writing

Swans in the Mist – Part Two

Reposted from April, 2021 – Refresher for Part Three


Charlotte startled herself awake. She rubbed her eyes and looked around. Nothing looked familiar. The walls were made of wood logs. The crackling fire in front of her looked unreal, no wood, no flame, just warmth, a glowing light and a tinny sound.

She sat up and realized her clothes had been changed. Some sort of odd tartan patterned button down in what looked like a dressing gown.

“Oh good. You’re awake!” a sweet voice spoke to her from behind. She was startled to hear another person’s voice, full of a strange drawl. “Henry, she’s awake!” she called out. “Here dear, have some tea. I’m Sarah,” she stated as she sat in the neighboring chair, handing her a cuppa with cream and sugar.

Charlotte took a sip. The tea was way stronger than she was used to. “Wow, what type of tea is this? How did I get here? Where are my clothes?”

Sarah smiled and understood her confusion. Charlotte wasn’t the first visitor they had entertained. “First, dear, what is your name? Then I’ll answer all the questions I can.”

“My name is Charlotte. Now, answer my questions please!” Charlotte looked down, then felt her left thigh. Sarah saw her reach for her dagger.

“Hi Charlotte. My name is Sarah. Don’t worry first of all. Your dagger is safely stored, for all of our safety. I found it when I unraveled your tattered dress from your legs. The fabric was wrapped around your leg quite tight and we were concerned it would harm you. Unfortunately, your skirt will not be salvagable. Your blouse and bloomers are in the wash.” Sarah drew out the word wash, it sounded more like warsh. “Don’t worry, Henry turned around. He didn’t see anything. We girls need to stick together.”

Charlotte was apprehensive, but Sarah seemed genuine. Sarah was dressed simply, some sort of soft clothed shirt and dungarees, nothing Charlotte had ever seen a woman wear. Sarah seemed to be in her forties, grey streaks ran through her dark curly and short hair.

“As for the tea, it is a Chai Latte with vanilla. Do you like it?”

Charlotte smiled, “It is more flavorful than what I normally drink.”

Sarah flashed a knowing smile. “And, to how you got here…we are not sure. We found you out by Cygnet Lake. You were passed out on the bench and looked to be in rough shape. We brought you home to help.”

“Home? My family owns the land in this area, acres of it. Are you one of our neighbors?” Charlotte grew confused.

Sarah smiled faintly. She hated this part of discussions with their visitors. She needed backup to help Charlotte understand. “Henry, could you join me please?”

The clunk of boots came down the hall. Six-foot three Henry entered the room. Charlotte stood and turned to greet him. In front of her stood a handsome man in his forties with short graying hair with her father’s face.

writing

Swans in the Mist – Part One

Reposted from April, 2021 – Refresher for Part Three


Charlotte stood in the middle of the sprawling garden of her family’s country home, looking over the small fountain’s flowing water. The smell of jasmine, lavender, and roses filled the air. Charlotte tugged at her bodice; its boning digging in to her waist. Her flowing skirt of silk brocade floated out over her bloomers. She never enjoyed wearing formal dresses and didn’t understand why it was so necessary, especially when they were not entertaining.

She spied a small orange butterfly and walked towards it, around some rose bushes and other shrubs. Why couldn’t she be free like her little visitor? She twirled the neck tie of her blouse. Oh, how she longed to be free of all her family’s expectations. Currently they were trying to match her, and she was tired of meeting suitors who didn’t suit her at all.

The butterfly floated towards an arched pathway. Two cement swan planters sat at the entrance, full of blooming flowers. Charlotte followed the butterfly down the path. She had never been this way, and looked forward to a new discovery and a distraction for herself.

As she walked the trail, a light mist started to fill the floor. An owl cried out in the distance. The noises from the forest frightened Charlotte. She reached through a pocket of her outer skirt and felt for her dagger strapped to her left leg. She learned to protect herself growing up, there were too many rogues willing to kidnap and harm members of her family. She felt the cold steel hilt; it calmed her.

She continued down the path. Fallen branches tugged at her heavy skirt. One snagged it, ripping a small patch of the deep red fabric. Her boots peeked out from the hem of her skirt. A cobbler made them to her specifications, brown with crossing straps, and tall enough to cover her calves, to just below her knees. They protected her legs from the scratching undergrowth of the trail.

As she continued to walk, she lost her footing and slid down an embankment. The only thing stopping her from falling into the ravine below was her skirt which had become entangled on twigs and branches. She dangled briefly, reaching for a nearby tree trunk and struggling to get her footing. Finally, she found a hold to pull herself up, but her snagged skirt would not let her move further. At least she could now firmly stand without slipping.

Luckily, her left hand was free. She reached for her dagger, pulled it out, and began slicing away at the silk. Her mother would be furious, but which was more important — her dress or her life? Finally, she freed herself and climbed up onto the tree trunk.

The trunk spanned the ravine, but Charlotte had lost her sense of direction during the fall. She saw two trails, one on each end as she sat on the trunk. She decided to take the closer one as that seemed to be the correct one. Carefully she traversed the trunk and stepped back on the trail.

With her skirt in tatters, and the bodice still digging in, she took her dagger and slid it under the strapping in the bodice. Her maid had tied the strapping in such a way she could not get out otherwise. Finally, as the straps loosened, she took in a deep breath and her blouse floated away from her skin, allowing her to relax, and the bodice fell to the forest floor.

She turned in the direction she believed to be back home. The trail continued to turn, but did not seem familiar. Finally, in the distance, she noticed an arched opening. She picked up her pace, ready to be home. But, when she reached the opening, home was not what she saw.

Her jaw dropped. Before her was a lake, covered with mist. Swans floated nearby. By the lake was a small bench. She sat down to take in the view and to rest up before heading back up the trail. As she watched the swans, her eyes grew heavy and she succumbed to slumber.

Two shadows in the form of a woman and a man approached the bench. The woman checked Charlotte’s pulse and alertness. She was completely out, but alive. The woman nodded her head at the man. The man slipped his hands under Charlotte’s back and knees, picking her up, and holding her close to his chest. The shadows then disappeared back into the mist with Charlotte in tow.

writing

Swans in the Mist – Part Two

Charlotte startled herself awake. She rubbed her eyes and looked around. Nothing looked familiar. The walls were made of wood logs. The crackling fire in front of her looked unreal, no wood, no flame, just warmth, a glowing light and a tinny sound.

She sat up and realized her clothes had been changed. Some sort of odd tartan patterned button down in what looked like a dressing gown.

“Oh good. You’re awake!” a sweet voice spoke to her from behind. She was startled to hear another person’s voice, full of a strange drawl. “Henry, she’s awake!” she called out. “Here dear, have some tea. I’m Sarah,” she stated as she sat in the neighboring chair, handing her a cuppa with cream and sugar.

Charlotte took a sip. The tea was way stronger than she was used to. “Wow, what type of tea is this? How did I get here? Where are my clothes?”

Sarah smiled and understood her confusion. Charlotte wasn’t the first visitor they had entertained. “First, dear, what is your name? Then I’ll answer all the questions I can.”

“My name is Charlotte. Now, answer my questions please!” Charlotte looked down, then felt her left thigh. Sarah saw her reach for her dagger.

“Hi Charlotte. My name is Sarah. Don’t worry first of all. Your dagger is safely stored, for all of our safety. I found it when I unraveled your tattered dress from your legs. The fabric was wrapped around your leg quite tight and we were concerned it would harm you. Unfortunately, your skirt will not be salvagable. Your blouse and bloomers are in the wash.” Sarah drew out the word wash, it sounded more like warsh. “Don’t worry, Henry turned around. He didn’t see anything. We girls need to stick together.”

Charlotte was apprehensive, but Sarah seemed genuine. Sarah was dressed simply, some sort of soft clothed shirt and dungarees, nothing Charlotte had ever seen a woman wear. Sarah seemed to be in her forties, grey streaks ran through her dark curly and short hair.

“As for the tea, it is a Chai Latte with vanilla. Do you like it?”

Charlotte smiled, “It is more flavorful than what I normally drink.”

Sarah flashed a knowing smile. “And, to how you got here…we are not sure. We found you out by Cygnet Lake. You were passed out on the bench and looked to be in rough shape. We brought you home to help.”

“Home? My family owns the land in this area, acres of it. Are you one of our neighbors?” Charlotte grew confused.

Sarah smiled faintly. She hated this part of discussions with their visitors. She needed backup to help Charlotte understand. “Henry, could you join me please?”

The clunk of boots came down the hall. Six-foot three Henry entered the room. Charlotte stood and turned to greet him. In front of her stood a handsome man in his forties with short graying hair with her father’s face.

writing

Swans in the Mist – Part One

Charlotte stood in the middle of the sprawling garden of her family’s country home, looking over the small fountain’s flowing water. The smell of jasmine, lavender, and roses filled the air. Charlotte tugged at her bodice; its boning digging in to her waist. Her flowing skirt of silk brocade floated out over her bloomers. She never enjoyed wearing formal dresses and didn’t understand why it was so necessary, especially when they were not entertaining.

She spied a small orange butterfly and walked towards it, around some rose bushes and other shrubs. Why couldn’t she be free like her little visitor? She twirled the neck tie of her blouse. Oh, how she longed to be free of all her family’s expectations. Currently they were trying to match her, and she was tired of meeting suitors who didn’t suit her at all.

The butterfly floated towards an arched pathway. Two cement swan planters sat at the entrance, full of blooming flowers. Charlotte followed the butterfly down the path. She had never been this way, and looked forward to a new discovery and a distraction for herself.

As she walked the trail, a light mist started to fill the floor. An owl cried out in the distance. The noises from the forest frightened Charlotte. She reached through a pocket of her outer skirt and felt for her dagger strapped to her left leg. She learned to protect herself growing up, there were too many rogues willing to kidnap and harm members of her family. She felt the cold steel hilt; it calmed her.

She continued down the path. Fallen branches tugged at her heavy skirt. One snagged it, ripping a small patch of the deep red fabric. Her boots peeked out from the hem of her skirt. A cobbler made them to her specifications, brown with crossing straps, and tall enough to cover her calves, to just below her knees. They protected her legs from the scratching undergrowth of the trail.

As she continued to walk, she lost her footing and slid down an embankment. The only thing stopping her from falling into the ravine below was her skirt which had become entangled on twigs and branches. She dangled briefly, reaching for a nearby tree trunk and struggling to get her footing. Finally, she found a hold to pull herself up, but her snagged skirt would not let her move further. At least she could now firmly stand without slipping.

Luckily, her left hand was free. She reached for her dagger, pulled it out, and began slicing away at the silk. Her mother would be furious, but which was more important — her dress or her life? Finally, she freed herself and climbed up onto the tree trunk.

The trunk spanned the ravine, but Charlotte had lost her sense of direction during the fall. She saw two trails, one on each end as she sat on the trunk. She decided to take the closer one as that seemed to be the correct one. Carefully she traversed the trunk and stepped back on the trail.

With her skirt in tatters, and the bodice still digging in, she took her dagger and slid it under the strapping in the bodice. Her maid had tied the strapping in such a way she could not get out otherwise. Finally, as the straps loosened, she took in a deep breath and her blouse floated away from her skin, allowing her to relax, and the bodice fell to the forest floor.

She turned in the direction she believed to be back home. The trail continued to turn, but did not seem familiar. Finally, in the distance, she noticed an arched opening. She picked up her pace, ready to be home. But, when she reached the opening, home was not what she saw.

Her jaw dropped. Before her was a lake, covered with mist. Swans floated nearby. By the lake was a small bench. She sat down to take in the view and to rest up before heading back up the trail. As she watched the swans, her eyes grew heavy and she succumbed to slumber.

Two shadows in the form of a woman and a man approached the bench. The woman checked Charlotte’s pulse and alertness. She was completely out, but alive. The woman nodded her head at the man. The man slipped his hands under Charlotte’s back and knees, picking her up, and holding her close to his chest. The shadows then disappeared back into the mist with Charlotte in tow.

writing

Break In – Chapter 9

John sat in the lounge chair in the corner at the town bakery, eating his breakfast. “Can I have some more coffee, Jessica?”

Jessica reached behind the counter and picked up a carafe and a plate she had on the counter. She headed over to John to refill his cup. “Have things settled down for you, John?” She filled his cup and set down a shortbread for him.

He sullenly looked up, but smiled. “Yeah, I’m doing okay. Still looking for a bright spot in this whole changed world.”

Jessica forced a smile and patted him on the shoulder. She could only imagine his pain. She looked up and saw Carol come in, then headed back to the counter. “Morning, Carol.”

“Hi, Mrs. Tatum.” Carol put in an order for a pastry and some tea to go. “I’ll be over here. I need to have a word with John.”

John looked up and waved Carol over. She slid into the chair across from him.

“Do you mind me asking what happened when you were in jail? Did you communicate with anyone while you were there?”

He hung his head. “I never wanted to get into it. I lost it. I deserved being behind bars. And, I was embarrassed. How could I have been so….”

Carol interrupted him. “John, you need to stop beating yourself up. Everyone messes up now and then.” Her fingers drummed on the journal in her hand. In that moment, Carol realized the mystery she was trying to solve was how to help John through this journey. “Why didn’t you let Jojo know what was going on?”

John looked up at her intently. “What do you mean? The letter I got from her was to tell me she was marrying Gary. It was why I was so mad. I kept that anger inside me trying to swallow it down. When she wasn’t home to talk it through, I lost it again.”

Carol looked at him intently. “According to her journal, she wrote several times. Did you ever think that letter was meant to get you to respond, not to anger? A chance to tell her what was inside your heart? ” She looked down, but knew it was time to hand the book over to him. “Sometimes, when someone loves someone, they forgive just about anything and they’ll reach out to connect in any way to get a response. It’s hard, but…here.”

She handed John the journal. “I think she would want to be here with you. She just needed to know it was what you wanted, too.”

His hand shook as he took the journal, and looked up with damp eyes. “Thank you.”

Carol stood up and squeezed his arm. “I hope it brings you peace.”

John opened up the book to the back of the journal to look over the last few entries.

I try to be a good wife to Gary, but my heart still loves John. I wish I could tell him.

Her final entry is solemn, almost foreboding.

Gary is a good man, and I’m lucky he’s by my side. However, he knows however my soul isn’t here. It’s out there, wherever John is, if he’d have me.

John’s eyes spilled over. He went to close the journal when a sealed letter, addressed to him, fell out from the pages.


My dearest,

If you are reading this, I hopefully am sitting in front of you, tearfully happy and overjoyed to be with you. If that ends up not possible, you still need to know.

I never stopped loving you.

Even in those times when I was mad at you, disappointed with how things were between us, and we were with others, I still loved you.

I know of some of the bad things that went on in your life, and when I heard of them, I rooted for you to pull through as I always knew you would.

I cheer for you through the highs, too, because that’s what we do when we love someone.

I always want you to feel loved and have a life full of laughter. May your most beautiful dreams always come true for you.

I hope we find our way back to each other one day in this life. If not, may we find each other quickly and get it right in the next.

All my love, Always.


Epilogue:

As I come to the conclusion of this short story, I want to go back and rewrite it. I want a happy ending for Jojo and John. And I’d like to give Carol some grand discovery she can shout to the whole world through her work; hopefully she can be satisfied with making a difference in another person’s life instead this round.

The great thing is, I can always edit and rewrite…so I might.

If you have read this short story and liked it, I hope you’ll enjoy the rewrite as well when I refine the story. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. I welcome feedback so I can grow further on this journey. ~DRM~

writing

Break In – Chapter 8

Carol was determined to trace down the date of John’s arrest to see if it matched with her diary. She went in to the office and started digging in the archives.

“Carol, stop digging in the past!” Her editor bellowed as he entered the store room filled with volumes of old newspapers. “There’s no point to this.”

She looked up. “I need the whole story! I can’t leave it partially done.” She went back to filtering through the stacks. “I found it!” Relieved, she opened the paper to the Police report section. “Surely it will be here!” She scanned through the pages, but there was no mention of the arrest.

“Carol, we didn’t always get the reports in time to publish the next morning…check the next few days after,” he huffed at her. Under his breath he muttered “Junior reporters!” and shuffled back to his desk.

Triumphantly, Carol cried out “I found it!”

“Great, Carol. But I need the article for today’s paper done before you do any more work on this flight of fancy you have,” her editor ordered.

“Yes sir! Have it to you in a few!”

Now that she knew the information matched up, she knew she could go forward with pulling apart more information from Johanna’s diary. It was a part of the puzzle put together, and freed up some space in her mind to work on the current story. She whipped up the article on the current weather trends for her editor and submitted it, then headed home.


Back home, Carol pulled out the leather blue journal, and began to intently read on.

John still hasn’t written back from jail. I can’t go visit him according to the jail, but I was hoping to hear back from him.

A week goes by in the journal.

Nothing arrived still today. I’m wondering if our getting back together just was a fling for him. Why hasn’t he written?

Two more weeks go by in the journal.

Gary came by today to check in on me. He sat in his car for a few minutes before he finally knocked on the door just like old times. We got to talking and I mentioned not hearing from John. He has some connections at the jail; he’s going to find out if there is some sort of reason behind it. He seems concerned.

Three days later.

I am heartbroken. I cannot believe that John has been refusing my letters. One of the officers told Gary that John is not communicating with anyone. Gary listened to me through all my sobbing. I don’t know how to do this on my own.

A week later.

Gary has been so attentive. He’s offered to stand by my side since John has completely stopped all communications. I’m so grateful to have someone who cares. Maybe it’s better this way.

Carol paused and thought to herself. Why does this sound like a made for TV mystery where the new guy framed the old flame?

She needed some answers from John. She set everything aside for the evening, intent on locating John the next morning.


writing

Break In – Chapter 7

“Is Officer Tatum in?” Carol asked the officer at the counter and nervously tapped her short nails. The deputy looked her over and waved her back to his office.

“Bill, hey, I needs some information. A little background on this whole fiasco at Shana Lee’s place. Could you help?”

Officer Tatum looked at Carol with a perplexed look. “What do you mean background? Shana dropped all charges, there’s nothing more to cover.”

Carol had to decide quickly how much to reveal to Bill. She hemmed a bit before continuing on. “Can you just help me close out the facts on the original arrest of John and, more minorly, the night his vehicle was vandalized? I want to confirm I have the right dates.” She handed her notes to Bill.

Bill looked her notes over, and looked back at Carol. He knew she was digging for more information for some reason, but hadn’t put why together yet. “Well, I can help you with the vandalization, but John was arrested by the county police, so I don’t have any of that information. You’ll have to head over to the county seat to get any details there.”

Carol smiled, she was getting somewhere with her research. At least she didn’t hit a brick wall.

Bill looked up the case number in the computer. “Carol, this is a very old case. It was a paper file according to the system and was never fully scanned in. Unfortunately, we had a fire a couple years ago, those case records are long gone.”

Carol grimaced. “Does the system at least give a date? Maybe I can find some info out another way.” Really, all she needed was the date to confirm her suspicion that the diary was Johanna’s.

“The file here says March 23, 1999. But that’s the day it was filed. Looks like it was March 22nd, or that weekend at least,” Bill commented. “Heck, that was the year after I graduated!”

Carol looked at Bill. He appeared much older than a man approaching 40. His hair was already mostly grey with just a few remnants of brown.

But that date ties to the journal’s dates. “Bill, thank you. That’s just the information I need!” Carol stuck out her hand and gave him an enthusiastic shake.

Bill wasn’t sure why Carol was, well, ecstatic with just the date. He looked at her puzzled. “Just be careful out there. Not sure what your getting into, but stay out of trouble.”

Carol smiled, but it wasn’t time to reveal her hand just yet. She was still putting together the pieces. “Sure. Will do. Thanks again, Bill!” With that she waved a farewell to him and headed out the door.

writing

Break In – Chapter 6

Carol sat at her desk, pouring over the blue leather journal. It dated back several years.

The writer had poured her heart into it, capturing a variety of thoughts, hopes and dreams. As Carol kept reading, she found references to Gary and John which seemed to date back to high school for the writer.

Could these be Gary Smith and John? Carol needed some real facts to tie this journal to them.

John and I went to the movies this evening. When we walked out, his truck had been vandalized. While we waited for the cops to investigate, I swear, I saw Gary drive down the street real slow. You know, like a criminal returning to the scene of the crime. It couldn’t be though; what did Gary have against John? I dismissed it as coincidence; maybe he saw us and just was curious.

Wow, could there been some rivalry there? Carol jotted down the date of the journal. She might be able to verify if this was actually the same John with Officer Tatum from the police records. She continued to peruse the journal for other clues. The entries continued to convince her these were from Johanna.

Gary is outside again, just sitting in his car. Why does he do this? Too nervous to come to the door? I just don’t get it. Dad thinks it’s funny. “Why doesn’t he just come up and ask you out?” he keeps asking. “It’s not like you have a boyfriend right now.” Geesh, Dad, thanks!

Carol noted the fact that Gary seemed obsessed a little with Johanna. There were a couple entries, from a date gone wrong to just plain awkward interactions Johanna noted. It could have just been a crush, though. Teens do crazy things.

Carol continued to dig. Johanna kept some notes about her feelings and her desires. Details about some dates, and other revealing tidbits over a couple years. Some things probably not relevant for Carol’s research however.

Then she read this entry.

John was arrested today. There is no way he did this. We just reunited, but I know he’s better than this!

Carol made note of the date; another one to check with Officer Tatum. She set the book aside. “I have to find out if these line up before going any further,” she scolded herself. “I need some facts before I get too carried way.”

writing

Break In – Chapter 5

Carol arrived at the old Smith place just a few minutes after her call with Shana. When she arrived, she observed the door on the house had already been replaced from the break-in just a few nights before. Carol knocked.

Shana flung open the new door. “Thank you for coming so quickly. Come in, come in,” she motioned to Carol. Once Carol came through the door, Shana stuck her head outside, looked around, then swiftly closed the door.

Carol gave it no real thought. She figured Shana was still on edge from recent events. Carol looked around the room; everything was back in place, except the noticeably missing coffee table.

“Sit, please. Would you like some coffee, tea, or water?” Shana inquired as she headed into the adjoining kitchen where a kettle was already whistling.

“Water, please,” Carol responded, craning her neck to see Shana. “So, why did you ask me over?”

That was Carol, always right to the point. she didn’t hold anything back and preferred to cut through all the niceties. It was more efficient that way, except when it didn’t work.

Shana returned from the kitchen with a tea and a tall glass of ice cold water. She set them both on the side table and walked over to the fireplace.

She jiggled out one of the bricks from the fireplace and reached into the opening. “When I came back home once the mystery was solved, I found this,” she revealed as she handed Carol a blue leather journal. “Read it, let me know what you think.”

Carol opened up the book to see beautiful writing, that likely of a woman. Carol looked for a clue on who wrote it.

Shana offered, “From what I could infer, I believe this may be Johanna Smith’s journal. You need to read it, let me know if you think we should turn it over to authorities.”

Carol arched one of her eyebrows, skeptical, but also intrigued. “Can I take it with me? It will take some time to get through it.”

Shana nodded yes. Carol stood and shook her hand. “Thank you for trusting me with this.”