway, where there used to be nothing. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m hoping that once it’s finished and painted, it will look better.

Anyways, I’m hoping to get back to posting more regularly now. Hope you guys like the outfit!

Short Story: Healing Tiger

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This is a short story that I wrote in college, which I’ve been coming back to recently.  It has no connection to the first chapter posted of my first book, just a separate piece that I recently revised.

I’ve been considering expanding on it, perhaps basing my second novel on it, or re-writing it into a longer short story.  I figured I’d post it here for feedback/ideas.  Hope you like it!

 

“Healing Tiger”

By: Paula Gallagher

 

“You don’t have to-” I stopped as Sira moved her massive head along the long gash that ran down my forearm.  She purred, which sounded more like a low growl coming from her, as her saliva began to heal the skin.  It hurt, but for only a moment.  And then new flesh grew over the wound and it was gone.

Sira stared up at me with her unbelievably brilliant green eyes, as if waiting for approval, but at the same time exuding enough wisdom so that I knew she didn’t need it.

Being in the academy for so many years and particularly being assigned as paige to the stables, I had gotten used to my share of scrapes and bruises.  And accidents do happen.  Even today, when the hunters brought back a frightened live Minotaur and it slashed my arm open with its cracked horn, I wasn’t too surprised, and I didn’t complain.  But I’m sure if Sira was capable of speech, she would have.

“Erm…thank you”, I said.  She shook her head, trying to get her fur straight.  Then she stood up and lumbered across my room to the large mound of pillows that she had apparently declared as her bed, and flopped over on top of it, her eyes closed, paws outstretched in front of her.  

From this angle she looked like a gigantic kitten laying down for its afternoon nap, rather than an ancient beast that I had inherited and been bonded with after twenty years of wishing for something else.

When I was a child, I remember being terrified of her.  When she yawned her huge teeth looked like daggers shooting out of her gums.  But then my Grandfather instructed me to touch her face.  I stretched out my tiny hands, and she placed her massive nose in them, and stared at me with an expression of calm curiosity.  She looks at me the same way, even now.

“You know you get tired every time after you do that thing-after you heal me”, I said.  The giant tiger didn’t stir.  “Maybe you shouldn’t do it”.  She opened her eyes and stared at me.  And somehow I had an idea of what she meant.

We were together now.  We were partners, bonded for life.  Just as she had protected my grandfather, and I assume his grandfather before him, she would protect me at any cost.  It didn’t matter that I hadn’t wanted her, and was a horrible bitch about it.  Now it was me and her, and nothing could change that.

I remember when I had been called into my master’s office, and he had explained that because of my Grandfather’s death, Sira needed an owner.  Without a bond of someone with his direct bloodline, she would die.  I couldn’t believe it.  After all of this, after all of the preparation, after all of the hard grueling work, I would be stuck with her.  Ceremonies were coming up, the Dragon eggs were hatching, and the Griffons were being given away.  Even a Pegasus would have been more useful.  At least it could fly into battle.  And I wanted to fly.  More than I had wanted anything in my short impatient life.  Ever since I saw my father fly on his harpy for the first time.  Ascending until he was nothing more than a tiny dot in the stretching blue sky.  Ever since he told me that our family was meant to fly-to be warriors fierce and unyielding, the ones who flew eagerly into battle.

But no, I would be given a Healing Tiger; and the oldest one in existence at that.  She was massive, about the size of a mule, and fierce looking; but she was slow, and thoughtful, and careful.  All the things I most certainly am not.  My master had winked at me before I left his office, “You may be able to teach that old tiger some new tricks”.  I sincerely doubted it.

Perhaps if my Grandfather had lived out the remainder of his life in peaceful solitude like he was supposed to in his retirement, he would still be alive.  He’d be holed away in his little secluded log cabin, Sira at his side, sleeping peacefully, watching the days roll by lazily.  She would have loved that.  Everything would have worked out for the both of us.  But no, my Grandfather had to go volunteer in the war.  As if people actually did that.  And then he got himself crushed by a giant.  One step and he was only a splatter of skin, blood and guts on the bottom of a foot of a creature with less than half of his intelligence.  

And then I imagine Sira sitting there, looking at what remained of him, distraught, and trying in vain to figure out how to go about healing him.  She was too loyal for her own good.

But then, I liked how she always stayed close to me.  She did not stray when we went into the forest, or chase fireflies like the newly hatched dragon babies tended to do; their people rushing after them aimlessly.  Sira never left my side, and her ears were always perked forward, always on the lookout for danger.  She would always be looking out for me.

She opened her eyes once again, saw me staring at her, and blinked a few times before turning her gaze to the brush that sat on my little night stand.

I sighed.  “Yes.  Sure”.  As I began combing through her already immaculate fur, she placed the entire weight of her massive head in my lap.  It was at least twenty pounds.  Then she closed her eyes, breathing slowly.

After a long day of work, this was what she always wanted; and it was the only thing she ever asked for.  She never even asked to be fed.  I typically remembered; if only because I ate frequently enough to be reminded of it.  And I suppose she could always go out to the pasture and eat a goat if she got hungry enough.  

It was shockingly simple, and low-maintenance.  I recall my master saying, when he first told me of my inheritance, “You may be able to teach that old tiger some new tricks”.  And I wondered, as her tail began to whip in the air, if it might be the other way around.

New Fishnets

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Boots: here

Top: here

Fishnets: here

I’m always skeptical of an overnight trend, but fishnets are one that I can get on board with.  I love patterned tights in general, but fishnets add so much edge to an outfit.  I’ve also been wearing them with high wasted boyfriend jeans.  Here I paired them with a plain black shift dress with a graphic tee over it from Shop Le Happy.  Then I added a pair of my favorite platform boots from TUK.

In other news, I’ve finished the novel I’ve been working on.  I’ve been very excited to have an entire story from beginning to end, so I went ahead and put the first chapter on this blog.  Please check it out here if you are at all a fan of fiction/fantasy.

 

Chapter 1: Skyler

Hi Everyone,

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a novel the past few months. It’s a (semi) young adult dystopian fiction/fantasy story.

I finished the novel up this past Sunday, and thought I’d post the first chapter for feedback. This is the first time I’m posting any of it somewhere public, so any sort of feedback would be helpful (ie poor phrasing, grammatical errors, or if it just sucks as a whole.) This first chapter introduces you to the world as well as one of the main characters. Hope you like it.

Chapter 1: Skyler

Skyler often wondered if the sound of the wind howling ever haunted anyone else’s dreams the way they did his. Until he was older than he would have liked to admit, he would lie awake in his bed every time he heard the sounds, waiting for something that had neither a face nor a name to appear.

It wasn’t just the way it crept up on him like it was getting closer and closer each night, or the chills he would get on the back of his neck, or even the stories, repeated over and over again to children like a daunting nursery rhyme. It began in the days when monsters had first crawled from the depths of the Abyss. When the Goblins and War-Wolves had snuck into houses like shadows and stolen babies from their cradles and sucked their bones dry. It began during the time when humanity learned that magic could no longer protect them from the evil that prowled in the darkest depths of their world.

Then, when monsters and demons walked the earth for the first time, was when the wind began to cry in screams of protest.

That was how you knew they were coming. That was how you could save yourselves and your young. Except in a town like Sheepsgate, Skyler assumed. Because there was nowhere close enough to their old town to run to.

Nowadays, things had changed. As quickly as they had come, the creatures had retreated into their bottomless crack in the earth, or died and crumbled to dust in the desert. Soon after that, the creatures who possessed good magic became scarce too. For a while you would hear that someone saw a pixie in the woods, or a unicorn trotting on the opposite side of a lake. But soon these creatures became myth too, and people carved them into wood and stone and prayed to them along with their Gods. The few human magicians who survived the monsters attacks followed closely after, becoming uncommon and eventually disappearing altogether.

Skyler’s grandmother had said to him: “The air was once so thick with magic that you breathed it into your lungs. Our Earth was special, and so were we. But now our blood is dry and normal. Now our world is dying and our fate will follow”.

His mother told him that this was absolute nonsense. “You’re lucky to have been born when you were”, she said, “The age of magic was not for us. Human’s never had a knack for it the way those creatures did. Now is the time for man. Now is the time for invention. This is your world now, and it is safe.” And he tried to believe her.

But on cold desert nights when the wind howled, he felt anything but safe. He felt as if there were something in his bones that ached for him to run, but his head was too sensible to comprehend why.

He rarely felt safer than when he was on the back of a galloping animal. His family owned a small horse ranch: just less than three acres wide. Out of their ten mares, most were old and tired, and their one stallion hadn’t been able to carry a rider in a number of years. But his fifteen year old pony ran with all the vigor and boundless determination of a colt, and because of this, they made an unspoken agreement to be best friends for as long as they both shared this love.

His neighbors would often see them rushing out of the stables, kicking up dust as they galloped away. They always headed in the direction of the distant purple mountains, a destination they would never reach, but could always run towards.

“That boy ought to marry a nice girl”, they would say to each other, as they stopped working on their fields for a moment to watch, “that’s bound to slow him down”.

But Skyler doubted it, and so did his mother.

She attempted to push him towards a few girls his age, but their town was small, and it didn’t take any sensible girl long to realize that there was something simply off about him.

“He’s rather jumpy”, one had said to her, after sharing a dinner with their family, and watching him nervously pull his bread apart. “He always seems frightened”.

“So he does”, his mother said with a sigh. But that was the worst she would say about him. His father on the other hand, spared no one’s feelings when it came to his youngest son.

“There’s something not right in that boy’s head”, he would mutter as he watched him build small castles from dirt and twigs in their front yard. When Skyler was six years old, his father took him hunting and saw that he was not eager to make his first kill the way most boys were. He screamed when his father shot a possum and sobbed when he carved out the meat and cooked it for their dinner. Skyler couldn’t plow fields with the raw strength that his oldest brother could. And he couldn’t build sturdy houses the way his second eldest brother could, either. By the time he was ten, his father never talked about him, and a hard scowl would appear on his face whenever anyone mentioned Skyler’s name in passing.

“Your father’s just thick”, his mother once said to him, hugging him close. He was ten years old, and crying because his father had brought his two brothers to the next town over on business, and left him behind. “Thinking and feeling aren’t things he’s good at”, she murmured into his hair, “You are normal. You’re normal, and perfect”. He would later wonder if she was trying to convince herself.

But he was not normal. And he doubted there was ever a moment in his life that fooled anyone into thinking he was. Skyler liked staring into the open plane of the desert. He liked the vast nothingness that it was, and what it represented. He liked the idea of possibilities; of his life unfolding in many different directions, each one leading him somewhere fantastic. He wanted something that he had neither heard about nor seen: a faint whisper in the back of his subconscious, telling him that his life was coming to a very abrupt halt, and he would soon need to change course.

He was sixteen when he rode his pony to a watering hole about five miles away from his town. They had stopped for a rest, and she had lain down on a patch of grass. He leaned his back against her for warmth, as the wind picked up and rubbed his hands together, but they only got colder. He thought of the flame that burned in the tiny stove in his house, and suddenly felt a strange energy coming from within them. When he parted them, a tiny flame erupted from his palms and quickly extinguished itself into a puff of smoke.

That was when it began. Not significant, not an epiphany, just a simple flame.

Skyler stared at his hands for quite some time before muttering, “What was that?”

“Fire”. It was a very prominent voice; deep but feminine. He looked every which way. There was no one, only his pony staring back at him. Somehow her eyes looked more intelligent than they had five minutes ago.

He was quiet for a good while, as they stared at each other. Finally he shook his head and turned away, “Horses don’t talk”, he said to himself.

“Well, I’m not a horse, I’m a pony, and that’s an entirely different matter”, came the voice again.

He turned around quickly. The words had come from her lips, and she was looking at him again in that strange manner. “How so?”, He asked. He heard of a strange plant out in the desert that could make you hallucinate things if you ate enough of it. Perhaps he had inhaled a small leaf of it.

“We’re smarter for one”, she said, without missing a beat “And we’re not quite so elegant, so we don’t waste time or intellect being vain. But I suppose the reason for this would be: you are clearly a magician. And seeing as you have no one else to talk to, you’ve given me the ability to speak.”

“Magicians don’t exist”, Skyler said shaking his head, wondering if he was even stranger than everyone thought.

“Well of course they do”, his pony replied, “You remember those stories Grandmother told? Her second husband was a magician.”

Skyler stared at her in disbelief. “She’s not your grandmother. She’s mine.”

“It doesn’t quite feel that way”.

“Well it should. You are a horse.”

“A pony. We’ve been through this.”

Skyler sighed. “yes”.

“Then you agree with me now?”

“No”.

“Why not?”

“Well…” Skyler thought through the stories he had heard about magicians. “I haven’t got any markings. Magicians have markings”.

“Not when they first get their magic”.

“Yes they do”, he retorted. “For every spell they can cast, they get a marking. If I had conjured fire out of thin air, that would require a spell. But I’ve got no marking to prove it.”

But it wasn’t long till Skyler saw a little symbol appear on his skin. It emerged on the inside of his left ankle; orange, tiny, and written in a language he could not read.

‘So I’m a magician’, Skyler thought to himself, and tried to stop worrying about it from then on.

This plan, however, turned out to be quite difficult. Because one fire spell was more trouble than he had expected.

It seemed to go off any time he was upset or angry, and this happened frequently. He’d burn clothes and bed sheets while folding them, when his father walked by and called him lazy or peculiar. Smoke would trail after his footsteps when he saw anyone pointing and whispering at him in town.

He tried to spend most of his free time a couple miles away with his pony, where it did not matter if his magic was seen. But he knew this tactic would not last forever.

About a month after he had gotten his marking, his mother stopped him on his way to the stables.

“I’ve barely seen you at all recently”, she said. Her forehead was wrinkled with anxiety, and her dark brown eyes looked larger than normal. “You do remember what tomorrow is?”

“Erm…no?”, he replied, trying to remember if they were having neighbors over for supper.

“It’s the yearly ceremony”, she said in a quiet voice, “It will be your seventeenth”.

Skyler’s eyes widened. “Oh…”

Each year, their town had a ceremony to celebrate everyone growing one year older. It would be his mother’s forty-second, his father’s forty-third, his eldest brother, Tobias’s, twentieth, and his other brother, Kearnin’s, eighteenth, and his seventeenth. Traditionally, on a boy’s seventeenth, they would announce to the town what they planned to do for their lifework. Last year had been Kearnin’s seventeenth, and he had announced that he planned to work as a carpenter. His father had never been more proud.

“Have you thought about it at all?” she asked, her voice timid, but hopeful.

“Well…”. He hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t even realized the ceremony was so near. But she was looking at him so nervously, and with such anticipation, he answered without thinking. “Yes, I have”

A look of instant relief came over her. “Oh wonderful! What is it?”

“It’s…”

“No, never mind. I want to be surprised”, she said, “It’s a sensible work, isn’t it?”

“Oh…yes, very”

“Good. Your father will be pleased”. She smiled and put her hand on his cheek affectionately before rushing off to do laundry.

Skyler wandered to the stables looking dumbfounded and confused. He tried to think of something clever to say. A lifework that he could do, or that at least the town would believe he could do.

He pictured himself standing up in front of the entire town and saying, “I’ve decided to practice fire magic”, as they hurled rocks at him.

He consulted with his pony, who had very little to say about the matter.

“Can you give me another carrot?”, she asked when he explained the predicament to her.

He reached over her stall and held out a small dry carrot-the ones his mother had deemed unfit to eat. “But, what do you think I should say?”

“Say you’ll be a magician. Say that this town now belongs to you, and that everyone must do what your pony says.”

“You know I can’t tell them”.

“Make something up”.

“I don’t know what to say”

“Just say something”.

“You’re no help at all”.

She crunched loudly on the multiple carrots in her mouth and said, “Should have thought of that before you decided not to make any human friends. Shouldn’t you? These problems seem trivial to me.”

Skyler ran his hands through his thick black hair and closed his eyes. “I’ll think of something”, he murmured to himself, “I have to”.

By the following evening, his mother had worked herself into frenzy. She ran between the kitchen and her sewing machine about twelve times every hour, and had cooked almost enough food for nearly thirty people.

Skyler had scrubbed himself clean, and put on his least shabby articles of clothing, which included a grey pair of slacks that had belonged to his brother, a deep green tunic with his riding boots. He combed his shoulder length black hair and pushed it away from his eyes. He found the world strangely more intrusive without his shaggy bangs to hide behind. But when his mother saw his appearance, she smiled so widely that it almost made the whole thing worth it.

“Look how nice Skyler looks when he’s not covered in dirt. Doesn’t he look nice Toby?”

His eldest brother, Tobias, looked up from the saddle he was sewing, and shrugged with an indifferent look on his face.

“He looks far less peculiar than he usually does”, said Kearnin as he continued to polish his shoes.

Skyler ignored both of them and began helping his mother in the kitchen. About two minutes later, his parent’s bedroom door opened, and his father stepped out. His long white hair was neatly tied back, and his beard was trimmed. He wore his shirt tucked in and dress shoes in place of his usual work boots.

Skyler placed his hand on Kearnin’s shoulder as he passed by, “Father’s coming?”

“Surprised?” Kearnin replied with an arrogant smirk. “Mother convinced him when she said you’d actually chosen a lifework”.

His father met his gaze and gave him a small but definite nod before sitting down in his usual chair.

Skyler managed a small smile in response, and then returned to peeling carrots for his mother’s stew.

By the time they left the house, Skyler was covered in a cold sweat. He could see smoke rising from the bonfire that was built annually in the middle of the town. Soon the sun would dip below the horizon and the town square would glow in a dim orange light.

“Son”, he heard his father’s voice behind him. Skyler ignored it, assuming he was addressing Kearnin or Toby. But then, he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, “Son”, his father said again. Skyler looked to his left; his father was beside him, his small grey eyes fixated on him with a much less menacing look than they usually did. “Well, I must confess, we were all a little bit worried about you. You’re a bit of a strange one. It’s been far past time for you to grow up, I hope you’ll make me proud.”

Skyler nodded and gave his father another weak smile. But his stomach was beginning to churn, and his heart was beating loudly. He tried to picture himself living in Sheepsgate fifty years from now. Waking up, doing his lifework diligently, asking his neighbors how their children were doing, living a modest life. Not only was he sure he would never want it; he didn’t even think he was capable of it.

When they arrived at their town’s square, everyone was drinking, eating and dancing. Skyler recognized one of their neighbors, drunkenly trying to flirt with a girl half his age, and a few of his parent’s friends gossiping in a corner with drinks in their hands.

He tried to stay close to his brothers, but they soon hurried off to meet their own friends, and so he was stuck awkwardly wandering around by himself. He chatted with Mr. Abney, the man who owned the town’s only shop, which sold furs, hard candy, and tacky jewelry. He attempted to talk to Molly, a girl whom he had been friends with when he was younger, but she only laughed loudly and whispered something to her friend.

And so he decided to drink. He had never tried wine before, and he had to admit, he didn’t much like it. But he found that with each cup he drank, he became more comfortable with the situation, and his nervousness seemed to shrink away. He would stand in a circle with people his own age and laugh when they laughed, even though he didn’t understand the joke. Suddenly everything was funny and lighthearted. He didn’t know why he had been so nervous.

But before long the ceremony began, and in a matter of seconds, everyone became quiet and serious. They sat in a large circle around the bonfire, and the Mayor, a short fat man with a sweaty forehead and bad teeth, stood and said a few words about the youth growing into adults, and accepting a responsible, meaningful life. Skyler didn’t listen to very much of it. Everything seemed hazy, and he kept glancing behind him at his mother who would then squeeze his shoulder and smile encouragingly.

And then it began. On the opposite side of the circle, a boy whom his father had taught to horseback ride stood and said he planned to take over his family’s beet farm. A girl who he had played hide and seek with once as a child stood and said she was engaged to Peter Craw, her next door neighbor, and would soon bear a son. Ron Barker, his parent’s best friend’s son announced that he planned on being a baker, something he had always been talented at. And they continued like that for some time. Before he knew it, the boy next to him stood and started talking about his love for boiling leather. It was Skyler’s turn next. What was he going to say again? He’d had a plan, he’d had a speech, but somehow all of it seemed hazy now. Suddenly, his mother was tapping him on the shoulder. He looked up to see about five hundred eyes on him. It was his turn, he realized. He stood, and wiped his palms on his slacks, nervously.

“Erm I’m…I’m…”, he stuttered. He knew people looked at him when he was in town, or whispered as he rode his pony into the desert, but he had never in his life felt this many eyes on him. “I’m proud to be here”, he mumbled, “I’m proud to be a part of my family, they are all…diligent…” His palms were sweaty again, even though he had cleaned them a moment ago. The fire seemed to be getting hotter and hotter; he could almost feel it burning his face. “My whole life, I’ve always loved horses, especially riding…”, a girl to his right turned around and whispered to someone behind her, they both giggled. Skyler felt even more heat rush to his face. “I…I wanted to find something to do with my life that is reasonable, but that I also love…” He could have sworn the fire was getting bigger and brighter. “Erm…I-I…”. But he wasn’t imagining it, because suddenly everyone else was looking at the fire too. It was growing larger and larger and began crackling loudly. “Stop!” he yelled, but it didn’t obey him, it sparked and suddenly, a flame shot at him. Suddenly, the town erupted into screams, and began to scatter.

“What did he do!?” he heard a woman shriek.

“Freak! He’s cursed us!”, someone else yelled.

“N-no”, he stuttered. His heart was racing, he had forgotten how to breathe; the fire raged higher into the sky. “It-it’s okay”, he shouted into the audience of screaming running people, “Please-”

A fist seemed to appear out of nowhere, and in a moment, he was lying on the ground, his mouth full of dirt and blood.

He sat up quickly and instantly regretted it. Everything was mayhem. Houses were on fire, women ran carrying children. He saw Harry Bram, a boy a few years older than himself screeching with his right sleeve engulfed in flames.

Skyler pushed himself to his feet and immediately felt sick. Everything around him was a blur of black and red. Suddenly, he thought of his mother, and took off at a dead run towards his house. He hadn’t seen her since before he started his speech, why would she have left without him? He’d never forgive himself if something had happened to her.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he reached his house and saw that it was not up in flames. But he could hear the horses whinnying in fear, and shouting coming from inside. He hesitated for a moment. What would happen if he went inside?

Suddenly he felt a hand grab his arm and pull him behind the tool shed. The same hand then promptly slapped him in the face, swift and hard.

He then laid eyes on the bearer of the hand, and his heart felt as though it was dropping. His mother stared back at him, her brown eyes wide, angry and fearful.

“Mom I…” He didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. He was frightened and still drunk.

“I knew it”, she said simply. In the midst of chaos and flames, her voice was as level as ever. “I knew there was something about you”. Her voice sounded almost dreamlike. “I knew there was something. But this…”, her eyes welled up, suddenly he felt horrible.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do this. It just happened-“, but she held up her hand and he immediately stopped.

“I know Skyler. I know”, she said. Her voice felt hollow, and sad.

“What will father do? Should I go in and explain?”

Her eyes darted to his in panic. “No”, she hissed. “No, Skyler. You need to leave.”

“What? No I can’t-”, but she grabbed his head tightly, her fingernails digging into his scalp. It hurt, but it also steadied him.

“Your father will kill you”. She said it very clearly, but he still felt as though he heard her wrong. His father was stubborn and blunt, but Skyler had never thought he was truly cruel. “Take your pony”, she said, pulling a small bag from behind her, “Ride to the purple mountains. Do not stop until you reach them”.

“Why would I go there?” He asked, “The next village is closer. I could hide-”

“That’s not the place for you”, she said, “That’s not a place for magicians. The purple mountains are”. She shoved the bag into his hands, and pulled him to a stand. “No matter what”, she said, “You will always be my son. Go.”

So he went. His pony was panicking when he reached her, and needed absolutely no persuasion to gallop as far away from this town as possible.

“What did you do?” she asked, as he climbed onto her back from the fence.

“I-I just…”, he thought of the flame spitting at the circle of people as they screamed and ran. “I made a mistake”.

“That sounds like an understatement”, she replied. And then they were off.

Skyler was still hazy from the wine, and barely felt the cold nip at his face. He kept waiting for shouting, and the sounds of horse’s hoofs in pursuit of them, but there was nothing.

His pony ran faster and with more persistence than she ever had before, and after a few hours, Sheepsgate was nothing but a speck in the distance. As the mountains got closer, they only looked more monstrous. He couldn’t understand why his mother had told him to go there. Even if magicians used to come here, what did it matter? No one had seen one in decades.

Perhaps she had only meant for him to hide there, until she could come looking for him. His heart sank quickly when he remembered their conversation and realized that she had never said she would find him. She had only said that he would always be her son. He glanced up at the mountains towering in the distance, thinking that those words did not leave him much reassurance.