Friday, February 14, 2014


Continued from Running Blind in a House of Mirrors

For the first time in a long time, Wolf is 'awake'. His eyes opened rudely to the perversion of his son and the sexual antics and humiliation of his daughter.  Six young men dead under suspicious circumstances and his children are implicated. It's a wake-up call from dream into nightmare one exacerbated as Carl's unattended phone begins to buzz on silent, shuddering across the coffee table. Wolf retrieves the phone and reads two messages. One from Virgin reminding Carl of his flight time to Brisbane, the other from Leisl giving an address.  

"Be happy for me. mtg my man at 36 Parkland Ave. So stoked!"

Wolf calls Grant, "I think you need to get to Brisbane. Something weird is going down."

Lou's lack of discretion when he first contacted Leisl was astounding. Only now when he checked his calls and messages did he realise how foolish he'd been. Sucked in by good looks and a tenuous past connection, he'd revealed too much, to soon. Played too hard. She was on her way. She wanted to meet. He felt stupid for egging her on, flirting outrageously, having phone sex so quickly after connecting with her before he realised her stupidity was a complete turn off, her obsession bordering on crazy. He'd clearly given her the wrong impression and had failed miserably to quell her affections despite being blatantly obvious in his own mind. May as well meet her. He'd be easy to find anyway, his contact details on his website, his landline emblazoned in bold print in the White Pages. Blind Freddie could knock on his door whether he'd given out his address or not. Might as well bite the bullet, respond to her message. At least then he can give her some home truths, tell her how it is. Reject her advances and send her packing.

Carl watched Leisl enter the departure gate before checking in. This liaison was going to be no more successful than the last. He swiped his card and queued for the flight following hers. His bag is passed through the security x-ray and he's frisked and swabbed on the other side.

"Sir? What's this?" A customs agent calls him back and points to the screen at what appears to be a pack of disposable hypodermic needles and a small vial.

"Oh. Sorry, I should have mentioned that. It's Kynoselen. Here, I have the prescription. Just a vitamin and sodium injectable to help with fat loss."

He flashes the prescription as the customs officer opens his bag and inspects  the vial.

Carl twitters nervously, "I'm a body builder, it's perfectly legal."

The customs officer is unmoved, "You can't take that as carry-on. You'll have to leave it behind or check it in."

Carl is astounded by his own carelessness but the decision to follow Leisl was sudden, and planning rushed, he'd even forgotten his mobile phone. He complies and walks back through the metal detector to check in his luggage. His heart races. Should they actually test the stuff, they'd know it was KCL they'd surely be suspicious about his reasons for having it. Domestic security is lax, his bag is checked in as hold luggage, and he saunters through the departure gate, heads for the first bar he sees and orders a double vodka and Red Bull. He needs to be hyped to do what has to be done.

"Hi. You're here already?"  Lou's voice is emotionless, cold, he's biting the bullet but wants to get this over with, and quickly.

"Hi Babe!" Just got off the plane. Can you pick me up or should I get a cab."

"Look Leisl, I'm not crazy about this but you've come a long way. My car won't start, can you get a cab?" The last thing he needs is to be locked in a vehicle, her hand on his thigh and nowhere to avoid her.

She touches up her lip gloss and smooths her hip-hugging pencil skirt. She fidgets with the scooped neckline of her top until it reveals just the right amount of shoulder, decolletage and cleavage, hails a cab. She's barely seated next to the turbaned driver when she receives a message from her father.

"Leisl, where's Carl? Disturbing news. Call me."

She won't. She doesn't. Nobody is going to spoil this moment. She ignores it.

She has no idea where her brother is anyway. Carl's been behaving weird for days but it's a phase, he's just jealous that she's found someone new. He'll come round.

She's on Lou's stoop and rings the bell, ready to throw eager arms around him and be warmly welcomed. It doesn't happen. He's dressed scruffily, a sloppy joe, dirty board shorts and thongs. His hair hasn't been brushed for days, his face is sporting more than a five-o'clock shadow and his breath reeks. He keeps his distance behind the open door.  Leisl's face can't hide the disappointment in his appearance.

"Lou?" She's not even sure he's the same man, he looks nothing like his clean cut Facebook images.

"Come in."  His voice is emotionless.

The flat is sparse. A computer stand, a small pine dining table with 2 chairs, a mini kitchenette, a stack of putrid dishes waiting to be washed, a bookshelf and a small two-seater couch covered in papers. He scoops them up and nods for her to take a seat. He remains standing and towers above her. Hazel eyes staring adoringly into his cold blue. It's beyond uncomfortable, he was supposed to be welcoming, at least give her a kiss and a hug but he's angry. He doesn't offer her anything other than sharp words.

"This has to stop! I only agreed to meet you to tell you that I'm not your 'babe', I never was. I made a mistake. I thought you were cute but that's it. You're not my girlfriend, you never will be."

"...but you said..." Leisl's words are cut short.

"You're a pain in the ass, you message me too often, call too often. You talk shit and understand nothing. I thought you'd get the hint over time but you're so obsessed, so persistent. I want you out of my face, off my phone, out of my house, gone from my life! You're not my type and never will be. You're a pest and a pariah! Am I being perfectly CLEAR?"

She leaps at him and slaps him hard across his cheek. He recoils momentarily, wiping the sting from his face before she lays into him in a vicious attack and begins screaming.

 "You said you liked me! You fucking came over the phone while you were talking to me! You said you wanted to touch my skin, you prick! You let me come all this way just to tell me to shove off?"

Lou takes the beating. He deserves it for leading her on, before realising she was unbalanced. She'll be done and off his back soon enough. He backs into a corner of the small kitchenette as she reaches for the knife block and covers his head with his hands. She has strength as well as a temper. Only he notices the shadow looming behind her, hypodermic needle grasped in an elevated fist. Before she can strike with the knife the Potassium Chloride already courses through her veins as she turns to face her assailant.

"Carl? What've you done?"

The pain is excruciating. Lou remains curled in a ball in the corner as Carl catches the falling girl in his arms, the knife dropping with vibrating clang at Lou's feet. He grabs it but remains motionless, gripped and stunned at what's unfolding before him. The girl begins to shudder.

"Jesus Carl, what was..." she convulses as the lethal dose shuts down her organs.

Carl cradles her and begins to cry. "I'm sorry Leis, I'm really sorry. If I can't have you. . ."

The shuddering continues.

"Man, you're crazy! You're both fucking off tap crazy!" Lou screams and comes to a stand, knife in hand, poised but uncertain what to do when the door bursts open. Grant and two police officers burst in.

"Christ! Call 000!" Grant grabs the mourning boy, bending his arms tight behind his back and cuffing him as the srynge and Leisl's trembling body fall to the floor. A puddle of urine leaches from between her lovely legs.  One officer taps his radio and hurriedly begins ordering an ambulance and backup. Another officer attempts CPR on the dying woman but the poison has done it's work as rapidly as Carl had read. She shakes for one last time and lies motionless, eyes wide. Lou Mariano's horrified face, the last thing she sees. Once again the knife drops to the floor along with Lou, now on his knees, his expression one of abject disbelief.

Lou emerges from the shower, shaven, hair combed through. Slides on a pair of casual trousers and tucks a crisp white shirt into them before tightening his belt.  He slips socked feet into a pair of comfortable loafers and straightens the now discarded towel over the towel rail.  Slings a Timbuktu Messenger bag over his shoulder and picks up the mobile phone on the dresser. He hesitates in front of his computer, takes a sip of black coffee. His index finger hovers above the 'unfriend' button on the page of a pretty girl he once knew. Her smiling face staring at him, creeping him out, but the office beckons. No more of this working at home, wasting time on people he doesn't know. If only he could forget the expression on her face, now indelibly etched on his mind. He clicks, and she's gone from his Facebook feed.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Running Blind in A House of Mirrors

Continued from An Air of Evanescence

Grant thumbed through each file, stared endlessly at each corpse. Every one either holding or having a final note pinned to their bodies.  Three of the notes indistinguishable thanks to blood stains, the remaining notes, all with a simple apology. The coincidence was too much. The handwriting almost deliberately skewed yet suspiciously each mirrored the other, he was sure the victims hadn't written the notes themselves. His team had interviewed friends, family, neighbours and found nothing. No   malicious motives.

As he flipped through Josh Logan's file, he examined the coroner's photograph again and again, staring deeply at every corner. The image was of Josh's bedroom, a rough noose had been constructed out of bedsheets and hung empty and loose from the ceiling fan. The bed was tousled, dirty clothes piled at its foot. The wardrobe door open. A simple chest of drawers donned a baseball cap, an upturned photograph, car keys and a handful of pocket change. He stared deeper into the frame. How could he have been so blind? How could he have missed it, he must have gazed at it a million times - The photograph? Who was in the photograph?

The Logans had moved after Josh's death, the ghost in the room too much for his family to bare. Grant caught up with them in Sydney's fashionable North West; a new city, new state, new life. Caroline Logan was less than welcoming when he knocked on her door.

"Detective Grant? You're a long way from home?"

"Mrs Logan, I'm not convinced your son's death was a suicide."

The woman's face drops and she cups her cheeks in her hands, familiar tears welling in her eyes.

"We've been over this. It's a painful thing to remember. It was 2 years ago now. We're trying to remember Josh as he was, not how we last saw him. It was suicide. The Coroner said so. Everyone said so. I wish you'd just drop it and let us get on with our lives."

"Just one thing..." Grant is gently persistent and withdraws the coroner's photograph of Josh's room from a plain white envelope. "I'm sorry to do this but, what was in the photograph on the tall boy here?"

Caroline takes the picture with one hand and wipes her tears on her shirt with the other before focusing.

"Um. I think it might have been a girl. I never met her but he had a photo that she gave him a week or two before..."

"You don't happen to still have it do you?" Since Josh's death had been deemed a suicide, no evidence box was created, his belongings moved with the Logans. Grant could only hope that Caroline had held onto the items on the dresser for sentimental reasons.

"I'm not sure. I've got a few of his things packed away. Come in. I'll dig them out."

Caroline retrieved a large gift box and hesitantly lifted the lid. The sadness of her loss evident as she gently thumbed through her son's belongings. She removed the baseball cap, and retrieved a small, wrought iron frame. "Here...this is it."

Grant, takes a handkerchief from his pocket and grabs the delicate filigree frame so as to avoid leaving fingerprints. He removes the backing and examines the picture of an attractive girl, late teens/ early 20's, olive skin. He flips the photograph, it's inscribed in neat handwriting. "I love you. Leisl."

It's a stretch but it's a name. Grant looks long and hard at the other suicide files. Only 2 deaths take place indoors. One in a garage, the other Josh's. No photographs, no reference to anyone called Leisl. His deadline's looming and he's sure there's a connection. His team are put on double shifts, each assigned a victim. 

"Check out their rooms, their computers, Facebook/Myspace/Twitter friends, their pockets, wallets, anything that might render a similar photograph or a reference to Liesl. I'll go through the roll again and see what comes up."

Within days, there are references to Leisl Stensl on mobile phones, computer chat rooms, Facebook accounts. She'd been there all the time, they just hadn't been looking, hadn't made the connection.


Wolf's stupor was coming to an end. It had been years since Daniela left him. The kids had been wonderful. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of things while his misery distracted him. He'd been in a mechanical dream of waking, working, drinking and sleeping. He'd neglected his friends, his family. Time to take an interest in the world again and rise from the ashes. He was comforted by the fact that his children were so close, still at home, and such good support for each other. It was a little odd that Leisl had decided to holiday without her brother in tow. They usually did everything together. Carl had been particularly bad tempered lately and he wondered if there'd been a falling out between them.

Leisl too, had been secretive about her planned Queensland break when he'd quizzed her about it.

"Oh, I just have a friend in Brisbane who invited me up for a while. Thought I'd go grab some sunshine!"

"A friend? In Brisbane? Who?" Wolf's questions were unanswered.

"Dad, don't be so nosy. I'm a grown-up. Just a friend, I'll leave an address and I have my mobile with me if you need anything. Oh, Carl won't be here either, he's got some body-building thing in Sunshine so you'll have the place to yourself."

He'd miss her. She'd been a comfort to him many times. Her smile lit up the place. Wolf gazed around the aging kitchen and it's corners of peeling and discoloured paint.

"You know what? I think I might decorate while you're both away. Give the place a bit of a spruce up. Keep me busy and out of trouble."

She hugged him, "Good idea. I'll let you know when I'll be back. Just don't paint my room pink!"

It had been ages since he'd ventured into the kids' bedrooms. They were adults now and left to their own devices when it came to their personal sanctuaries. Both rooms were large, mirror images of each other with built in wardrobes, double beds and bedside tables. They'd inherited their tidiness from their mother he was sure, and it saddened him a little to think that she was out of their lives.  Leisl's room smelled sweet, the lingering fragrance of her permeated her linen. Three pairs of shoes were lined neatly at the foot of her bed, posters of metal bands adorned her walls. He never knew what she saw in that stuff, it just didn't seem like her at all. He gently removed and carefully rolled each poster and deposited them in her wardrobe along with the errant shoes then covered her furniture with a plastic dust sheet in preparation for painting.

Carl's room, less tidy and enriched by the smell of youth, had barbells in the corner and an assortment of weights neatly stacked against the wall. Body-building posters adorned his walls. A stack of magazines, languished in a lazy pile beside his bed. Wolf opened the wardrobe door and caught something pushed to the back of its top shelf, a small galvanized box. He pulled it forward with a view to relocating it to make room for the magazines. Curiosity got the better of  him and he set the box on the bed and lifted it's lid. The horror on his face reflected in the mirrored door of the wardrobe.

The box was full of photographs. All of  Leisl. Some, selfies with her and Carl, some with her alone neatly dressed and smiling, many of her clearly taken without her knowledge. Shaving her legs and body, showering, dressing, sunbathing topples, pleasuring herself. Shocking photographs of his beautiful little girl in filthy and compromising positions with men, six different men that he could count. His horror was punctuated only by a loud rap on the front door.

"Mr Stensl?" Grant knew who the man was, just seemed the right thing to say before introducing a rather difficult topic. "Could we have a word please?"

Wolf's heart sank, immediately thinking the badge-flashing detective had bad news.

"Leisl? She's alright isn't she?"

"Leisl? I hope so, it's her we'd like to speak with if possible."

Wolf explains her absence as Grant asks about a number of boys and splays their photographs across the dining table.

"Was your daughter seeing any of these boys?"

Their faces were newly familiar, each depicted on the filth found in Carl's galvanised box. Each taking advantage of his little girl. Wolf hadn't ever met any of her boyfriends, they never lasted long enough for introductions. In his mental absence, Leisl had confided in Carl about her love life, not her bereft father. He denies knowing any of them. Grant sweeps the photos aside and neatly lays out six A4 photographs from the varying suicide scenes. Wolf covers his mouth and coughs uncomfortably.

"These boys are all dead. We think that  Leisl knew them. Each had a photograph of her in their possession. We need to talk to her."

"I've never seen these kids before." Wolf is adamant in his response, twitchy in his mannerisms.

Grant however, has seen enough liars to recognise the signs. A hand covering a mouth, tiny frown lines, lack of eye contact. As he shakes Wolf's hand and thanks him for his cooperation, he knows there's reason to return with a search warrant. Within hours, the house is teaming with police, drawers being upturned, wardrobes raided.  The galvanised box and it's suspect photographs retrieved.

"Mr Stensl? Where's your son right now?"

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No 5

Continued in Renaissance

An Air of Evanescence

 Continued from In Surreal Time

"It doesn't make sense. . . it just doesn't . . ." A sobbing mother glances at the scrawled note left by her son - "I'm sorry? Sorry for what, he was a good kid, he never did anything wrong?"

The detective mounting his enquiries was unmoved. He'd seen suicide many times, nothing unusual about the overly pink and bloated body in the Holden Commodore, now quiet in the Steadman's garage. The house surrounded with Coroner's tape and nosy neighbours peering across the street at the commotion. The young man's body zipped, locked and loaded into the bland coroner's van.

"Mrs Steadman, we're sorry for you loss but this looks clear cut. There's no sign of interference, no fingerprints other than your son's and husband's on the car. The note unclear but in his hand."

Poor solace for a mother who has just lost her only son. Adam Steadman takes his distraught wife by the shoulders and steers her gently into the bedroom.

"C'mon love. Take this, it'll help you sleep. Nothing more to be done now. We'll plan the funeral later."

Malcolm wasn't the suicidal type. He was not only an adept student but a practised and up-and-coming Moto-cross star. Already sponsored by KTM he was a keen and aggressive competitor. If anything was going to kill him, it would be the risks he took. The jumps and acrobatics he performed, his love of speed and the adrenalin rush. Suicide just made no sense at all. Yet there it was, a life snuffed out, a soul released into the ether, gone.

The pin board at Eltham Local Area Command was smattered with half a dozen photographs of unfortunate lads who had met an early demise. All local boys, or within a 10km radius of each other. All roughly the same age, between 18 and 25.  All apparent suicides, all different. A hanging, a shotgun blast, carbon monoxide poisoning, a lethal fall, an oven gassing and an apoplectic reaction. but the frequency and quantity had alerted Detective Grant. Something just didn't add up. Something just wasn't right. So many, all within 2 years and such a close proximity to each other? All apparently well-adjusted lads with a verve for life and a sense of adventure. There had to be some common denominator. Drugs had been ruled out at each autopsy. None had been in therapy or shown signs of depression. None had talked about 'topping themselves'. It was a conundrum.

"You're wasting your time Grant. There are real crimes to solve out there.  Pull it down. I've got more pressing cases for you to attend to."

His commander had grown impatient with Grant's obsession and it was time to move on.

"One more avenue, Sir. Just let me investigate a little further, something doesn't add up."

Grant was a thorough investigator and his superior knew it. But he was a valued resource and wasting time on a bunch of young adult suicides wasn't a productive use of his time.

"Two weeks. Two! Then it comes down and into the archives."

"Thank you sir." Grant returns his gaze to the board in the noisy crime room. Fumbles through his filing cabinet and withdraws dossiers on each victim. What has he missed?

Leisl had often rarely pondered the fate of former lovers. Steadman of course she remembered. His tragic suicide had really hurt her - no, he'd really hurt her, but there had been others. She'd been persistent in pursuing them but once they'd had their way, parted ways, they just faded, vanished, disappeared. Their Facebook pages closed, their phone numbers remained unanswered. It was the weirdest thing. Then, people move she guessed. They were all at the age of gap years and pre-work travel. Then she'd been so persistent, perhaps they'd chosen to 'disappear'. She didn't think about it for too long before another beau appeared on the horizon. Her latest of course, was special. His timing was impeccable. She'd become tired of waiting. She knew her affection for Carl was momentary and couldn't be sustained. Much as she adored him, he was after all, her brother - forbidden fruit. That little affair too needed to fade and die.  But Lou? Oh my, he was something.

He was reluctant to let her know where he lived. Not to be dissuaded from her one true love, she conjured scenarios for his evasion. Perhaps he's embarrassed about his house? Perhaps he's immersed in some creative project. Perhaps he's cautious and wants to meet on neutral ground. Whatever his reasons, they were accepted. She had decided he was for her. His words had been gentle and encouraging until recently. He was right, always right, she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, he was right to criticise her the way he did, helpful to correct her when she was wrong, concerned enough to help her address her flaws and improve her intellect. He was a creative and intellectual warrior, enforcing right and amending wrongs. He would be her teacher, mentor, lover, companion and the focal point of her world. Indeed, in her mind, he already was.

Carl would press his ear to his sister's door. Hear her speaking softly to his adversary, his nemesis. This 'Lou' from Queensland, the banana-bender and manipulator of women. This dangerous liaison was driving him crazy. Leisl was his, and his alone. She'd told him as much. She'd declared her love, shown her passion. No man would come between them. Not now, not ever. Leisl's voice began to escalate. She was arguing a point but he couldn't hear exactly what. Something about a film, she was defending her position and shouting down the phone before the silence kicked in. Then the sobs. He couldn't stand it any more.

"Leis? You OK." After his previous shellacking he wasn't game to enter unannounced.

"Piss off!" She' yelled at the closed door, "Just go away." More sobs followed her abuse.

"Did he hurt you? Did he say something hurtful? I'll beat the shit out of him if he did."

"No, no it's OK. He's right, he's always right. I'm stupid, I don't get shit. I'll be fine. Just . . ."

Carl couldn't wait for permission and barged in to find her face down, her head in her pillow, mascara staining the pink floral fabric. He positioned himself beside her and began to stroke her hair.

"He's not worth it honey. He's just another jerk."

She turned as he lay beside her, their faces almost touching.

"But I think I'm in love with him Carl. He's amazing, interesting, charming. I'm going to Brisbane. I'm going to see him, see if it can work out."

Carl contained the building rage and stroked her hair.

"That's not such a good idea. You'll be alone, he could do anything. I'll come with if you want. Just in case. I'll be in the background, you can call if you need me."

The closeness of his breath, the warmth of his body and the fragility of her emotional state surrendered to Carl's embrace. He kissed her warmly, deeply and she responded. His hand slid from her breasts to pubis and slipped easily between her legs. Slender fingers working to a crescendo. Her moans, almost involuntary, gave way to an explosion of pleasure. But it wasn't Carl she was imagining. He'd had his day, his moment in the sun. It was Lou's breath, Lou's hand bringing her to arousal. Lou's words that caressed her ears.

"So, I can come?"

Leisl, is resolute. This has to be done alone.

"No Carl. And no more of this. We're done. It's over. I don't love you that way any more. It's me and Lou from now on. I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be!"

Another invisible barb pierces her brother's heart as he rises to leave. This time, he steels himself against the pain, hardens himself against the hurt, resolves that this Lou, would not steal the only love of his life. She is his, and always will be.

Monday, February 10, 2014

In Surreal Time

Continued from Children of Cronos

Since his girlfriend packed her bags, flicked him the bird and slammed the door, Lou Mariano has retreated somewhat from life on 'the outside'.  His computer has become his friend, his living room, his comfort zone.  He knew it was over, soon after it started. She'd been charming at first, good in the sack but boring as all get-up, self-absorbed and difficult to converse with. As a 'talker', conversation was right up there on his list of perfect female characteristics, along with natural breasts, slender build, good looks and height below 5' 10. These attributes made all the more attractive if she showed some athleticism in bed. Monique only ticked two of his 'boxes.' Good riddance to the bitch.

Now in his late 20's, Mariano had a bucket list of elements necessary to complete perfect woman. The longer he waited, the more unattainable she became, but he was determined not to 'settle'.  This last foray into romance had soured him even more, no models, no foreigners, no crazy bitches who wanted 'exclusivity' and constant attention - and above all, no dumb cows that couldn't hold a decent conversation or engage in argument. Mariano loved a good argument.

There was however, no doubt that he was feeling a little lonely. The bed felt colder without her, TV dinners replaced the home cooking that she'd provided. His pantry was stocked with ready-made meals ordered online. There was little reason for him to leave the house.

As a Graphic Designer of some talent, Lou worked from home and loved the ability to wear his pyjamas until 3pm. To enjoy an unstructured day and still earn a healthy income was right up his alley. He wouldn't even drive unless absolutely necessary. Clients and friends came to him, six pack in hand. No Mohamed could move this mountain. He'd endured the rat race of advertising agencies for 5 years prior to going freelance,  He hated the pretentiousness, the client interface, the pitch. Here, he could work creatively, avoid the business lunches and earn a lucrative income. Here, he could distract himself with social networking, blogging and home-spun workout routines between projects, or when his brain refused to get into gear.

It was one of these brain-addled days where nothing seemed to fall into place, and creativity eluded him, that he began cruising old school friends on Facebook.

"Jesus, she got fat!" He'd mutter to himself, "He's looking old? Christ his wife's ugly!"

Mariano was blessed with youthful good looks, perhaps the legacy of Mediterranean genes. His complexion was pure, swarthy and youthful, his body svelte and athletic. It hadn't always been that way. As a child he was scrawny and short-sighted. A little nerdy and outside the box. The only child of suffocating parents, he was coddled and smothered. Only after lasik surgery and leaving home did he come into his own and became more independent, self-reliant and more than a little vain. Yes, the next ex-Mrs Mariano would have to be something akin to a PhD with a Penthouse body.


He did a double-take when he 'found' Leisl Stensl.

"Wow! She's well maintained," he'd declared to the snoring dog at his feet as he clicked on her profile and selected "Photos".

"She's really in good shape. Pretty too. Used to have a massive crush on her but she was a bit young. Wore too much makeup as well, but she was gorgeous. She is gorgeous."

He enlarges each photograph of Leisl, the selfies, the portraits, the family events. Yep, she's slim, looks about 5'7 with dark glossy hair and a very shapely body. He ignores the many pictures of her embracing her younger brother and particularly hovers over the shot of her leaning forward, legs crossed, her hand on her chin, smiling seductively at the camera. Her fulsome breasts on display and tantalisingly shapely legs. He could imagine those wrapped around his neck!

"Great tits!" The dog remained unmoved by his master's enthusiasm. "Shit, I remember her. Used to look at her from a distance and think she was gorgeous. Doubt she'd even remember me."

"Friend Request Sent"  . . . without more than a lascivious thought, and even though Leisl lived in another state, he was curious and his imagination began to spin.

"Lou Mariano?" Leisl said his name out loud when the friend request showed up. She vaguely remembered the name but couldn't place the person. Although he was older, she'd dated boys in his year. Still, Facebook had become her distraction beyond Carl, she'd given up men for now and resigned herself to the relative safety of social networking. Facebook friends, can't reach you, can't hurt you, can't damage you, can't take advantage of you. If they don't work out, they're deleted with a click. End of story. It's the perfect meeting place, outside of reality. A surreal existence oblivious of timezones, an ethereal wonderland where anything is possible. All care and no responsibility. Besides, Mariano had over 1000 friends, if he turned out to be a jerk, he'd barely notice her disappearance.  Leisl accepted the invitation and typed a badly constructed message from her iPhone. A conversation of sorts began:
Leisl Stensl: "Hi do I now you?  Says on your psge that you went to Ivanho. Dnt rmemeber u :)"
Lou Mariano: "Hi Leisl. Yes, I was a mate of Joe Calvi when you were dating him. I used to have a crush on you. :P"
Leisl Stensl: "Srsly dont remember. Looking at your phtps now. Ur cute! don't have a PC, can I call?"
This was great! She wanted to talk, the hot chick from his past, not only still 'hot', but available and wants to talk.  Without thought of consequence, he sent her his mobile number. Within seconds his ringtone sounded.

Lou has a charm. An amazing, disabling charm. It's what attracts women to him immediately. His gift of the gab, his sense of humour, his ability to melt hearts with a quick embrace. He's particularly loquacious and amorous after a few glasses of red. And that first evening, he'd had more than a few. The pitch of his voice softened, he cooed into the phone. Told her he admired her in school, told her his life story, listened to hers. Her voice was sweet as she talked about music, her brother, her love of art. He flattered her appearance and the fact that she'd maintained her good looks. They spoke of past relationships. How hers had been disastrous and left her fragile. How his had been a waste of time, and left him resolved to seek out the perfect companion. It was a good call, a long call, and ended with her calling him 'babe' and him feeling aroused.

He'd masturbated in the shower after that, the vision of her inside his head.

"Who are you talking to?"

Carl walked unannounced into Leisl's bedroom. She raised her left index finger to her mouth

"Shhh...Sorry, Lou, gotta go. I'll call you later. Bye babe. Love you!"

"Love you?" Carl's disapproval obvious. "Who's 'babe'?" Who does she love other than him?

"Carl, seriously, you have to knock before you come in." She slides to a stand from her prone position on the bed.

"Who's Lou?"

She puts her arms around his neck. "Relax, just an old friend from school. He  just friended me on Facebook. He's nice. I like him. Kinda cute too, and single!"

An invisible barb penetrated his chest and Carl began to sulk immediately. "I thought you were passing on guys for a while. I thought we were enough for now?"

"Seriously. He's rad, he's cool. I like him. I deserve to be happy don't I? You're my true love! Just an impossible one."

Carl turned with an unexpected degree of impetuousness and slammed her bedroom door behind him yelling, "He'll be the same as the others, he'll fuck you and forget you!"

She ignored his temper and felt the emerging dampness between her legs. Yes, she remembered.

She called Lou every day. At first, he answered and chatted freely, but after a week, he realised there's not much between this girl's ears. She doesn't believe in 'science', she can't argue conclusively. Her life is full of shallow idiocy, she makes no sense, talks gibberish and is often drunk. He lost tolerance and patience, became ruder and ruder to her hoping she'd just go away. By the third week, too many missed calls,  multiple 'likes' on his Facebook page. Too many cryptic notes about 'choosing the right one' and 'make up your mind' left in comments. She made no sense, she was simply an irritation.

She just didn't get it. She called him 'babe' and convinced herself that he's the one. Even unmet, he's in her head, her thoughts. Their first conversation is constantly on replay  "I had a crush on you. . ." all other words fell on deaf ears. He was just kidding, being sarcastic, of course he loves her.  She chose to exclude all his negativity and warnings.


"Who's the looker commenting on your page?" Lou's friend asks.

"Damn. Some woman I friended. Used to know her at school, now she's just a vacuous nuisance. Drives me crazy. Look..."

Lou slides the windows on his Android, "13 missed calls, 5 messages and all before 7:30am! The girl doesn't get it. She's stupid. I can't abide stupid. And . . . tell you, there's something weird going on with her and her brother. She never shuts up about him."

"So? Just unfriend her." His friend's obvious solution lost on Lou. He might be a dick but he doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Doesn't want to anger the crazy bitch. She's already hung up on him, threatened to 'find him'. Best to keep this one on side.

"Nah, I'll ignore her. Give her enough rope, she'll hang herself soon enough!"

In an effort to quell the unwanted attention Lou began to set boundaries.

"Leisl, stop calling. I'm busy, leave a message and I'll get back to you."

For some reason, she was reluctant to leave messages. When she did, he would call.Their conversations short, sharp and disparaging. There were times he'd even bring her to tears but she'd return for more punishment.

"You're a lousy friend..." she'd sob before hanging up. Then, after a few days, she'd be back. Pissing on his page, calling his mobile. The last message sounded desperate and he caved.

"What's up?" Lou's voice pragmatic and to the point.

"Hey sweetie, I met your Dad today."

This is a new turn of events. His parents still lived in Melbourne, had for most of their lives. How the Hell did she meet his father?

"You what?" The sharp indignation in his voice goes over Leisl's head.

"Oh babe, it's not rocket science. It's called a phone book. I drove over and introduced myself. Told him about us and that I was going to visit you. I thought he might want me to take a few things up to Brissy for you. Such a cool guy,  we had coffee and a long talk about you. He's so happy you have a girlfriend."

"You did what? Happy I have a what? Leisl, you, are NOT my girlfriend!"

Lou began to break into a sweat as she ignored his rejection.

"I'm coming to Brisbane. I'm coming to see you." The excitement in her voice elevating to a squeal. "Isn't that awesome?"

He's beyond shocked. No matter how disparaging he is to this girl, she's relentless, focused, determined. How's he going to get out of this one?

"Leisl, I'm busy that week, I'm busy for the whole month actually."

"Oh silly, you don't even know what week. I didn't tell you when." She breaks into a girlish giggle, "Now, what's your address?"

By now, he's thinking she's crazy, angry, possibly dangerous - capable of hurting him or herself and no way on earth is she getting his address.  Still, better to keep her in the good books. A crazy crush can be a dangerous crush and he's had his share of vengeful women. He's seen those movies of jealous lovers and mad obsessions. No way she's getting the chance to put a knife between his shoulder blades.

"Er, I'm between houses at the moment, staying with friends. It's not a good time." Typically he doesn't lie but this one just blurted out.

He hangs up the call and strokes the stubble on his chin. "Shit. Shit! What now? Guess if she does lob, I can meet her for a coffee. Set her straight, tell her what's what. Eyeball her, make it clear that I'm not interested."  The dog lifts it's head and passes an 'I told you so' glance, "Shut it you mutt!" The dog reverts to it's sleeping position and sighs.

How the fuck did it escalate to this?  Just three weeks knowing this girl and she's all over him like a rash. Despite him calling her stupid, insane and begging her to stop referring to him as 'babe'. He recalls the horrible things he's said. Perhaps he took it too far.  All of a sudden, she doesn't look so good.

He can't masturbate in the shower any more because of the image of her inside his head.

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5

Continued in An Air of Evanescence



Saturday, February 8, 2014

Children of Cronos

Continued from Psychosomatic Warfare

Leisl remained true to her word. She began to lavish more attention on her brother after a long time of neglect and focus on lovers who took her forgranted. Carl had never done so. He'd been there for her when she needed solace, never berated her for her absences or poor choices of bedfellows. He'd been the modicum of measure and tolerance even though it was often obvious that he didn't like the 'type' of men she was attracted to.

She wasn't why but she definitely had a 'type', a penchant for the 'bad boy'. Usually muso's - tattooed and self-obsessed, or skaters - agile and neglectful or the last, a motocross rider who spent more time with his KTM than with her. He's the one who broke the camel's back by calling her stupid and dumping her unceremoniously. Yet she would have tolerated all his faults if he'd just loved her. Stayed with her. Quelled her neediness and obsession. After Stu, she was going to take a break. Focus on the salon, her family, her looks. If love was to find her, it would have to come looking. She was done with clubs and pubs and short-term liaisons with creeps. She was 'over it', or so she thought.

Carl continued with his boxing and building the body beautiful. He was strong, not a tall man, but solid as a rock in both build and character. The two of them did everything together between his gym commitments and her full time work at the salon. They moved from the nightlife to the good life. Cycling in the Grampians, swimming at Carrum Downs, playing monopoly while Wolf drank himself into a stupor in front of the television, preparing meals, sharing the load of housework or just sitting end to end on the couch watching TV. Her with her feet tucked beneath his thighs. Physical contact for them was natural, easy. The few times they found themselves alone, she logged into Facebook and Twitter on her Android, a voyeur of the lives of others, a browser of You Tube and a lover of Grumpy Cat. Occasionally, she'd notice Carl's absence and quiz him upon his return.

"Where've you been?" she'd pry, peering momentarily from her phone screen.  I didn't even know you'd slipped out."

"Oh nowhere, just went for a walk. Clear the head, stretch the legs."

Trust is an odd thing

"You're so lucky to be close to your brother," one of her clients had muttered between the sink and cutting station. "My family is continually fighting with each other. Christmas is just Hell, wondering which one's going to chuck a tanty and spoil it for everyone. Haven't spoken to one of my brother's for six years due to some stupid altercation."

"Yeh, Carol, we're close. He's my best friend that little chap. Love his bones. I am lucky!"

Leisl was able to distract herself from more than affectionate thoughts of her younger sibling once the client was seated and her coiffure in progress.

"What's the go with your sister?" Mitch Ryan had once asked Carl, after a lengthy conversation about her good look, great body.

"What? 'the go'?" Carl retorted, realising that he talked about her more than was natural, and thought about her more than was healthy. "Nothin', she's good that's all. Nice girl, we're best mates I guess."

He turned quickly, distracting himself with the punching bag and trying not to let his thoughts stray.


The tickling incident, although unrepeated, was not forgotten. In fact it played hard on Carl's mind. At 18, he still hadn't had the courage to ask a girl out let alone the experience of carnal pleasures and when alone, he fantasised about his sister and her exploits, wondered about what she'd done, what she did, what she could do.

Carl rose, and made his way towards the bathroom as was his morning habit. He'd shower and relieve himself at the same time but found the bathroom occupied.

Leisl, one leg raised, her foot on the lip of the bath, was waxing her legs. Freshly showered, her hair lank around her shoulders, and wearing only her underwear. The door remained slightly ajar. Carl forgot his near-nakedness as he peered unnoticed through the thin slit in the door. Her legs had always been shapely but somehow seemed more womanly, sleek, tanned. She was blessed with an hourglass figure, slim, slight, voluptuous, made all the more attractive by a pink lace bra and g-string that left little to the imagination. He watched as she slid the warm wax from her ankle, slowly and steadily along her shin, terminating at her knee and applied a cotton strip. He winced as she pulled the strip back, tearing the wax with it, yet she barely flinched.  He admired her breasts as she leaned forward and repeated the action on a new patch of flawless skin. His guilt suspended by the desire to look. She removed her pants and widened her legs, applying more wax between them, more careful this time and using smaller strips of white cotton, she removed every vestige of pubic hair. She looked beautiful, clean, virginal, youthful,like a Greek Goddess in pink lace.  Her ritual complete, she retrieved g-string and looked up, catching a glimpse of him through the narrow opening of the door before standing straight and striking a naked pose.

"Like what you see Carl?" A cheeky smile beamed across her face.  She made little effort to hurry to get dressed and slid the g-string from knee to hip, straightening with her thumbs and pressing her palms down flat from abs to her lower belly.  She reached for the silk gown her mother used to wear and slowly covered up before fully opening the door.

"My! You did like what you saw." She began giggling softly at the bulge protruding from his blue striped cotton boxers before brushing past him, just nudging the tip of his erection with her thigh and retreating into her bedroom. This would be one of many flirtatious 'near misses' which did not make her uncomfortable, for that matter, did not faze Carl either, merely enhanced his curiosity about what lay between those hairless, velvet thighs.

It was a warm January afternoon. They'd driven to the Mornington Peninsular and found a sheltered cove, surrounded by the sandstone cliffs and unaffected by the warm northerly breeze. She lying on her front, knees bent and legs kicking the air, flicking the pages of a Who Weekly. He, lying on his back, holding the pages of "Iron Man" Magazine, able to glance sideways at her cleavage and perfect breasts.

"I'm not fond of muscles you know." She'd piped without prompt.

"Really? I thought chicks would dig 'em. That's not why I work out though."

"Then why? I mean,  you look good," She sat up and held clasped her hands around bended knees, "But there's a point where it's too much." 

Leisl, pointed to the picture on the Iron Man page of a man bulging with sinew and ripped muscle. 

"He looks like a bull, not a boy. I mean does it help pull women?"

"Not really." Carl's response is laconic as he keeps flicking the pages. "I've never been with any chicks. The gym's full of guys."

"Oh li'l Bro! You're 18, nearly 19...never been with a girl. That's insane!"

He's embarrassed about the fact but his focus has been on building himself, his body, his self esteem.

She slid a finger from the nape of his neck down to the well of his back, it sent tingles and made him involuntarily recoil. She propped herself beside him, facing him and on her knees and dropped lotion on each palm, smoothing it from his shoulders, over his pecs and down his abdomen to the line below his board shorts. She smoothed the lotion across his stomach with broad palm strokes from sternum to side. He shuffled as if a little uncomfortable but remained lying on his back.  She knew he was feeling it, she could see he was feeling it, even though he persisted in holding his magazine with outstretched arms, shading his face from the sun in an attempt to be oblivious to her touch. She drew an invisible line from hip bone to hip bone, again making him wince. It was a beautifully painful tickle. An erotic flinch.

"Hey! Cut it out!" He laughed but didn't resist.

She continued, spreading the cool suntan lotion from his thighs down to his ankles and rolling greasy hands across each leg. She removed her bikini top and tossed it onto her towel, obliterating the celebrity face on the front of her magazine and lay close to him, her hand decending to the chord on his shorts, deftly unthreading, caressing. Nimble fingers probing and sliding the swimwear down to his knees. This he couldn't bear and discarded his own magazine before pressing hard against her, feeling sweat on her skin, the press of her lips, the moistness of her body and sinking into oblivion. Her kiss remembered, her body discovered. She knew exactly what to do with hands, mouth and tongue. He reciprocated, clumsily at first, but then with natural caresses and tenderness. Any inhibitions or morality were forgotten as they embraced, interlocked and penetrated. They were untouchable, Olympians both, the children of Cronos immersed in mortal sin, but neither of them cared.

"It was just a one off OK?" Leisl's guilt feigned. It was arguably the best sex she'd had. The others being rushed, selfish, demanding and unsatisfying. Despite her prowess, none of her former lovers had even tried to satisfy her. Carl had achieved what none of them had. He'd asked nothing and she'd given everything. 

"I know what we did was wrong but you'd never done it. I needed it, we love each other . . . it seemed...."

Carl cut her off with a finger to her lips. "It's OK. I won't say anything other than 'thank you'. It was awesome"

Nothing was said. The event never referenced or discussed. But something between them changed that afternoon. Afterward, he craved. The more he did so, the more she held back.  Perhaps it was guilt, perhaps it was restraint but he wanted more and she gave him nothing. Perhaps it had something to do with that guy she talks to all the time on the phone. The one that makes her laugh and cry, and argue. Whoever he is, she spends time locked in her room reminiscing, cooing, sobbing but says nothing about his identity. 

"Who the Hell are you talking to?" He'd plead, "Just tell me his name."

"Oh. Nobody, just an old school friend." She'd turn him round and march him from her bedroom before closing the door, "Don't get jealous, he's in another State. Now go! It's a private conversation."

She never saw the expression on his face as he was ushered from her room. Anger, resentment, rejection, jealousy, bitterness. Just as he had found her, he now felt like he'd lost her. Worse still, to someone absent, someone known to her but not to him. Someone at the end of a cell phone. Someone who would use and abuse her like all the others. Someone that could no longer be tolerated.

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No 5

Continued in In Surreal Time

Friday, February 7, 2014

Psychosomatic Warfare

Continued from: Alone Never Felt So Crowded

"What's wrong with him?"

Carl's father has seen his son dwindle into a dark place since his mother left. Something not helped by his own drunkenness and neglect. It was weeks after that he noticed the child withdrawing even further into oblivion. His sister no longer escorted him home and he'd mope drearily into the house, turn on the computer and immerse himself in fantasy games. His complexion had become even more pallid and his conversational skills reduced to grunts and growls whenever asked to sit up to the table or complete even the simplest of chores. Never the brightest at school, even his teacher had called Wolf in to discuss the lack of progress with his son.  This, combined with the most recent beating by school bullies, had left the child completely defeated and covered in bruises. He'd found his son curled in the foetal position near the house gate, followed home by a bunch of thugs who thought they'd pick on someone nowhere near their own size.

"Physically? He'll be fine Wolf. Just a few bruises. Psychologically? He's a little withdrawn, shy. Not unusual for a 13 year old."

Dr Bayliss removed the end of the stethoscope from the waifish child's chest and applied the sphygmomanometer band, before slipping a thermometer beneath the youth's tongue. 

"He's at an awkward age." Bayliss ignores the boy before him as he pumps air into the armband. 

"Boys at this stage of their development often feel awkward, insecure and a little intimidated by the onset of manhood. Carl's always been a shy type. Perhaps I could suggest some physical activity that involves a partner, or a team. Something to get him out in the fresh air, work those limbs and bulk him up a little? Might do his confidence some good and teach those bullies to think twice before they pick on him. Ey Carl?"

Wolf looks at his son. Pale, semi-clad in baggy boxer shorts, eyes downcast at the floor as the apparatus is removed from his skinny arm.

"What do you think Carl? Would you like to play soccer, or footy? Maybe go to Tennis Camp in the holidays?" 

His father, dealing with his own grief would love to just get rid of the child for a few weeks, let the whole thing sink in and begin to adjust.

The boy shrugs with the lumpy disinterest indicative of a pre-pubescent man. 

"Like I said Wolf, physically, the boy is fine. Any anxieties or withdrawal is purely pschological. He's battling a few demons at school I hear?" Again, every word spoken as if Carl was absent.

"Yeh, but this is the worst bit of biffo he's endured for a while. A few lads on the way home the other just got stuck into him. The ratbags floored him and kicked into him while he was down. Bloody cowards, if I catch 'em I'll give them a lesson or two!"

Carl previously virtually standing comatose suddenly became agitated.

"No! Dad. NO! You can't do anything! Nobody can to anything. You'll just make things worse!"

His father and Bayliss locked glances, raised eyebrows, and barely noticed the glassy eyed Carl as he began to put his T Shirt back on.

"Lads eh? Can't kill 'em, can't live with 'em."


The truth of the matter, Carl missed his sister more than his mother. Daniela had lavished her attention on the girl rather than him. Not through any conscious means, she just had more in common with the gregarious and blooming Leisl and simply didn't know how to engage the quiet and retreating Carl. He'd been the sickly, anti-social child, not at all like the women of his household. Wolf had tried hard to involve him in sports or engage him in conversation but he was difficult to draw into the open. 

How he missed his sister's company on the way home from school. Now that just the three of them were left at home, Dad had taken to drinking and passing out by 8pm, Leisl had taken to the company of 'strangers'. Constantly out on dates or chatting on the internet, she barely paid him any attention. The time they had together was brief, although she was always kind. He adored the touch of her hand on his cheek or when she took to tickling and wrestling him to the floor, despite the infrequency of their childish play. She was now 17. He could feel her slipping away.

He stood in front of the full length mirror, lining his bedroom door. Flexing areas that should have shown muscle. Sucking in his stomach to enhance his chest. His skin almost alabaster white, his body definition non-existent. He stroked the emerging fluff above his top lip and ran his fingers through lank blonde hair that was desperately in need of a trim. Perhaps Dr Bayliss was right, perhaps he needed a boost to his self-esteem. A better diet, some fresh air and an extra-curricular activity to build his body. Perhaps if he 'boofed up' a little, he'd be bullied less at school. Perhaps Leisl would notice him, and he could become less of a ship in the night to the girl who was once his protector and friend.

It wasn't easy for him to ask. Surreptitiously he was terrified of the thought of donning a pair of boxing gloves, but the thought of becoming stronger, more attractive, more outgoing drove him, almost became an obsession with him. Wolf found a gym that accepted juniors and although it took some persuading to enrol Carl in a class with much larger adversaries, they finally accepted. The class for under 14's were supposed to have an emphasis on treating each child to achieve their individual potential whilst engendering respect and kindness. In reality, they taught an aggressive discipline that took some adjustment. Each class began with a warm up, half an hour of pad work and glove sparring, whilst emphasizing correct boxing stance and footwork and a further 10 minute cool down. Carl barely spoke a word during the first few sessions but his balance and agility proved impressive and he attracted the eye of his Coach, Mitch Ryan. He would often stay later, waiting to be picked up and launch heavily into a punching back. It was cathartic.

"Doin' alright there kid! You ready to take on a sparring partner?"

Carl looked sheepish but was determined, "Sure Coach, as long as he's not much bigger than me!"

Joel Berghoffer was the selected partner. One of the many boys who'd teased him at school. One who'd participated in his last particular beating.

 "I'll spar!" Yelled out the cocky boy. Not much bigger than Carl himself, his attitude was enough to intimidate. Ryan first sought non verbal approval. Carl nodded in agreement before his coach barked instructions.

"You're on Berghoffer, glove up!"

Ryan turned to Carl, "He's all talk Carl. You have the speed, the moves and the balance to run rings round him. Stay focused, guard your face and tire him out. Keep it clean, choose your moves. Thirty minutes only. Breaks after each 10."

The boy inserted his mouth guard as Ryan adjusted his gloves and headgear.

The spar took less than 20 minutes and fewer than 5 body punches from Berghoffer before Carl's agility won out. One sharp left hook pushing the cocky teen into the railings and the match decided. A trickle of blood emanating from the bully's lip, a give away look of defeat and to some degree respect, from the former adversary, and Carl knew, this was what he wanted to do. This was how he was going to build his psyche and his body. He was going to be invincible. No more bullies, no more being ignored, he was a warrior, a champion. He might not have brains, but by Jesus, he was going to have brawn.

He trained hard, he sparred harder. His dedication unfailing, unlike his school subjects. 

"Dad? I want to leave school."

The sudden announcement delivered in the kitchen before dinner, came as no real surprise to Wolf who was well aware of his son's lack of intellectual prowess. 

"Is that a good idea son? Hard to get work without your leaving cert you know. You can only leave in year 11, with my permission. You'll need to get something to do first."

"I have!" The boy smirked his lop sided grin, took off the baggy grey sweatshirt and flexed a bicep in front of his father.

"Jesus! When d'you get those guns?"

Fifteen months of hard training and protein supplements, fifteen months of dedication and concentration, and the lank child of the past was blossoming into a fine physique. Still not fully developed, his torso had shape. His six-pack was defined and his father, who hadn't really 'looked' at either of his children for some time, could have been knocked over with a feather.

"Mitch has offered me a place at the gym. Training the youngens. It's not much but he'll pay. Plus he wants me to start competing on a higher level so there might be prize money. Just need you to write a letter to school."

Leisl hadn't confided in Carl in a long time. It was after Kyle Mason dumped her that she last found herself in his embrace. The bastard had dated her for a month before calling her an immature idiot, outing her on Facebook and posting pictures of her semi nude on Vine and Snapchat. He'd humiliated her in the most vile of ways.  Carl knew she was upset when she heavily pushed his bedroom door open, flung her arms around him, mascara running down her cheeks, and sobbed uncontrollably.

"I loved him Carl. I really loved him. I trusted him. I gave him everything, my love, my body, everything! Little shit has posted me all over the place. Told me I'm dumb as dogshit then dropped me. Didn't even give me a lift home from the club last night. I had to walk in the pouring rain."

She was surprised to feel the change in her 'little bro'. His shoulders seemed somehow broader, his chest wider, his arms stronger as he held her tight, saying little more than "Shhhh....shhhhh....It'll be alright, he'll get his."

He wasn't surprised at how wonderful she felt. Her warmth, the sweet perfume of her hair and the softness of her face as it nuzzled into his neck, the shapeliness of her form as it pressed against his. Little had changed since he was 11. She was still the light of his life, the sweetest woman he'd ever known and it was a privilege to hold her close. He still wanted a woman, just like her.

She gently pulled away from him and cupped his chin in her perfectly manicured hands.

"I don't know what I'd do without you. I'm sorry for neglecting you. Best buds from now on OK?"

He smiled a beaming smile, his straight white teeth a mirror image of hers. She kissed him on the forehead and ruffled the stubble of his newly shaved hair. 

"Love the do!" she giggled and began tickling him. 

Convulsions of laughter erupted as she touched each 'sweet spot' and he collapsed on his back on the bed, knees bent and feet touching the floor. She straddled him and poked him hard with long fingers until he could control his laughter no  more, folding his arms across his chest to deflect her taunts. They rolled and tumbled as he tried to tickle her back. A hand misplaced, a mouth too close and before they knew it, the warrior and the hair stylist were immersed in an inappropriate moment that felt right, natural. Seconds passed before they she disengaged lips, tongue. 

"God, sorry. I got carried away. I'm so, sorry." 

Leisl, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and stood, him still lying at 90 degrees on his bed. Hands over his crotch to hide his excitement.

"Sis. It's fine. No harm done. I'm here for you. Always, anytime, anyhow."

"Yeh, thanks." She smiled over her shoulder at him as she left his room.

 "I'll be here for you too from now on. You're my angel, you know that? I love you."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Alone Never Felt So Crowded

Who is he?" Wolf  Stensil wanted to bellow the words but the kids were asleep and he feared waking them to the devastating news.  "What's his name? What's he got that I haven't?"

Daniela paced the bare floorboards, her hand to her mouth as if muffling a scream. She knew he wouldn't take the news well and had chosen her time carefully to tell him that she was leaving. Late evening was her choice, he wouldn't shout or make a fuss knowing the children were asleep.

"Wolf. Don't do this! Just don't. You know why. We were never 'in love' in the first place. I was young, you were stupid...we both were stupid!"

Her parting words echo in his brain as he sits slumped in his armchair, a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, in the other a dangerously tilted glass, threatening to tip the amber liquid onto the floor.  He never used to drink, quite the opposite, his body was his temple. Wolf had always looked after himself. Even at 50, he was svelte, well muscled and tanned due to days spent in the great outdoors. But lately, booze is the key to oblivion and oblivious he wishes to be.

He always thought that even through a marriage of convenience, after a time, she would come to love him. After all, they'd had two children together, children they both dearly loved.  They'd been together over 2 decades. Why had she waited so long? He'd become blase, sure she loved him in her strange way.  Sitting alone wasn't good for him, his head filled with the conversations of the years and those last words she uttered before she packed and left, quietly in the night. The only way to quell the madding crowd within his skull was to drink himself into a stupor.

"What about the children?" he'd asked.

"I've done my diligence Wolf. I've raised them, nurtured them but it's time for me now. I need some space, I need a life. We were never meant to be together, not for this long!" She kept talking while dressing and throwing a plethora of items from the wardrobe, still mounted on their coat hangers, into a large wheelie suitcase. She'd spun around, never uttering a word and left to meet the parked car waiting for her on the street. He'd been struck immobile, dumb, welded to the bed, as he let her go.

In his heart of hearts, he knew it had been over for a long time. They hadn't slept together for years, barely a touch or a kiss between them except on occasion in front of the kids to maintain the charade. They rarely fought. It was enough to have a glance from her, a warm smile, a hot plate of food put in front of him at night and he was able to delude himself that they were indeed soul mates, even if the physical side of their relationship was long gone. It was enough for her that he provided for his family and left her body alone. There was another caressing her olive skin, another waiting in the wings for his divorce before making her his and she could tolerate her life of motherly drudgery, she could wait.


It was 1983 when he took his 'gap year' after finishing his apprenticeship. It began with a Contiki tour with drunken compadres. A whirlwind bus trip through Europe, the highlight of which seemed to be pubs and clubs and scantily clad girls. Three weeks of bad behaviour and sexual misconduct. Most of the trip, a blur of drunkenness and the fog of hangovers. Except for Rome. The others were hung over and it was early morning for Romans. He headed out alone and joined a walking tour led by a goddess in her own right. Daniella Vitozzi, a student of La Sapienza, took tours during her university holidays. Her olive skin, glowing in the mid-morning light, the soft curls of her hair tamed by a loose ponytail, the waft of Nina Ricci perfume permeating his skin as she sauntered ahead of the group raising slender arms and pointing out the features and relishing the history of the ancient landmark. Wolf, walking behind her was attracted more to her shapely form and her accent. Her shapely body barely hidden beneath Bermuda shorts. As she began outlining the features of the Flavian Amphitheatre she turned to face the group, her khaki shirt unbuttoned, revealing her curviture. She was beyond beautiful. High cheekbones, chocolate eyes and as her mouth formed the words he imagined it working magic around his. She noticed him, and her gaze fell more upon him, her words directed more to him than the portly American Tourists in his wake.  At the conclusion of the tour, he steeled himself and asked if she would be interested in lunch.

Picking at anti-pasto and seductively sliding an olive into her marvellous mouth, she told him how she was about to complete her course in philosopy and communication. She told him she wanted to travel, she told him he had strong shoulders, she told him, she'd love to see a kangaroo and the outback. She told him he could teach her conversational English. He told her that Rome was his final destination and that he was leaving that afternoon. They exchanged addresses and they promised to write - in English. 

The shock of receiving her letter took away his breath momentarily. Four months after his return to Melbourne and Wolf had still not forgotten the Italian beauty, but she hadn't written despite him sending letters with great regularity. He'd wained after six weeks, since a response was not forthcoming. She still came to him in his dreams, her hair flowing as if blown by an invisible zephyr, her fillegre clad body hovering above his, providing a glimps of perfect breasts and erect nipples, her smile and tongue teasing him to the point that he'd become erect during his slumber. 
"Dear Wolf

I am coming to Australia for 2 years on working visa. I am very excited to see all Australian animals and swim in the sea. I very sorry for not have written to you for so long. If it is not too much for you, I would very much like to see you, perhaps you could let me stay for little time until I get place of my own. I understand this is strange request but you are a very nice man. I feel safe with someone I know better than in hostel. Please say it is OK.
Cordiali saluti

 She arrived early summer, looking as beautiful as he'd remembered her. He picked her up on the early QF 4 flight at 6:30am.

"Keep me awake until evening?" She had pleaded, in order to avoid maximum jet lag.

They walked through Fitzroy Gardens, lunched in Flinders Lane, took a cruise upon the Yarra then headed back to his flat in St Kilda. The modest 50's dwelling was neat and clean. Only one bedroom and bathroom. A tiny but well-equipped kitchen gave away the fact that he liked to cook. A bright, sunlit living room with a fabric couch positioned against a latticed window, the evening sun streaming in straight ethereal lines onto the polished floor.

"Wolf, this is charming. Bella!" she had squealed. "I love your home!"

He showed her the bathroom and she asked to take a shower while he prepared pasta for their evening meal. She emerged wrapped in a short silk kimono, smelling sweet with lank wet hair sticking to her decolletage. He handed her a bowl of steaming marinara pasta and she smiled, "No meat pie?"

They sat on the couch drinking Frizzante, talking, catching up. His heart melting with every word, he loved her accent, he loved the look of her, he loved that at last, here she was. Close enough to touch.

As the time to sleep drew near, he showed her to his bedroom. She winced quizzically, 'No, no, we don't sleep together. I'm sorry if I give you the wrong impression? We are just friends no?"

Wolf had more hope than expectation and quickly corrected his posture, "Oh. Oh of course, I'm sorry. I didn't mean for us to sleep together, you have my bed. I'm fine on the couch, really."

She kissed him on the cheek, thanked him again and closed the bedroom door behind her.  Wolf's disappointment not too severe, this was her first day 'don't push it', he'd thought to himself as he imagined himself wrapped around her, inside her before he delved into dreams on a couch too short, too narrow.

She only stayed a couple of weeks before heading north to chase the sun and itinerant work. He'd dutifully dropped her at the station, embraced and said goodbye.

"You know you can stay with me any time, any time at all." he'd reassured her. She smiled and once again, disappeared from his life. Or so he thought.

He'd barely heard from her other than the odd post card from Cairns, Darwin and Alice Springs. Always short and sharp;

Great weather, good people, having a lovely time. Wish you were here.
Then she called.

"Wolf! Come stai? How are you?"

She sounded different, 20 months of travel had given a slight strine 'twang' to her accent. The enthusiasm in her voice excited him, she seemed genuinely pleased to talk to him.

"Dani? Er, fine, good. Where are you?"

"I am in Melbourne! I just got of the bus from Sydney. Can I come and see you? Perhaps stay for a little while? I have proposizione, er suggestion, proposition for you."

Intrigued, he complied. Hopeful, perhaps this time she might find him attractive. Deluded, he thought she might even be in love.


The proposition was complicated. Her visa was soon to expire but she wanted to stay. Italy held no charm for her and she'd dropped out of her degree before final exams. She wanted residency in Australia, she wanted him to help her get it.

"What if we get married, then I can stay on a spice visa?

"You mean a spouse visa." He corrected her, trying to shroud his disappointment that the proposition was not more romantic.

"Yes, yes, spouse, matrimonio visa! My friend tells me that we just have to be together for four years. Then I can be resident, then I can be full Australian. What do you think?"

"But, I don't know enough about you. We have to jump through hoops to convince Immigration that we're a couple? I mean, I don't know your favourite colour, or if you have a birthmark or anything about your family?"

He flopped disparagingly onto the couch. She stood in front of him and began to unbutton her blouse. He was transfixed. She slid her left foot down the back of her tanned calf and flicked off her right shoe, then slid her right foot down her left calf and discarded the other. Soon followed the blouse and the skirt. She stood in front of him in her underwear before straddling his thighs.

"Here is my birthmark," she whispered as she unclipped her bra. A tiny brown smudge above her left breast revealed itself. "My family are from Turin." She kissed his neck. "My favourite colour is red." She reached for the hem of his T shirt and lifted it over his head, scruffing his longish hair. "My....." The sentence was never finished before the two were entangled, clothes discarded and the straight beams of sunlight formed zebra shadows on their naked bodies.

Of course he'd marry her, they could learn about each other before applying. Who knows? Perhaps she would learn to love him after all.

The cacophony of voices inside his head continue as the glass falls from his hand and bounces without breaking, the amber fluid pouring to the floor. Two small ice cubes race each other across the polished boards. Wolf wakes with a jerk and clenches his fist around the JD bottle before it too threatens to escape from his grasp. He stumbles forward as he rises from his chair and bangs the bottle on the coffee table and puts his hands to his ears and through his now greying hair.

"Shut up! Shut the fuck up!" he yells to the invisible crowd battling between his ears. Their taunts and accusations piercing his heart, as she had when she left. "Leave me alone. Get out of my head!"

Posted for River of Mnemosny Challenge No: 5

Continued in Psychosomatic Warfare


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Fallen Beginning

Continued from: If I Could See People's Fears 

 The announcement that their mother had departed, unannounced and without warning devastated young Carl who retreated into his own private world. His sister, was less surprised. She'd witnessed the discord to which her younger sibling had been oblivious. Many arguments had taken place at night, beginning with pillow talk, then the muffled voices elevating to muffled anger in the room above her bedroom. She'd cover her head with her pillow to drown out the sounds of conversations she shouldn't hear, but couldn't help wanting to hear.

"Who is he?" her father would interrogate, as her mother's footsteps paced up and down the floorboards above her. "What's his name? What's he got that I haven't?"

The discussions were not so loud as to disturb the children but firm and frightening never the less.

"Wolf. Don't do this!" Her mother would retort and plead, "Just don't. You know why. We were never 'in love' in the first place. I was young, you were stupid...we both were stupid. It was convenient, we only married to get me into the country, then...I didn't mean to get pregnant. I didn't mean to have anything more than a convenient relationship. I never meant for any of this!"

"What about the kids?"

She could hear the dejection in his voice. He was a good man, a solid man, a hard working man. Leisl's ears pricked as she removed the pillow and edged closer to the bedroom door, the sounds above oozing through the cracks like crude and drowning her in suffocating sludge.

"We only married because of Leisl. It was a stop-gap at best. I tried, I really tried but I just can't do it any more." The sound of her mother's sobs punctuated by a slap and a short audible wince.

She, she? Was she the cause of all this? Leisl sank to her knees and began to sob. Her mother didn't love her. Love was all she held for this woman who had been there for her every triumph, her every failure. The woman who enveloped her, doted on her. The woman who's European beauty she wanted to emulate. The woman she wanted to be in just a few years time. Elegant, stylish . . .a woman who drew stares and attention. The woman who styled her hair, complemented her looks, taught her how to dress, apply make-up. Being attractive was important to her mother, herself a beauty, trapped in the role of wife, strangled by the role of mother. They were more like sisters. Or so Leisl had come to believe. Was it all a sham? All a faux display of affection?

The departure of her mother was the beginning of a slide into drunkenness for Wolf, a signal for change in Carl, and a spiralling into insecurity for Leisl. The beginning of a journey to find herself through spurious means. The beginning of obsession, neediness and an overwhelming desire to be loved. As her mother blamed Leisl for the devastation of her marriage, Leisl blamed her mother for a series of failed relationships and awkward fumbles. Leisl blamed her mother for her promiscuousness, her loneliness. Leisl blamed her father for allowing her mother to leave, for his weakness and lack of intestinal fortitude, for not loving her enough. It became her mission to find love in all the wrong places and for all the wrong reasons.

After the announcement, she dealt with the news by seeking affection elsewhere. The first of her 16 year-old crushes, was Mal Steadman. She had no trouble gaining his interest. A glance in class, a bend over a dropped book, a sideways smile, the bite of a bottom lip. He noticed her but said nothing.

A shallow but handsome youth, two years her senior, Steadman played Aussie Rules and trained each Tuesday and Thursday after school. With her mother no longer at home, a father working until late, all she had to do was turn up at footy training with her entourage of hangers-on.  She'd put Carl on the bus as usual but didn't accompany him on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

"You'll be fine!" she reassured him as she pushed him up the steps. "Just go home, I'll be home in a bit."

The crestfallen look on his face didn't faze her. She needed something, love, affection, attention. She couldn't put her finger on it but the need burned like a lit cigarette against her sternum, distracting her from any sense of guilt in ushering her younger brother onto the bus. His protestations and tears at first, soon gave way to reluctant resignation and he complied.

She'd sit on the steel bench, facing the oval while Steadman and his team practised drop kicks and scissor steps. She'd place herself strategically on the sun-warmed aluminium bench, legs spread just a little so that when he bent exhausted, hands on his knees, he had a good view if he glanced sideways. For a while, he never did. But after seeing her there for a third training session, he tilted his head towards her. Her intentions were clear, or so he thought.

Post session, he walked over.

"Hey, you're Leisl Stensl right?" His skin was tanned and glistening. Sweat discolouration on the chest of his grey T-shirt testimony to the evening heat and the intensity of the training session.

"I am," she replied, crossing shapely tanned legs and leaning forward, elbow on her knee, hand on her chin to reveal a tantalising lace trim enveloping shapely breasts for a girl her age. "And you?"

"Mal...Mal Steadman. We're in the same PE class.  What you doin' here?"

"Missed my bus again, just biding time waiting for the next."

Her head tilts provocatively. She's not sure where she learned these wiles but they came with ease. Too much television perhaps, too many romantic novels, instinct, need. However, she learned, she was good at engaging the attention of boys, and deliciously tempting.

"It's getting dark. The buses only run every hour after six. I have a car, I can drop you?"

Bingo! The invitation was worth watching three nights of training. This would be it, this would be the one who would take her, love her, be with her. She could hardly contain her excitement.

The 20 minute trip seemed to last for hours. He flirted, chatted, talked AFL and of being 'someone' in the game once he was scouted. She feigned interest and waxed lyrical about passes and athleticism. He complemented her looks, her legs, her pretty face. She put her hand beneath his thigh as they pulled up outside her house.

"Can I see you again?" The question now moot, Steadman was confident of a positive response.

She planted a firm kiss on the third eye spot on his forehead, "Of course, Friday night? "

He took his face in her hands and kissed her gently on the mouth. The blood rushed to places she'd only felt herself, before she pulled away, slid seductively from the car and peered from a closing door, "See you Friday, 7pm."

The relationship, if you could call it that, was brief. She lost her virginity that night with little persuasion from Mal. The 'date', if you could call it that, was little more than a park by the oval. A quick fumble and a premature ejaculation. The discomfort of dampness and the sound of him pulling up his pants and zipping them in the driver's seat. No picnic, no banter, just disappointment.  He never as much as called her after that. She phoned, left messages, pleaded on Facebook. He never answered her calls and ultimately unfriended her. She challenged him in the corridor at school, he pushed her aside. 

"Leave it slut!" He'd barked, then vulgarly gesticulated with gyrating hips to the giggling bunch of boys forming his entourage as they disappeared into the gym locker room.

"So what was she like?" Errol McIntyre had little chance of finding out himself. The acne pocked youth with a bum-fluff chin relied on Internet porn and glossy magazines in a quiet bathroom for his jollies.

"Awesome." Mal, again gesticulating with his hand against his left cheek, his tongue extending a penile simulation in his right.

"She went down on  you?"

"Several times before we fucked like rabbits! You should have a crack, she's got great tits!"

The boys laugh and in unison raised their hands in a triumphant high five,  "Yeh, love to tap that!"

Less than a month later, Mal Steadman had made the news. Not as an upcoming AFL star but as a cold corpse in a body bag. Found in his father's garage, the engine of the car running as monoxide fumes curled from the narrow gap beneath a locked roller door, as menacing as the boy's own last breath. A note was found grasped tight in his hand with just two words scrawled and barely identifiable:

"I'm sorry."

By the time she was 22, Leisl's string of failed relationships had little impact on her heart. She was oblivious to the disparagement levelled by others. Even her reputation as the 'town bike', was unknown to her. Sex was just a way of proving she loved, proving she had value. Her body was a weapon and she used it to seduce and attract, but rarely to sustain. She would gain affection through any means possible. Attracting men had never been a problem, her figure now well curved in contrast to it's girlish form during high school, she took good care of herself. She attended a gym regularly, cared for her complexion. Dressed neatly if not a little seductively and valued her shining hair and flawless skin. Her hazel eyes wide and always lined with a smudge of kohl and lashings of mascara drew men in, as did her lips, her hips, her ease within their embrace. She was a 'hot chick'. But men only needed such a woman for one thing. Her conversation was often vacuous, her lack of academic ability blatant. She'd never grown out of the 16 year old, despite now owning the body of a fully-fledged siren.

A string of disappointing romances were not her fault, or so she had convinced herself. She was unlucky and just chose the wrong men. Users, abusers, those who thought her needy, stupid or both. She, in her own mind was neither. The right one would come, soon. She just had to keep the faith, remain tanned, taught and attractive. Yes, the right one would come soon enough, even if it was from unexpected quarters.


Now a hair stylist in her hometown salon, she'd mastered the art of gossip with patrons, read enough magazines to know which celebrities were doing what, been to enough clubs to know the moves, the drinks and the pick-up lines. Allowed enough men to touch and violate her body to 'work the room'. Had enough Facebook friends to sate the quiet nights at home and to flirt outrageously online. And there was Carl. She always had Carl. He was her rock, always there when she needed him.

"So how come a pretty girl like you doesn't have a boyfriend?" Mrs Slater, a regular at the salon asked, without really caring about the answer.

"Oh I have boyfriends, they just don't seem to last. My first, committed suicide."  Leisl states blandly without expression. "The second had a terrible car accident and is virtually a vegetable. There have been a few in between but they're gone now. There was a babe a few months back that I really thought was 'the one' but, he just got what he wanted and left. Broke my heart actually. He joined the Army and was killed in Afghanistan." 

The expression on her face barely noticeable as her wide smile admired her own handiwork.

Her client's ears pricked, "Really? Oh my, that's so sad, just awful! What was his name?"

Leisl remained unfazed, unmoved, "Do you want a fringe or shall I sweep it to the side?"

Mrs Slater continued, "My son is in Afghanistan, he's coming home next week. Where did your sweetheart serve?"

"Oh, I can't remember the name. I can't even say those foreign city's names."

Mrs Slater began to reel off some of the allied bases in that God forsaken place, "Tarin Kowt, Shah Wali Kot, Asad, Kandahar?"

Leisl, gave a blind stare into the mirror, avoiding her client's gaze. 

"I really don't know. So what's your son doing there?"

The line of questioning diverted, Mrs Slater continued to chat away about her son and his military service. The  words bounced around the curls being trimmed making no impact on her stylist who was totally absorbed in the aesthetic.

"That's nice..." is all Leisl volunteered. "Would you like it blow dried?" 

Leg-sore, emotional and tired with the day's interrogations. Leisl opens the front door to her father's house where she, and a now grown Carl remain.

"Anyone home?"

Carl calls out from the TV room and promptly shuts off  Call of Duty Special Ops, the light of his life has returned and she takes precedence - over everything.

"Here, in the family room!" Carl rises, wearing board shorts, his newly chiseled body rippling with muscle and sun kissed skin.

She finds him standing and as he moves to embrace her, she bursts into tears. 

"Fuck Carl! What's wrong with me? Why can't I keep a man? Why do they run, die, disappear?"

He folds her in his now well-muscled arms. At 18, he's grown some in height and regular work-outs at the gym have seen him develop significantly in stature. Still baby-faced with an awkward lop sided smile. He's cute with piercing green/hazel eyes and tightly cropped blonde hair. His skin smelling sweet from a recent shower, he kisses her tenderly on her neck.  A little too tenderly but they're close and she doesn't mind.

"Hush now, you'll find the one. Soon, I promise. Until then, you always have me." 

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 5
Continued in: Alone Never Felt So Crowded