Redemption Collage Brave Jelena

Daegal saw Jelena hesitate in front of the chest. Her rapid breathing and white knuckles on  the dark wood of their escape tugged at his heart, and at his memory. Anton had told him of a time in their training when some of the younger men, fed up with being beaten by Jelena, had taken her and locked her in a cupboard. Anton freed her, thinking she’d be furious but had opened the door to a white faced and trembling young girl. Something happened in her childhood, Anton had gathered; but he’d never asked.


Her beautiful face set rigid and harsh with self control. What would it feel like for her to turn to him for comfort? A grin sparked and he pushed it away. It would feel like someone other than his Jelena.


“You know”, he said quietly “It’s a very deep chest. Even your long scrawny legs won’t cramp up in there.”


She took a breath and turned to face him. Something that might have been gratitude flickered in those big eyes that he saw when he closed his own.


“Are you sure your big head will fit though, Daegal? I’m quite concerned about you.”


He grinned. ‘I knew you cared, really. Here, let me be the gentleman for once.”


He gently peeled her hand from the edge of the chest and stood ready to hand her in. She froze, tension running down her arm and into his.  Muffled complaints from Malinda that her hair had caught on a splinter floated over to them, as did Alaea’s attempts to convince her brother that he wouldn’t fit in there with her and she would be fine without him.


He pulled Jelena closer to him and, surprisingly, she let him, “We’re all a bit anxious, but it will be alright.” She nodded stiffly and he stroked her wrist, his heart melting. “I’ll have to go in a minute, rescue Malinda from her hair.”


She smiled a bit uncertainly and let him hand her in, her breathing shallow and her legs shaking.


“I have to put the lid on now Jelena.” he said, wincing inside at the panic that darted across her face before her control wiped it away. “I’ll be right back after sorting Malinda out so if you decide you need anything or the lid isn’t sitting right just bellow and let me know.”


She nodded again, her lips tightly pressed together, and he smiled at her.


“That’s my brave girl” he said, and closed the lid on her indignant snort.


The tedium of waiting, holed up in a small cramped space, was shot through by constant worry over Jelena and the fear of betrayal.  Despite this, he fell asleep on the wagon trip as the chests bumped and jiggled their way along, waking with a guilty start when they stopped.  He had to fight himself not to just burst out of the chest. When he heard Marius’ voice he heaved a sigh of relief and kicked upwards with his feet until the lid came off. He was greeted with the welcome sight of twilight glinting off soft tendrils of mist winding through dark trees. He heaved himself out and into the forest clearing, wincing as cramp hit his calf, limping in a beeline for the chest he had marked down as Jelena’s.


He hauled the lid off and made sure he stood so he hid her from the others. She sat, still and white and quiet, her hands clenched so tightly he’d be surprised if there weren’t nail marks in her palms. A foul smell rose from a puddle of bile in the far corner. She looked up at him through tight wide eyes and his heart stopped at the shame he saw there. He held out his hand and she looked at it, but didn’t take it. He was sure she was trying not to cry.


“Come on then, sleepy head,” he said, “I know it’s comfy in there but some of us have work to do, towns to flee, can’t hang around for you all day.”


She took a shuddering breath and took his hand, for the second time in a day allowing him to help her. Her legs shook slightly as her feet hit the ground and he held on to her hand, stroking his thumb over her wrist as he made inane comments about the trees and complained a bit about the cramp in his calf while they watched Malinda clamber out, fall onto Tiernan’s neck as he helped her and ask for the privy.


Eventually, the trembling in the hand he held stopped and Jelena gently disengaged. She didn’t meet his eyes as she adjusted her vest and tightened her braid. Settling her hand on the pommel of her sword she took a deep breath. He smiled, seeing her poise return. She took a step towards Marius, who was shaking the hand of a large man who bore a strong resemblance to Finn, and then stopped. She didn’t quite glance over her shoulder at him, but he could see the effort it took her and didn’t mind.


“Thank you, Daegal.”


She walked off, straightening her shoulders and holding her head high and he didn’t think he could have felt this proud or this sad.

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This week I was challenged by Tiffany Crystal to write a post on something I have encountered or experienced that I’m pretty sure no-one else would have.

I really struggled to think of something.


I’m not the only person to fall down Mt Ngauruhoe. I’m not the only person to have scars all over their face.


I’m not the only person to run off stage crying before her solo song (oh god, I hope I’m not the only one…)


I’m certainly not the only person to have a bad relationship and a broken marriage.


I’m not the only one to have to face illness of loved ones or the suicide of close friends.


I’m not the only one to get in the middle of two massive teenage boys fighting and get them to back down (“Back off. Pretty soon you’re going to hit me, and I really don’t think you want to hit me. You need to back away”)


I don’t even know if I and my flatmates are the only ones to face a possum coming down our chimney and the police coming to our rescue (Yes, that happened. Yes, it was as embarrassing as it sounds)


I don’t even think I’m the only one to ever face the embarrassment of going for a cheek kiss when the kaumatua is going for a hongi and ending up kissing him on the nose.



This made me think about how ‘unique’ my life has really been. Maybe all the important and defining and funny moments are just the same as everyone else’s.


But then, a student said to me the other day:

‘Miss, when are you going to write your autobiography?”

“Oh, I don’t think I’m nearly interesting enough for an autobiography!”

“I think you are, Miss.”


This made me think about stories, and voice. There are lots and lots of different stories in the world, but really only a few that get told time and again in different ways. What makes a story truly unique is the person telling it – their voice. We hear often as writers – no-one can tell your story the way you can. It’s the same for life. No-one can live your life the way you can.


It’s like i had a whole heap of pretty blocks and paper and glitter and pipe cleaners and glue and asked a group of people to each make something that represented them. They would start with the same materials, and what they built might be similar, but each would be different, depending on their vision and their skill. That’s life.


It’s actually really reassuring knowing that we share more than we don’t. When things were very bad with my marriage and directly after we separated, and I was struggling to understand what had gone wrong, I found a website where many people had shared very similar experiences to mine. It was at once saddening that others had gone through the same thing but a huge relief to see my story played out again and again by strangers. We don’t feel so alone in our experience if we know others have felt it too.


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I am, however, possibly, the only one who has rung back a number to leave a message stating ‘Hi, it is Clementine from the Auckland University History library here, just calling to let you know that Hitler and Germany invaded Warsaw on the 8th of September. Have a good day.’


So there’s that.


What about you? Have you encountered or experienced something you think it’s unlikely that others have? Let me know in the comments!



rose-flower-flowers-plant-40660.jpegThis week for a twitter prompt on #DailyScribe I wrote a legend for why flowers bloom in spring. [I forgot to save it but had taken screenshots so have added those here. Apologies for the small font!]. I feel I’m cheating a little by posting this here as well but ask you to forgive me for I am tired.

Hope you enjoy the story!

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Children dust annie-spratt-133873-unsplashThrough the glass she saw the children. Monitors lay overturned and Matt and Lily raged around the small ward, smashing equipment and throwing supplies on the ground. They were the ones screaming, raw guttural cries that didn’t belong in such young bodies.

Jenny and Xiyu Chang, Lily’s mother, were outside the glass. Xiyu was shouting at Ryder, demanding he let her through or do something to help her daughter. Jenny stared quietly, her eyes wide and her medical nightgown open at the back. Addie walked over to her and began to tie up the drawstrings tight. For heavens sake, could no-one think of the woman’s dignity?

Ryder held Xiyu away from him when she began hitting at his chest and thrust her at Anahera. “Make her calm down or send her out.”

He stalked over to her and she stroked Jenny’s shoulder once and turned to face him.

“They’ve been like this for about 10 minutes. Ana couldn’t calm them down. It looked like they were going to turn on her so I pulled her out. Any ideas?”

She frowned, chewing on  her lip. “Where’s Tama?”

“Over there”

She followed his gesture and saw Tama curled up in a ball in the corner, his arms round his head, rocking. No help there then.

She’d have to go in.

She didn’t want to.

She looked up at Ryder. He seemed to think she’d know what to do and stupid as it might be she didn’t want to disappoint him.  Jenny shuddered and began to cry, little whimpers that hid how much she was hurting.

She’d promised her.

“I don’t know if it will work but I’ll see if I can calm them down. Maybe they just need a different face.”

He shrugged and waved her towards the door. “Give it a go. If you think they’re going to turn on you then signal and we’ll have to sedate them, no matter how much Xiyu hates the idea.”

She could understand why. Having your child awake, even if they were screaming and out of control, seemed surely better than the coma that had shrouded them with deathly stillness.

Unless you knew why they were screaming.

Ryder held the door handle and looked at her from under his brows. “Ready?”


He unlocked and opened the door, she slipped in and heard him shut it behind her. The noise in here without the benefit of the glass in between was horrific. Worse were the expressions on Matt and Lily’s faces; it was fear, not rage, that contorted their features and drove them to destroy the things that their sore and violated brains saw as threats. She knew that feeling.

She stood for a moment before walking slowly out into the centre of the room, away from the machines and medical tools and with her hands clearly out and open in front of her. Lily whirled on her and then stopped, panting, confusion making lines on her brow.

“It’s okay. It’s just me. You know me. It’s Addie. I won’t hurt you. No-one is going to hurt you here. You are safe.”

She didn’t tell them to stop. No-one liked being told what to do.

Lily looked at Matt, who had also stopped and was looking at Addie with a screwed up, hurt look. That was interesting, they seemed to be working together, not apart.

“Matt, you know I would never hurt you”

His face puckered. “But you didn’t stop them. You let them take us. You all let them take us.”

The ache in her heart wasn’t just for them. “I know. It was wrong. It’s always wrong. But you are here now and I will help you now. If I can.”

“How?” Lily’s young voice rasped hoarsely. “How can you possibly help us?”

She shrugged. “Honestly I don’t know, but I do know I can do it more easily if you’re not tearing the place up.”

The kids looked around as if for the first time at the chaos they had caused. Lily bit her lip. “Will Doctor Rongoa be cross with us?”

She shook her head. “No. She doesn’t know what’s going on but she doesn’t blame you. None of us do.”

Maybe she should be using softer words, endearments, maybe moving to hug them, but she’d lost that part of her somewhere long ago. She could only go with what she knew. Her blunt words and still figure seemed to be working though; she could see red rage dying away, fear turning to anxiety.

She risked moving a step forward, her hands lowering. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”

They shuffled to meet her and then, in tandem, their eyes rolled back in their heads and they dropped to the floor, like puppets whose strings had been cut. She threw herself on the floor next to them, feeling their pulses beating but weak.

Anahera rushed through the door. She checked their pupils and sat back on her heels, shaking her head. “I can’t tell until I’ve done more tests but I’d say they’ve slipped back into their comas.”

Ryder’s voice was terse behind them and she wondered briefly who now held back Xiyu, whose wails punched the air. “Lark, what happened? What did they say?”

She pushed herself to her feet, exhaustion dragging her muscles downwards. She met Ryder’s tense eyes briefly then flicked her glance to where Anahera and her assistant were lifting the children up to the remaining upright bed, moving on to see the mothers outside, Xiyu sobbing and pushing against Marco’s steady arms, and Jenny, silent and still.  Tama stood in the doorway and something in his face made her breath catch.

She rubbed her face and let out a sigh as her hands found her hips. “They said that we didn’t stop them being taken. That we let them take them. And they’re right. It’s so wrong and we let it happen every time. They’re traumatised and in pain; can you blame them for letting that out?”

“Pain? Did they say they’re hurting?” asked Anahera.

She shook her head but kept her eyes on Ryder. “No. But it’s obvious. We let the monsters take them. They were as good as dead the moment they were taken away. And we let them do it.”

Ryder’s face was set but he didn’t look away. She finally let her hands drop and walked out, ignoring him as he reached out for her.

It was all going to happen again.



I’ve now finished the first draft of Dust Bound so felt it was appropriate to share a scene! I am really looking forward to getting into rewrites now.

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“Put your game face on”.


Often we don’t share our vulnerabilities or our inner selves with everyone. Some of us have different personas, different masks, for different situations and groups of people. Masks are pretty common, even when we think we’re an open person.


There are many reasons we wear masks. Probably the most common is for protection.


We wear a mask that hides who we really are to protect our authentic self from the hurt of rejection. It is vulnerability that we hide by avoiding the acknowledgement of what worries or frightens us. So, for instance, we maintain a facade of brightly smiling ‘I’m fine thanks’ when inside our loneliness or insecurities is a burden.


We wear a mask to try to keep up with the expectations of other people – filters on selfies, make up on before leaving the house, never asking for help or directions.


Some people wear different faces in different surroundings so that, for instance, work mates never see their raver side and their raver friends never see their serious academic side.


We take on roles as well, that are masks of a sort. These can be affirming but can also lead to imposter syndrome – everyone tells me I am good at something so I behave as if I am but.. what if i’m not??

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When we wear a mask we can feel ‘safer’ but at what cost? Research shows that when people wear a physical mask that conceals their identity they are more likely to engage in behaviours that are anti-social and unlike themselves. I’m not saying that putting on your game face to protect yourself from rejection will lead to anti-social behaviour, but I do think it can be an obstacle to being that authentic self, and therefore an obstacle to making strong social connections.


I have written before about seeking to be as authentic in life as possible, so it won’t be a surprise that I am in favour of shedding masks to show people who we really are. I am a very open person and have, 9 times out of 10, never regretted showing people who I really am and how I really feel.


Masks that help us:


Firstly – sometimes we do need to conceal our emotions. It isn’t appropriate for me as a teacher to let my inner turmoil be apparent to my students. I’m very fortunate in that my workmates are friends, but in many workplaces too there is a level of professionalism that requires stoicism. This doesn’t mean that we don’t ask for help if we need it, more that a mask of stoicism helps us function in a professional setting despite significant emotional stress.


Secondly – fake it til you make it. Masks can be helpful in convincing us that we can actually do something.

“Dress for the job you want”

Research has shown that when children dress as batman they are more focused in class and attempt all tasks, therefore being more likely to achieve all tasks.


Those of you who have read my post on overcoming fear will remember that when i was 15 I fell down Mt Ngauruhoe, smashing open my face. This left me with a lingering fear of steep slippery slopes. When I returned to the mountain as a teacher, I knew I could not have a break down in front of my students. The mask of a competent and in control adult slipped over my face and I was able (with the help of another adult on the trip) to face my fear and walk across the saddle.


As with many things in life, it’s how we use our masks that determines whether they help or hinder us. The moment they restrict us from feeling able to access help, or from being who we really are, then we know we should probably drop them.
Dropping your mask can be scary, but it can also be liberating.