BFM 2021: Fourth voting round

Some writers find assignments that don’t contain many specifications harder to write for, than those which contain a lot of hurdles to jump. The fourth round was a very open prompt and so we were very pleased to receive all but one story back from the contestants.

Fourth Round Assignment

The assignment for round 4 was: “massage”

  • The word “massage” should appear in your story at least once.
  • The assignment is open to interpretation, and no, the story doesn’t necessarily have to be about a massage.
  • Your story is between 900-1000 words. No less, no more.
  • Give your story a title of 2-4 words.

Fourteen stories have already been voted on by the jury and once again the scores are quite tight so all of the stories will be available below for you to vote on.

Readers, what should you do now?

Read all the fourth round entries, and vote for the stories you like the best. Try to keep the assignment in mind when you make your choices. You have to choose three stories, no less, no more.

The survey is at the bottom of the page after the last story. Don’t’ forget to click the ‘Finish Survey’ button when you’ve made your choices!

Also, the writers appreciate receiving feedback. Just a few things your liked about the entries or where you feel improvements could be made. Such advice may help them with their composition during the rest of the competition. This can be done in the comments section below after completing the survey. All feedback is held in moderation until the results of the round are ready to be revealed.

Please note:

  • Writers are not allowed to tell anyone which entry they have written!
  • You can only vote once. Votes will be monitored and double votes will be removed.
  • The voting round closes on 10th August 2021 (see the countdown in the sidebar of this site).
  • Results of the voting round will be published on this site on 14 August 2021 and then the author of each story will be revealed.
  • Choose carefully as at the end of this round there will be knockouts – round 5 has only 10 writers.

Find the Fiction Marathon Rules here…

If you write about your experience in the Marathon please link up so others can find your post.


The Fourth Round Stories

1.Birthday Treat

The lights thumped in time with the music. Fiona stood at the bar, taking in the scene as she waited for the bartender to finish with another customer. Even though she’d been in South Korea for over six months, it still astonished her how familiar the bar scene was half a world away from home. The bartenders, whether good-looking or not, always gravitated towards the pretty girls first and made Fiona’s chubby-ass-self wait.

Not that Fiona had any issues with her body, she just had no illusions, either. Her thinner friends always had guys swarming around them and got served first. Apparently, that was just life in 2002, no matter how far she traveled from home to get away from it.

Plus, she had gotten her hair chopped off and dyed fire-engine red the week before. She loved it, but got plenty of looks on the streets of Seoul.

Damn, she needed a drink.

She turned back to the bar and tried to wave a bartender down when a voice from behind her rose above the din and caught her attention.

“Fiona! Oy!”

She turned and her eyes landed on a tall, thin, Australian rubbing the shoulders of a young, beautiful, Korean girl.

Case and point, she thought to herself, before calling back.

“Archie!”

Abandoning her spot, she wound around the people at the bar to get to him. He took a hand from the woman’s shoulder and wrapped it around Fiona in a half-hug.

“A little birdie told me it’s someone’s birthday today!” Archie yelled as the bartender placed two shots in front of them. The woman picked one up, but Archie took it right out of her hand, handed it to Fiona and picked up the other one. “Happy birthday, girl!”

Fiona looked from Archie to the woman, who seemed nonplussed. Archie clinked glasses with her, and downed his shot, then looked at her expectantly. She had no choice but to drink it.

“Thank you!” She directed her appreciation more at the woman than at Archie, who turned back and continued to massage the woman’s shoulders.

“This is Eunhee!” He dipped his head and the woman held out her hand for Fiona to shake.

“It’s nice to meet you!” Fiona always felt funny meeting new people in bars, she was never sure if she heard their name correctly.

“Sengil-chukahamnida!”

“Kamsa-hamnida.” Fiona bowed slightly as she thanked Eunhee for the birthday wishes then turned back to Archie. She put a few thousand wan on the bar and tilted her head at the bartenders. “Think you can get them to bring me a beer?”

“Of course, but you don’t pay on your birthday.” Eunhee handed the money back to her and held her hand up to Archie, who dug four thousand wan out of his pocket. Eunhee waved it, summoning a bartender almost immediately.

Beer in hand, she turned back to Archie. “Thanks! Where is everyone?”

Archie craned his neck and pointed out some of their friends, already out on the floor dancing, one of the few mixed groups of Koreans and “Westerners” (i.e. non-Asians). She slinked her way over to them, sliding around other groups of dancers on the crowded floor.

“Fiona!” They all screamed as she joined them, dancing as if she’d been there all night. One of her friends wrapped their arms around her from behind and kissed her head. She looked up to see her best friend, Abby, standing over her.

“Happy birthday!” Abby yelled right into Fiona’s ear, making Fiona wince. Abby, the mastermind of the night, danced with her until the song finished and then pulled her off the floor to a table marked ‘reserved.’ It was covered with all of Fiona’s favorite local foods and her friends came and sat around her.

They ate, got roaringly drunk, laughed until they cried and then pulled Fiona back out on the dance floor. A few songs in, Abby elbowed her and nodded across the room. Fiona locked eyes with the hottest guy in the bar.

“He’s been staring at you.” Abby yelled in her ear.

“No way,” Fiona smiled, eyes not breaking contact with him. He smiled back and started dancing over to her.

Abby gave her a little shove from behind.

They met in the middle of the dance floor and he put his hand on her hip, pulling her close. They didn’t talk until the song ended and even then he merely laced his fingers in hers and pulled her outside.

When the cool air hit her, she sobered up a little, but realized he was already talking to her. She didn’t understand a word.

“English?” she asked.

He shook his head. “Little little. Hangooki?” Korean?

She shook her head and held her pointer and thumb close to each other. “Chogeum-yo.” A little.

They looked at each other and smiled awkwardly.

She pointed to herself. “Fiona.” Then she pointed at him.

“Joe.”

“Joe?” she raised an eyebrow at him.

He laughed and shook his head. “Like Joe. You say Joe.”

“America?” he pointed at her again.

“Yes. I’m American. You?” she pointed back to him.

“Turkey,” he said.

She nodded and the awkward silence returned. Side-eyeing him, her thoughts raced. Far too good looking, what was he doing out here with her?

He caught her looking and she looked away quickly, blushing. He nudged her and she looked back, cheeks still rosy. Before she had time to process, he kissed her.

In that moment, she made a decision.

“Fuck it.” She took out her flip phone, texted Abby, then dragged Saeed to the train station a few blocks away.

She deserved a treat on her birthday.


2. I Second That Emotion

‘Thank you, Mr Potter,’ said Marjorie Wainwright, ‘It is, as ever, most gratifying to hear that the finances of the Civic Society are in such capable hands.’

‘I’d like to second that, Madam Chair,’ George Wainwright piped up.

‘That won’t be necessary, thank you, George. Without further ado, let us move on to the main item on the agenda: the issue of the so-called Littlewich Massage and Wellbeing Centre. Mrs Peacock has kindly prepared a brief report for us, summarising the situation as it stands. Mrs Peacock?’

‘Thank you, Madam Chair. Well, as you know, despite our efforts to convince the Council that such an establishment was entirely out of keeping with the character of Littlewich Conservation Area, permission was granted and this massage parlour opened last month. Despite assurances that they would only be employing respectable, professionally-qualified clinical staff, offering therapeutic treatments, it has been observed that several of these so-called therapists are very young women of South Asian appearance, suspiciously attractive, and their clothing, having observed them entering and leaving the premises,’ – Mrs Peacock’s expertise on this matter was entirely predicated on her living opposite the premises – ‘… is often far from respectable.’

Jack Ruddy snorted. ‘Oh, so we’re saying that young Asian women can’t possibly be professionally qualified, are we? And heaven forefend that they might be ‘suspiciously attractive’!’

‘Thank you, Mr Ruddy. Please let Mrs Peacock complete her report.’

‘Thank you, Madam Chair. Furthermore, it has been noted that an unusual percentage of customers are of the male persuasion.’

Another snort from Mr Ruddy was quickly doused by a stern look from Madam Chair.

‘I went there for a foot massage’, interjected Millicent Wimsey, ‘It was all very clean and proper; no one offered me a happy ending.’

The meeting fell silent as nine individuals contemplated this revelation in nine individual ways.

‘That’s all well and good, Miss Wimsey,’ said Marjorie Wainwright, ‘but the fact that legitimate services are being performed does not negate the possibility that, behind closed doors, more nefarious activities are also going on. The only way we shall be sure, and can secure the necessary credible testimony to present to the Council, is to infiltrate the enemy camp with an undercover agent. One of our own male members – Put your hand down, Mr Ruddy. And don’t snigger! – One of our own gentlemen must masquerade as a client and find out exactly what is on offer. George…’ She turned to her husband.

‘Oh, Marjorie, no, please…’.

‘All those in favour?’ Seven hands rose; all bar Jack Ruddy and George.

‘Excellent. Carried. George, I shall brief you outside of the meeting and you shall report back at next month’s meeting.’

As the meeting was packing up, Ophelia Peacock whispered to Marjorie, ‘Doesn’t it worry you, sending your husband into such a place?’

‘Ha! Ophelia, my dear, forgive my frankness, but George hasn’t had an erection since Margaret Thatcher died – and, yes, I am suggesting there is a connection – so, no, I am not worried in the slightest!’

***

‘John Smith. eleven o’clock appointment,’ announced George to the receptionist.

‘Please take a seat, Mr Smith, and your therapist will be with you in just a moment,’ the receptionist replied, barely stifling a giggle, as she looked across the counter at the middle-aged man in sunglasses and a flat cap.

Before he had time to sit, George heard a voice behind him. ‘Good morning, Mr Smith. My name is Maya. May I call you John?’

‘John? Oh, yes; yes, please do, call me John.’ George immediately began making mental notes as he followed Maya through to the treatment room. South Asian in appearance? Definitely, but no trace of that caricatured ‘sing-song’ accent; on the contrary, she sounded as though she might have been educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Suspiciously attractive? Affirmative. But, in her pristine white clinical dress, Maya could not have looked more respectable or more professional.

‘And what can I do for you today, John?’

‘I’d like the full massage, please.’ Marjorie had stressed to him how important it was not to run the risk of being accused of entrapment, by being the first to mention extras; wait until the girl offers.

Maya asked ‘John’ to undress behind a screen and, with deft manipulation of the gown provided and a large towel, she had George lying face down on the massage table, covered shoulder-to-ankle by the towel.

George’s character was not well suited to being a spy. From the moment that Maya placed her hand on the small of his back, George knew that, whatever transpired, he would not be presenting a damning report to the committee. All their prejudice and hostility suddenly seemed to him to be petty and mean. As Maya turned back the towel and began to work her hands firmly over his back, George experienced a sense of euphoria and of time suspended.

His mind was in another place – or, more accurately, in no place – when Maya’s soft voice asked him to turn over. As he turned to lie on his back, George realised that, beneath the towel, his penis was standing firm and proud.

‘Don’t be embarrassed, John; it’s a normal biological reflex,’ Maya reassured him. That was all she said; no mention of extras or happy endings. And, by the time she concluded the massage, holding George’s head between her two hands, his penis – and every part of him – had softened and yielded.

***

When George lay down against his wife that night, his penis stiffened again. Without a word said between them, Marjorie turned on to her back and hitched up her nightdress as George pulled off her underpants and, astonished by her wetness as much as she was by the ferocity of his erection, he sunk himself inside her.

‘I don’t think we need to mention this in the report to the committee, George,’ said Marjorie, when she had got her breath back.

George laughed. ‘I second that emotion, Madam Chair!’


3. Sex Club Virgin

I giggled at the phrase in my head. “I am a Sex Club Virgin, and I am about to pop my cherry!”

I felt giddy with a mix of nerves and excitement.

My google history told the story of my mind that week.

What to wear to a sex club?”

What to expect from my first time at a sex club?”

I eventually dealt with my sartorial dilemma and decided on a beautiful blue corset and thong, with stockings and high heels. I wore a flirtatious little dress over it to arrive in. It felt like suitable sex club attire, but mostly importantly, I felt sexy in it.

Butterflies played in my stomach as I drove there. I pulled into the car park, and I saw him waiting there exactly as agreed. He knew I was feeling anxious and the sight of him softened my nerves.

He had been to the club a few times before and was friends with several of the attendees. That evening, he was accompanying me, as my playmate – helping me live out this fantasy.

A wave of delicious anticipation surged through me.

He greeted me with a kiss and whispered into my ear, checking I was okay. I took a deep breath and nodded. He returned the smile, but with a wicked glint in his eye. “Tonight, I am your Dominant. I expect your obedience, but I will also take the upmost care of you.”

And with that he led me into the club. I visited the changing room and removed my dress. I walked out in just my lingerie, and he whistled appreciatively. I laughed but it allowed me to start to enjoy the thrill of walking around in such provocative attire.

He showed me around, with our tour ending in the bar area where I took a seat on one of the bar stools.

A glass of champagne appeared, and I took a sip, enjoying the sensation of the cool liquid and the dancing bubbles on my tongue. “Good girl” he caressed me with his voice. “Now spread your legs wider.”

I felt a moment of self-consciousness in front of the other people chatting and flirting nearby, but I did as he requested. He slipped two fingers beneath my thong and gently rubbed them over my pussy. An audible moan escaped my lips.

He stared at me intensely, holding my gaze. His fingers moved lower and probed at my opening. I bit at my bottom lip as his fingers slipped inside me.

“Just as wet as I imagined you would be,” he asserted.

I felt myself blush at his words. He pulled his fingers away and brought them to his mouth. I could see other people watching as he licked my juices from them.

“Delicious,” he smirked. “Now I have a little treat for you.”

Options swirled ominously through my head. I finished my champagne and followed him through to another room. He pointed to a spanking bench in the middle of the floor and encouraged me to position myself accordingly. The prospect of the pleasure and pain fuelled my arousal.

My skin felt hot as I lay my flesh against the leather. He walked around me, tying my wrists and ankles to the bench. Then he fastened a wide belt around my middle, holding me tightly in place, forcing my back to arch and my bottom to rise.

From my prone position, I could see the legs of people entering the room. I could hear them moving around, ready to watch the spectacle.

Leaning down, he brought his mouth close to my ear. “You look perfect. Just remember your safeword and that there is no shame in using it.”

Then he moved behind me. I waited.

A first firm slap landed across my right cheek. I inhaled sharply.

A second and a third followed quickly. Each one stinging my flesh. I could not help but cry out.

He worked expertly over my bottom and upper thighs. A deluge of slaps landed, some light and teasing, some harsh and firm. Fronds of pain burned across my skin.

My legs tried to kick out, but the restraints held me firmly in position. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my lower back.

As more spanks rained down on my throbbing flesh, I felt waves of agony and sparks of exquisite pleasure.

I was hugely conscious of the crowd of onlookers. And that just heighted everything for me.

I knew my screams were filling the room, but I could not stop myself.

Finally, he paused. My body was shaking, I knew my skin would be glowing red.

He slid his hand between my legs and found my swollen clit. I moaned at his sensual touch.

His hand rubbed backwards and forwards, stimulating me. The build-up of tension inside, made me yearn for my release.

Then he pulled his hand away and pushed two fingers into my aching pussy. It felt wonderful but I wanted the pressure back on my clit. I groaned in frustration.

“Do you need to cum, Little One?” he asked innocently.

“Yes,” I pleaded.

Cruelly, he started to massage my aching bottom.

“Tell me what you want me to do.”

I felt so wanton in front of all those people. But my body was crying out with need.

“I need to cum. Please touch my clit again. Please,” I almost sobbed my request.

His fingers caressed my clit, exactly as he knew I needed. I ground against them.

“Cum for me, Little One.”

The pleasure overwhelmed me. My body tensed and bucked against the restraints. My orgasm ripped through me. I cried out over and over. I came undone in front of all those strangers.

When my body finally stilled, he ushered the onlookers from the room and wrapped me in his arms. I relaxed in his embrace but knew for the rest of the evening, every person I saw, I would wonder if they had been one of the spectators.


4. Another Life

His life was a joke, something to be endured.

Reed had been convinced of that since the accident, and when the agency sent Alisha Washington to his house, it just seemed like another cruel punchline. She was still as pretty as ever, wearing raspberry-colored scrubs and a determined smile.

“Hey, Stranger,” she said, when his mother showed her into his room.

Reed turned his face to the wall. His trophy case mocked him, reminded him of what he once was, and what he’d never be again. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thrown all that shit away.

“Do you remember me?” she persisted.

“What do you want?”

“The first thing I want is to get you moving.”

“Not now,” he said. “I’m tired.”

She surprised him by elevating the head of his bed.

“Rest later,” she said. “We have work to do.”

“Get the fuck out of here!” he snapped. “I said I’m tired.”

“You can growl all you like, Reed Donally. You’re not going to scare me off like you did your last two therapists.”

Reed caught a whiff of her jasmine perfume and his anger dissipated into some sort of aching loneliness. He merely felt defeated.

“Just go,” he said. “I’ll give you a hundred bucks. Tell your boss I’m an asshole and that I threw you out. Maybe you’ll have better luck with the next loser they stick you with.”

“I asked for you.”

He frowned. “Why?”

“I thought maybe you could use a friend.”

“We’re not friends. We never were.”

She sat on his bed and gave him a conspiratorial grin. “Wanna be enemies, then? Opponents? You always liked a challenge, right?”

He didn’t want to look at her, but something about that smile still got to him.

“C’mon,” she cajoled. “You know how I remember you? As that cocky little freshman who was brave enough to hit on a senior in front of her boyfriend.”

He snorted. “Yeah, look how that turned out for me. Seven stitches, I think.”

God, that seemed a lifetime ago. Alisha hadn’t gone to his high school, but everyone had known her name. She was Cannon County’s Homecoming Queen, their Fairest of the Fair. When their baseball teams had played, he’d written his name and number on a ball, then sauntered over to the stands and put it in her hands.

“Let me take you out,” he’d said.

The only thing that had gotten taken out was him. Her boyfriend had charged over from third base, yanked the ball from her hands and cracked Reed in the back of the head with it as he walked away. The dugout had emptied and the ensuing brawl between the teams was local legend.

“It never stopped you, though. You never gave up.” Alisha laughed. “You hit on me every single time you saw me.”

When he didn’t respond, she said, “I’ll tell you what—pick your game. If you win, I’ll leave. If I win, you give me a chance.”

When he didn’t reply, she said, “Chicken.”

“Chess,” he blurted.

He nodded to the table in the corner, where his mother kept a desperate collection of things meant to keep him busy. The swift way Alisha set up the chessboard made him wonder if he’d made a mistake.

“There’s a good chance you can walk again,” she said as she made her first move.

“Paresis isn’t the same as paralysis. It won’t be easy, but I think you can get back on your feet.”

“Yeah, so I can do some jerky, pathetic walk with arm braces. Why bother?”

“So, you plan to just lie here until you die?”

He sighed and took her pawn. “I’m already dead.”

“I never thought you were a quitter,” she said. “Disappointing.”

He scowled. “I lost everything I ever dreamed of in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. Don’t tell me how disappointing I am.”

“There’s more to life than baseball.”

“Not for a guy like me.”

“You could coach. Or be a sports reporter. Your life isn’t over, Reed.”

“The only one I want is,” he said, as she moved her knight.

She rattled on about the new life he could make for himself and all the things he might still do. He let her talk as he studied the board.

“Check,” he said, and saw the trap the instant he lifted his fingers from his queen.

“Ha, ha! Checkmate! I beat you, I beat you,” she chanted, and he tried to suppress his smile.

“At least you’re a gracious winner. Congrats, you beat a cripple. I hope you can sleep tonight.”

She surprised him by smacking a kiss on his cheek. “Oh, I’ll sleep like a baby, baby.”

He completed every exercise she demanded. That evening, when his legs cramped and burned, it wasn’t as annoying as it usually was. This time he’d earned it. Still, melancholy stole over him as he watched her massage his calves.

She glanced at him. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just ironic. I used to spend a lot of time fantasizing about this very set-up: you, in this room, touching me.” He gave a bitter laugh. “This isn’t quite how I envisioned it.”

Smiling, she said, “Well, I don’t date quitters and I don’t date patients, but if you play your cards right—”

He caught her wrist. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t make me want things I can’t have.”

Alisha laughed. “Oh, God. This may be the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever said, but—when I heard them say your name yesterday …” She shook her head. “Look, I can’t date you until your therapy is completed, so we’re not even going to talk about this now, but Reed, we’re not kids anymore, and I’ve thought about you a lot over the years. Your life isn’t over. It doesn’t have to be, anyway. Maybe something wonderful is just around the corner.”

And in that moment, something about the way she looked at him made Reed dare to hope that she was right.


5. A Mother’s Shoes

I’ve only just unlocked the front door and already I know this will be more challenging than I thought. My hands begin to shake, my palms turning clammy. I waited a week, then two, but can no longer delay today’s task.

The door closes with a decisive click and when I turn around; I see them. Lined up with precision beside the entrance, seeming to wait for her to slip into them once more. I remember watching my mother massage her feet after her shift each day. She’d remove the thick-soled shoes- always white- a moan echoing throughout the hall as she’d wiggle her toes. She’d hang up her coat, empty her pockets of tape and scissors, and place her stethoscope beside her keys. Like perhaps she may have need of them in the middle of the night and wouldn’t be able to find them. The tools of her trade still sit there like a mockery, no longer of use to anyone but memory.

Instruments ignored; I walk through the home I grew up in. It feels different now yet looks much the same. The couches have been updated; the paint refreshed. But the chart that denotes mine and my brothers’ growth remains in its place on the door frame between kitchen and den. Little black lines signify the changing seasons, important moments in our lives. I run my finger over the dash-like mark labeled Mom. I’m not sure when her name fell below mine.

Turning away, I look at the back door, only to notice her gardening shoes. Tattered, black- or they were once – slip-ons, caked with muck and grime. I stare at them, realizing I’ll likely never eat another fresh tomato sandwich, or carve another pumpkin grown in our front yard on Hallowe’en. I’d go check on her prized peonies, but I don’t think they’ll be quite as cheerful without her.

The stairs creak as I take each step, the ghastly green shag carpet now torn away. At the top, I look right, then left, but know where my feet will take me. Beside her bed-the side she’d slept on all my life- sit her slippers, fuzzy, yet not looking as warm as I remember. They remind me of childhood and those early Saturday mornings when heavy-eyed, I’d wander in for a cuddle and find her already awake, lounging with a cup of cream infused coffee, reading in bed. The one that now sits empty, prepared for a future slumber, with dozens of pillows fluffed up on top.

I study the over-filled, colour-coded closet that houses her possessions. Trousers and tunics, slacks and slips. The array of fabrics rustles beneath my fingers, and I press each of them to my nose, hoping for one last whiff. The unique fragrance of her – a mother, a nurse, a wife, a widow- clings to each garment, and if I close my eyes, I can almost trick myself into believing she’s right here.

At the back of the storage space are boxes stacked one upon the next. Each containing a pair of shoes. I pull them out, rearrange the piles. With a deep sigh, I take the first and open the lid. Inside are her Sunday shoes, the ones she wore to church each week. Black patent leather with low-lying pumps. I remember asking her years ago if she believed in God. She said it didn’t matter. If there was a God, he, or perhaps she, believed in her. I hope now that her words were true.

The next reveals a pair of sandals, small grains of sand littering the bottom of the box. Beneath the protective paper are shells she selectively collected from the sea. I picture our last family vacation, touring the isles of Greece. I can almost smell the salty air, hear my mother’s carefree laughter echoing around me. Closing the lid on my retrospection, I choose another from the pile.

Tucked inside is a pair of red Mary Janes. Originals from the look of them. The straps are buckled in their silver clasps, the leather worn, soles thin from long nights of performing The Jive, The Twist, and The Mashed Potato. I can picture her and my father dancing in the living room, a vinyl record scratching out The Four Tops, The Beatles, or The Supremes. It seems so long ago, and yet, not.

A larger box encases a pair of mid-rise go-go boots. Ones I’ve never seen her wear. The white leather is soft as silk and slides effortlessly through my trembling grasp. Setting them aside, I take another, and another, until I’ve opened each and every box. Leaving them on the floor, I return to the closet and one by one, take her outfits from the hangers. Once folded, I place my mother’s belongings into an unremarkable black bag.

Now full, I assess the indefinable receptacle, feeling heavy and guilt laden with the thought that someone can pack away a life with so little regard. Given away to a good home of course, but no longer needed, soon to be forgotten. And I wonder then if that’s what happens to people too. Are they simply forgotten because they’re not needed any longer, or are they forgotten because we forget to remember they used to exist? How does one forget a mother? I shake my head.

Turning back around, I study the boxes. And then, one after another, I open them all again and lay out each set of footwear. All around me are a mother’s shoes in all shapes and colors. Dressy heels and casual flats, dance shoes, and a pair with taps. Cowboy boots and sneakers. All worn. Some only once. But none that can ever be filled.


6. Happy Birthday

[Content Warning: Grief]

My dear love.

Happy birthday!

It feels strange, sending those words in a letter rather than whispering them in your ear as we wake together. It’s the first time since we met that we’ve been apart on either of our special days, the first of many.

We thought of you this morning. Maisie asked if we could go to your favourite place, our rock with its views of the river snaking through the valley far below, and the reservoir on the opposite side. She wanted to see “Daddies peaks”- as she now calls your favourite training route- and spend some time in your special place. Just the two of us, and you. You’d have been so proud as she packed our lunch up. From the marmite, peanut butter and cucumber sandwiches that always featured in your trail pack, scotch eggs and a supersized jar of pickled onions. She even baked your favourite lemon drizzle cake.

I can’t tell you how worried your mum was for us, though you know what an anxious bunny she is, always seeing the problems and obstacles. I think she wanted to join us, but when Maisie made it clear she just wanted the two of us it was decided our isolation was unhealthy. Ah well, you can’t please everybody! I’m doing my best for this little family.

And my best is good enough, right? The weather today showed me that. You’ve always been blessed with unseasonably warm birthday weather. Today was no exception. And your little girl is just incredible. That walk up to our rock could have weighed heavy today, but instead, with Maisie’s light footedness and birthday excitement, we soon climbed the steep, rocky path to your our favourite spot.

The day was as perfect as it could be. We laughed, sang, hugged and danced. Up there, on our favourite rock. As we started to pack up the weather took a turn. Looking across the valley I watched the clouds massage their way along “your” peaks. Big, fat tears poured out of my eyes, rolled down my cheeks. Maisie, wise beyond her 7 years, wrapped her arms around my hips, she’d seen the tears and the clouds. But what came out of her mouth was as much you as it was her. She said “Try not to cry Mummy, I’m here for you. Look at the clouds and think of Daddy. When you feel too sad, they will help. You see how they’re hugging Daddies peaks now? I pretend that is Daddy hugging me. And when it is sunny and there are only little clouds in the sky he is still there. Giving space for the sunshine to get through. Watching from a long way off. Never gone though, always here”, and she lifted her right hand from my hip and placed it on my heart. She’s such a super little human.

We’re both working with counsellors, separately and together. Trying to make sense of the cruelty which ripped you away from us. Maisie has found an acceptance of your loss, a brightness around your memories. I hope that I can make the same leap soon, but I’m still in the thick of the grief right now. I cycle between anger, denial, and depression multiple times each day. Naturally I’m angry with you, for heading out that morning. If you’d stayed in bed, spooned me, just that once, you’d have not been hit by the drunk driver. Why did you have to take yourself on that pre-dawn adventure? What on earth did you choose that route for? Taking yourself along the lanes in the murk of early dawn. I know you’d done this countless times before, found peace in clocking up the miles. But now you’ve found a different kind of peace and left us in turmoil. Yes, I’m angry! Not just with you, but with the world. For the unfairness of it all. Sometimes, in my dreams, I wake to you returning home from that excursion. Steaming cup of tea delivered with kisses and sweaty cuddles. I can still smell you on the sheets, on your clothes. Sometimes, when Maisie is at school, I’ll retreat to bed, curl up with your running jacket. The exertion of more miles than I care to imagine indelibly marking the armpits with your scent. This helps, briefly. I let myself believe you will be home. If I can smell you surely this is all just a bad dream? But when I peel my eyelids open again, see your side of the bed smooth, unslept in, I’m drawn back to reality and weep. Through fear of a future without you. And sadness at the hole left in my heart. The depression is vast, all encompassing. Sometimes I don’t believe I can go on. The weight on my soul, the emptiness of my daily routine. Without you I’m a rudderless ship.

I told Sarah, my therapist, about all of this. She explained that my feelings are perfectly normal, for this entirely abnormal situation I find myself in. Grieving my husband, my daughter’s father, taken in such a cruel and unexpected way, is not an ideal situation. She is teaching me to be in touch with my feelings- “congruence” as she calls it. She mentioned writing you a letter, sharing my pain with you, letting it go. And while you’ll never read this, perhaps just getting the feelings out will help in the long run. And that’s why I find myself pouring my heart out to you. Maisie is tucked up in bed; sleeping peacefully, smiling and happy. Full of love, scotch eggs and cake! I’m sat on our bench, chilled beer in hand watching the sun set. The clouds have gone now, mostly. But Maisie’s words sit with me as I watch the light drain from the sky. The wisps of cloud ablaze with the last of a glorious sunset.

She’s right, you know. You will always be here, in my heart.

Yours, always x


7. The Death of Light

“Hello, Mother.” The word felt foreign on his tongue, just uttering it left a foul taste in his mouth.

It had been centuries since he’d called her that, and even longer since he’d meant it.

He could smell her; the self-righteous stench of her, an offence to his overly sensitive nose.

Raith leaned back in his throne, the black marble cold against his skin. Icy tendrils wiggling their way through the leather of his garments, a counter to the raging fire in his veins.

He hated to admit how much her presence riled him, even after all this time. Her very existence was an affront to him, which was exactly why he had become an affront to hers.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” He cooed. “I suppose I should be honoured that they’ve sent you to deal with little old me.” His tone remained unshaken, despite the deafening drum beat of his pulse in his ears. Threatening to rob him of one of the few senses his birth had bothered to ‘bless’ him with.

Each syllable slid from his tongue like fine wine down the gullet of a King. Slithering past his elongated canines, whispering their way across his cavernous halls to her ears. This was his domain, the Kingdom of the Silver-tongued Blind God. She had no sway within his walls, anymore than the spirits that once called this place home, did. Even the dead knew better than to interfere with their Master.

“You know why I’m here Raith, it’s time to come home and put an end to this.” Kythe replied, in that same arrogant, commanding tone he remembered from his youth.

The left side of his lips turned up slightly, smirking as he felt the shift in the air as his mother’s wings involuntarily shivered. It was a subtle movement, one others would have easily missed. But not Raith, he always noticed.

A soft, mirthless chuckle escaped his throat, the Dragon trapped within him adding its own gentle growl to the sound, a warning to his mother that she should be careful what she said to him.

“Home. How is home? That crumbling ruin of an ancient civilisation. The rotting corpse of a race that once dominated this world, and for whom you are the only true survivor? That place was no home to me, I was never meant to step foot in it! You, and that Goddess, robbed me of my Fate, and thrust me into existence against the will of the stars and expected me to be grateful!”

“She saved your life, our lives! If it was not for Liara I would have died giving birth to you, and you would have died with me, leaving your father and sisters without us. How is what Liara did wrong? Explain that to me, Raith, for I have never understood your obsession with what happened. Never.” Kythe replied, and he could hear her desperation. Her agony was palpable as he forced her to confront him this way, with sword in hand and blood in mind.

“Saved me? I was ripped from the clutches of the afterlife, where my true potential and purpose awaited me. Stolen into this existence without sight, or the ability to transform like, father and my blasted siblings do as easily as breathing. Ever the outcast, poor little Raith.” He snarled, hands clutching the marble arms of his throne tightly until the stone shattered beneath his fingertips.

“You, who can do nought but thrust herself into the world, interfering with the natural order of things, claiming to save Myna from the evils it faces. Forever sacrificing your own family for others, at all costs, forcing your own son to exist when Fate had deemed that I was meant to die. Now you dare to stand before me, telling me to stop the work I am doing because it does not fit your pathetic ideals. I have never seen the Light, Mother, what reason would I have to follow it. The dead are mine to command, I am a God to those of the shadows, and with my army I shall show you idealistic fools of the Light that the world is not the idyllic haven you all claim it to be. Your quest for a united world is as lost as you, blinded by your self-righteous horseshit. The people of Myna must truly be worried that I will win this war, if they’ve sent their prized antique to deal with me.”

“I’m not here to massage your ego, Raith, I’m here to show you there is another way!”

He felt the vibration on the ground as she took her first step toward him, the metallic hiss of her sword being drawn from its scabbard, and he was upon her quicker than she was able to react. This was his doman, after all.

“You’re not? Pity, for you were doing so just by being here. I must truly be a God, if they sent the Godslayer, Queen of the Minadrias, to deal with her blind, broken son. I’m sorry Mother, but our tale was meant to end before mine even began. Now I shall end yours, and start mine anew, washed in your blood, as I was meant to be.” He whispered, warmth flowing over his hand as he rammed his dagger into her flesh until the hilt jammed against her ribs.

“Raith.” Her voice quivered, and he felt her fingers tremble against his blood-soaked hand.

“Goodbye.” He replied. He twisted the dagger, feeling her flesh strain and tear, the vibrations of her bones grinding against his blade shivering up his arm.

He pulled the blade free and pushed her away, smiling at the satisfying thud her weakened body made as it collapsed upon the floor of his court.

“So much to do.” He sighed, licking her blood from the blade as he left his courtroom. It was time to go to war with the world.


8. A Royally Bucked Deal

SPELL QUEUE: 100%

INITIATE SUMMONING? Y / N

My finger pauses a moment over the screen. We are as ready as we’re ever going to be, which is to say, we aren’t as prepared as any I would like to be. But we were already cutting things down to the wire.

“Aye, boss? We doing this or what?” The artificial imp across from me chirped. Ai-Ana was as cheeky as she was impatient. Of course, it helps that death is just a minor inconvenience for her, a perk of the mechanical body she possessed.

“We’re doing it. In three, two, one…” pricking my finger on a sterilized needle, I tap the Y on the screen. Precoded symbols start flashing as I trace a bloody circle across my pad. Summoning more powerful spirits was impossible without your blood as raw material. It was equally impossible to do it safely without the guidance of someone demonic, even if artificially made.

SUMMONING AT 37%

The sound of mechanical whirring and electric crackling fills the cramped room as we work. The spells fire off without issue for the most part. As haphazard as our circle looked, I took great care in preparing each incantation in the week leading up to this meeting. We should be making contact with the Under Place any moment now.

“Just so you know, my contract says if you die, I got dibs on your body.” I don’t need to look up from my work to know Ai-Ana has a grin across her metal face as she says this.

“You sure?” while the latest symbol loads, I bring a clean finger to tap an inky splotch on my neck. “There isn’t much left of me as it is.”

“Bah! There’s more than enough of you to work with.”

SUMMONING 87%

Almost showtime. With my screen done, I take a wet wipe out to clean my blood off it. In the chance this goes south, I want at least a good shot at firing off fresh runes. Ai-Ana won’t be of any help if that comes to pass, but I can trust she won’t get involved either way. It’s all on me now.

SUMMONING 98%

SUMMONING 99%

SUMMONING 100%

SUMMONING COMPLETE. PORTAL OPENING…

The circle lights up the room like daylight as a rip in time and space tears across it. The spells hold, and the light show dims. Even with my goggles, it takes a moment to adjust to the new lighting of the room. Finally, the moment of truth comes as a figure stands up in the circle.

“I don’t care for the synthetic crystals, but the lava salt was a nice touch. You’ve managed to summon yourself an audience with Madame Furfurry, Queen of Harts. Make it short, darling, or there will be consequences.” A raspy voice croons out.

Standing to full height, though her head rests only slightly above mine, her antlers nearly touch the ceiling. Her wings eloquently folded behind her uncomfortably voluptuous form; there is no doubt we’ve got the right demon. Behind her, I see Ai-Ana flash me a clawed double thumbs up before making an inappropriate sign with her hands.

“Madame Furfurry, I’ll skip the ass-kissing and get right to my request. I need your help to get my body back!” I time my words with the removal of my robe, revealing my dissipating form.

“My hells…” Furfurry leans forward, hands on her knees, crouching ever so slightly as she looks my near-naked body over. “There’s not much left of you, darling, is there now? Seems you’re fading away to nothing.”

Her assessment is not wrong. While my good arm is still flesh and blood, my other arm starts as an inky nightness at the shoulder and fades to a smokey blur at the fingers. A splotch of night-like void on my face encompasses my right eye, with a smattering of similar areas peppering my body. Both my legs are already fading, though my right one is further gone than my arm is.

“It seems someone’s been making bad deals with their body.” Furfurry leans in further, using a tone that’s equal parts a purr and a growl. The look in her eyes is like a well-fed cat coming across a wounded rabbit.

“Madame Furfurry, I have 72 hours before my body fades entirely! I request a rental from you while I try to get my original one back from the crime lord who cheated me! If I fail, I sign my soul to your house! Please, Accept My Offer!”

I don’t mean to shout the last part but betting your immortal soul against total non-existence isn’t something one does without getting emotional. A little pleading never hurt a deal with a demon. Since there was no hiding how bad my situation is, it felt best to get out ahead of things and make it clear I know how fucked I am.

“Hmm, going up against a local crime lord? How interesting. I’m game for a bit of wager. I’ll even go so far as to ensure you have a suitable form for the job.” Her eyes glow as she reaches a hand through the barrier. “But a note, you break it, you buy it. I have two suitable bodies available, wingless but children of mine endowed in other areas. So, darling, do you want to be a boy or a girl?”

I feel the inky splotch on my throat spread as I stare back at her. Sometimes, you have to massage a demon’s ego to make a deal like this. Spice things up. Other times, you’re in enough shit as it is that they’re willing to just to see how things play out. Whichever I chose, I know it will be a hectic three days—a long shot down a dark alley, to land this right.

But, Deer God, things couldn’t get any worse than they already were.


9. A Soothing Sissy

Miss Honeysuckle had become accustomed to having Richard at her command and sometimes being a spanking model wasn’t all smacked bums and fun. After a week of filming and editing, Miss felt she had earned a little pampering and that Richard, as her sissy sub Becky, might be able to service her desires.

Keying his name into her mobile, she smirked as she thought about sissy Becky. How teasingly silly Richard looked in high heels, a pink silky sissy dress and a wig and how Miss enjoyed having him as a doting submissive, someone always eager to obey, no matter how demeaning or painful her domination might be.

Richard answered quickly; his eagerness to hear her honeyed tones made his heart race.

“Hello my little sissy! Been playing with yourself hey?” She laughed, screwing up her little nose and dimpled chin as her cheeks blushed with pleasure. “Well naughty Becky, you can jolly well use your hands for something useful this evening and leave that little cock of yours alone! Tonight, I need a good massage, a long tender, attentive rubbing. Do you understand? I’ll expect you at seven. Don’t be late!”

Miss put the phone down and led back into her chair, smiling softly, she closed her eyes.

……..

Leading him upstairs, she told him to change and left him alone while she slipped her nubile, curved body into a blue, silk dressing gown.

Richard was allowed ten minutes to change into his wig, pink silk dress, white stockings and suspenders and some beautiful white lace patterned panties. Slipping stockinged toes into pink patent leather heels, he was ready to serve.

Miss returned to see Becky admiring her transformation in the bedroom mirror. “Who’s a pretty girl then?” She laughed.

Untying her dressing gown, it fell to her feet.

Becky’s eyes nearly popped out of her head as she drank in the sight of the beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed, young woman with whom she had become somewhat enamoured.

Climbing onto her bed, Miss laid face down so that her long hair tumbled over her shoulders. Now her pert, full bottom was presented beautifully beneath a tiny waist. Turning her head, pouting lips whispered her first instructions.

“Becky, there is some warm oil on the bedside table. Be a good girl and make a start.”

Wasting no time, Becky poured some of the scented oil into the palm of her right hand. Rubbing her palms gently together, she let the oil spread across the surface of her eager hands- she couldn’t wait to touch Miss Honeysuckle’s body.

Nervously, Becky began to massage the oil into her pale, cool shoulders. Appreciatively, Miss groaned with pleasure as the blissful release that this touch brought deepened and steadied her breathing.

“Good girl Becky!” she whispered.

Becky used the palms of her hands to work the oil into her shoulders and used her fingers to soften the tension. Moving down the beautiful valley of her spine, Becky’s hands found the curve of her lower back and waist. From the middle of Miss Honeysuckle’s spine, her hands moved out to the sides of her waist. Becky was finding herself becoming more at ease with her task. How she was enjoying this intimate, gentle contact with someone who was more often dishing out wicked acts of humiliation, domination or punishment. Becky found herself beginning to leak arousal. Her panties were becoming quite sticky.

“More oil please Becky!” Miss ordered.

Becky re-oiled her palms and knelt between Miss Honeysuckle’s outspread legs. From her vantage point, Becky was treated to a sublime view of her bottom cheeks and the bare, pink folds of her cunt lips. Kneeling closer, Becky’s sticky panties brushed against the inside of her Miss Honeysuckle’s legs as she began to massage the skin of her adorable bottom.

“Oh Becky, what’s that mess? How dare you!” Miss hissed. “Just you wait! When you have finished, I’ll give you what for!”

“Sorry Mistress,” Becky replied. Returning to the pleasure of massaging her bottom, before moving to the backs of her thighs, did little to stem the tide of oozing pre-cum.

Miss was content to wait for her moment of reprisal. She relaxed again, her body losing more tension with each touch. But then, oh…. Becky’s fingers found the puffy folds of her cunt. Without invitation, Becky began to rub Miss Honeysuckle’s ripe lips.

Moaning, Miss Honeysuckle’s back arched before she came to her senses and bolted upright on the bed. Miss spun round till she was sat upright. Patting her thighs furiously she stared at Becky.

“You know what happens next you little slut! Over my lap this instant!”

Becky hitched up her minuscule skirt and lowered herself over Miss Honeysuckle’s lap. Yanking Becky’s lace panties down to her thighs, Miss began to spank the naked bottom before her. The smacks came hard and fast across Becky’s, very feminine behind. Her white skin was soon plum red and the imprint of Miss Honeysuckle’s fingers created a spray of red shadows across Becky’s cheeks.

Becky’s sticky cock was trapped tightly between Miss Honesuckle’s thighs and her mess began to drip down between them.

“You can lick that up you little slut. Your tongue had better get to it just as soon as I am done with you!”

Miss Honeysuckles’s hands rained down upon Becky’s skin until his cheeks were smarting.

“On your back!” She yelled.

Becky found herself being queened by her mistress for the first time ever. Her thighs towered over Becky’s eager nose and lips as she began to lick the soft skin of her inner thighs. Under her tongue, she found the delicately salty taste of her own arousal before catching a breath of something more delicious, something distinctively honey-like, a sweet yet musky smell. Becky’s tongue touched the heaven of Miss Honeysuckle’s lips and the taste of her dripping cunt.

“Good girl Becky,” Miss murmured. “Good girl”.


10. The Friction of Needing

Malcom McCullough rubs off the last of the silver on his scratchcard. He could use a little luck: money got so tight when his hours were cut, Ruth had to go back to work. She’s maintaining their slightly reduced lifestyle by waitressing five evenings a week.

With Ruth working, Malcolm has to make his own dinner, and eat alone. She comes home late, dog-tired, interested in nothing except showering and sleep. Her weekends are chores and early nights ahead of another hard week. They haven’t made love in nearly five months.

Maybe if he hits the jackpot she could quit her job and they’d have sex again.

* * *

Ruth McCullough sighs and wipes down the table, ready for another guest. It’s exhausting work, but sometimes she gets a good tip.

* * *

Malcolm wins!

It’s only £500; not a life-changing amount, but perhaps a sign his luck is changing. It might even be enough to take a weekend break with Ruth… except she’d probably be just as tired in a rural retreat as she is in their suburban semi.

He remembers Tony in Sales telling him about some shady establishment on the industrial estate. If he went to the big Tesco and got his winnings paid out in cash, he could tell Ruth he’d only won £250. She could buy something nice for herself, and he could go to Midnight Oil and get laid.

* * *

Malcolm pulls up outside the studio unit with the sexy silhouettes in its blacked-out window. Guilt has been nibbling away at his resolve since he made his decision, but it bites hard when he sees a red Clio parked across the road. Ruth has a similar car, and he really doesn’t want to be reminded of her right now.

When he walks in, a bored woman at reception looks up from her phone to recite her script. “£25 for topless; £50 for nude. If you want anything else, that’s extra; pay the girl.”

Malcolm counts out five notes, each of them bearing Jane Austen’s purse-lipped disapproval. He doesn’t care about Jane’s opinion; what she’s paying for holds more enjoyment than reading.

The receptionist hands him a towel. “Room 2. Mercedes will be through in a few minutes. First time?”

He nods.

“Strip, shower, lie back and relax. You’re in capable hands.”

She didn’t need to explain. Malcolm knows how this works, because Tony described his visit in lurid detail, and he knows what £200 will buy.

* * *

Ruth prepares for her next customer. She’s tired, and her back aches, but she smiles anyway, because customers like to see a smile.

* * *

Malcolm strips in a cramped room that’s little more than a cubicle with plasterboard walls. He throws his clothes on a chair beside the padded table, takes four fifty-pound notes from his wallet, places them on top of his boxers, then steps behind a plastic curtain for a cursory shower.

He lies on the table, his damp towel draped over his crotch, fantasising about Mercedes. In his imagination she is young, exotic, sexual: everything Ruth isn’t.

* * *

Ruth heads to her third client tonight, hoping he only wants a rub down.

* * *

Malcolm’s door opens, and Mercedes enters. For a second he sees Ruth—her hair, her eyes—but this girl is ten years younger, with perkier tits.

She’s business-like: she sees the cash first, and stuffs it in the pocket of her kimono. She takes a condom out of her other pocket and sheds the gown.

Her breasts are a silicone lie, as obviously false as her name and what she says when she lifts Malcolm’s towel: “Oh my god, you’re so big!”

Mercedes rolls the condom on, climbs onto the table, and mounts Malcolm. She rides him vigorously, making noises no more convincing than her words.

Malcolm is feeling the warm embrace of a woman for the first time in months, and it leaves him cold.

* * *

Ruth’s client reminds her of Malcolm, but fit. This guy’s probably a businessman, and a successful one judging by the expensive suit left neatly folded under his £200. He hasn’t covered himself with his towel, because he has outsized confidence.

Ruth takes his cash and shucks off her kimono, grateful she used plenty of lube. She puts a condom on him, climbs onto the table, and mounts him gingerly.

She rides this customer slowly, sensually, because he’s hitting all the right spots. For once, she’s relaxed and enjoying her work.

* * *

Malcolm is not enjoying his ‘massage’. He’s distracted by the sound of authentic pleasure coming from the other side of the flimsy partition. Ruth used to moan like that, twenty years ago: low, guttural satisfaction.

He closes his eyes and tunes into those noises, dredging up memories of his wife making them; imagining he’s fucking her.

As the woman next door orgasms, loudly, Malcolm fills his condom. The moment he comes, his masseuse dismounts and goes.

Malcolm, overwhelmed with guilt and post-coital tristesse, wipes himself on his towel, dresses hurriedly, and leaves.

* * *

Ruth showers, then goes back to room 1 to clean it up, ready for another client. Her last one left a £100 tip and his business card, with “You’re a natural. You deserve better. Call me.” scrawled on it.

She’ll put half the tip in her secret stash and give fifty to Malcolm. He can go to the match this weekend; they’ll both enjoy that.

* * *

When Malcolm gets home he showers, heats up a frozen pizza, watches a Jason Statham movie on Netflix, then goes to bed, alone.

* * *

Ruth takes another shower when she gets home; her sixth tonight. Malcom’s left a wet towel on the bathroom floor, which surprises her, but only because he always showers in the morning. She’s also surprised to find him asleep; lately he’s been pestering her for sex whenever she gets home.

She slides in bed beside him. He smells of bergamot and peppermint, and she wonders what scent he washed off in the shower.

She falls asleep thinking of the business card in her purse.


11. Stiff Relief

Of course having a massage is relaxing, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I’ve always found them to be especially arousing, even when that’s not necessarily the intention. I suppose it’s a combination of the physical contact in a private space and the intimacy that generates, taking your clothes off for a stranger is a big part of it too. Or maybe it was just growing up watching too much porn with the cliché of the ‘happy finish’.

I’d once visited a male acupuncturist and even with 20 small needles inserted into my back I’d somehow found myself with a full-grown, and very much unwanted, boner that had taken far too long to subside. Maybe I’d inadvertently discovered a drug-free alternative to Viagra, although having sex with 20 needles in your back is probably not going to end well.

Anne, the masseuse currently working my shoulders, was an old school friend of mine, but this was the first time she’d given me a massage. I hadn’t even seen her in over 20 years until we’d recently bumped into each other in town and had a little catch-up over a coffee.

We soon fell back into our old, easy-going friendship, laughing and gently teasing each other as we filled in the blanks of our lives since we’d last seen each other. She told me she’d briefly been married to a lad from school, since then she’d had various relationships with both men and women, had played competitive hockey, eventually making the national squad, when that career had ended she had then trained as a sports injury therapist and masseuse, setting up her own business. Before we had said our goodbyes, I’d made an appointment for a massage.

Anne had been a bit of a tomboy at school, but my friends had often teased that she had a crush on me, following me around like a little puppy, but I didn’t see that, she was more like a sister to me, I looked out for her when we went out, made sure she got home safely after the pub.

I always preferred my massage to be given in total silence, some masseuses liked to play relaxing music in the background, a few favoured whale noises and meditative chants, but I found the quiet gave my mind the space to completely relax, to meander as it pleased.

Where it was meandering to now, was back to that time that Anne had asked me to take her virginity …

We were at a party, tipsy but certainly not rolling drunk, and she had explained quite calmly and rationally that she was getting quite desperate to lose her virginity, but wanted to lose it to someone she trusted and who cared for her, and not to a random stranger.

While I could see her logic, and was flattered, I did try to explain it probably wasn’t a great idea, that our friendship was more important to me. At the time Anne took it badly, accused me of fobbing her off, that I obviously didn’t fancy her – she was horribly embarrassed, but fortunately, over the years that followed, we had been able to laugh about it.

And now, lying face down on her massage bed, wearing nothing but a towel around my waist, Anne was working her expert fingers and the strong palms of her hands into my muscles, easing the tension in the tendons. I tried to take my mind off my train of thought, it was a long time ago, nothing had happened and she’d probably forgotten all about it by now, it was over 30 years ago after all.

Despite attempting to distract myself, trying hard to think of anything else, I found myself hardening, the physical contact, our past friendship, the quietness of the room, all seemed to my mind, to be creating an atmosphere of intimacy, my brain started wandering, wondering what it would have been like to have been her first.

Her hands had now travelled down from my shoulders and were working the muscle groups either side of my spine and to my lower back, she’d also changed position to get better purchase, and looking through the hole in the bed where my face rested, I could see her bare legs, toned from her athletic career, tanned from her love of the outdoors. I became transfixed, imaging my hands caressing her legs, massaging her calves, moving up to her thighs, gently parting her legs.

This was a really bad idea, and by now I was becoming very aroused, I could feel the goosebumps rising along the length of my spine and arms. The thickening of my cock, not helped by the way I was lying on it. It really was just too delicious a sensation and I couldn’t help but to emit a small appreciative groan of pleasure.

I was trying to work out how long I had left before the massage was over, it must be at least 20 minutes. I told myself I could afford to relax and just indulge my fantasy, I also knew when it was over she would probably leave the room, giving me 5 minutes to get myself together and get dressed.

“You seem a little tense, still?”

She had barely whispered, but I was still surprised to hear Anne speak at all, it was unusual to be spoken to during a massage and I was struggling to think of a suitable response.

The best I could manage in the circumstances was an affirmative grunt.

She paused a beat, before replying “It might be easier to relieve that stiffness for you if you roll onto your back”.


12. Travis Gets A Massage

The pack had planned an overnight stay at the Campground up in the White Mountains. The air was so clean, they could smell pine trees and campfire smoke instead of their powerful sense of smell picking up human body odor or polluted air that they were able to smell on the way north. It was just the right temperature, the sun warmed them as a nice cool breeze came by. The good news is that it was not very humid, so they didn’t have an overload of their own perspiration. The motorcycle ride was relaxing. Fiona didn’t often ride with Travis, she almost always brought her own bike, but today she wanted to be close to him, they have a special bond. She loves him, she thinks he loves her too, despite the fact that she has never heard him say the words.

Travis had gotten into an argument with Leroy, one of the newly turned prospects; the young punk thought he was tougher than Travis, but he truly had no idea what a can of worms he had just opened up with the older pack member.

Leroy poked and prodded, forcing Travis into a guarded state, ready to pounce at the next snide remark. About an hour after they arrived, Travis had taken enough of Leroy’s shit and knocked him on his ass. Leroy tried to be a tough guy and strike back, but was taken off guard when Fiona and Mark stood up to him and told him to cut it out.

He made the mistake of making some remarks about Travis needing a girl to stick up for him…that was when all hell broke loose. Travis jumped in front of Fiona and took a fighting stance and motioned for Leroy to step up. The young wolf ran towards Travis. On instinct, Travis stepped out of the way, causing Leroy to fall on his face. Again he used his hands to motion for Leroy to get up. “Come on,” Travis said, “get up. You started this, I’m gonna finish it. Let’s go.”

Leroy jumped up and ran at him again, only this time, Travis didn’t move. Instead, he reached forward with his right hand and punched Leroy in the face.

Twice more that day Leroy tried to get the jump on Travis, but the elder member was always one step ahead of him. But by the end of the afternoon, Travis was starting to feel the effects of his day. The effects of the physical confrontation were a little rough on Travis, an older and more mature werewolf.

Travis and Fiona decided to leave the campground earlier than the rest so Travis could go home and sleep in their own bed, instead of on the ground in a tent.

****

“I told you we should have spent the night somewhere instead of driving straight through.” Fiona chastised him.

“I know you did, and you know once something gets into my head, it’s pretty hard to change my mind. Someone I love,” winking at her before he continued, “says that I’m stubborn. I didn’t know I was going to be this achy.”

“We aren’t young pups anymore. Go get in the hot shower, and I’ll get you a towel,” Fiona said.

While Fiona grabbed Travis a towel, she rehashed all of the times Leroy had been an ass. Her concentration was disrupted when she heard the shower water shut off and Travis groaned. Fiona reached out to him with the towel. She inhaled deeply, loving the smell of his Axe soap. She walked with him into the bedroom and helped dry his back before she had him lie down on the bed. She started his massage at the top of his neck, she slowly worked her way down his shoulders and his back, to his buttocks. She spent a little extra time there until Travis said, “Fee…I love what you are doing, but it’s making me hard. The rest of my body hurts too much to go any further with a hardon.”

“I’m sorry my love, I will concentrate on making you more relaxed and not more excited.” She continued further down the back of his thighs and calves, listening to him breathe evenly and she knew he was relaxing more and more the further into the massage she got. That made her smile, she absolutely adored when he was relaxed enough to just let her take over what was happening. When she reached his ankles, she accidentally let her long dark hair tickle the soles of his feet, causing him to giggle and squirm under her weight.

He laughed with her and tried to roll over, their eyes met, and she smiled at him. When he smiled back, she got excited. All she could do was lean into him. She got up so that he could lay on his back, and she began the massage on the front of his body. This time, she worked her way up from the feet to the legs and chest.

When she finished, Travis was sound asleep and snoring. She covered him over with a sheet and laid down next to him. She whispered to him, “I love you Travis. I’m so sorry if I made things worse for you by trying to step in today.”

He softly murmured, “I love you. I’m supposed to be your protector. Not the other way around.” Then he was snoring again.


13. Two Weeks

I wonder if my employees are curious about the frequency of my shuffling body today, or the near constant hiss of the pneumonic in my office chair releasing and engaging again as I stand and then sit back down aggressively. No one has commented on the cacophony of its wheels scraping against the floor. No one has dropped by with the usual interruptions and banter. It’s especially odd for a Friday afternoon when no one’s ever in the mood to work. As the hours of silence have spilled into late afternoon, I really wonder if they somehow possibly know that my body is trying to betray me.

I can’t begin to work on my task until I actually know what my task is. I grit my teeth, cross my legs, and sip icy water, willing my mind to focus on the mundane work I could be doing instead. Still, I can’t calm my fluttering heart or quiet my muddled brain.

Ravenous. Vigorous. Wet. Unsettled. Every attempt to work bounces me back to the theme.

Salacious. Hungry. This is fucking middle age? Or is it just me?

I think of cold fingers dancing around my erect nipples. It’s a sensation I’ve always relished. The beauty in the contradiction of it — a dare to pull away and resist the shock of ice against fire. But not me. I never pull away. I always surrender. And that’s why I can’t touch them now. My fingers are chilled by both the air conditioning and the frost collecting around my water bottle. I’ve allowed them to sneak into my bra just enough to lightly caress the skin atop my buxom valley and the warmth trapped in the crease where my breasts and my underarms meet. My body is hidden from view by my huge computer monitor despite the open door. I could easily pull the fabric of my blouse and bra away just enough to tweak my nipples — bolts that have darkened to brown as blood rushes under them. It makes me want to cry. But I won’t touch.

I stand again, and yet another hiss from my chair incites a thought as I walk to the water cooler.

Every Friday, Manny goes into my office to sweep and mop after I’ve left for the evening. I greet him several times a day when he comes in to empty the trash. He’s always pleasant, but he’s known for the wily ways he gets around the property manager’s rules. It makes me think about how far his streak of naughty might go. If on a day like today, when I’ve been stewing for hours, he might pick up on the scent of my arousal imprinted on the cushion of my chair when he moves it to clean under my desk. Would it excite him? Make him curious enough to lean down for a sniff? Would he look at me differently on Monday if he knew I’ve spent so much of my time in wanton heat?

I’m well aware that I’m losing my mind as I sink into my chair once again without a soul having talked to me on my walk to and from the cooler.

The potentially easy access of my skirt is not a welcome one when trying to resist touching my perpetually engorged vulva with every fiber of my higher consciousness. But Irene has insisted on a skirt today.

Fuck it. I dial her extension and my assistant picks up expeditiously.

“Irene, do these people know what’s going on here? I’m really starting to wonder.”

She doesn’t skip a beat.

“Well, no, but I did send out an office wide message this morning letting everyone know that they shouldn’t bother you today. That you’re working on something very important and time sensitive. I promised if they complied that you’d dismiss everyone for the day an hour early.”

The realization that she has manufactured this torture so that I had no distractions strikes me now. She’s clever. Unapologetically devious. But before I can answer, she continues.

“Don’t fret, Anna. I’ll have the task in your inbox in about fifteen minutes. Until then, sit tight.”

I know better than to argue. So I hang up. But I don’t sit tight. I watch the clock and shift in my chair. Side to side. Forward and backward. But I’m fairly certain I could climax from the residual friction alone given that I’ve not been allowed to climax for two weeks. So I stop. This only works if I’m good.

When Irene’s email finally pings, I am giddy.

I’ve left something for you in the credenza. Put it in without shutting your door and leave it in. Then walk around to everyone’s cubicle personally, wish them a good weekend, and dismiss them for the day. One by one, Anna. All seventeen employees. If I see a mass exodus, then you have failed. Once you’re done, return to your office, email to let me know if you’ve succeeded, and await further instructions.”

I don’t hesitate to reach up to my credenza to find a bulbous metal butt plug and a tube of lubricant which I furiously unscrew. Then, leaning to the right in my chair, I pull my panties to the side and do as I was instructed. First a firm, circular massage to my opening with the tip of the plug before working it all the way in. I nearly cry out in bliss as the exquisite fullness fills my core.

Standing, I readjust my panties and smooth my skirt over my thighs. Before I set off on my task, I email Irene.

Locked and loaded and ready to begin. But you know, I’m beginning to wonder who the real boss is around here.”

I don’t see her reply until I return to my desk thirty minutes later, dripping with anticipation and a wicked pride for my successful, torturous, carnal exertion.

Don’t wonder, Anna. Know. Or I’ll make it another two weeks.”


14. Recovery Operation

It was the night. She did a little mental jig as she walked across the shop with the order in her hand. Chloe put the coffee down on the table and smiled at the customer. “Anything else I can get you?” she asked. He paused and she almost sighed. Was he going to be one of those? She’s had enough of this job and the creepy come-ons from the guys. And a few women too.

He shook his head. “I’m good, thanks.” She nodded and smiled. “Let me know if you want a refill.”

The job location was perfect to case the building across the street. She’d been waiting tables here for almost a month and could now recognize all of the residents, staff and even most of the service people who were regulars. The boss was thrilled that she wanted to work the late afternoon and evening shift since that was always the hardest to staff at a coffee place. The tips weren’t as good and most people wanted their evenings free.

She’d asked for the early shift today since she had plans for tonight. The building across the street had a massage parlor on street level, but that wasn’t what interested her. Above the shop were lofts that were as pricy as they were secure. Even the fire escape that snaked down the side in the alley was locked. She wouldn’t be needing that to enter the third-floor apartment, though.

Greg had settled into a solid routine since he’d moved in. That wasn’t much of a surprise since he’d been a creature of habit when they had been together. Date night was always Wednesday because it was less crowded.

His new girlfriend apparently was fine with midweek dates so far. The past three weeks they had gone out on Wednesday for at least dinner. Sometimes she came there and picked him up while other times he would leave and bring her back afterwards. Probably for the standard drink, followed by the 15 minutes of foreplay and then the 3-5 minutes of actual sex. It had been like being engaged to a robot.

When she had broken off the engagement, Greg had been shocked. They were so compatible and had the same goals of the house in the suburbs and the 2.5 children and summers at the beach. Or so he thought. Maybe if he’d spent more time listening to what she wanted they might have had a chance.

Chloe had worked in the same office as Greg when they met. He was an account manager and already on his way to the corner office at 32. Everyone loved him and she had been drawn to his smile and sunny personality as well. She worked in the IT department. It wasn’t a dream job, but it had been good money and it was something that she’d always had a talent for.

They moved in together less than six months after they started dating. His mom had “adopted” her soon after finding out that she had lost her parents in a car accident when she was in college. At first, she’d been thrilled. Everyone at the office kept telling her how lucky she was to have found Mr. Right and she’d believed the hype.

Slowly, she started to get restless. She missed the bars and dancing on weekends. Her friends stopped calling because he didn’t want her out without him but wouldn’t go out on weekends with her friends either. The only thing that she had kept involved in was her dancing and gymnastics.

She had done gymnastics and dance all through her childhood and ended up with a scholarship to college as a result. Chloe wasn’t good enough to be a professional, but she had always been a solid competitor on every team she’d been a part of. It was her joy and her salvation when she lost her family. It was the one thing that she refused to let Greg take away even if he was stupid enough to assume she had stopped.

Her mother’s engagement ring became hers as well. It fit perfectly and they agreed that the money would be better saved for a house and future. It made her feel closer to her mom, too.

That ring was exactly why she was working in this coffeehouse across from Greg’s new place. The asshole had taken it with him when he moved out with the rationale that she had ended the engagement so he should get the ring.

Chloe had tried reasoning with him, talking to his mother and even getting a lawyer involved. She simply didn’t have the funds to fight him and he wouldn’t give it back. It was up to her to retrieve it and then she could move on with her life.

The building next to the apartment was an office building and easy to access any of the floors. After work, she settled on the roof and waited for dark. All of the lights were off in his loft and she had seen him leave with flowers in his hand. It was time.

She threw the rope across to the roof and the hook caught on the railing for the fire escape. Making sure it was secure, she crossed the gap with her legs wrapped around the rope. Best use ever for all of those years of gymnastics, she thought. She cut the hook from the rope and let the loose end fall.

His bedroom window was directly below her and she slid down the pipe and put her feet in the window gap. Leave it to Greg to feel so self-assured that he’d leave the window open.

Pushing her body inside, she saw the box on his dresser. Bingo. It was in the second drawer. Putting the ring on her finger, she considered leaving the note she had written.

It wasn’t worth it. Good riddance. She jumped from the 3rdh floor to the mattress waiting below and gracefully exited.



8 thoughts on “BFM 2021: Fourth voting round

  1. As always, this was tough to pick the best stories. I tried to pick ones that a) were full stories, b) used the word massage in a natural way and c) entertained me in some way.
    My long listed entries were 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 and 14. Out of those, I voted for 4 and 10. The ending of 4 was sweet and the story had good characterization. I loved the parallel stories in 10.

  2. I found this round to be easier than the last, yet also harder. Not because of the prompt, but because there was so much that could be said and done with such a small suggestion.
    In each round I have tried to challenge myself by writing something I generally wouldn’t, which we know is mostly erotica. I wanted to see if I could write more than smut. Turns out I can. But I was surprised by how much sex was written this round as well.
    This round I choose to write about the emotions of grief because it’s not something I have experienced a lot of, at least in a finalized way, such as death. Quite a few other writers had the same idea, or something similar (break ups, loss of lifestyle, etc.), which was shocking but quite welcome! Kudos for writing about something so difficult. Not just to produce, but also to read!
    Again, I won’t share who I voted for, but I will share my thoughts on each tale. These comments are not meant to say one person’s work is better than another’s, but to highlight areas of improvement, and to share what worked well for me in each. My opinion is simply that, an opinion. Feel free to take it or leave it.

    1. Well written. I love the incorporation of other languages and locations, but it didn’t grab me. The pace found me daydreaming instead of hanging onto every word to see what would happen.
    2. A clever little tale. I wondered about the name John- is it something to do with prostitution, or the name Smith? Glad for the happy ending, but the language seems too formal for my liking.
    3. I like a good tale from the Dungeon, and this short story paints a lovely scene. Using a new paragraph is for new thoughts or changes in pace. You don’t need a new line for each sentence. It makes the reader feel disconnected from the story because they’re expecting a change.
    4. I love a story with a happy ending and words filled with hope. Good writing and a thoughtful topic. Make sure to keep dialogue tags together for an entire paragraph and only to start the next once that thought is over.
    5. This was tough to write. I don’t have a great relationship with my mom, so I had to fake a lot of what was written here. As a mother, though, I shed a tear writing it. Although reading it a week later, I didn’t like it so much. Weird how that happens.
    6. This must have been a difficult write. It encompasses grief in a way few can. I really like how it’s a letter and we find later why it’s written. For future reference, words that need to be highlighted, such as “your” and “congruence”, should be italicized, not written in quotations.
    7. A good work of fantasy. This depicts the villain perfectly. Be aware of spelling errors though, and when using dialogue tags (he whispered), make sure they fit what’s being said.
    8. I really enjoyed the suspense in this tale but feel like it shorted me in the end. What does the new body look like? Where’s the rest? Also, not sure if the spelling of Deer is a mistake or supposed to be that way as per the Demon’s appearance? This would be a brilliant start to a sci-fi fantasy series 12.
    9. A splendid display of the sissy scene (from someone who has spent a lot of time around it), but the story had nothing to take away with me. For myself, wonderful story telling stays with you for minutes, hours, fays or years later.
    10. I love that this tale was told by two opposing sides. This story shows the reality of marriage (unhappy ones), work and pleasure and shows that some things aren’t as good as we hope, while some things are better. I think italicizing the second character’s thoughts would have been a great way to show the difference between the two, but that’s just me.
    11. A pleasant walk down memory lane, but I feel the story stops just as it’s getting started.
    12. I have to say I’m confused. The story started with a wolf pack, then they were fighting, then two left and one was getting a massage, but suddenly they are not wolves anymore.
    13. A fun story that went in a way I was not expecting. That being said, I enjoyed the first half immensely, and enjoyed the twist halfway too. I wondered why someone would reach up into a credenza, but maybe my thoughts on what one differs from others.
    14. This story has intrigue, adventure, and tension, then ends with a not so believable scenario, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A well rounded tale but included details that weren’t needed (like the customer at the beginning).

    Well done to all the writers, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with in the next round!

  3. I would like to start by saying I thought all the stories were great. You really rose to the occasion. Here’s my feedback…

    Birthday Treat
    I really liked the main character in this story and the bar scene was well written but I was left wanting something more from this tale.

    I Second That Emotion
    I loved this tale. The characters were real and the story flowed beautifully with wit and promise. Cut back on the ! – less is more 😉

    Sex Club Virgin
    The start of the story was a little clumsy. However, once in the sex club the story became alive and was extremely well told. Not to mention hot.

    Another Life
    A very well written tale with strong characters. It was a proper story as previous years were mapped out within their fab dialogue. Just one thing, I didn’t believe the end.

    A Mother’s Shoes
    Great little details within this tale. And you took the reader right along with you. A proper story as we were privy to previous holidays etc. Tiny improvement could perhaps be made to the beginning para.

    Happy Birthday
    There was a couple of clumsy sentences along the way but I will forgive you that – as this was a very fine story that does with every writer wants to do – makes the reader feel the emotion of the narrator – very well done.

    The Death of Light
    Wow – brilliant writing and an amazing world you have created here. Not the kind of thing I read normally but appreciate what you have done with it.

    A Royally Bucked Deal
    Oh I liked this – different and well told. I am not sure it is complete – I really do want to find out what happens next.

    A Soothing Sissy
    I must say I found this quite arousing in places. Well written too but a scene rather than a story.

    The Friction of Needing
    Oh this worked well. I couldn’t help hoping that they would meet at the massage place but it wasn’t to be. And I am left with a nagging need to know what happens next with their relationship

    Stiff Relief
    You’ve explained the relationship between the two characters brilliantly and I was able to easily understand their past friendship. Great job. I also like the meandering nature of the story. Try and use a few more full stops rather than commas.

    Travis Gets A Massage
    Ah loved the ending here. And some great lead up to to the massage. I found myself wanting a more from the story.

    Two Weeks
    Great last line. At first I wasn’t sure where this was going – you kept me reading though. The scene flowed well too.

    Recovery Operation
    I really liked this. You told a story and also matched in the gymnastics with the escape from the flat. I think you did good job – you had me from start to end.

    Good luck to you all

  4. 1-This was more of a scene than a story and I kept waiting for the action to start.
    2- I loved the use of language in this, stuffy, officious, precise. The twist at the end was clever and unexpected
    3 -Wonderful story, the vocabulary used really enhanced the storytelling.
    4 -Didn’t expect a love story – but this was full of despair turning to hope. A well crafted tale
    5 -Absolutely masterful, don’t change a thing about your writing. The timeline of memories and exploration of the mementos was charming and vivid.
    6 – A touching, original submission, emotions extremely well expressed.
    7 – Not a full story, the ornate language sometimes obscured the meaning.
    8 – Loved the beginning, so promising, so unusual but this fails for me as a complete story
    9 – I enjoyed the playfulness of this, the transformation into Becky, lots of fun
    10 – Ohh very clever – a marvellous tale told with cunning. I kept thinking I knew where it was going but it kept me guessing
    11 – This was a pleasing piece of writing, lots of back story and a convincing script
    12 – Great effort, I felt the early part was a little to complicated for wordcount, but the second part was very realistic
    13 – Good build up of tension and a great twist.
    14 – Maybe this would have worked better as a longer story, for me it felt over detailed and that distracted from the plot

    I was very impressed with the calliber of writing in this challenge, and it was very enjoyable reading so many varied stories. Well done everybody.

  5. 1. Birthday Treat It’s a cute story. I loved the setting and the characters. They were all very believable. I missed a punchline and a surprise ending.
    2. I Second That Emotion I loved this story. The theme and the language were so well continued throughout the tale. I loved the setup, and the ending, too, was good. Well done.
    3. Sex Club Virgin This story is well written and well-described, but I’ve read so many variations of this exact tale it held no surprises for me. So yeah, good job, well written, but no surprises.
    4. Another Life I love the setting. It was an original spin to use these characters. I enjoyed the story, and I liked the promise of more in the future.
    5. Mother’s Shoes I liked the setup of the story, but very little actually happens here. I understand the setting, I’ve been there, but it might have been cooler if a mysterious note was found or something similar. Now it’s just a scene with excellent descriptions, but only that.
    6. Happy Birthday Oof, this is an intense story. It’s well written. I like how the clues add up to disclosing how the person passed away. Tough subject, well done.
    7. The Death of Light It’s an interesting setting. I like the world that was created here. The writing could have been a little tighter, but I would like to read more of this universe.
    8. A Royally Bucked Deal I love the setup with how the body was loaded and how bodies are used as sleeves (to use a term of another SF series). I’d love to read more of this universe.
    9. A Soothing Sissy To me, this was a story that held a lot of promise, but it could have been so much more. I wanted to hear more from Becky, literally as she speaks very little and how it is for her. A bit more detail in the background could have made this story stronger.
    10. The Friction of Needing This story was one of my favourites. I loved the setup and how the married couple tries to make things better for the other and themselves. I loved the mirroring in the story, and it was well executed. Well done.
    11. Stiff Relief This is a nice tale. It’s well described; I could see it happening. There’s just not a lot going on. It was all kinda safe and tame. No surprises here.
    12. Travis Gets A Massage This story was my biggest disappointment. The writer alludes to werewolves or other pack animals multiple times, but it never happens! I would have loved to see a shapeshifter. I felt like everything was building up to it, and then it just fizzled out. I was disappointed. 
    13. Two Weeks My main problem with the setup of this story was the way the story was distributed. The first three-quarters are build up and scene-setting, and the actual event happens only at the end. That was my main disappointment with this story. The premise was strong enough for a tale on its own. The first half wasn’t needed.
    14. Recovery Operation I love the build-up of this story. Good background, well-thought-out and I liked she only took what was needed. 

  6. I really enjoyed the stories for this round, especially those that went out of the box with the ‘massage’ prompt! Well done, everyone!
    ~ Marie

    1.Birthday Treat
    I like how you have set the scene, making your story convey the easy feeling of a night out. I also like the multi-cultural aspect of the story, the different languages. Just one thing… he says his name is ‘Joe’, and then you use the name ‘Saeed’. I get why you did it, as the narrator, but some readers might have to go back to check whether they had missed something in the story. It can be confusing.

    2. I Second That Emotion
    What an enjoyable tale! I love the formal talk, and then the way your story seems to soften the same way George’s body did in the second part. Your dialogue really helped telling the story, and move it forward. Well written and well done!

    3. Sex Club Virgin
    This is certainly a hot story, but it’s not amongst my favorites. In my opinion you could’ve shortened the intro a lot, where the first six paragraphs could’ve been combined into one. Also, in your story you tell every step, instead of showing your reader what is happening. Lastly, too many of your sentences have the same length, which took me out of reading the story. As said, a hot story, and it definitely has potential, but it needs work.

    4. Another Life
    I am a sucker for stories like this, but even it I wasn’t, this pulled me in from the first word. Beautifully written, in which you brought across the emotions of despair and hope so well! This definitely is one of my favorites.

    5. A Mother’s Shoes
    Having lost my mom four years ago, and still feeling lost without her, this story really touched me. No one will ever be able to fill my mom’s shoes either.

    6. Happy Birthday
    It’s interesting to have another story dealing with grief, especially with a prompt like ‘massage’, but you too have written a really touching story, and I like that it’s in a letter form.

    7. The Death of Light
    A bit of an upsetting story, but I think this is because I loved my mom and I can’t imagine something like this happening. Still, you managed to tell much of the story through dialog, which is good. Be careful to use the correct punctuation with diaglog:
    * “… and put an end to this.” Kythe replied…” — should be: “… and put an end to this,” Kythe replied…”
    * ““Goodbye.” He replied.” — should be: ““Goodbye,” he replied.”

    Also be careful with sentences that have no active verb, such as:
    * “Icy tendrils wiggling their way through the leather of his garments, a counter to the raging fire in his veins” — changed wiggling to wiggled.
    * “Threatening to rob him of one of the few senses his birth had bothered to ‘bless’ him with.” — connect to the previous sentence with a comma.
    * “Slithering past his elongated canines, whispering their way across his cavernous halls to her ears.” — connect to the previous sentence with a comma.

    8. A Royally Bucked Deal
    I like the original setting of this story, but I think what I liked most is that with your words, you have painted the picture of this game quite clearly. I am not a game player at all, so when in the beginning of the story I realized this is about a game, I was afraid you might lose me along the way. That didn’t happen, and I enjoyed the story.

    9. A Soothing Sissy
    The sensual massage, the arousal and both their pleasure really comes across well in this story. Nicely written!

    10. The Friction of Needing
    Before he saw her car, I thought she might be ‘Mercedes’, and then when she wasn’t, I wondered how their covers will be blown. I have to admit, I am surprised at the twist the story took, and it left me with a tinge of sadness. Well written, well told!

    11. Stiff Relief
    That last line put a smile on my face! I really like the conversational style in which this story has been told!

    12. Travis Gets A Massage
    A nice story, well written, but it feels like something is missing, like there could’ve been more action or tension in it.

    13. Two Weeks
    I love how this story is set up. The beginning had me wondering where this would go, what exactly this is about, and with each paragraph added, you peeled away another layer of something delicious. Well written!

    14. Recovery Operation
    I like the setting of this story, but it feels unfinished. Reading the last line, it felt like there should’ve been something more. Other than that, the writing is good.

  7. Oh. The feedback I posted at the weekend hasn’t come through… Fortunately, I saved a copy! 🙂

    I enjoyed the stories in this round much more than the previous rounds so far. But three stories clearly stood out as deserving of my votes: 10 (The Friction of Needing), 4 (Another Life), and 11 (Stiff Relief), in that order.

    1. Birthday Treat A well-written scene but rather a flat ending to the story. Use of the prompt word was marginal and I was so hoping to get away from the bar-room pick-up scenes that dominated the first rounds of this competition.

    2. I Second That Emotion (my own story)

    3. Sex Club Virgin Another well-told scene – and definitely an arousing description of an erotic fantasy – but it needed something more to make it a real story.

    4. Another Life I like this. A lovely story with a strong backstory and well-drawn, believable characters. And I appreciated the prompt word being worked into the theme of the story more significantly.

    5. A Mother’s Shoes This seemed like a very believable and authentic piece of grief memoir (which is something I read a lot of!). It is also well-written, rich in poetic imagery. However, even though it may be drawn from imagination, rather than the writer’s own experience, it lacked any element of surprise or revelation which might have brought it to life as a story.

    6. Happy Birthday There’s a really strong authentic voice here. But everything I said about the story above (5. A Mother’s Shoes) applies here too. Also, many stories have used the prompt word casually but its use here doesn’t even feel appropriate – do clouds ‘massage their way along’?

    7. The Death of Light I’ll be honest: this is so much not my cup of tea that I struggled to keep reading all the way to the end. It’s not badly written – though there are a few errors that another edit would have smoothed out – but there was nothing in it that made me care about the characters. This probably says more about me than it does about your writing!

    8. A Royally Bucked Deal These stories seem to be coming in pairs; once again my comments on the previous story (7. The Death of Light) seem generally applicable here. This story does, however, have the redeeming feature of humour which is quite nicely played.

    9. A Soothing Sissy This is rather jolly fun. I appreciated that the story was actually about a massage (I know that wasn’t a requirement but it gets Brownie points from me…) and the various inversions of the characters’ roles added interest. Beware of overused cliches (e.g. Becky’s eyes nearly popped out of her head as she drank in the sight… ).

    10. The Friction of Needing This is very good! It seemed to have given away its twist too early but turned out to be much cleverer than that. But there’s more to it that cleverness and craft; there’s real emotional depth in there too, and it’s rather sad (a mirror image of my own, happier, ‘Massage & Marriage’ story!). And bonus points for good use of the prompt word!

    11. Stiff Relief I really enjoyed this – lovely, gentle, easy-going storytelling. The ending was a bit too abrupt for my liking (I suspect that you ran out of word count, as I did!) but it was definitely a ‘happy ending’! 😉

    12. Travis Gets A Massage A story seemed to be developing, with an exciting setting, characters and conflict… and then they decided to go home! All that build up, the backdrop of the werewolf motorbike gang and the challenging of the alpha male by a young pretender, was abandoned for cosy coupledom – what a shame!

    13. Two Weeks It’s a saucy little piece of frivolity but I yearned for a bit more backstory to the relationship between Anna and Irene to draw me in.
    14. Recovery Operation A well-crafted story but, like my own (2.), I got the impression that the ending had been truncated because you’d run out of word count? Could you (could I?!) have developed the set-up more concisely and without some of the details, to leave yourself with space to end it more satisfactorily?

    Elk x

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