The Right Path – A short story

I’ve talked about writing tools before, and the fun I have with prompts. When I’m struggling to focus on a work in progress, I often find ways to flex those writing muscles. A good sentence starter is a great way to do that. This time, the sentence was provided to me by a friend (thanks, Mike), and there were a few hiccups along the way, like losing my work (no, Jacqui, I didn’t do a backup!) Hopefully it all turned out okay in the end! I hope you enjoy.

“So, look, I know this is going to sound cliche, but all the best stories start off this way, right?”

Veronica glanced my way, her brows pinched into a deep frown. “If the story involves losing the main player in the first act.” Her beady eyes squinted her disapproval. “But this isn’t a story, and this poor young man may very well lose his life. Clearly, my presence has been required for quite some time.”

I rolled my eyes at the self-righteous tone that matched her prissy attitude. “You’ve got to lighten up, V. ” Glancing down at Tristan, I stroked a hand across the top of his head as I’d done when he was a babe, only there was slightly less hair, emphasis on the slightly (the boy was born needing a haircut). “This isn’t the first bump in the road, and I’ve been with him every step of his journey. You get to see a snapshot, the closing chapter in this part of his life.” I scooted further back to make room for the paramedics, but I didn’t lose our connection. “If things go according to plan, this is a great place for you to start.”

“You can’t interfere,” Veronica snapped, hovering over me with a clipboard that matched her disapproving frown – it was big and foreboding. “That’s why you warranted an assessment in the first place. You take far too many risks.”

With one final caress across Tristan’s brow, I rose to my feet and watched as a police officer approached our little scene. “This whole job is about risks, my friend.” I grinned across at her. “Perhaps you’ll learn something while you’re here. The big guy knows you could use a sense of humour. It’s why they sent you to me.”

I didn’t give her time to respond, I barely gave her time to process the wink I threw in her direction before I vanished from sight. Unfortunately, Veronica was right on my heels and, given the nausea I’ve never been able to shake when transporting from one place to another, by the time I caught my breath she was back in her superior position.

Not that it mattered at that point. I was too busy taking in the new scene. Sarah-Ann was sitting alone at the centre of a busy restaurant, and she did not look happy. I spared a moment to get a read on her emotions before I glanced to the giant behind her chair. Not a literal giant, but Alexander made for an imposing figure wherever he went, with his dark skin and whiskey coloured eyes.

“You’d better dust off those pixie wings because it looks like you lost the bet,” he said, though his deep voice belied his concern.

A shudder ran through me at the thought of playing pixie. Not my choice, though it has to be said, I’d rock the character; a big, kick-ass gothic looking pixie with an axe to grind. “It isn’t over yet. How’s our girl doing? And more to the point, why doesn’t she already have her phone in her hand?”

“I don’t know how you can joke about this. There’s a lot on the line if your little scheme doesn’t work.” Veronica, ever the buzzkill reminded us.

“Joking about it is the only thing that keeps us sane,” I told her, shrugging because I wouldn’t apologise for it. “They’re ours. We’re with them during their highs and lows, we celebrate their victories and we feel every ounce of their pain.”

Being a Guide could be hell on a spirit. Having Alexander to torment was a perk I couldn’t live without. There were times I wanted to rub myself all over that smooth skin (it’s not difficult to guess my other form), and indeed I scratched that itch any chance I got.

“She’s dialled his number three times. I’m running out of arguments here.” Alexander’s grin was all kinds of wicked, but then he liked getting me into trouble. “Why don’t you give it a go?”

Why indeed? It could have something to do with the fact I was under review, and my actions often fell into the grey as far as my superiors were concerned. Then again, I’d never let it stop me before, so considering Tristan’s current plight, the big gorgeous idiot eyeing me with amusement knew exactly how I’d respond to the challenge.

“I’m going to get fired for this shit,” I mumbled as I sidled up to a nearby table and snatched a phone. It was merely a prop and the device would be back before the human making moon eyes at his date even noticed it was missing.

Revealing myself in a public place was never a good idea, so I was relying on the fact everyone was too busy filling their faces to pay too close attention to the fact I kind of appeared out of nowhere.

I strode past Sarah-Ann’s table, phone to my ear, and praying the impromptu plan worked. “No! That’s terrible. A hit and run? That poor man.” I let the silence hang a moment as I stopped to clutch the back of an empty chair. Probably overdoing it, but I was desperate. “I wonder who he is? If someone is right now waiting for him? They’d have no idea what happened.”

The spark of relief when I noticed Sarah-Ann pick up her phone got me moving again. I walked until I reached a corner and then disappeared, returning to Tristan just in time to watch as the police officer answered his phone.

“Are you trying to lose your job?” Veronica asked from behind me, though I did notice some of the indignation had left her voice.

“No, V. I’m trying to guide two extraordinary people in the right direction.” I turned to look at her. “You can’t imagine what it feels like, knowing they’re meant to be together and having to watch as every opportunity pulls them further apart. What it was like to feel that link snap into place when they were five years old and see them floundering without it.” Reaching out a hand, I placed it on hers and let the experiences flow from my mind to hers; the emotions buzzing along my skin. “When I left that page for Tristan to find on his computer, I wasn’t cheating, he didn’t have to choose to contact her, no more than she had to accept his invitation to dinner. And right now, Sarah-Ann is hearing that there’s a reason he didn’t make it. She’s feeling that bond they share, and if we’re lucky, if they finally find the path that leads to one another, she’ll be by his side as he recovers from an accident that I would have prevented if I could. So, don’t come down here and tell me I’m not doing my job. If I was as reckless as you seem to think, I would have jumped in front of the car.”

“And what of your inappropriate relationship with Alexander?” she asked, her eyes gleaming from all I had shown her.

“Where does it say in the handbook that we have to do this alone. That we have to watch as day in and day out good souls suffer?”

Her face softened. “They don’t suffer alone. That’s why you’re here. They’re never alone.”

I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face. “Yeah, well neither am I, not if I can help it. Come on, V. Can you blame me? I saw you drooling in that restaurant!”

Shaking her head, V stepped back. “Let’s finish up the evaluation so you get to see how the story ends.” I knew I had her when the edges of her mouth twitched.

By the time I returned to Tristan’s side, I’d even managed to make her laugh, which made it a really good day considering I arrived to witness Sarah-Ann leaning against the hospital bed, both her hands wrapped around one of Tristan’s.

Alexander, who was lounging against the door frame, was just icing on the cake. “It looks like we both won,” I said, enjoying the way his eyes lit up. “Do you want to change first, or shall I?”

I let the sweet energy from across the room wrap around me, coated with the sound of Alexander’s laughter as I carried through on my part of the bet. The pixie and the gladiator, an interesting choice, and a story for another time.

It’s a little longer than I wanted, though I did crop it as much as I could! And there is way too much ‘telling’. Still, it was fun and we learn every time we create something new.

Maybe you want to play along, or have examples of writing techniques you use. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by


6 responses to “The Right Path – A short story”

  1. Oh I want a Guide. I promise to listen! wonderful story. I hope she survives her review. Maybe there’s a sequel?

    About backups: Hmm… A really really easy backup is to email the WIP to yourself and file it in a ‘backup’ file. Five seconds!!!

    • Thanks for the tip Jacqui…I’ll do that. I almost didn’t write it again but because I agreed felt I couldn’t back out!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it…I totally want a Guide too! 😁 no sequel planned, but who knows – the character had a strong voice so if she pipes up I’ll go with it!

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