Authors: Shannon Lamb
By: Shannon Amene Lamb
Edited By: Kelly Gallagher
Artwork By: Deena Salzman
©2016 by Shannon Amene Lamb
© Edited by Kelly Gallagher
© Artwork by Deena Salzman
“Between the Lines” Trilogy:
“Conplexus” Coming Soon
Chapter 1: Atypical Day
Chapter 2: What Lies in The Shadows
Chapter 3: The Umbra
Chapter 4: The Castle of Quinque
Chapter 5: Friend or Foe
Chapter 6: Mysteries of Milités
Chapter 7: Isabel
Chapter 8: Fight or Flight
Chapter 9: Baggage
Chapter 10: Secrets
Chapter 11: Royal Rump
Chapter 12: Running Rampant
Chapter 13: Exploitation or Epidemic?
Chapter 14: According to Plan
Chapter 15: Sad Endings and New Beginnings
Chapter 16: Preparation and Perspiration
Chapter 17: Sweating Bullets
Chapter 18: Stalemate
Chapter 19: Maze to Aemilius
Chapter 20: Reunited
Chapter 21: Blood Bonds
Chapter 22: Bone Deep
Chapter 23: Two-Faced
Chapter 24: From the Cradle to the Grave
Chapter 25: Homecoming Queen
t was a hot summer evening in the quiet countryside. Quaker Springs was a small village tucked away in the mountains of upstate New York, safe from the congestion and buildup of neighboring cities. The moon hung low and the air charged with warmth, drawing beads of sweat from Marie Waller’s furrowed brow. As always, she was deep in thought.
She lay on her back porch, basking in the peaceful scene as she listened to the gentle lull of crickets and imagined life in the stars. Fireflies danced overhead, creating a magical ambiance with their carefree gambol as they glittered amidst the foliage. Meanwhile, hordes of bats fluttered through the treetops with the rustle of papery wings, determined to catch the twinkling lights bobbing along the horizon.
A cool breeze swept over the land as softly as a sigh, raking tendrils of relief through the lush, grassy hills of the mountainous landscape and spilling over Marie’s warm flesh like honey. She let out a blissful sigh and relaxed her body.
She spent her entire day looking forward to this. Five days a week, she wasted her youth at a mundane nine-to-five job. She worked as an appointed customer service rep at Dexter’s Deals, where she dealt with slews of unsatisfied customers who seemed to think that yelling at
would fix whatever problem
By the end of the work day, she felt drained. Mentally exhausted from the sheer boredom of her unremarkable existence. She spent the entire day feigning interest in strangers’ affairs as she counted the minutes, eager to get home to her picturesque cottage that she shared with her best friend, Amelia Wright.
Amelia was studying to be a doctor. School kept her pretty busy, though she was known to make time to indulge in the occasional binge drinking when the academic stress became a bit too much. Marie and Amelia didn’t see much of each other these days, nor did they see eye to eye on much of anything lately.
On the scarce occasions they had free time at the same time, they spent it zoned out in front of the television. They got on each other’s nerves an awful lot these days over the most minute, insignificant issues. Submersing themselves in mindless activities seemed to be the only way to evade fighting. It was a pity, for she and Amelia used to be very close, and their relationship once brought Marie much needed comfort.
Marie couldn’t help but wonder if she was being biased, but it seemed like her roommate was
cranky. Her bad moods ranged in intensity while she constantly spun out of control on a rollercoaster of emotions. Despite Amelia’s incessant inner turmoil and unpredictable swings, one thing that Marie could always rely on was that she was
in a good mood. Too afraid of change, Marie continued to put up with it. She had nowhere else to go.
Amelia’s moodiness was a contributing factor in Marie’s automatic evasion and retreat to the back porch. As soon as she arrived home, she greeted her tabby cat Lunaroo, traded her work clothes for pajamas, and spent the rest of the evening daydreaming while Amelia spent it avoiding her.
There was nothing Marie loved more than stargazing. The stars were full of questions and possibility. She desperately longed to venture into a world of the unknown, but lacked the courage that seemed to come so easily to others. As she lay there, trying to discern different shapes among the clouds, her mind began to wander.
She wanted more than anything to become a writer. She had the drive and desire to create, but could never find the right words. She could weave worlds left and right, create the most diversely entertaining characters, and foresee twists and turns that would keep her readers on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, when she sat down to write, something always got lost in translation when the information traveled from her brain to her fingertips.
She felt blocked. Mute. Discouraged. It was maddening! She longed to be so much more than she was and knew she had the potential, but was absolutely paralyzed by fear. She let out a sad sigh as she shifted uncomfortably on the deck.
Marie was constantly searching for ways to fill an endless void that grew larger every day, consuming her sanity with its voracious expansion. She was convinced that there was more to life than the feeling of constantly running in circles. There had to be.
Her concentration was suddenly broken when she heard a rustling in the woods a fairly short distance away. She took note of it, but was far from concerned.
In the country, it was nothing out of the ordinary to hear leaves rustling about. The noise was most likely a small critter or a gust of wind snaking through the trees. While she had no intention of approaching it, she had no intention of running, either. She brushed it off, assuming her biggest threat was a frightened skunk.
She heard the noise again. It was much closer this time. She shot up and listened in strained silence as her muscles grew rigid beneath her chilled skin. She bristled instantly when she heard the noise a third time. This time it was much louder, signifying a larger creature than she’d anticipated.
At first, she tried to ignore it. She hoped that if she pretended not to hear it, whatever creature
was making such a ruckus would see that she posed no threat, and desist and retreat.
The noise grew louder and more frantic. It grew much too close for Marie’s comfort, and at an alarmingly fast speed, as if something were charging at her. She jumped to her feet and let out a loud, awkward laugh in an attempt to fool whatever was out there into thinking it didn’t frighten her.
Contrary to her brief show of false bravado, she threw the sliding glass doors open with more force than necessary. She rushed inside, instantly slamming them shut and locking them. Marie wedged a nearby walking stick into the frame for good measure, and frenetically drew the vertical blinds closed. When she finally felt safe, she heaved a dramatic sigh imbued with relief.
“What’s so funny?” Amelia’s voice tickled Marie’s already frazzled nerves, making her jump.
“I didn’t hear you get in,” she laughed.
“You never do,” Amelia chuckled. “Always have your head in the clouds.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Marie rolled her eyes. “I’m going to go try to get some writing done.” She felt invigorated – which was extremely rare – and needed to get the feeling down on paper.
“Still working on that novel, eh? It’s been what, five years now? Ten? I’ve lost count.”
“You don’t need to be a jerk about it,” Marie grumbled as she trudged off to her room, slamming the door behind her.
Any inspiration Marie had originally felt just a moment ago to sit down and write had dissipated completely. Amelia wasn’t a particularly malicious person, but Marie considered her sense of humor harsh and rarely funny, seeing as it was usually aimed at her.
I guess I’ll just lie down for a little while and think about what I even want to write.
Marie fell back onto the bed and heaved a distressed sigh. That statement usually meant she would lie in bed for hours, thinking about anything
writing, until she eventually trailed off to sleep. This night was no different than the rest.
The next morning started just like any other for Marie. She took a quick shower and got dressed in her work clothes, which usually consisted of a pair of pleated black slacks and whatever button-up was lying around and wasn’t too horribly wrinkled. She skipped breakfast – as always – because she hit
on the alarm clock one too many times. She headed to her car with battered resolve, letting out a deep sigh in anticipation of yet another boring day of work. It felt like all she did was sigh.
As she made her way down the cracked pavement, she noticed something sparkling in her periphery. She made a beeline for the glittering object, thinking that perhaps it was a lost earring or something of the sort. She seemed to be constantly purchasing earrings only to possess one complete pair, so the idea wasn’t too far-fetched. As she knelt down to examine the object, she realized that it wasn’t jewelry at all. It was a feather.
It was unlike any feather Marie had ever seen. It mirrored the paisley pattern of a peacock feather, with the most vibrant, incandescent blues of the likes she’d never seen. But that’s not what made it so different. It had an iridescent sheen and strands of silver woven into the gamut of blues. The combination practically glowed, taking Marie’s breath away. She pocketed the feather and headed back toward her car so she could be on her way.
Marie examined the feather every second someone wasn’t popping their head into her suffocating cubicle and wasting oxygen, as far as she was concerned. She spent most of her time at work on the phone and was rather standoffish, so people usually didn’t bother her unless they had a question about something. After another eight hour day of grueling customer service, Marie headed home. When she pulled into the driveway, Amelia’s silver, rusted ‘95 Dodge Neon was already there.
“I’m home,” Marie announced as she threw her bag on the floor.
Why does she always have to be so snide?
“I found something really neat today.” She plopped down on the loveseat and turned to Amelia.
“Oh?” Amelia inquired without lifting her gaze from her textbook.
“I found this beautiful feather…”
“A feather?” Amelia gasped. “Wow!”
“No need to be sarcastic,” she snapped. “If you saw it, you’d know what I mean! It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” She reached into her pocket to pull out the feather, but she couldn’t feel it. She frantically turned her pockets inside out searching for it, but all she turned up was a few pieces of lint. “I guess I must’ve lost it,” she frowned, turning her pockets back in. Amelia shook her head and put all of her focus back into her book, making it quite obvious she wanted to be left alone. Marie’s face hardened into a scowl as she jumped up from the couch and headed to her room.
Amelia couldn’t help but feel the slightest twinge of guilt as she watched Marie slump her shoulders and slam the door. They got along so well as children. Any differences they had then could easily be solved with the procuring of a cheap friendship necklace and an empty promise.
They were different people now. Their lives were headed in opposite directions. Marie was going nowhere, and Amelia was going to make something of herself. With a resigned sigh, she put her attention back into her book and forced herself to focus. If mending the rift was as simple as buying a trinket, Amelia would’ve done so a long time ago.
Marie grabbed a notebook and pencil and sat down at the tiny desk in the corner of her room. She contemplated what to write as she rhythmically tapped the pencil on the edge of the desk. After an hour of deep meditation and incessant drumming, the only thing she got out of it was a couple of lines she was unsure of. Chances are, she’d come back tomorrow with a critical and unforgiving eye, look them over a few times, and end up erasing them.
Marie thought that perhaps a short break to clear her mind would help; though a break from
, she wasn’t sure. She pushed herself away from her desk and headed toward the backdoor through the kitchen. Amelia didn’t even lift her gaze from her book to see what she was doing. This was all pretty routine for Marie.
She immersed herself in fanciful daydreams as she traced shapes among the stars. This was, without a doubt, the best part of living in the country. It was inconvenient in several other ways, but it was well worth it to live away from all the smog and chaos of the city, and to have such a clear view of the majestic heavens above.
The stars always made her feel inspired, no matter how weary and worn down she felt before turning to them. They were her instant calm. She loved picking out the different constellations and going over the stories they held. Her favorite constellation was
: The story of the mad King and the sad Queen. Marie picked out the constellation and began going over the story in her head.
King Xenos and Queen Evangeline ruled the galaxy of Chi To Kagé. Their kingdom was endowed with endless riches, and their people were as content as could be. However, no matter how much the kingdom flourished and prospered, the King could not make his Queen smile.
He showered her with endless jewels and precious metals, personalized sonnets and court jesters, rare pets and exotic foods, and all the sentiments he could utter. No matter what the King offered his Queen, she would not smile.
One day, Queen Evangeline found that she was pregnant with a son, and the King saw a smile light her face for the first time since she’d come to his kingdom. He soon gave her another son, followed by two daughters.
The Queen loved her children very much, and spent every waking moment showering them with all of her attention, leaving the King starved for her affections.
Over time, Xenos grew jealous of his own children. All he had wanted was for his Queen to give him her heart just as he had given his, but it seemed their children were the only thing she loved, and there was no place for him.