National Literacy Month

national literacy month

September is National Literacy Month
and today, September 8,  is International Literacy Day

As readers of romance novels and other genres, we contribute to the literacy of the world. But not everyone can read in their native languages.

“According to UNESCO, about 774 million adults lack the minimum literacy skills. One in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women. About 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out. However, literacy is also a cause for celebration on the day because there are nearly four billion literate people in the world.” from https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/un/international-literacy-day

We tend to focus on reading to children as a means of improving literacy, and I would like to continue to support the efforts of those who do support children’s programs. My own children regularly volunteer for a local literacy program that helps at risk youth in lower grades get up to reading level.

But there are also adults out there in the United States (where I live) who cannot read. Somewhere somehow they slipped through the education cracks.

In the United States the literacy rate among adults showed no significant change between 2003 and 2013 with 14 percent of adults demonstrating a “below basic” reading level. 19 percent of all high school graduates in this country cannot read. We are looking at around 31 million Americans who cannot read.  (from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/illiteracy-rate_n_3880355.html)

If you want to share your love of reading with others, please consider volunteering to help an Adult Literacy Program near you. The National Literacy Directory  is an online resource to not only help learners find programs, but also to help volunteers find programs.

And as the child of a librarian, I cannot recommend checking in with your local library enough to find out what programs they have available.

Please consider donating to literacy near you. You can do this by donating time, money, books, or any combination of these.

Bad attempt at book reviews

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I recently attended a program on how to write a quality book review. I thought this is great, the more I get into writing and the more authors I meet and know the more I want to support them and help. This typically means read their book and leave and Amazon review.

Let’s be honest, my reviews kind of suck. I typically mention something random about the characters who—because I read romance A LOT—tend to need to either learn better communication skills, or need a clue fairy. Their do-they don’t-they relationships can make me batty, and that’s what typically comes across in a review. I might drop some spoilers, unintentionally.

What I don’t do its say this book was enjoyable because…..
I realized I only mention pacing when I admit to binge reading.

(have you noticed something yet?) I…I…I…I…

…and reviews aren’t supposed to be about me, but about the book.

When reviewing a book, it always comes down to my interaction with the story.

Ok, so the decision has been made: learn how to properly write a review and start adding book reviews to the blog.

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Hahahahahahahahahahah

WRONG

I honestly tried, really I did. But I fail so hard at pulling how I interacted with the book out of the process.

The plan was to run a practice review on one of two series I’ve been rereading lately.

So I’m thinking in my brain how I’m going to pull this off as I’m listening to the stories (I love audio books BTW), and I hit a wall. The character mentions not liking redheads. I take a personal affront to this. He mentions the Aventine District and Palatine Hill and I start thinking if these books influenced my subconscious over the Legantum characters and such. Ooh I really need to do more Rome research.

BAM I’m in the middle of it again.

And since I have no intention of turning this into a review site, I have learned that me composing quality reviews is probably not gonna happen.

But here go my reviews (cause I had this slot scheduled for book reviews):

The Didius Falco mysteries by Lindsey Davis

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The interactions between Marcus and Helena are delightful. The pacing of the books keep me interested. I can’t believe there are 20 books in this series already. I need to reread them all. Hey, I didn’t know Marsha was a Roman name.

If you aren’t familiar with these books, they are mysteries with a romantic element. They take place in ancient Rome and are a blast. Davis provides enough detail for you to get a real sense of life in the ancient Roman Empire–not so much that you feel the need to bathe immediately, but enough for you to realize modern TP and non-lead pipes are wonderful inventions.

https://www.amazon.com/Marcus-Didius-Falco-Books-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00URVJCZ6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492809363&sr=8-1&keywords=marcus+didius+falco+mystery+series


 

The Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs

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Yeah, Charles is yum, but damn Anna can put up with some serious shit. Only Patricia Briggs can make such a stoic scary man be so hot. I swear without Anna, Charles would just be pretty to look at and dangerous to touch, and a complete jackass to be around. I forgot once I got James McAvoy in my head as the model for Bran it was hard to focus on Charles as the book-boyfriend anymore.

Sigh

Werewolves, double sigh.

Oh and don’t forget to start the series with the short/novella Alpha and Omega from the On the Prowl collection!

https://www.amazon.com/Alpha-Omega-4-Books/dp/B00VZIE2KA/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1492809254&sr=8-16&keywords=alpha+and+omega+patricia+briggs


 

See I’m really no good at it.

No affiliate links or anything, I just think you should have links to the books, cause they are brilliant and you should read them.

Authors in Bloom “hop on in”

Welcome to this stop on the 6th Annual
Authors in Bloom blog hop!

DianneVenetta_AIB-Logo_2015-250x250
I’m an about-to-be self-published romance author.
I have a holiday collection of short stories scheduled for October and am working out the logistics for the release of Protective, the first in the Legatum series– a new wolf-shifter series.

I write steamy hot paranormal and contemporary romance. My heroes are always heroic, and my damsels are never in distress–they get themselves out usually.

I hope you take a few minutes to check out some of my other posts, and author interviews.


The blog hop participation list is at the end of this post


The giveaway participation info is at the end, after the recipe.


My gardening tip:

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Hire someone. I have a black thumb, if you want to kill a plant, give it to me. It’s not because I don’t like plants, I would love to be able to grow and cultivate plants, I’m just really bad at it.


My recipe:

withegg

Rutabaga and Turkey Bacon Hash

This recipe is Paleo friendly, and gluten free. I have no idea if it would work with regular bacon since I am allergic to pork I’ve never tried. I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

There is a lot of chopping involved, I make this in advance and heat it up on the stove (not a microwave). I like to serve this with poached eggs.

Ingredients:

ingredients

  • small 4” rutabaga
  • 1 large or two medium yellow onions
  • olive oil
  • package turkey bacon
  • 2 to 3 apples, that are good to cook with– I typically use Golden Delicious, Honeycrisps, or Gala because that’s what we typically have on the counter at home
  • Salt, pepper, garlic to taste (I use pre-minced garlic in oil, garlic powder would also work)

rutabaga

Peel and dice rutabaga- you want your dice sizes on the small side
(1/4 to 1/2 inch)

In a large pan, boil diced rutabaga in about an inch of water (or slightly more) until water is gone

applesbacononions

Dice the rest of the ingredients while rutabaga cooks- you want your dice sizes small (1/4inch)

When the water is all cooked off, turn burner temp to medium, drizzle about a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil over the rutabaga, and stir, making sure the oil gets onto the pan.

noapples

Add the diced onions and the diced bacon.

Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

Stir so ingredients don’t stick to pan.

Cook until onions are translucent and bacon is almost crispy.

Add apples last, turn heat down to simmer. Continue to cook until apples are soft, but not mushy.

HASHDONE


Giveaway fun!

This stop is part of the big giveaway promotion hosted by Dianne Venetta. The giveaway portion is open from March 27 until April 5.
I am giving away a $10 Amazon gift card (USD). Since this is delivered via email, it’s available internationally.

To enter, please follow me on one of these:

Remember to return to the blog hop main page and enter to win the big prize by April 7!!


Participating Blogs!

The Twelve Dates of Christmas: the twelfth date

12

My True Love

I sat, despondent, on the couch, staring at the credits scrolling past on my TV. I did not have it in me to get up and change the DVD. I looked at the remote, hit the menu button, then started the movie again. Chris had gone into work, leaving me alone. I wanted to take another pain pill, but I couldn’t, not for three more hours.

I hurt, and I was alone.

Someone knocked on my door.

“Hold on, I’m coming, but I’m moving slow,” I called out.

It felt like an ice age to get me from the couch to the door. The pain management medicine skewed my perspective. For all, I know I actually sped over to the door.

I peeked to see Pat standing outside my door. I unbolted the chain and opened the door.

“Oh honey,” Pat said as soon as she saw me. She stood there with her arms full of grocery bags. What is it with the urge to feed people when they get sick or hurt?

She put her bags down and folded me into a large warm mommy hug. I needed a mommy hug, it was the best thing ever. So, of course, I started crying.

She eased me back onto the couch, pulled her bags in from the landing, and closed the door before joining me.

“What’s wrong?” She eased my head onto her shoulder.

I gulped and kept crying. “I just miss my mom, and I hurt. And I’m alone.”

“Sweetie, that’s why I’m here.” She patted soothing strokes along my hair and back.

“What?” I asked sniffing back my tears. I honestly did not expect to see Pat. I pretty much figured she didn’t like me and had just been playing nice since I was a surprise guest in her house.

“I’m here because my son is in love with you, whether he’s figured it out or not, and he is worried about you. You don’t need to be alone right now. I came figuring you could use a mom seeing how yours is across the country.”

I rested against her shoulder, just taking comfort that someone was here to mother me.

We sat like that for several minutes before I adjusted and let Pat get up.

“I brought all the ingredients for the butterscotch bars, and Chris said something about you liking bacon cheddar mashed potatoes. So I brought bacon, and cheese, and potatoes. You can tell me how to make that for dinner.” She carried the bags of food into the kitchen and began pulling things out onto the counter, and away into the refrigerator. “It looks like you are well stocked.”

“Yeah, my coworkers pulled out the stops and brought over all kinds of stuff. Which is good, because I didn’t have any food.”

Pat made herself familiar with my kitchen and began baking butterscotch bars.

I picked up my phone and texted Chris to let him know his mom had shown up.

He called me back, I picked up on the first ring.

“Hi.” I may have been overly enthusiastic to hear his voice.

“Hi, yourself. So mom’s there? Good, she said she would drive down.”

“I was definitely surprised, but I’m glad she’s here. She’s already baking. I think there is enough food in this apartment that I can safely eat myself into a food coma for the duration of my recovery.”

“You should rest, take a nap if you need to. You’ve got mom in case you need help with anything.”

I nodded and yawned, the nap suggestion was already working on my fuzzy brain.

“Are you coming by tonight?” I asked.

“I have to swing by my place to pick up some more clothes after work, but after that, I’ll come straight home.” He said.

“I like that. I like that a lot. I’ll see you later.”

“Call me if you need anything at all okay?”

“I will,” I said then I hung up the phone. I got to my feet and shuffled into the kitchen. “I’m going to go take a nap. You’ll be okay if I go pass out?” I asked Pat.

“You go rest. I’ll be fine. I can figure out how the TV works if I need anything I’ll just call Chris.”

I nodded and made my way back to my bedroom.

When I woke up the apartment smelled heavenly.

“I made butterscotch bars,” Pat announced as I shuffled into the living room.

“I can smell.” I closed my eyes and thought of Chris. I would forever associate this with him. “Can I have one? Or ten?”

Pat chuckled, she handed me two after I made myself comfortable on the couch.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked between bites.

“No plan, you don’t need anyone to cook. So I’m here for company, and to make sure you don’t need anything. A little later, I’ll let you talk me through those fancy mashed potatoes.”

I smiled as Pat took a seat. “I’m glad you’re here. I was really feeling sorry for myself after Chris left for work this morning. I didn’t want to be alone all of a sudden.”

“Good thing he called home, and that I have a flexible schedule. Grace is at work, and Mike is in school, so here I am.” She shifted in her chair. “Nat, I need to apologize again for what you overheard.”

I shook my head. She had apologized several times before we left. “You were expressing concern for your son. Nothing you said was really a personal attack. Just pointing out I am different. I’ve had time to think about it. I’ve met his ex, so I think Mike got it in his mind that women Chris like all look a certain way, and that Chris is a certain way. However old Mike was when that impression was made, it had been that way for a while. So in Mike’s head that’s the way it should be. Chris has changed along the way. Chris has been different for a while, even before I showed up on the scene. But with me being so much more different than his last girlfriend, it just pushed Mike’s buttons, and his reality is shifting, on top of that he’s sixteen, so his reality is already skewed.”

“You are being very understanding.”

“I think it’s the drugs talking. I’m not typically this insightful. He was still rude, and I’m not going to give him a pass on that. I just think I understand where it’s coming from.”

None of our other conversations for the rest of the afternoon were that deep.

Pat fried bacon, and I sat in the kitchen grating cheese. She had already boiled and mashed the potatoes, we were now preparing the goodies to be mixed in before it was put back into the oven to bake. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I typically use the frozen pucks of mashed potatoes or instant potato flakes. This would taste better with real potatoes anyway.

Chris walked in the door much earlier than I expected. He came straight to me and gently wrapped his arms around me before kissing me. He stroked the hair back from my face, “how are you feeling?”

“I’ve been good today. Your mom has been really helpful.”

He looked up, still holding me, “hi mom. Thanks for coming.” He released me, then gave his mom a quick hug.

I saw the look on her face. It was a mixture of pride and a touch of sadness. The pride that her son had found a woman to love and take care of, sadness that she had lost him to me. And that’s when I knew for certain, that on the twelfth day of Christmas I had found my true love. 

The End

catch up on the eleventh date.

©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas

 

The Twelve Dates of Christmas: the eleventh date

11th

Piping Hot Tamales

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my hot date gave to me some pain pills, and some cute gay men brought me tamales.

I groaned and tried to move. Everything hurt.

“Shh, its okay.” Chris wrapped around me. I relaxed into his warmth.

“I need to pee,” I said.

Chris was up and helping me to the bathroom door, then left me on my own.

I wasn’t so bad off I needed help going to the bathroom, and our relationship wasn’t to that point yet. At least I didn’t think so. I carefully made my way back to bed.

Chris followed me with a glass of water and some pills. “Here, you can have more pain meds.”

I swallowed the pills and handed him back the glass. I noticed the clock across the room. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” I felt groggy with sleep and groggy from the muscle relaxers. “I need to call in. It’s so late.”

“I’ve already called in for both of us. They know you won’t be in all week. I even sent over a picture of the orders from the doctor.”

“Thank you.” I whimpered.

“I’m taking the day to take care of you, and to deal with my car. Insurance is supposed to get me a rental today or tomorrow.”

“You can borrow mine if you need to run errands. I’m not driving anytime soon.” I volunteered.

“Thanks, I will this afternoon. Right now it’s be lazy in bed and hold you.” He indicated I needed to lay back down so he could curl up around me again.

I moved slowly and carefully back into him. He wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled his nose into my hair by my ear.

“I’m staying with you today because I need this. I was scared last night, scared I had let you get hurt. Scared because they made me deal with my stupid car when they took you away to the hospital. I had to tell everyone we were engaged just so they would let me into the ER with you.”

My stomach did a little flip at the idea.

“I’m falling in love with you Nat. Last night made that clear to me.”

I tried to roll over to look at him. Instead, I gasped with pain and tensed up.

Chris sat up. “What? Are you okay?”

“Come over here so I can see your face,” I said through winces of pain.

The black eye he got had really bloomed over night. He looked worried and beat. I lay my hand against his cheek. “That’s the most wonderful thing I have ever heard. All I wanted was you to be near me last night. I wasn’t scared when you were around.” I ran my fingers through the thick hair on top of his head. “I love butterscotch. Be my butterscotch?”

He gave me the sweetest, most toe-curling kiss. It could have progressed to something hotter, and more intense but Chris kept it in check. I’m sure my flinching with pain in the middle of it put a damper on things.

We spent the day just hanging out in quiet company, watching movies on TV.

Chris put me down for a nap before he left to run some errands and get a few things from his place.

I felt muzzy headed after my nap. Chris came back and changed the DVD for me. It was nice to have him around, nice to have someone bend over for things I currently could not manage on my own. And nice to have around simply because I liked him.

“What do you want for dinner?” Chris asked as he rummaged through my cupboards. I didn’t have too much food on hand since I hadn’t gone shopping over the weekend like I typically did.

“You gonna cook?” I asked.

“If I can find something to make I will.”

“You cook?” I asked jokingly.

“You’ve met my parents. Of course, I cook. I can do more than run a grill too.”

I leaned against the wall and watched as Chris started to pull food out.

We both turned when there was a knock on the door. I stayed put as Chris went to open it.

“Boyfriend you look beat up. How’s my girl?” Blake asked as he swept in, followed by the good looking man I saw him at the movies with. Both of them were laden down with groceries and aluminum foil pans.

The food brigade had landed. The department I was in at work had a support system, whenever someone was sick and going to miss work for more than a few day, or was injured, or had someone at home in bad shape, we fed them. Those of us who lived close enough went home for lunch and cooked. Others hit the delis and grocery stores.

“Natalie this is Scott. Scott, Chris, Natalie.” Blake introduced us as he unpacked a variety of homemade meals and deli contributions from pre-sliced fruit and a rotisserie chicken to several casseroles and bags of chips. They also brought bottles of soda, and a six pack of beer.

“Oh wow, Jane and Lupa really outdid themselves,” I said eyeing the tamales and enchilada casserole. My standard contribution of bacon cheddar mashed potatoes was missing, then again this time I was the recipient of all the food.

“You probably have a few holiday leftovers here from the look of it,” Chris said as he started putting stuff away in the fridge.

“Even better,” I said. “I don’t have to worry about cooking or anything for at least a week.”

“How long you out?” Blake asked. “I thought someone said you broke your back.”

“No, I sprained it. Nothing is broken, it just hurts like a son-of-a-bitch. I should only be out this week.” I explained.

“Well good, we need you.” Blake kissed me on both cheeks, then turned to Chris. “You take care of my girl, okay.”

“I will,” Chris said with a grin.

And then Blake swept right on out, dragging Scott in his wake.

“I didn’t realize you and Blake were that close,” Chris said.

“That makes two of us,” I said. I eased my way into the kitchen. “Now that we have all this food, what’s for dinner?”

 

catch up with the tenth date

The story continues on Jan 5, the twelfth date.

©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas

The Twelve Dates of Christmas: the tenth date

10th

Leaping

I leaned over the edge of the bed and watched Chris sleep. He really was handsome, even in sleep with his features slack, and making light snoring noises.

He snorted and shifted. I watched as he blinked a few times, and ran a hand over his face. I giggled seeing his shorts tented in the front.

He blearily looked at me, then followed my gaze. He put a pillow over his lap.

“That’s natural.” He said, his voice still groggy with sleep.

“I know it is. It’s still impressive.”

“It’s trying to show off for you. Giving you a sneak peek for tonight.” He chuckled.

I giggled some more. Chris rolled over, then crawled to the side of the bed and kissed me. “Good morning. You are beautiful when you wake up.” He kissed me again.

There was a soft knock on the door.

“Come in,” Chris called.

“Good morning,” Grace said as she eased into the room. She paused when she saw our sleeping arrangement. “Oh dear, this isn’t because of yesterday?”

Chris cut her off. “No, this is because of where we are in our relationship. This has nothing to do with Mom or Mike.”

“You should have said, we just assumed. That’s what I get for leaping to conclusions. You should have said something, we could have figured something more comfortable out. You haven’t brought someone home in so long. Well, we figured she was,” Grace paused. “Special.”

“This was fine, we were plenty comfortable.” Chis looked up at me, reaching for me, “she is special mom. I don’t have to be sleeping with her to know that.”

I blushed hard.

Grace smiled. It was a lovely warm smile that showed how much she loved her son. And it felt nice to have the same smile directed at me. “I just wanted to let you know we were going to be off running some errands this morning, but we’ll be back for lunch. How late are you planning on staying today?”

Chris looked up at me and shrugged. “I guess we’ll head back after lunch?”

I nodded in agreement. I was eager to get Chris home. Alone.

She closed the door and we were alone again. Chris stroked the side of my face. He looked at me with an expression that made my gut clench and my toes curl. There was a lot of emotion in that look.

“You are very special Natalie, I hope you know that.”

I closed my eyes and leaned against his palm.

“I am so totally in like with you Chris.”

“I’m in like with you too Nat.” He laughed and kissed me.

I’m special and we’re in like. It was a good feeling. I’m not sure if I had changed, or if Chris had, but there was a definite change in us today, knowing what would happen when we got back to my apartment. I held on to his hand a bit more, I leaned against him a bit more. It felt like he held on to me longer when he pulled me into his embrace. We were constantly touching.

Lunch with his parents was pleasant, made more so by the noted absence of his jerky brother, who had decided to go hang out with friends.

Grace hugged us both, and Pat actually gave me the rest of the butterscotch bars to take home. The butterflies in my stomach started a riot as soon as Chris pulled out of the driveway. In less than two hours we should be back at my apartment.

“What are you so giddy about?” Chris asked.

“I’m not giddy. I’m nervous.” I confessed.

“What is there to be nervous about?”

“Seriously?” I glared at him.

“Oh right, that.” He chuckled. “Yeah.” He sighed.

“You aren’t nervous?” Why wasn’t he nervous? Why is it that the girl has to be the nervous one about being seen naked for the first time, and guys seem to be perfectly fine with it. Like its no big deal.

“I wouldn’t say that exactly. More excited than nervous.”

I watched the golden hills of dead grass roll past my window. Yeah, butterscotch definitely. Chris’s hair was butterscotch.

Chris navigated through neighborhood traffic once he pulled off the freeway. He pulled into a corner drug store and shut off the car.

“I’ll be right back.” He announced as he jumped out of the car.

I stared at him when he slid back into the car. He handed me a small brown bag before he started the car and pulled out of the parking spot/

“Whats this?” I said as I eagerly looked in the bag.

It contained a black box with gold lettering.

“Oh.” I giggled nervously

There was a loud bang. And I jerked to the side.

“Natalie!” I heard Chris yell.

My head hurt. Bright lights and confusion. People kept asking me my name. My leg hurt. I sat in the car and was told not to move. I don’t think I could have moved if I wanted to. I groaned.

Large capable arms moved me to a board, then I remember seeing sky. Flashes of colorful lights illuminated the trees. I could hear faint arguing somewhere behind me. Someone was asking me my name and the date again.

“This will pinch.” A voice said, then I felt a sharp stab.

I vaguely remember them closing the box doors around me.

“Natalie, Natalie, I need you to wake up.” A gentle hand rested on my shoulder. I yawned, then discovered I couldn’t stretch or move. My eyes shot open in panic.

“You’re restrained, it’s okay,” the nurse soothed my fears immediately.

“Why am I restrained? My safe-word is octopus. You can let me go now.”

The nurse chuckled. “You’re restrained because they didn’t want you moving before they could find out the extent of your injuries. Do you remember the accident?”

“Vaguely. How’s Chris?” I asked.

“Who? Oh, the driver? My understanding is he’s fine and should be here soon. He didn’t ride over in the ambulance with you.” She explained nothing. I was strapped down in an emergency room,with no Chris to tell me what was going on.

“I’m supposed to ask, was there a dog in the car with you? Or a cat maybe?” The nurse asked.

“No.” I wanted to shake my head, but there was a strap across my forehead holding me still. “Why?”

“The EMT said you kept muttering about butterscotch. They thought it might have been a dog once they realized you weren’t asking candy.”

I snorted a small laugh. I started humming I want candy in my head. “No, dog. Huh. I wonder what I was thinking?” I said out loud. I knew exactly what I was thinking. I wanted Chris, even if he was just nearby, sitting in the room with me, or holding my hand. I wanted to know he was safe. I wanted his presence so that I would feel safe.

“Oh well. Sometimes those pain meds make people say strange things. Someone will be in here soon to take you for x-rays. We’re gonna keep you strapped down until we know for certain okay?”

“Okay,” I muttered. She left me alone, and I started to cry. This was not how I thought tonight was going to go.

“Nat?” Chris’s soft voice said my name.

“They won’t let me move.” I blinked away tears. Chris stepped into my vision.

He had a butterfly bandage across his eyebrow, A bruise had already started to develop around his eye, other than that he just looked tired. Or was that worry? He began stroking the side of my face.

“God, I’m so sorry. Does it hurt?”

I smiled weakly at him. “I’m on some good shit. I can’t feel anything. What happened?”

“Some asshole who doesn’t think the hands-free law apply to him t-boned us. He plowed right through a red light. Slammed into the back door, right behind you, as I pulled out.”

“Are you hurt?” I asked.

“Just a little banged up.” he touched the bandage above his eye.

“How bad am I hurt?” I was afraid to ask, but I needed answers. I started crying again.

“The EMTs said you looked ok, but because it’s your back they are being safe.” He brushed tears from my cheeks. The expression on his face was so gentle, so full of concern.

“I don’t like being on this board, it scares me,” I confessed.

“I know honey. You aren’t hurt bad, they are just being overly cautious. Once you get x-rays and they can tell what’s going on with you, they’ll let you off it.” His thumb stroked back and forth across my brow in a soothing motion.

“Knock, knock.” I heard a new voice and the sound of divider curtains swishing to the side. “Hi Natalie, I’m Diego. I’m here to wheel you off to get some scans done, then you can get off this board. Unless you’re really into this bondage deal.”

I heard Chris chuckle.

“I tried to use my safe-word with the nurse earlier. She did not go for it. I don’t think you guys understand how this bondage thing is supposed to work.”

Chris laughed, Diego laughed. That was good, I may be strapped to a board, but I at least had my sense of humor.

“Boyfriend you stay here, and I’ll bring her back as soon as we’re done. Natalie, I’m gonna need you to tell me more about this safe-word of yours.”

I got a great view of hallway ceilings and recessed lighting as Diego rolled me into x-ray.

They kept me strapped up for the x-rays, then Diego returned me to Chris.

“They asked me if we had a dog. Or if I knew why you kept asking for butterscotch?” Chris asked as soon as we were alone again.

I gave a small laugh. “Come here, I want to see you.” A second later, Chis stood over me. I wanted to reach up and thread my fingers through the thick hair on the top of his head. I couldn’t. I was still strapped down.“Your hair is butterscotch.”

“What?”

“I’ve been trying to figure out a color to describe your hair for days. And I figured it out at your parent’s house. Butterscotch. I must not have been confused from the accident, and instead of asking for you, I got stuck on the color of your hair.” I explained.

“I like that Nat.” I felt his fingers lace into mine.

I heard the divider curtains swish aside again. Chris looked up, then disappeared from my view, taking his comforting hand away.

“Hi Natalie, I’m Doctor Stephens. I don’t know if you remember seeing me earlier. You were a bit dazed from the pain killers.”

I didn’t remember him.

“Let’s go ahead get her off the board, and get her a corset.” I heard him say to someone.

Dr. Stephens stepped into my vision. “You hit your head on the window, gave yourself a goose egg and a small concussion. Your hip has a sizable contusion, but you’re x-rays are clear. You complained of pain in your low back, so let’s watch that. I want you in a brace for a week or two. I suspect you’ve sprained your back.” As he spoke he removed the straps from my arms and forehead. He grabbed my hand and elbow and helped me into a sitting position.

“Rest. I don’t want you going back to work for the rest of the week. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right call my office. If its acute pain, come back into the ER.” He glanced at me, scanning me up and down. “No gym, no dancing, no physical activities other than gentle walking for at least two weeks.” He shifted his gaze to Chris, then back to me. “No physical activities that uses your lower back including intercourse, you do not want to cause further soft tissue injury.”

I was too doped up to blush. But I heard Chris clear his throat nervously.

“And don’t see a chiropractor for at least a month. Your bones look great. Heat then ice, then give it a break. No serious massages for a while either.”

He turned as the nurse came back in with a sizable package. He handed Chris a stack of papers. “Work excuse, and pain prescriptions.” Chris nodded.

“Follow up with my office in the morning, I’ll want to see you in two to three weeks.” He shook my hand, then shook Chris’s and left.

The nurse strapped me into the back brace and showed me how to get in and out of it. It was a corset. It sucked me in and forced good posture on me.

I was free to go.

Chris picked up all of my things. The EMTs had placed my purse at my feet when they wheeled me away from the accident. He walked with me slowly, as I made my way out of the room. I was stiff, and my head spun from the pain medication.

“Damn,” he whispered in my ear as we waited for our Uber ride. I turned to look at him. He had one eyebrow lifted as he smirked at me. Sigh. That expression was sexy as hell.

“I know it’s a back brace, but that is doing some amazing things to your figure.”

I glanced down. Yes, it was, extreme good posture, some waist cinching, and BAM! The boobs stood out even further.

Chris’s hand caressed my hip. “Looks like we have a dating schedule after all.” He chuckled.

“I guess so. I mean. Okay.” I turned to face him. “That was going to happen tonight, right? I’m not just imagining things. We weren’t just throwing innuendos around to flirt?”

Chris gently wrapped his arms around me. “I still have every intention of spending the night with you. Only now we will be actually sleeping.”

 

catch up on the ninth date

The story continues on Jan 3, the eleventh day of Christmas.

©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas

The Twelve Dates of Christmas: the ninth date

9th

Ladies Dancing

I slept in. Chris was already gone by the time I woke up. I padded my way down the long hall. I wanted to see if I could snag one of those delicious butterscotch bars for breakfast. I heard voices in the kitchen, and headed that way, figuring I would find Chris there.

The voices began to sound strained, so I paused.

“I like her a lot. Will you try to be nice?” I heard Chris’s voice. I leaned against the wall so I could listen in.

“But why?” Mike whined.

“Because I’m serious.” Serious? That’s a big word in a relationship. I think I just fell even harder.

“I’m glad you found someone son, but Mike’s right, she’s not your usual type,” Pat said. Funny. Pat maybe mom now, but her words seemed more like a dad to me. Of course Pat had years of dad first before she became a mom.

“What? A beautiful woman?” Chris asked. I think I needed to kiss him for that.

“She’s fat.” Mike was not my favorite person right now. I turned to leave. I didn’t need to listen to this. Chris’s family was skewering me. Okay fine, I’m not what they had in mind for their son and brother, but it really wasn’t their decision.

I turned to leave but found Grace standing next to me. Her finger lay over her lips in a shushing gesture. She placed a hand on my forearm to keep me in place.

“What Mike means is she’s not, well,” Pat paused, searching for a word. “She is not as physically fit as you have always been drawn to.”

“She’s not fat, she’s, she’s average. And how do you know she’s not fit?” Chris defended me again. My heart beat hard with emotion. It was difficult to listen to someone tear you down, but Chris’s replies made me smile, even though I had started crying.

“She’s a cow. She’s always spilling food on her shirt. And her boobs are huge.” Mike said that like it was a bad thing, a very bad thing.

“She is well endowed, that’s different for you.” Pat seemed to be on Mike’s side. Did she think I was a cow too?

“So she’s chesty. Breasts are amazing, I’m wondering how I never realized that before. Yes, she’s different physically, that’s because I’ve been a jackass for only looking at a woman’s shape to determine her worth. And I only ever dated runners. Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t been wrong about my physical type all these years. And you know something, that’s really rich coming from you. You weren’t even the same gender when you and mom got married. So don’t talk to me about physical types.” Chris barked at them.

“Man the sex must be something else. She has you so whooped.”

A crash, a thud, and a lot of cussing.

Mike ran past us with a bloody nose. Chris stormed out after him. He stopped when he saw me. He took one look at the tears streaming down my face and pulled me into his arms. He held me tight, slowly rocking back and forth. I held on to him like he was my life saver in a drowning pool.

“Aw crap,” I heard Pat. Clearly, she had followed her sons out into the hall. “How much of that did she hear?” She asked.

“All of it.” Grace sounded pissed.

“I’m sorry.” Pat started.

“Not now mom,” Chris said into my hair.

We just stood holding onto each other for a while. He leaned back and wiped my tears. “My brother is an asshole.”

I nodded in agreement.

“And what they said was stupid. You know that right?”

I nodded some more.

He pulled me in for more hugging. “And your breasts are outstanding.”

“You like my boobs?” I sniffled.

“I like you, and its pretty cool you come with the boobs. I like the boobs.” He said into my hair.

“Let’s get out of here. Grab your skates, we’ll get lunch somewhere then hit the beach for skating.”

I nodded.

“I need to change,” I said.

“Okay. I’ll be out front.”

I nodded and padded back down the hallway to his bedroom.

Now skating I love, it feels like I’m flying. I don’t know if Chris got the same adrenaline rush from it as I did, but skating right now was a really good idea. It would whisk away the hurt feelings and the overwhelming sense of worthlessness.

I had to dress right. There was a sense of badassery that was supported by short shorts and stripey knee socks. Plus I really wanted to look hot for Chris. I rubbed chaffing gel on my inner thighs. Yes, they were a bit on the larger size, and yes they touched, but they didn’t need to court unnecessary chub rub.

I tossed on my hoodie, grabbed my skate bag and headed outside to meet Chris.

His grin said it all, he definitely liked my skating look. “Damn, you’re sexy.” He put his hands on my hips and looked me up and down.

I heard Mike scoff, and watched him get into the back of his parent’s car.

“Mom insists that we all have lunch and go to the beach together. It’s her way of trying to smooth things over. I tried to explain that you might not want to be around Mike for a few hours, but I lost.” Chris spoke through his teeth. He was not happy about the whole thing. “However, I do get to drive you alone, in my car. You do not have to be in a car with that little asshole.”

I sighed. “I can play nice through lunch. But once we’re on skates all bets are off.”

“Why do I get the feeling you aren’t telling me something?” Chris asked.

“Let’s just say I have a surprise of my own.”

Lunch was strained, tasty but strained.

We geared up in a parking lot near the trailhead. Chris said the trail made its way past the beach and continued on out for a while. I put on my knee pads before lacing on my skates. I stood slipping on wrist guards when Mike did a hockey stop in front of me, trying to show off and be intimidating all at once.

“What the hell, roller skates? Knee pads? This isn’t the rink little girl.”

I stood with my hand on my hip and glared at him. I could squash him, and yet there he was trying to intimidate me.

Mike continued to laugh. “All dressed up so we think you play roller derby?” He mocked.

I didn’t move, my expression the same.

“Mikey, I think the answer is she does play roller derby.” Chris smacked his brother on the shoulder, hard. Mike wobbled on his roller blades. Chris grabbed my hand and we rolled off together.

“So is this the surprise?” He asked.

“Sort of, I said I skate, I meant it. Maybe Pat and Mike will see that a fit woman can also have some body fat.” I took off.

I flew. Chris chased after me and kept up without any problems.

We skated, swerving in and around walkers and cyclists. I showed off and jumped over curbs, and on top of planters. My knee pads got used as I came crashing down more than once, but that’s why I wore them. I let the rush of wind and the adrenaline whisk away my worries.

I sat laughing on a grass embankment. “I needed that,” I said as Chris joined me.

“So roller derby? Really?”

“I sort of played before I moved here. Mostly just the workout team, and practice. I never made it onto the actual team. It’s a lot harder than people think. But it got me onto skates, and I love them. And I love that I don’t have to be skinny to enjoy it, and,” I grabbed my boobs and bounced them up and down. “These don’t get in the way.”

“You totally owned my little brother.”

“Good,” I said with wicked delight. That was the plan. “So do we wait for everyone else to catch up, or do we head back?”

Chris lay back and looked up at the sky. He reached up and grabbed my hand. “We can stay here for a bit before heading back.” I lay back to watch the clouds with him.

A soft breeze moved the clouds around, changing their shapes so they looked like ladies dancing on the wind.

Chris sat on the floor, on his makeshift bed. “I’m sorry my brother was such an ass all weekend.”

I shrugged. I didn’t want to say it was okay because it wasn’t. He really hurt my feelings. I let out a derisive snort. “But I showed him, didn’t I? Little twerp couldn’t figure out how to talk without putting his foot in it all afternoon.”

Mike couldn’t keep up with us skating. I’m sure there are other sports he would beat my ass in, but not today on skates. “Maybe he’ll learn to not be so fast to judge someone by their looks.”

“He’s an idiot, he won’t learn. I know mom got schooled. Plus I think she got in trouble.” Chris chuckled.

“She certainly tried to make up for it after that. Your moms are great. Sometimes we all say stupid hurtful things, as long as she realized it. I think she is genuinely sorry. Not so much Mike, but so what, I’m not here to impress him.”

“No?” Chris asked. “Who are you here to impress?”

“Hopefully you.” I stood over Chris in my pink unicorn jammies, forcing him to look up. I laced my fingers through his butterscotch hair. Yeah, butterscotch, sweet but not a sticky flavor, a sophisticated candy. That color left a better taste on my tongue than beer or dead grass did.

He put a hand on the back of my thigh and slid it up. I knelt down so that I straddled his lap. His hands grabbed my butt. “I’m very impressed.”

It was sexy, it was hot. It was going to lead to more. Especially the way he held on to me, and kissed me.

“I want you but I can’t do this with your parents in the next room, at least not the first time,” I spoke against his mouth.

He kissed me back.

“And what happens tomorrow when I take you home?” He nuzzled my neck.

“You stay the night.”

His kisses were magical; they took me out of my body and sent me out among the stars.

“You should go to bed. The sooner you fall asleep the sooner tomorrow comes.” His voice was rough with emotion.

“You’re eager for tomorrow?” I asked.

He didn’t answer, just pulled me in closer for more kissing.

I reluctantly left Chris’s lap and crawled into the bed, leaving him alone on the floor. “You could join me up here you know.”

He shook his head. “No, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t get any sleep.”

“We aren’t going to do anything.” I reminded him.

“I know, and that’s why I wouldn’t be able to sleep, not with you right there. Too much temptation. It’s safer down here.”

“Suit yourself.” I rolled over and pretended to sleep. It was a very long night. I had never been so eager for a long weekend to be over.

catch up on date eight

The story continues on Jan 3 with the tenth date.

©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas

The Twelve Dates of Christmas: the eighth date

8thA Quiet New Year

On the eighth day of Christmas, there were no milking maids, but there was a blue whale.

After the ball dropped and the glasses clinked, Chris and I eventually went to bed. I didn’t make him sleep out on the couch, even though he did volunteer. However, he did sleep on the floor. Sleeping in the same room was more like a sleepover with my new best friend.

We stayed up a few hours more talking about anything and everything. There were lots of “no ways” and “me too’s.” It was nice laying there in the dark listening to his voice.

The house was quiet when I woke up. Chris snuffled and made almost no sound. Nice. He’s not a snorer. I watched him sleep for a few minutes. So cute. My bladder insisted it was time to get up, so I heeded its impending need.

I crept towards the kitchen, being quiet in case everyone else was still asleep. There were no other noises, no TV, or music, or coffee maker gurgling that I could hear. I made it to the kitchen without seeing anyone. I really was the first one up. According to the clock, it was just past noon, we all slept in.

Everything for coffee already lived on the counter behind the coffee maker. This certainly made things easier. I started a pot, then tip-toed back to Chris’s room and grabbed my phone. I took a mug of steaming coffee onto the back deck and called my folks. I loved the back deck, it didn’t have a view, but it was outside in lovely weather, the whole point of relocating myself to California.

“Happy New Year!” My mom and dad yelled into the phone.

“Happy New Year,” I replied a little more reserved. “It looks like I’m the first one up here.”

“Did you party too much last night?” Dad yelled. They always yelled on speaker phone. I don’t know if it was because they thought I couldn’t hear them, or they couldn’t hear me.

“No, it was a quiet evening. We hung out and watched TV. But we did stay up pretty late talking.”

“So,” my mom began. “Who is this person again?”

“He’s a friend from work. The one I told you about on Christmas.”

“And you’re meeting his parents already?” The tone of my mother’s voice was mischievous, conniving, and if I wasn’t blushing so hard, really annoying.

“It’s not like that.” I lied to her. Because it was like that. This totally was a meet-the-parents deal, I could feel it in my gut. The problem was, I was still getting used to the fact that Chris liked me as much as he claimed. I know I certainly liked him that much.

I distracted my mother by talking about the weather. I missed the snow and the cold, for about fifteen minutes after I got off the phone with her.

I eased back into the kitchen, trying to stay quiet, to refill my coffee, and to snag another one of those butterscotch bars for breakfast.

Mike jumped up on the deck, hands shoved deep in his pockets. He grunted when I said hi.

“Are you just getting back, or have you already been up and out?” I asked.

“What’s it to you?” he snarled. Lovely kid.

“Curious. I think everyone inside is still asleep, that’s all.” I explained.

“Why are you up?” Mike slumped into a deck chair across from me.

I shrugged. “I woke up. You drink coffee? It’s fresh.” I showed off my mug.

“Are you eating that for breakfast?” Mike sneered at me.

“Yeah, these are delicious.”

“Those aren’t for breakfast.” His tone finished with an unspoken ‘are you stupid?’ “Breakfast is supposed to be protein or fruit. You know healthy food.”

I turned when I heard the door behind me slide open. I grinned at Chris. His arrival fixed my mood and wiped the sarcastic response I had for Mike from my lips. Chris’s hair stuck up funny, and his face looked sleepy hovering above the steaming mug.

“Morning.” He croaked. His voice wasn’t working yet. “Where were those?” He asked nodding at the butterscotch bar in my hand.

“On top of the microwave,” I answered.

He disappeared back into the kitchen, returning with one of the bars in his hand.

“So what are you two talking about?” Chris pulled a chair to sit close to me.

“Mike was telling me how eating a cookie for breakfast is unhealthy.

Chris snorted. “Bullshit.” He shot his brother a glare. “I’ve seen you eat cold pizza for breakfast.”

Mike rolled his eyes and stood. “Whatever.” He brushed past Chris. “You should be out running.”

The glare Mike shot me clearly indicated that was a dig for me.

“Dude take a shower before moms catch a whiff, you stink of weed.”

“Is he always so charming?” Brothers could be a sensitive matter, but this kid was being a grade-A jerk.

“He was cute when he was little. He’s been an ass since puberty kicked his butt. Don’t worry, I won’t go all protective big brother on you if you need to call him out on his shit. He didn’t grow up with Clara riding his ass so he has no manners. Sometimes I think the moms are too easy on him.”

“Clara?” I asked.

“My older sister. She was eighteen when the twerp was born. So he gets the loving older sister, not the evil sibling struggle for dominance that I had to deal with.” Chris’s smile warmed my toes, or maybe that was the coffee. I really liked being with Chris. We were both in our pajamas, both with bed-head, and both smiling at each other without any self-conscious worries. This was good, this is how it’s supposed to be, right?

We were still smiling like fools when Grace joined up on the patio.

“Oh, it is nice out here.” She exclaimed. “What are your plans for the day?”

Chris looked at me. I shrugged. I had no idea what there was to do in Santa Barbara.

“Hang out I guess.” He finally said.

“Nonsense.” Grace corrected. “Take Natalie out, show her Santa Barbara. Go to the mission. That’s always lovely.”

“That does sound nice,” I said.

“You want to go to the mission?” Chris asked.

“Why not? It’ll be neat. I’ll go get ready.” I jumped up to change. Chris grabbed my wrist as I walked past him. I looked down into his eyes. He tugged my wrist. I leaned down and kissed him, right there in front of his mother.

“Take your time.” He smiled at me, and I stepped into the house.

~*~*~*~

We held hands. I leaned into Chris’s shoulder, it was sturdy and strong. We looked at old buildings. There is definitely a reason it’s called mission style architecture whenever you see a building similar in style. Cause that’s what missions look like.

Actually, the architecture and grounds were lovely. I just was mostly focused on Chris, and being near Chris. We could have been at a mall and I would have paid just as much attention to my surrounding. And I would have been just as happy because I was with Chris.

We were good, and we didn’t make out while at the mission. That just didn’t seem appropriate. But we did make-out once we wandered over to the rose garden. Kissing Chris left me breathless and thinking about doing more than kissing. Necking in public put a damper on how far either of us was willing to go.

“So what do you want to do now?” I asked when we both finally came up for air.

The expression on Chris’s face answered my question, but that was not an option right now. I wasn’t dressed for hiking, so that wasn’t an option either, and we already had lunch.

“What do you feel like doing?” He countered.

I shrugged. “Movies? Zoo? Museum?” I offered a list of suggestion.

“There’s a natural history museum nearby. That’s always fun in a school field trip kind of way.”

I met Chad. Chad is huge. And I do mean huge. They always say that blue whales are big, but until I was standing next to Chad, the skeleton of a blue whale, I really didn’t quite comprehend that. And I found out that a clean and dried skeleton can shrink as much as twenty percent, that means Chad was even bigger when he was out in the ocean swimming around with his little fishie pals.

“Wanna see the planetarium show?” He asked. I nodded.

The place teemed with kids. I think we were the only adults in there without children in tow.

I blinked and tried to reorient my brain after leaning back to watch the presentation. “The soothing voice of the narrator almost knocked me out,” I confessed.

Chris yawned. “I know, I think I may have dozed a bit.” We watched a mom carrying a passed out toddler walk past us. “I see we weren’t the only ones affected.”

Chris led me through the exhibitions. They caught my attention better than the mission had. We spent entirely too long picking out our favorite butterflies, and I pushed Chris through the room of birds. They creeped me out for some reason.

“Now what?” We continued to hold hands as we slowly made our way back to his car.

“Home, dinner, TV. Or we could go see a movie tonight. Or we could go back to that drag show.”

“Or home and pass out?” I yawned. “Stick a fork in me, I am done.”

“How about we pick up a DVD for after dinner. Then it’s no big deal if you fall asleep.”

I’m not sure how, but Chris did accurately predict I would fall asleep after dinner while watching the movie. I remembered it starting, the next thing I can remember is Chris gently waking me up to lead me back to bed. I fell back to sleep as soon as he tucked me in.

 

catch up with the seventh date

the story continues on  Jan 2, the ninth day of Christmas

©2016 Lulu M Sylvian. The Twelve Dates of Christmas