Lost, oil on board by Nancie Warner

Rush Hour

Annoyed, Sam struggled to read his newspaper in the cramped train car; the D. C. Metro ride was as bumpy and stomach-churning as a roller-coaster, without any of the fun. He sighed as a child seated nearby let out a siren-like scream; I feel your pain, buddy, but wish you’d shut up, he thought, glancing toward the distressing noise. A small boy in a navy stroller was knuckling teary eyes, his breathing hiccupy. Despite the bothersome prospect of more screams to come, Sam could feel the corners of his mouth turning up as he regarded the small, sturdy noisemaker. Cute kid, he thought. As he started to turn back to the origami folding project that was his paper, he caught the eye of the child’s mother, seated just in front of him on one of the aisle-facing seats—and was shocked to see that it was Sarah, his ex-wife. He felt himself tense, despite the years since their divorce.


“Fancy meeting you here,” he said, limply.

She, too, was obviously surprised. “It’s been, what, five years?” she said, beginning to fuss with the stroller.

“Something like that. Cute boy.” He bent forward to meet the boy at eye level. “How old are you?”

“Tree ina half.”

“Wow, all grown up.” Sam looked from the boy to Sarah. “This is a surprise.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” She straightened the boy’s rucked-up sweater. “I guess even I had to grow up. Admit it was okay to have—even to want—kids.”

The Metro car lurched again, causing arms to flail for the handrails and people to rock and bump against one another like paper lanterns. Sam reached down to steady the stroller, and for a moment the present dissolved and he was back in one of their usual arguments.

“What’s wrong with having kids?” he’d say.

“Nothing’s wrong with it, I just don’t think I want any of my own,” she’d answer, anger in her voice.

Our own you mean. As in our children.”

It was her saying “my own,” instead of “our” that hurt as much as anything. It was a flag raised that let him know that she was changing, slipping away. He had wanted their marriage, complete with children, so very much. She said that children were a “burden on the environment.” She also said, often and angrily, that no matter what, women still changed most of the diapers, cleaned up most of the messes, dealt with tantrums. He had tried to argue then; eventually, however, that argument had pulled them too far apart.

“This is my stop.” She fiddled with the baby’s paraphernalia, looked up at Sam, who was coming out of his reverie. “It was nice to see you again. Hope everything is going well for you. I’ll see … well, bye,” she said. She pushed the carriage toward the door, weaving through the crowds pressing to get in and out. A large man plunged into the car before Sarah could exit, elbowing her and knocking one of her hands off the the stroller. One small, white rubber wheel got stuck in between the platform and the car. Sarah struggled to free it, yanking on the stroller, which remained stuck. Sam could see the wave of panic register on her face. He crossed over to her, reached down, and lifted the stroller, stepping off the train. By the time he set down and steadied the stroller, with its small inhabitant, the train was leaving.

“Oh, God. Thanks so much” Sarah said. “I’m sorry; you’ve missed your train.”

“It’s okay. Always another. Need a hand? Can I help you get outside? I’m not in any hurry tonight,” Sam was worried that he was rambling, or sounding desperate. He just found himself wanting to look at the boy a bit longer.

Outside, the springtime wind playing with their hair, Sam remembered how Sarah’s short black hair had once been long. And as the wind flirted with their clothing, he couldn’t help noticing her breasts; fuller and a little lower than in their days together. A slight roundness in her middle. She looked beautiful.

“So. How are you?” He asked, feeling an uncomfortable mix of anger and wistfulness toward her—and feeling annoyed with himself. Why hadn’t he gotten further along in his own life?

“Fine, fine. I, well, you know I married Richard. And this is Max.” Sarah met Sam’s eyes for a second then turned toward the child, smoothing an imaginary wrinkle in his tiny blue jeans.

“I can’t believe you actually… I’m glad everything is going well.” Seeing Sarah with Max was stirring something in Sam. “I guess I should let you get to wherever you’re going,” he said, then glanced at his watch, without really noticing the time. “I’ve got to meet a client in a little while, but would you like to get a cup of coffee or something?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I don’t want to keep you.”

“It wouldn’t. I’m a little early, really.”

“No. Look, I think I’d better just get home. Work has been tiring, and I just picked him up from daycare. Thanks, though.”

Sam watched her go, feeling suddenly relieved that she hadn’t said yes. He walked up the small hill leading away from the Dupont Circle exit, past the taverns and shops that lined Connecticut Avenue. He ducked into a shop—a fragrant bazaar of coffees, dark, light, rich, warm—ordered a small black coffee, and sat down, feeling a little shaken. The old desire for children washed over him, and he thought of Holly. Both in their thirties, they’d been living together for about six months, and he thought things were good. Sam knew she wanted children eventually, but he wasn’t so sure about whether she wanted to get married. He’d been afraid to ask her. He shivered and shook himself a little, feeling as if he were awakening after a long, foggy sleep. He walked down R Street, past the elaborate Victorian townhouses, over to Mass Ave., past the Indian Embassy and the Cosmos Club, across the Q Street bridge, and home.

“Hey you, what’s up?” Holly called from her office in their two-bedroom condo.

“You’re early.”

“Client meeting canceled,” Sam said.

“I’ll be done here in a minute. I don’t think we have any food around, though.”

“We’ve got to stop living like grad students. I don’t think I’ll be able to avoid the huge belly syndrome if we order one more pizza.”

“I know,” she said. “And there will be far too much of me to hold on to if we keep on eating like kids. Let’s run up to Whole Foods and get something decent. As an appetizer, we can nibble our way through the cheese section. Let’s cook up something good.”

Sam felt his mood changing. An unexpected wave of gratitude washed over him. Once again, he felt a sense of interior time-traveling—only now he was looking toward the future. Maybe this is what Scrooge felt like the moment he awoke from his harrowing dream-visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He realized that he’d been drifting, just letting things happen without thinking about the future. Holly and he were both so busy that sometimes days or even weeks would go by without much conversation of any depth. Now Sam felt a jolt of happiness: this is just right. This. Us. What an amazing woman she is, he thought. He could picture her closing down her computer, raking her hand through her short, red curls, making a list of things to do for work tomorrow. She was a wizard with lists. Maybe one day she’d put “marry Sam” on one of them. Maybe he’d beat her to it. Soon. He smiled at himself, shook his head.

Whole Foods was one of their favorite pseudo-date places. They’d met there, in fact. About a year earlier they’d both reached for the same scrap of bread while foraging for samples. Now, Holly consulted her hastily drawn up list while Sam searched for samples of their favorite foods. He moved through the store, found a tidbit of cheese or bread or cookie, and brought the spoils back to Holly. Urban hunter. Holly filled their basket with bread, fish, lemon, greens, tiny potatoes. “There. Done,” she said, turning to smile at Sam.

Smiling back, Sam was again struck by his good fortune in having met her and felt a rush of tenderness toward her. “God, I love you.”

Much later, in bed, he traced the contours of Holly’s body as they curled up together. He ran a finger across the concave bowl of her belly, marveling at her soft skin. His hand moved up, gently smoothing her skin, and rested just below her breast. She had a lovely body—he could feel himself getting hard as he held her. The amber streetlight came through the windows, and Holly’s skin glowed, warm and beautiful. Sam cupped one small breast, quietly amazed at the fact of her. She stirred and tucked closer to him, closing her eyes. He shifted around, tucked the covers around them both as he drew her closer, held her snugly, and tried to imagine what it might feel like to cradle her pregnant belly in his hands.

“Marry me,” he whispered, into her hair, into the silent room.

Journey to Everland Bay
by Lynne Shaner
    Jemma Avalon is an unconventional mage-in-training, longing to return to Everland Bay, her ancestral homeland, and find a way to join the renowned magical research institute there, like the women in her family before her. Daughter of a gentle part elf-fae mother and a father with fiery dragon blood, an unusual combination even in the magical world, ten years after her mother's sudden death, she is working at a major museum in DC, where magic is all but outlawed. Her father wants her to assimilate and live without magic, but Jemma is determined to fully embrace her heritage. When an ordinary day at the museum takes an extraordinary turn, Jemma is rocketed to an Everland Bay Institute under violent siege, where dark-arts mages threaten everything important to her. She joins forces with her companions, working feverishly to save Everland Bay from crumbling under enemy attack. In so doing, she finds a path to her own strength and mastery, and her heart’s true home A Heroine’s Journey tale for our times. “A beautifully engaging fantasy teeming with dragons, fae, magic, and the importance of family and friendship. A joy to read from beginning to end.” — Julie Boglisch, The Elifer Chronicles
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An experienced editor, Lynne Shaner holds a master’s degree in creative writing/fiction from Johns Hopkins University. Her first novel, Journey to Everland Bay, was recently published (Black Rose Writing). Lynne lives in Whitefish Bay WI, with her husband, Dave, and her magical pup, Merlin. When not writing, she can be found reading and knitting in her garden, where she grows herbs, flowers, and story ideas. Her work has appeared in The Raven’s Perch and other literary magazines.
Nancie Warner has a long career in painting. The irony, dilemmas, and mysteries of living as a human are what interest her and motivate her work. She lives on a bayou in Freeport, Florida, and enjoys gardening.

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