‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 7, Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

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The woman in the florists was adamant: There was not even one male member of staff, let alone anyone matching Elena’s description of the young man she thought had served her.

“Back to square one, Dear,” Mary whispered as they exited the florists into the cold drizzle.

“Maybe I dreamed of meeting him here, too,” Elena said, opening her umbrella.

Mary tugged at her arm. “Stick to your guns, you saw what you saw. I believe you.”

“You are probably the only one who would.”

That night Elena didn’t feel much like talking to Michael. Complaining of a headache, she went to bed early and started to read. Unexpectedly, she found herself nodding off within only a few minutes.

She became aware of standing on grass in warm sunlight. It looked like a park of some kind. There was a copse of ash trees on a nearby hillock in full leaf, partly obscuring the sun. What sounded like a flock of geese was squawking away, somewhere nearby, but as yet unseen. It might have been a summer’s evening, it felt too warm to be morning. She was standing by a few large oak trees, and could reach out and touch the bark of the nearest one. Some of it flaked off between her fingers. This time her dress was a dark blue with the widest cuffs she’d ever seen. Looking down, Elena could also see she was wearing a very fine necklace, maybe diamonds and pearls. She touched them, rolling a few between her fingers. They looked and felt real.

Then she spotted something carved into the bark of the nearest oak. A heart and two initials, PH. It had only just registered in her mind what she was looking at, when he stepped out from behind the bole of the tree. She had almost been expecting him. He had that telling little smirk on his face, like some mischievous boy might have. But this boy was definitely a man. He reached forward, pulling her towards him, kissing her gently.

“Elena, you feed me,” he said. This time it was coming from his lips.

“What do you mean? Are you hungry?”

“Elena, you feed me!” His hands clutched his heart in a dramatic stance. He smiled, broadly for the first time and bowed gracefully towards her like some actor.

“I’m glad, I think. But who are you?”

He took her hand and they began to saunter through the grass. It was quite long, there were red splashes of poppies strewn ahead of them, amid the gentle summer fragrances wafting all around. She figured it was around early July. Soon they reached the ash copse and began to follow the path around it. In all this time, they said nothing.

As they cleared the corner of the copse, a large country house came into view at the bottom of a hill. It nearly took her breath away, the mellow golden stone shining in the lowering sun, its tall chimneys as high as steeples. She knew it wasn’t his own house, it was a friend’s, though what they were doing there was anyone’s guess.

He led her down the hill towards the house. There was no one else about, only a few deer and some cows. When they got to the walls she touched them. It all seemed like recent work, newly built.

They entered what appeared to be a courtyard with a tree at the centre, some shade. She sat down as best she could on the wooden seat, the dress was hard to brush underneath. Where had he gone? She became aware of a light high up, it wasn’t the sun. It began to spin round and round.

Elena was sitting on the toilet. 

“Elena? Are you ok?” Michael tapped on the partly open door.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Why were you walking about?”

“What do you mean?”

“I woke up and heard you pacing along the landing and then into the small bedroom.”

“What? I’m… are you sure?”

“Were you sleepwalking?”

“I don’t know, maybe I was.”

“Ok, well, are you coming back to bed?”

“Yes.”

She stood up, looking at her tired face in the mirror, the dark blue nightdress she was wearing.

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020, also on amazon.co.uk

‘The Kissing Game’ Short Story Serialisation, Chapter 5, by Milly Reynolds

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The following night Elena was finding it difficult to sleep. Half past midnight and she hadn’t had a wink. She couldn’t blame her husband, despite the fact that he was snoring away beside her, as he often did. 

She still felt little fear, not knowing what to expect when she fell asleep. So she reached for her book again and began to read. Very soon, however, she her eyelids began to drop. The book fell open beside her along with the bookmark.

***

So where was she? This was no church, not this time. A warm light was cascading in from a very large, medieval style window with decorated stone tracery. And she felt hot. Walking up to the open window she looked out. Below her was a river, or maybe a canal, thronging with boats and people, predominantly men in strange clothes, a scene of hyperactivity. The sides of the canal were gorgeous, the multi-coloured tall buildings rising up spectacularly before her, though most looked as if they had been recently built, or perhaps restored.

Something was telling her to look behind. Yes of course, he would be there, sitting with a swan quill in hand, gently smirking at her. He was wearing a loose fitting white shirt, open a little, revealing a few dark hairs on his chest. His long dark brown hair was swept back. She looked down at her own clothes, a green dress reaching to the floor, shimmering in the bright light.

Elena walked up to him as he was dipping the quill in ink. There was a closed book with a dark red leather cover beside the ink pot, right on the edge of the table. “Please tell me what this is all about.”

“Elena, this is a dream.” She heard the voice but it wasn’t coming from his mouth, which remained closed, his dark, liquid eyes gazing up at her.

“Who are you?” She touched the table where he was sitting, it felt so real. Then he stood, pulling her gently towards him, kissing her.

“Elena, this is a dream,” she heard, as their lips parted. He was staring into her eyes, as if he was communing with her soul.

“Please just give me some signs, symbols.”

Elena looked down at the piece of paper in front of him. Reading it upside down, she could make out what looked like a large H.

“An H – is that what your name begins with?”

His expression gave nothing away, no affirmation.

To the left of the table was a rather large, yet basic looking bed, unmade, the off white sheet tossed and crumpled up by the white washed wall. On the floor was what looked like a flagon that might have contained wine. And two used and empty goblets.

Elena walked back to the window. A chorus of men’s voices working on the canal came up from below through the opening; sailors, porters, businessmen and their lackeys. A slight breeze was wafting around her face, cooling her cheeks. There was the smell of fish, meat and vegetables cooking somewhere, too. She touched her hair, it was longer, blonder, thicker, so she pulled a few strands down over the top of her green dress. Green seemed to suit her in this realm, whatever it was. To her left, she noticed a door. There was a large key in it. Walking up, she tried to open the door but it was locked. She turned the key but still it wouldn’t open. Elena eyed him. He was sitting back now, smiling while he laid the quill on the table. With that, the large book beside him slid off and thudded on the wooden floor.

***

She awoke with a start. The book she’d been reading must have fallen off. Michael was stirring too.

“Are you ok?” he croaked.

“I can’t sleep, that’s all.”

“Is it me? Am I snoring again?”

“No,” she lied, “it’s not you.”

Michael turned over again, leaving Elena to search for things on her phone.

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 3 – Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

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It was dark, no sign of an open book this time, though there was a faint trace of incense in the cool air. She heard a door creak behind her. There was a figure blocking what meagre light was coming through it. She knew it was him, that silhouette was so distinctive, the broad shoulders and the wild hair. Elena wasn’t scared, maybe it was a lucid dream, the kind you leave immediately once you realise what it is.

“Elena.”

Was that him whispering? Or was she merely wishing it to happen?

“Elena.”

The heavy door shut gently behind him, he began to walk slowly towards her. She remained in the middle of the small nave, not sure if she was able to move or not. She didn’t really want to try. She was able to perceive more as he got near. He was indeed just a fraction taller, his clothes as dark as the surroundings. As he got close, she could make out some odd looking line pattern on his shirt, like gold faintly shining. The buttons were shiny too. Was it a shirt? Then she began to feel cold, as if in the presence of a ghost. Elena was looking at him, his eyes. He was within a few feet of her now.

“Elena.”

His voice was a little louder, mid range like a young man, reverberating around the cold, dark stone. He came to a stop just in front of her. 

“Who… are you?” she said, falteringly. Was that her real heart racing, or some fantasy within this temporary sheath in which she found herself? 

He reached out with his right hand. His eyes were kind, sensitive, yet with an odd kind of derring-do about them that she liked. The hair was almost shoulder length, groomed but very full, a wavy dark brown. Still she didn’t move. She watched his lips, they were quite full. They met hers just as they did the previous night. He tasted sweet, though there was no attempt to probe her mouth. Was she disappointed? There was an outdated sensibility about him, which spoke of a much older, more chivalrous age.

As their lips parted, she became aware of more light coming through the windows. Dawn, or its equivalent, must have been breaking in this strange other world. He let her go, turning quickly round, walking away far more briskly than he had arrived.

“What’s wrong? Who are you?” she asked, but he was gone. The heavy wooden door clattered shut.

So she began to walk after him. It got lighter and lighter the nearer she got to that door. As she was about to open it, she felt herself return instantly to bed, lying on her back. Michael was snoring beside her. She eyed the clock. Five thirty, Monday morning. That was two nights in a row. She had to find out what was going on. Just how real was all this? And who was the fellow playing this strange kissing game with her? She had a feeling that she should know who he was. Then she began to feel strange, almost queasy again. It seems her nightly escapades were draining her of physical and emotional energy.

Elena switched on the bedside light and began to write it all down in her notebook.

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

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