‘The Kissing Game’ Chapter 9, Short Story Serialisation, by Milly Reynolds

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Elena had taken herself off to the spare room, the very room where Michael had said she had sleep walked in to the previous night. One thirty and she still wasn’t asleep, she was simply too apprehensive, too much going on in her head. Once more she lay back and opened another book she’d borrowed from Mary. She came across a reference to the fact that most children were baptised within two or three days of birth, at least until more recent times. This was because of the much higher rates of child mortality. It made her think. With that thought in her mind, she lay the book down and closed her eyes. 

The room was dark, quite small. Long curtains were closed, just a peep of light came through a gap. Outside there were distant voices, so she opened the curtain a touch to see. It was the canal or river she had seen before, though there was less activity this time, as if it might be evening. As she turned away, she noticed a mirror with an ornate frame on the right wall. Keeping the curtains open, she looked at it. Elena had the clearest blue eyes, a smooth, ivory complexion. She brought a hand to her face, touching the soft flesh.

“I am… quite beautiful,” she whispered.

She recognised the room, the bed in the corner where someone was lying. Walking up to the bed, she recognised him, though he made no move, as if he was asleep. She peered more closely; then he opened his eyes, slightly.

“Elena,” he croaked, weakly, “you have destroyed me.”

She stepped back as he reached out, trying to touch her. “What’s the matter with you? Is it something I’ve done?”

“Elena, you have destroyed me.”

She felt a sudden unease. “What have I done?”

He tried to smile, though it seemed to be difficult. There was pain written all over his face, emotional as well as physical discomfort.

“Just… tell me who you are.”

His hand fell limply by his side, a weak gaze remaining fixed on her where she stood. 

“Don’t go!”

Kneeling down she put a hand in front of his face. There was no breath. She checked the pulse on his wrist: nothing. His candle had burned out. Elena closed his eyes, reached forward and kissed his cheek. Then she sat on the chair next to the bed. Tears began to well up in her eyes, though she wasn’t sure why. Did she know this man? And if so, how?

“I want to come out of this dream now,” she said out loud, wiping her eyes. Yet she remained in the room, apparently present in some time which may have been four hundred years ago. She began to feel queasy, quite strange in fact. So she stood, but had to sit down again, feeling quite faint. She bent down on all fours and was sick into the empty chamber pot by the bed. There was no cloth or tissue to use, so she wiped her mouth on the bed sheet. Suddenly without the strength to get up, she lay on the floor, closing her eyes.

Elena felt the gentle stroking of her hair. Opening her eyes, Michael’s concerned face was examining her own.

“It was quite a shock to find you lying here.”

“Where am I?”

“The toilet, I see you’ve been sick. Something you ate last night, was it?”

“No,” she said, faintly, “I don’t think so. What time is it?”

“Six o’clock. Have you been like this before, recently?”

Elena thought for a few seconds. “A little yes. I thought it was the lack of sleep.”

Their eyes met, instinctively, though neither dare ask that most pertinent question. Michael helped her to her feet and led her back to bed.

“Get some sleep, I’ll take the day off, it won’t matter.”

“I’m not sure I want any sleep.”

“Hm, because of him? This strange kisser fellow?”

“Maybe,” she said, laying down her head, “though I get the feeling that I won’t be seeing much more of him in my dreams.” 

“I like the sound of that. I’ll get you some water.”

copyright Milly Reynolds 2020

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‘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’ 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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