Secondary Characters Speak Out: Quartz and Gabrielle

Quartz sits in a chair, fidgeting with his cap, his waistcoat, and his beard, unable to look directly at the woman sitting across from him. He’s completely non-plussed by her. 

Gabrielle allows long, flowing skirts to spread across her feet, hiding her legs, distracting the eye with the weave on the brown lace, a pattern of chickens and smiley faces. Over those skirts she wears a forest-green frock coat with smiley faces as buttons. Neither of these details are the most startling thing about her. 

What draws the eye, what Quartz can’t stop staring at, only to look away and fiddle with his own clothing is Gabrielle’s head. It may have once been a green top hat which matched her coat, but the top part has carved in. A chicken emerges from the hollow, a chicken unfurling her white wing, her beak open in a frozen, aggressive squawk. One claw is raised, poisoned to attack. 

Quartz: (He opens his mouth, closes it, opens it again.) I’d think you’d be worried about your head. That…what is that? 

Gabrielle: That? (reaching up to touch the claw with a fearlessness that makes Quartz feel a tiny bit of awe) That is the Devourer. 

Quartz: The Devourer? It looks like a ruddy chicken!

Gabrielle: (lowering her hand to her lap) Yes, well, the survivors of mystical damage can say what they like about Time devouring all things. I can’t argue, but I’d say a chicken does a ruddy good job, to use your words, at devouring whatever she can. Such as spiders. 

Quartz: Got a problem with spiders, eh?

Gabrielle: One seduced a friend of mine into accepting her as religion along with a lot of other women. They’ve become part of the spider’s court, priestesses to her pretensions of godhood. Now that same spider is using the same friend to stalk three of the boys at the Navel. Yes, spider have given me a measure of grief, although I can’t interfere with this particular spider’s game. Not when her worshippers…and prey…offer themselves to her willingly. Not as long as I’m proprietor of the Navel. 

Quartz: Huh, that sounds ruddy complicated, yet a far more practical reason for your chicken than I thought. Here I thought you just wore it to be weird.

Gabrielle: Isn’t it weird, though? (She preens as if Quartz offered her a lovely compliment.) I’m quite pleased with this hat. 

Quartz: Err, yes, very…bizarre. Fits right in with your shop’s catch phrase, the Navel being the center of everything bizarre. 

Gabrielle: And I try very hard to be worthy of that description. 

Quartz: Just what do you sell at this shop of yours?

Gabrielle: Hmm, I wouldn’t say the Navel’s business is to sell things. More to return what belongs to their rightful owners.

Quartz: So it’s a charity or a place for the lost and found?

Gabrielle: The latter, definitely. The former, no. There’s a price for taking an item from the Navel. Often it’s simply facing the consequences for losing it in the first place. 

Quartz: Not sure I understand that at all. (He considers the matter for a moment.) Not sure if I want to. 

Gabrielle: You’re wiser than most, Quartz. I’m not sure I want to completely understand the Navel myself. Why spoil the mystery?

Quartz: Spoil the mystery, eh?

Gabrielle: I’ll try to explain a little. Take Tarot cards. They’re painted images which can mean a number of things, conveying a general meaning. That meaning doesn’t come into focus until a particular reader interacts with the cards with their thoughts and questions. It’s the same with the Navel. An object doesn’t come into focus until a customer opens the shop’s door, drawn there by a need they may not even be aware of. The object they discover in the Navel…or that the Navel’s people locate…represents that need. 

Quartz: And this object can be anything?

Gabrielle: Well, there are some items on our shelves we’re always aware of. Like Damian’s art and my chicken-headed Devourers. Some things appear in the Navel when a particular customer opens the door. We’re always well-stocked with tea when Juno visits; a powerful, calm-inducing blend of dried leaves, herbs and spices capable of drugging a god. Or old-fashioned cups whenever Hebe comes calling…she always asks for a different one. 

Quartz: Sounds like the Navel has regulars. Regulars whom always ask for the same thing when they walk in. 

Gabrielle: Yes, but sometimes a stranger enters the shop, a stranger who’s found themselves in Omphalos (our town) drawn by a need for something in the Navel. Something which appears when they enter. 

Quartz: You mentioned that sometimes the Navel’s people help find whatever the customer wants…or needs. These people include Christopher, right?

Gabrielle: Oh, yes. My son, like all the rest of us is drawn to the section of the shop where our customers need us to go. 

Quartz: You call Christopher your son, but didn’t he just walk into your store one day?

Gabrielle: Didn’t your daughter just collapse on your doorstep when you found her?

Quartz: Heh, you got me. Notice you didn’t deny it. 

Gabrielle: Why should I? I’ve given a lot of thought to how I met Christopher. I’ve wondered if the Navel itself didn’t provide me with someone I needed, even if I didn’t realize it, by having Christopher walk through its door.

Quartz: Only I thought it was Damian Ashelocke who brought Christopher to you. 

Gabrielle: Damian is still an employee of the Navel and a good one whether he wishes to admit it or not. 

Quartz: You’re saying Damian acted on an impulse inspired by the Navel when he thought of Christopher becoming your son? I thought it was to achieve his own goals. 

Gabrielle: Why couldn’t the two have been in alignment, the Navel and Damian in their choice of Christopher? Strange things have happened. 

Quartz: Sounds bizarre. 

Gabrielle: You yourself said it. (She smiles a bright smile.) The Navel is the center of all things bizarre. 

Quartz: Right. (He doesn’t sound quite so sure of himself this time.) That wasn’t the kind of bizarre I was expecting.

Gabrielle: It seldom is. (Her smiles never wavers)

Quartz: Not sure if you’ve convinced me. All this could be humbug. 

Gabrielle: I get that reaction a lot, too. Particularly from Damian…well, I used to get it from Damian. (She finally loses her smile, dropping her attention to her hands.)

Quartz: Sorry about that. Damian was like a son, too, wasn’t he?

Gabrielle: Damian was many things, all of them important. I could never convince him of that. 

Quartz: Once again I’m sorry. (clears his throat) He’ll be back. Christopher seems determined to bring him back and Christopher is a force to be reckoned with. (He leans forward.) Don’t tell him I said that. 

Gabrielle: (grinning) Your secret is safe with me. Thank you.

Quartz: (mutters something under his breath, looks down at his buttons with a red nose) It’s nothing. 


#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from different LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

For mine, Phaedra will continue once more with A Symposium in Space before taking her leave. Since it’s the holiday season, I’d like to share from my f/f fairy tale within an f/f holiday story; Wind Me Up, One More Time, told by a child and her stuffed Theodora Bear…but I’ll start that next week. 😉

Women could hand over their ova to a fetus creche, where it could be grown in warm fluid filled with all the essential nutrients needed to develop it. This was a much more comfortable way of having a child than going through pregnancy. 

I wondered if we hadn’t lost something in abandoning the rite of childbirth. I’d never known my mother, not really. I’d been raised by Timea, my mother’s assistant, and a number of maternal substitutes. 

My own mother had been too busy to bother with me. Donating her ova to a fetal creche had been her way of being gracious enough to offer her superior genes to society. 

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Paula’s Prompts: Seven Tricks Freebie Story

On May 27, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving an itchy back, cheese, and a loud conversation.

This freebie story for my holiday tale, Seven Tricks was the result…

That cheese was within paw’s reach or his name wasn’t Cheesecurd. The problem was so was the cat. The one with the pink nose covered with gray and white fur as if he was a mouse, too, as if anyone could mistake a fanged beast like that for a mouse. The cat sat in the lap of one of several large humans enjoying the cheese. The one holding the beast pet the cat with its huge, ugly hairless paws as if the creature had an itchy back. All of the humans talked in a very loud voices.

“Isn’t Tiddliwinks the most adorable kitty?” one of the humans crooned.

Sure. That monster was adorable. And Cheesecurd was a mouse prince. Not likely. Mouse princes were silly perverts who ran off with nutcrackers, leaving their queen distraught and the warren in a mess.

“Yes, although I have my hopes he’ll be better at catching mice than the rest of the cats are,” another giant rumbled.

Uh huh. As if any mouse worth his whiskers couldn’t outsmart a cat or steal a human’s cheese. Mice of truly legendary status were said to tame cats and make the beasts their slaves.

Problem was Cheesecurd was too lazy to be legendary. He’d had one famous exploit rolling in a cheesecurd, hence his name. His dive into sticky bliss was a story he’d shared in the warren, exaggerated a bit more each time, but that was his sole daring deed. Daring deeds were again for fool princes like Mousetrick, who lured their people out with the promise of gingerbread, only to get them drugged.

Maybe Cheesecurd wasn’t heroic but he wasn’t a fool. He wasn’t about to brave that cat for cheese. Only the capricious puss leaped off the human’s lap and stalked across the floor.

This could be his chance. Scamper up the leg of the table and nab that cheese.
Only that bloody cat had stopped and sniffing at the air. Only to spot him and stare at him with intense green eyes. Cheesecurd could see his reflection glittering within Tiddliwinks’s eyes.

This was it, the end of Cheesecurd. Would Madam Mousenip even miss him? It wasn’t fair, just because he didn’t have as pretty fur or pretty manners as Mousetrick. Mousetrick would have been nothing without him. Who was it who faced down that human and her gingerbread soldiers? Who was it whom had eaten those gingerbread soldiers? All right, he’d fallen asleep due to the poison baked in the gingerbread by that human, but he’d gone down in a good cause! All right, it had been a selfish cause but still! You didn’t see Mousetrick eating drugged gingerbread. He hadn’t even gotten to eat the cheese lying on that table.

Tiddliwinks closed his eyes, turned his back on him and walked away as if bored by Cheesecurd’s presence. Perhaps this particular mouse didn’t smell tasty enough for the beast.

Now that was simply rude. He was fat and juicy a great deal plumper than Mousetrick. How dare Tiddliwinks turn his fuzzy back on him! Cheesecurd hoped his whiskers got tangled and his paw stuck in a door. He hoped…

…what was he thinking? He’d just gotten a second chance at life! At the cheese on the table!

Now if only those fool humans would get up and leave.

If you’d like to read about the pervert of a mouse prince who ran off with a nutcracker, along with Cheesecurd’s own exploits (don’t expect to be too impressed by them), here are buy links…

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Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle, Part 3

Christopher returns the facing the veiled woman once more whom is Gabrielle, proprietor of the Navel…

Christopher: What else is in the Navel besides the poultry deities and Damian’s art?

Gabrielle: That’s where the weird and the bizarre truly kick in. People find whatever they’re searching for on the shelves even if they don’t know what they’re searching for.

Christopher: Yes, I’ve noticed that particular weirdness. A doll or a cup appears when a particular customer walks in, a doll or a cup I’ve never noticed before. The customer is drawn to them, even if they don’t know why. 

Gabrielle: And we, the servants of the Navel are drawn to the area of the store where the item is, once that customer is within our walls.

Christopher: Servants?

Gabrielle: Servants. Employees. Whichever word you prefer. We are there to serve the customers and the store.

Christopher: You’re the proprietor. Don’t you own the store?

Gabrielle: Yes, but the store also owns me. 

Christopher: Damian thought our purpose was to serve you. He was there to serve you, not the Navel. 

Gabrielle: Damian believed I was wasting my time in the Navel, serving customers who’d willingly thrown away a part of themselves, just waiting to give that part back in the form of some trinket. 

Christopher: He wanted you to be greater than that. He wanted to be something greater. 

Gabrielle: Greatness is overrated. Greatness means equally great mistakes. Much can be accomplished in small deeds and small things. 

Christopher: You sound like someone who’s brushed against greatness before and turned away from it. 

Gabrielle: There’s some truth to that. Greatness frightens me. It always had. It overwhelms and flattens everyone in its path like a natural disaster. I’d prefer to stick to what’s small and manageable, whatever I can accomplish at the Navel. (She cocks her head.) I wonder, though, if you weren’t getting restless, just as Damian did?

Christopher: No. I liked the Navel. I enjoyed the look of wonder people got when they found whatever they were looking for. Especially when it was followed by a smile. 

Gabrielle: I know exactly what you mean. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of LGBTQIA+ stories, go to…

For mine, Phaedra continue her train of thought through the herstory of the Intergalactic Democracy in A Symposium in Space

Most of those survivors had been colonists who were already creating revolutionary cultures, dependent on the terrain of their individual planets. 

Those colonists never forgot Ancient Earth or the lessons they’d learned from her suffering. Men became less and less a part of the new worlds rising in power and prosperity. 

Doctors learned ways to cultivate and clone sperm from existing samples which had been carried from Ancient Earth. A brilliant young scientist created something called sohm, a substitute for sperm which could be used to create a fetus. 

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#QueerBlogWed: Paula’s Prompts

On July 29, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving a cancelled celebration, a tea cup, a reflection.

This freebie story for my attempt in progress at a steampunk-esque ghost story, A Portrait Is Worth a Thousand Words, was the result…

I held the teacup in my hands, letting their warmth seep into my skin, only to look up.

Fiona had fixed surprisingly sharp green eyes upon me. For the first time, she seemed to be Elizabeth Hartford’s descendent.

“We ought to have a celebration in your honor, the lost Hartford heir.” My cousin tugged at her high lace collar in discomfort. She’d made an attempt to comb her hair, which hung down in wisps from a bun held together by pearl pins. She held her own tea cup in an awkward fashion as if unused to the gesture.

All of this was pretend, playing at being the lady of Hartford Hall. Only Fiona was the lady of Hartford Hall. Why did she seem as guilty as myself?

I glanced at my reflection in the parlor mirror, which captured the burgundy sofa, the chairs with clawed feet, a menacing chest of drawers covered with ancient demons and gods, topped with the fluffy, harmless porcelain figures of a dog, a shepherdess, a boy with long legs exposed by ribboned stockings. I sat amidst all of this on one of the clawed chairs, a silver tea set accompanied by floral china separating Fiona and myself. It took me a moment to recognize the girl in the mirror as myself. Her honey-colored hair held back with a burgundy ribbon, her long velvet skirt, and high-lace collar made her look like she belonged in this room, far more than Fiona did. She held her cup and saucer with more grace than Fiona did, gazing back at me with wide blue eyes filled with shock at my scrutiny, that I would even question her right to be there.

Everything about her was a lie. She was the true fake, not Fiona. I ought to know. I’d created the illusion of her appearance with a friend’s help.

“No need for ceremony,” I said, although I was secretly thrilled at the idea of having party here at Hartford Hall in my honor. “I’m just happy to be here.”

“Oh, good! I’ll cancel the celebration.” Fiona heaved a huge sigh of relief, breasts rising and pressing against the buttons of her blouse. I wondered how long it would take her to notice I didn’t have any. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to invite, nor is there any cause for celebration, no offense.” She took a hasty gulp of tea and put her cup and saucer down. “You’ll find out what I mean soon enough.”

“Am I not welcome here?” I put down my flowered cup, admiring the pattern on the side, the details of petals, the vines, the leaves. I folded my hands in my laps and allowed my gaze to travel over the paintings on the wall; landscapes, flowers, portraits of men, women, and children with melacholy faces. I was guessing the latter was Judith Cross’s work.

One regal, redhaired woman with an uplifted chin and an impatient curl to her lower lip dominated many a canvas, although it was nothing compared to the painting of Elizabeth hanging on the wall on the grand staircase.

“You yourself invited me,” I reminded Fiona with a touch of impatience, perhaps the same impatience Elizaeth showed so often in oils. “I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t, cousin.”

“I was merely the instrument to insure an invitation was issued to you, just as I am a puppet who speaks and acts for the true lady of the house.” Fiona folded her own hands, only to worry at a golden ring with an emerald on her right finger. “In a real way, the Lady Elizabeth lives on in this place. Her spirit dominates every room she once walked in when she was alive. Everyone in Hartford Hall is still under her dominion.”

The poetry of her words struck me, for I could almost hear Elizabeth giving a similar speech.

“It’s a terrible thing, Westerleigh!” Fiona hissed through her fingers. “I’ve lived a lonely life here, one I long to share with other kinswomen, only there aren’t any. At least I didn’t believe there were any until I found you.” Those fingers trembled, the emerald glittering. “A part of me wishes I hadn’t.”

“Why?” I asked with completely honesty. “I’m happy to share this burden with you. I’ve been fascinated with Elizabeth for most of my life. To live in an estate where her spirit lives on is a dream come true.”

“That dream could become a nightmare.” Fiona lowered her hands. “The Lady Elizabeth is fascinating, yes, but she’s also dangerous.” She laid a finger against her cup, not picking it up. “She meddled in all sorts of things she shouldn’t have.”

“That’s what’s so fascinating about her.” I leaned forward, forgetting caution in my enthusiasm. “At a time when most women feared being called witches, she made no attempt to hide she dabbled in magic. She ruled Hartford Hall without a husband, even as a figurehead. She took another woman, a female artist as her lover. She patronized Judith Cross’s artistic career and they lived together in this hall as a couple. The courage, the sheer never she must have had…it takes my breath away. I can only dream of having such strength.”

I paused, realized my hands were trembling. I knotted them and laid them in my lap. My natural timidity had gotten the better of me, the fear which made me hide behind books, away from other people, allowing only a few friends, like Yuri to get close to me. Yuri was different, Yuri was an artist, even if Yuri didn’t always understand why I lived in the past through the journals, poetry, and writing of Elizabeth Hartford. They were more vibrant to me than anything in the modern world.

“I can see already that she’s going to like you.” Fiona looked me up and down with something almost like pity. “She enjoys the company of those who reflect the ideal of her within innocent eyes.”

“You speak of her as if she were still alive.” A strange shiver ran down my spine. “Does her presence linger in Hartford Hall that strongly? Do you believe her ghost haunts this place?”

“She haunts this place in many ways. You’ll discover that for yourself.” Fiona sighed and sank back into the depths of her burgundy armchair. “After spending time in her library, sleeping in her bed, you’ll see and feel just how much she lingers.”

“I’ll be working in her library?” My heart skipped a beat. “Sleeping in her bed?”

“If you’d rather not, something can be arranged-“ Fiona began, only to stop, stare at me, and sigh. “You can’t wait.”

“To say that I’m honored is putting it mildly.” I tried to fold my hands, tried to put my excitement into coherent words. “I cannot say how much it means to me, to live, breathe, work, and sleep in the same places Elizabeth did.” I lifted my knotted fingers to press them to my breast, realizing belatedly I was drawing attention to that part of my body. “When do I begin? What am I to do?”

“As I said in the invitation, this is a job as much as anything else. You’re to read all of the Lady Elizabeth’s journals, correspondance, anything she put down on paper. You’re welcome, no, encouraged to write down any of your own impressions in response.” Fiona heaved another sigh. “You’re offered the lady’s bedchamber, encouraged to wear some of her clothing.” My cousin wiped her brow with an impatient lack of grace. “Much of that clothing is antique and dated. These are legacy requests from Elizabeth to her female descendants. How faithfully you follow them is up to you.”

Female descendents. This wasn’t a request from Elizabeth to me, simply to whom Fiona assumed me to be. Not refusing was the only was I could prove that I, too, was worthy of such a request.

“I’ll do everything not to disappoint her.” My own voice came out hushed, breathless, and hopefully feminine. “I promise.”

“That’s impossible.” Fiona put a cold edge into her words that made the chill return, raising the hairs on the back of my arms. “Everybody disappoints her. Remember that.”

She locked her green eyes with mine. For a moment we just stared at each other, the gravity of her words sinking in.

I should have kept some of that gravity with me, to steady me as I plunged into my idol’s life. I was too giddy to do so. My giddiness returned when the moment passed. Here I was at Hartford Hall, being offered an intimate peek at Elizabeth Hartford, a chance to read and comment on everything she’d ever written. To press against my naked skin the gown she’d worn, to don a piece of her. To lie where she’d once lain her head, her active mind keeping her awake late into the night. Perhaps the ghosts her thoughts, her ideas lingered upon her pillow as well as upon the page.

It was a dream come true in every sense. Alas, too often dreams turn into nightmares. Mine were no exception.

Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle, Part 2

Christopher regarded the veiled woman across from him, the same woman he was speaking to last week…

Christopher: All right, I’ll try not to spoil the story for myself or others. (He looks like he has serious misgivings about this.)

Gabrielle: You’ll be happier if you do. 

Christopher: I hope so. How about we talk about the current form of you I’m speaking with? Gabrielle, the woman who becomes my mother?

Gabrielle: What is there to say? I own the Navel, center of all things bizarre. Look for the bizarre within yourself upon the Navel’s shelves.

Christopher: That last part is new. 

Gabrielle: Heh, I just came up with that. 

Christopher: What wares does the Navel carry?

Gabrielle: (perking up) We’ve got these chicken-headed deities whose crowing will follow you into your nightmares, freeing you from whatever reality you’re trapped in.

Christopher: I’ve seen those. (He shakes his head.) I’m not sure how effective they are. 

Gabrielle: (leaning forward) We’ve also got these metal rooster-headed guardians to ward off spider entities. 

Christopher: (shudders) I’ve noticed. 

Gabrielle: (lowering her voice) Guess you’re still arachnocratic enough to be disturbed by those. Damian hated them. 

Christopher: ‘Brie, I’m not sure if anyone likes them other than you.

Gabrielle: Really? (a bit deflated) There’s the hand-painted porcelain chickens if you prefer something more cheerful. 

Christopher: Could we discuss some of the Navel’s items which aren’t poultry? Please?

Gabrielle: (slumping back in her seat) No one appreciates the poultry. Yes, there are other things like those hand-painted tarot cards in carved wooden boxes which Damian painted or the skulls he crafted by hand. 

Christopher: Those are beautiful.

Gabrielle: You’re disturbed by my chickens but you think the skulls are beautiful?

Christopher: They’re part of someone or they once were. Why wouldn’t they be beautiful?

Gabrielle: That someone isn’t around any more. The skull is proof of that. 

Christopher: Part of them is. The skull is proof of that.

Gabrielle: These skulls aren’t real skulls. They just represent a former part of someone. They’re made of clay, not bone, shaped by Damian’s hands.

Christopher: (eyes swimming with emotional memories) Yes.

Gabrielle: You’ve got it bad, my boy. 

Christopher: What?

Gabrielle: Never mind. 

#RainbowSnippets: A Symposium in Space

Welcome to Rainbow Snippets!

Every Saturday or Sunday, those participating post and share six sentences of LGBTQIA+ fiction on their blogs. It can be their own. It can be someone else’s. It just needs to be LGBTQIA+.

To read a wide variety of samples from LGBTQIA+ fiction, go to…

For my own, Phaedra and Pausania will pick up where they left off last week in A Symposium in Space…

Ah, so this was what bothered her. The possibility of men being able to vote once more in the Democracy, to have a voice in public assemblies. 

Official herstory (intergalactic schools no longer used the word ‘history’, just as they no longer used the word ‘patronizing’) taught young girls that the beginnings of our democracy started with the colonization of other planets. Many of these off-world settlements had been started by women, hoping to create separate cultures apart from the patriarchy we couldn’t seem to shake off back on Ancient Earth. 

Men had started a terrible war, decimating a huge portion of the population. In the end, Ancient Earth had survived. Humanity, to use another archaic word, had survived. 

Interested in what you’re reading? Want to read more? Here are buy links…

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Paula’s Prompts: Wednesday Words

On July 22, 2020, P.T. Wyant posted at a Wednesday Words prompt involving interruptions, a drowning, a game of chance.

This poem was the result…

Drowning in a bucket list
All the things I want to accomplish
Need to plan, need to seize the time
There’s only so much time to do any of them
Sometimes it feels like a game of chance
Whether or not I’ll find opportunies
Grab that time, use that time
Before the inevitable interruptions stop me
Real life crashing down with its concerns
The scream of the telephone
The waiting trash
The waiting tragedy
They come in wave after wave
I’ve no choice but to learn how to surf
To catch wave after wave of opportunity
To ride those waves to my goals, far as I can go
Before the reality knocks me over
Seizing control
Leaving me breathless at its mercy.

Conversations with Christopher: Gabrielle, Part 1

Christopher, even paler than usual after his last Conversation sits facing a woman with long golden hair spilling down from under a veiled, broad-brimmed hat. Beneath the veils a mask covers her nose and mouth, only revealing her bright, lively blue eyes peering back at Christopher. Loose, flowing tan sleeves with an intricate pattern laced within them hang from a loose, tan-colored blouse falling below the waist over long, full skirts. If you look at the pattern closely on the woman’s sleeves and shirt, you’ll detect the shape of roosters. 

Christopher: (smiles, relaxing a bit at the sight of the woman) You don’t know how glad I am to see you. It’s been too long. 

Gabrielle: Yes, it has, or has it? It’s hard to tell in the Cauldron, when we are. I’m still glad to see you. 

Christopher: Very. I think we’re meeting for the first time in the Navel in this particular draft of Stealing Myself From Shadows our scribbler is writing. 

Gabrielle: Quite the surprise it was to realize I was a mother and you were going to be my son. A surprise I never regretted.

Christopher: I’ve always wondered at how you accepted me without question. Damian just dumped me on you at the Navel, introducing me as your son, but you made me feel as if it were the truth.

Gabrielle: It is the truth. Just because I didn’t give birth to you doesn’t mean you’re not my son. 

Christopher: Do you remember who gave birth to you?

Gabrielle: No. I was raised in the Temple of Heavenly Directions by Raphaelle, Michael, and Urielle because they needed a Gabrielle. I’m not sure why or where I came from. We weren’t encouraged to ask questions about such things. It wasn’t until I met Mireille I started questioning everything. You’re looking at me as if I’d sprouted a second head. (cocking her own veiled head in an almost hopeful way) Have I?

Christopher: (grinning a little through his bemused expression) Sorry. I’m just aware of how many stories you have to tell which you haven’t shared yet. 

Gabrielle: There are always stories to tell, Christopher, even if they’re not your own. Stealing Myself From Shadows is your story. I simply play a small part in it, saying goodbye to you as you say goodbye to the Navel, myself, and everything we represent to you. 

Christopher: I also say hello to you. In the rewrite, I get to say hello for the first time. Or something better than hello.

Gabrielle: Yes, we do.

Christopher: I never wanted to say goodbye to you. The Navel became my home. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the only mother I’ve ever had. 

Gabrielle: You may have had others.

Christopher: I don’t remember them.

Gabrielle: Perhaps you will on your journey. Even if you don’t, you’ll always have me. You haven’t lost me, Christopher. You can always come home to me.

Christopher: How can you say that? Even if I open a Door and find Omphalos, the Navel may not be there.

Gabrielle: We will be. In one form or another. 

Christopher: I may not recognize you. I may not recognize Omphalos. There are so many versions; town, village, empty field. You and the Navel are in one. The twins are in another. 

Gabrielle: We grow, we flourish, we fall, we are razed to the ground, only to be reborn again. It’s happened many times to Omphalos. 

Christopher: What do you mean?

Gabrielle: Come, come, you wouldn’t want me to spoil your story, would you? 

Christopher: I guess not. A warning of some sort about what’s to come would be appreciated. 

Gabrielle: There will be many warnings. You’ll just have to recognize them. You or someone else. 

Christopher: That’s what I’m afraid of…