The Heir:Darkstone Trilogy

A Salute to the Bravest Woman I Know

via Discover Challenge: Mind the Gap


My memories of my childhood are ninety percent full of things related to breast cancer.

My mom was diagnosed with this dreaded condition when I was in grade one. Back in the day, the treatment for cancer was fairly uncertain. Everything was in the experimental stages. Being in a country where there was no medical insurance and no health care plans, everything needed to be paid out of pocket.

We lived in a city located in the mountains, and the hospitals there were not equipped to treat patients who needed special treatments. Thus, my parents had no choice but to seek medical attention in a city eight hours away where more advanced hospitals were located. My sisters and I were left under the care of my half siblings, where we did our best to carry on with life.

We saw our parents intermittently in a span of five years. During this time, I heard various discussions about my mom’s condition. Terms such as metastasis, malignant and benign, chemotherapy and cobalt were common at the dinner table. During the last two years of her life, various faith healers came to visit her, trying to ‘heal’ her from her condition, but to no avail. I was too young to realize that Mom was willing to try any means to conquer cancer after being told that it was medically not feasible in her case. Needless to say, she lost the battle five years after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.

I grew up extremely aware of cancer’s existence. A year after my mom passed away, my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and a few years later, two of my half siblings were also diagnosed with breast cancer. A few years ago, my half brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he succumbed to it as well. So, anything that pertained to cancer caught my full attention. I felt compassion towards those who faced it and showed my support and understanding, offering them comfort when I can.

However, I realized that I had no idea how difficult each cancer patient’s journey was at all until I found myself in their shoes. All the knowledge I acquired during the course of my young life to adulthood failed to give me the whole picture.

The lost feeling you get once the doctor says: “I’m very sorry to inform you that we have found cancer in your beast tissue,” is something I would not wish on anyone. Everything else the doctor says just goes thru one ear and out the other after the word CANCER, because then all the different scary scenarios would start to flash through your mind. Then follows all the things you need to prepare for in the event that you don’t survive this. Finally, you realize that despite all the planning you made in your life, you still aren’t prepared.

Sure, my family’s past experiences about cancer helped me prepare for exactly that moment. I knew right away what treatment I wanted to get. There was never any doubt in my mind that I could fight this; what held me back and made me tink twice was how the people I love would fare during the battle. But it was only after undergoing surgery and going through recovery that I somehow understood how difficult my mom’s journey was.

I remember seeing her in pain when she was already bedridden. She was never one to complain about what she felt. She would wince and moan a little as she carefully moved from side to side. I’d see an occasional tear roll down the side of her face every once in a while, hear her say it was painful. But not once did I hear her say “why me?” Maybe she just didn’t say it in front of her children.

Her journey was ten times more difficult than mine, and I could not imagine how she maintained her faith and her will to fight for five long years.

After I lost both parents and a brother to cancer, I thought I knew what being a cancer patient was all about. Then I heard those dreaded words from my doctor and realized that I literally had no clue. There was a gap as wide as an ocean between what I knew and how it really felt to be one.

I’ve conquered it, and my journey isn’t even half a percent of what my mom’s was because science has made the journey a little bit easier.

However, I can honestly say that I have bridged that gap. I now know how difficult the last five years of her life was and I salute her for carrying on, bearing all the pain and hardships thrown her way.

Someone once said in very similar words : “You’ll never know exactly how another person feels until you wear their shoes and walk in them. “

In my eyes, she was the bravest woman in the whole world… My MOM.

“Thanks, Mom, for holding on as long as you did just to see us grow a little bit more before it took you away.”


LOST cont’d (Part 6)


“Orein! Orein!”

My hair was plastered on my face as raindrops showered me with its huge droplets. I moved through the trees with increasing speed, it didn’t matter that I could barely see where I was going because of the darkness that surrounded me. It was nighttime and being in the midst of a forest made it seem even darker.

Every now and then lightning would flash a bright, white light which penetrated the dense branches of the trees around me, allowing me a glimpse of my surroundings. I could feel my heart beating fast in my chest as I continued running.

“Orein! Where are you?”

Suddenly, I saw the flash of lightning right before I heard the loud cracking sound above my head. Before I knew what was happening, the swishing sound of falling branches as they hit the other trees reached me.

I could hear my mind screaming at me to run for cover, yet my body was frozen in place as I watched the dark shadow of the tree slowly falling towards me. Images of my mom and dad flashed before my eyes, followed by images of my brother. They were all grinning at me, and I could see the love they had for me in their eyes as they gazed upon me.

“This is it. I’m going to die here in this forest and I’m never going to see them again.”

The dark shadow loomed over me and I waited for its heavy weight to crash down on me. I was sure it was going to hurt, but my body seemed to be rooted in place and all I could do is watch and wait for death to come take me. I closed my eyes tightly and hunched my shoulders in expectation, oblivious of the rain pelting my whole body, drenching me. I knew the fallen tree reached me the moment I felt the heavy weight on me as I fell to the ground.

Was that it? Was I dead?

I couldn’t be, because I still felt every stone and twig on the ground that bit at my back as I lay there. I tried to move, but the weight on me was too much. I wiggled my fingers to check whether I was still alive, but I couldn’t feel them either. I couldn’t move any part of my body! I felt trapped! A horrible thought ran through my mind.

“Oh, my God! I must be paralyzed! I must have broken my back when I hit the ground.”

I tried to scream, but no sound came out. Panic rose in my chest as I frantically tried to move. My breaths started to become short gasps as I desperately clamoured for air.

“Anya! Anya!”

That baritone voice was so familiar, but it sounded so far away…

“Wake up, my beauty!”

It was the light tapping on my cheek that caught my attention.

“Open your eyes, love.”

My eyes fluttered open and I found myself gazing into the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. I could easily drown in them if I wasn’t careful. I felt his finger move the hair away from my face as he gazed at me. I furrowed my brows at the worry I saw in his eyes. The memory of the tree crashing on me came back and I looked around with a start. I was in my bedchamber, laying in Orein’s arms as he sat on the side of my bed. I looked back at him and realized that his face was close to mine.

“What happened?” I whispered. I felt his arms move tighter around me as he began to speak.

“You were having a nightmare and I heard you from my room. When I got here, you were moaning. I realized you were dreaming and I tried to call your name to wake you up. Then you started to thrash your head and started crying. I panicked and took you in my arms, hoping I could somehow wake you, but you started gasping for air and I didn’t know what to do. I tapped your cheek and that was when your eyelids fluttered before you woke up.”

“Oh! It felt so real.”

I shivered at the memory. I didn’t know what else to say.

“What was your dream?”

I inhaled deeply, slowly gathering my thoughts before I started to tell him all about my nightmare. It was a relief to realize that it was not real as I relived the events. Once I was done, I noticed that there was uncertainty in his eyes before he looked away.


He let out his breath slowly before he looked back at me.

“I am not sure how to tell you this, my beauty.”

My heart started to beat a little faster.

“What is it?”

His arms gathered me closer before relaxing his hold.

“It wasn’t just a dream, love. That was what happened when I rescued you in the forest.”

I gasped.

Memories of that day started trickling back. I remember looking up into the sky as I stepped out of the cabin. There were dark clouds in the distance, but I convinced myself that I would be back from my walk before the storm hit. It slowly dawned on me that it must have caught up with me as I got lost in my thoughts during my walk. And I finally realized the enormity of it all. If he didn’t take me with him, I would have died in a horrific way. I looked down at the hands on my lap as I twisted them together.

“Thank you, for saving me again from that tree.”

Orein gave me a confused look. Beneath my lashes, I peeked at his face.

“I thought for sure I was going to die under that tree tonight. But, here you are again, saving me from being squashed by its giant limbs. So, thank you. I am just realizing now how you have saved my life by taking me back to your world.” I sighed.

“I’m sorry for being difficult when I first wake up here, Orein.  I promise, I will try harder to adapt to your life here.”

Orein wrapped his arms around me tighter and kissed the top of my head.

“There is nothing to be sorry about, my beauty. I completely understand your actions. I’m sure it isn’t easy to be snatched away from the life you’ve always known and dumped in another world that is full of strangers. But it brings me joy to hear you say that you are willing to try to like living  here.”

We stayed like that for I’m not sure how long. He started to move to get up from the bed. I laid my hand on his chest to stop him. I could feel his heartbeat beneath the hard muscles hidden under the cotton material of his top. I caught his gaze as he looked at me.

“Please don’t go yet. It’s nice and comforting to have you here after such a horrible nightmare.”

A small smile started to form on his lips. He kissed me on my forehead before sitting back on the bed. This time, his back was on the headboard as he pulled one of his legs up and under me.

“Okay, I’ll hold you until you fall back to sleep before I leave.”

I sighed and laid my head on his chest. The sound of his heartbeat comforting me. My eyes were already half closed when a thought struck me and I lifted my head so I could see his face.

“Wait. Where have you been? I haven’t seen you around for awhile. You didn’t come home for more than a week.”

He gave me an enigmatic smile.

“I’ve always come home, love. I checked in on you every night before I went to bed.”

“But I didn’t see you,” I muttered petulantly as  laid my head back on his chest. He held my head close to him, his thumb moving slowly up and down my cheek as he spoke.

“My duties required me to leave early, but I was always back late a night. I could have stayed away, but I found myself eager to see you even for just a moment before I went to sleep. Your presence soothes my soul, Anya, in ways even I don’t understand.”

I tried to lift my head up, but he held it gently but firmly close to him.

“Ssshhhh….it’s late, love. Go to sleep. We can talk some more in  the daylight.”

The movement of his thumb against my cheek and the rhythmic sound of the beating of his heart lulled me to sleep. Being in his arms, feeling safe and secure brought a smile to my lips as I got lost in oblivion.

(photo courtesy of US Forest service)


LOST cont’d (Part 5)


It was All Round’s Moon eve in Orein’s world. A night when the huge, round moon shone bright and appeared to be within arm’s reach. In my world, some referred to it as the super moon. For some reason, this was a cause for celebration.

The clearing at the center of the forest was filled with floating orbs of different colours and sizes, illuminating the whole area. Garlands made of leaves, flowers and vines decorated the perimeter. Long tables covered with food and beverages occupied both ends of a rectangular space which served as a dance area. There were throw pillows scattered around where everyone could sit and enjoy the festivities.

Everyone was dressed in festive clothing in different colours and themes. Some had head dresses made with fruits, some with branches and leaves, and yet others had intricate designs of woven vines and flowers. A beautiful silk dress in fall colours was left on my bed in the morning, and that is what I wore to the festival.

There was a group of ladies in colourful costumes made of leaves and flowers performing an intricate dance to the soothing music playing in the background. I looked around to see where it was coming from and found a group of little folk playing their instruments. They were situated on a platform that floated in the air among the tree branches.

I had no idea how long I have been stuck in this other world with these other worldly beings. There were different species, as far as I could tell, such as fairies, the elves, nymphs and the little folk (of which I had no clue what they were.) They stood to about my waist, were skinny with long, thin arms and legs and narrow faces. All of them were quite friendly and accommodating. Quite respectful towards me, if I may say so.

Ever since the Lady Mara spoke to me in my bedchamber, making me realize that crying and moping in my bed would not help me escape this beautiful prison, I have started to communicate and get to know those around me. So far, though, not one of them was willing to share how to go through the walls of magic. They seemed to divert my attention to other things when I started asking questions. I just went with the flow, determined to find that one being who would slip and tell me something. I must admit that I haven’t given up hope of crossing over and going home. But as time passed, that hope was slowly fading away and I had to keep reminding myself to be strong and not to give up.

“Hello, my beauty. You look lovely in that outfit. Our clothing suits you.”

“Oh, thank you, Orein.”

“Have you eaten at all?”

“Yes, indeed I have.”

“Did you find everything to your liking?”

“Mhmm…Everything tasted wonderful. In fact, I am so full I feel like I would burst.”

Orein smiled widely, his eyes twinkling in the lights. He held out his hand towards me.

“Come then and dance with me.”

I smiled at him as I put my hand in his. He helped me up and led me to the dance area. The music was soft and mellow, and Orein held me close to him. One hand behind my waist and the other clasping my hand to his chest. My eyes were drawn to his and what I saw sent shivers down my spine. He looked at me with a smile that reached his eyes. The happiness I sensed from him seemed to radiate towards me, making me feel light and content.

The soft material of the dress I wore billowed in the air as we danced. Orein was an excellent dancer, guiding me as we swayed along with the music.

“You dance very well, my beauty.” I felt my cheeks flush at the compliment.

“That is only because you are a great dancer, Orein. Otherwise, I have two left feet.”

A frown formed between his brows as confusion showed on his face.

“What do you mean?” he asked as he gazed down at my feet. I laugh out loud, which brought smiles to everyone who watched  us.

“It’s just a metaphor. It means that I am not a good dancer.”

Orein smiled at me and it brought tingles to my insides.

“I do not know who told you such a lie, because as far as I could tell, you are doing an excellent job dancing with me right now.”

“Why, thank you kind sir. That makes me feel less awkward. Maybe it’s your magic that has made my feet light,” I teased.

The smile on his face disappeared. In a flat voice he replied.

“I would never use my magic to control you, Anya. You must know that.”

His words hit me like a blow in my face. His words and demeanour confused me and left me speechless. The air around us seemed to shift and grow cold. The light and happy feeling from earlier was gone as we continued to dance. He felt a million miles away from me.

Orein was silent and looked everywhere else except me. As soon as the music ended, he pulled away from me and led me back to where I sat earlier.

“Thank you for the dance, Anya. I believe I must leave now, you should stay and enjoy yourself. I will see you soon.”

Before I could even reply, he turned and walked away. I felt deflated as I watched him go. The fact that he called me by my name and not his usual ‘my beauty’ hurt.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered with tears in my eyes, “I was just kidding.”

Orein seemed to pause in his walk and for a very brief moment I thought he was going to turn and walk back.  But he continued on his way without a backward glance.

The hurt and confusion I felt stayed with me after he left. I didn’t hear the music that still played, nor did I see the others dancing and having a good time. The night which had started out to be such a lovely evening just grew dim and cold. There was no point in staying.

With a heavy heart, I turned towards the surrounding forest. A walk would be good. Hopefully it would ease the heaviness that squeezed my heart.

Orein had been very good to me since he brought me here. Though the circumstances behind it all was not ideal, I knew he had good intentions. He had been nothing but patient and kind. I had no idea that my joke would offend him and I hoped I could find a way to make it up to him.

The darkness of the night enveloped me as I walked deeper into the thickness of the trees. The cold night air surrounded me, chilling me to the bone, and yet I didn’t feel it as I dragged my feet, one in front of the other. I reached the edge of the forest where an outcropping of rocks gave way to a beautiful view of the mountains.

I sat beside a huge rock and gazed into the night. Among the company of the millions of stars and the bright moonlight in the heavens, I have never felt lonelier than I felt tonight. The tears started to flow from my eyes, falling to the ground. A sob escaped my lips and I found I couldn’t hold them back anymore and there I cried as the moon moved across the sky.











LOST cont’d (part 4)

“What shall I do, Mother? She hasn’t spoken a word since I showed her what was beyond the magical walls?”

“Has she eaten at all?”

“No and it has been an equivalent of a day in her world. I am quite worried.”

“Is she awake?”

“I believe she is asleep in her bedchamber.”

“Let me see if I can help.”

I quickly ran back to the softest and most comfortable bed I’ve ever lain on. I hope I could keep my breathing even and that my eyelids won’t move while the Lady Mara checks in on me. I really have no desire to talk to either her or Orein. What I would like to do is find a way to go back home. I simply can’t stay here, my parents and siblings will be heartbroken if I don’t go back.

“Anya, wake up child. I’d like to speak with you.”

I ignored the hand that lightly tapped my shoulder.

“I know you’re awake. Come now and let’s discuss this. Otherwise, I will just talk and you shall listen.”

I opened my eyes but didn’t utter a word. The Lady Mara sat on a chair at my bedside. I wondered how she moved with such stealth because I did not hear a single sound to indicate that she had entered the bedchamber. I heard her sigh.

“You have to eat, Anya. You can’t just let yourself waste away. Orein brought you here to save you from certain death. It is a different way of life than what you know, but at least you are here and not gone forever. I know you are worried about your family, but whether Orein left you there or not, they would have mourned for you.”

My eyes flooded with tears at the mention of my family. Her words made sense, they would have mourned me either way. It was just difficult to think that I was alive and yet I can no longer see them, talk to them, or hug them. I would miss them so much. It was better to be gone than to exist in this strange place with these strange beings. At least then I would not feel the loneliness and the loss.

“Anya, child, please try to adapt to our world and our way of life. Change is not always easy to accept, but if we keep an open mind, the transition will be less stressful.”

I felt the tears roll from my eyes, and I kept them closed. I couldn’t stop the sob that rose from my throat. My heart felt like it was being squeezed tight and it was getting harder to breath.

I felt the mattress dip a little as a gentle hand rubbed my back to comfort me.

“There. There. Everything will turn out alright, Anya. You just have to give it a chance.”

My mind was working overtime, trying to process what the lady said. Sadness still filled my heart, but my thoughts were going in a different direction.

After a few moments of contemplating and a bucketload of tears, a warm feeling seemed to engulf my whole body and I felt myself relax. The last thought I remember was: “Maybe living here won’t be so bad. I could try to adapt to their world while finding a way to go back. Someone should have an idea because they could go through those walls with no problem at all.”

Let’s make each other’s day today!

It’s funny how we don’t realize how much we touch other people’s  lives with the little things we say or do.

It could be at work, in the grocery store, along the street as we walk to work, in the train or bus, at the coffee shop or even while filling up at the gas station. For us, it is just something that we do as part of our routine, a necessity or a form of communication or relaxation. 

It could be a gesture as small as smiling at the other guy at the next pump, saying thank you to the barista who just handed you your coffee, reaching for the box of tapioca from the top shelf for the little old lady beside you, or being nice and courteous to your customer or patient. 

We could also touch other people’s lives with a picture you took and shared on social media, a painting you did and hang for all to see, a poem or a story you wrote in your blog. These can serve as an inspiration to someone, encouraging them to follow their dreams, or find hope in life.  

These are just examples of the little things we could do everyday which may affect others. 

That smile you gave or the ‘thank you’ you uttered could have shown the other person that someone cares, that he matters. 

The small gesture of helping that old lady or just plainly being nice to your next customer or patient could have eased their minds of worry and anxiety. 

It is sometimes good to remind ourselves that we are a small part of a big picture. What we say or do can make a difference. 

So don’t be indifferent to your surroundings. Be aware of your next move. Be careful of what you do or say. Smile and say thank you to the next person you meet today. You may just make their day! 

LOST cont’d – (part 3)

Images of my life flashed before my eyes, much like how they describe it when one is in the brink of dying. I began to wonder if this is one of those moments.

My heart was breaking as my brain slowly processed the fact that  I was stuck in this world where these strange beings lived.

I would never speak to my parents again, nor see my brother Seph and my sister, Sarah.

I gasp.

They would all be worried about me because I didn’t tell anyone I was going for a walk in the woods. There would probably be search parties looking for me once they realize I’ve gone missing. Mom would be in tears and Dad would be holding her in a tight hug, desperately trying to console her.

Oh no! When they find my body, (if that was even my body) it would crush Mom’s heart. They would all be devastated!

Bastian would be heart broken! We were going to get married in the spring of next year! I was going to be a blushing bride, walked my down an aisle decorated with white lillies. Our vows would be recited under a bough of flowers and vines. All of our friends and family would be cheering once we were pronounced man and wife. There would be dancing and drinking and heavy partying. It was going to be grand! My fairy tale wedding! Now it wouldn’t be happening…

I pull my hair out with both my hands in frustration.

“What am I going to do? I have to  go back! I’m getting married!”

Orein dropped on his knees and pulled me into him. When did I fall to my knees and ended up sitting on the ground? My heart was in a panic, my mind going a hundred miles a minute. I grabbed onto Orein’s arm and held on tight, hoping that I could gather enough strength to face whatever is coming. Tears fell down my face and all I could hear are my sobs. My limbs lost all their strength and my body leaned onto Orein for support.

“What am I going to do? There must be some way to go back…”

My eyes felt heavy after all the crying I’ve done. I felt strong arms lift me just as I was drifting off to sleep. Blissful nothingness felt good right at this moment.


LOST (cont’d)

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, my beauty, but you are absolutely not dreaming. I refuse to be just a dream.”
I turned around to face the magnificent specimen before me. If I was in a dream, I wouldn’t want to wake up anytime soon.

“Why did you bring me here?” The confidence that exuded from Orein earlier seemed to fade a little upon hearing my question. Gesturing for me to proceed before him, he says:

“Come. Walk with me as I try to explain myself.”

We’ve taken quite a few steps before he continued speaking.

“When I encountered you in the forest walking along that path with your head bent, shoulders slumped and seemingly deep in thought, a sudden urge to protect you came over me. At first I thought it was just my warrior instincts kicking in. However, once your eyes met mine, a sense of peace I haven’t felt in a long time overcame me. I tried to walk away from you, but something held me frozen in place. It was only when I decided to take you with me that I was able to transport back to my home.”

“But all I remember is seeing the stag there, and all of a sudden I found myself here. How long did it take for all of these to take place?”

“Time is not something the fey need to worry about. It is irrelevant to us for it does not exist in our world.”

“How can time not exist? How would you know when things need to get done?”

“In the land of the fey, one need not worry about being late or when to do things. We take life as it comes and accept what it brings in its own time. There is no sense stressing one’s self with such useless worries.”

“But…but…you took me here, and everyone back home will be worried and will be looking for me. How long have I been here already?”

“It doesn’t matter, my beauty. Come, the Lady Mara awaits”

Orein took my hand and in a blink of an eye I found myself in a beautiful garden where a small feast has been laid on an intricately carved table. A few flying bugs as big as matchbox cars hovered over the food. One of them flew towards me and I was amazed to see that it wasn’t a bug at all. It was a fairy!

Her blue, almond-shaped eyes were filled with curiosity as she looked at me with a smile. Her red hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and she was wearing a yellow, sleeveless frock with a brown belt cinched at the waist.

“Hello there!”

The fairy waved her hand in response. I smiled with a frown on my forehead, wondering at her non-response.

“Fairies do not speak, my beauty. They respond through gestures and actions.”

Orein tugged me forward.

A huge bouquet of flowers adorned the center of the table, adding to the elegantly prepared table settings of huge leaves that appeared to be used as plates, wooden wine cups and embroidered linen napkins. Different kinds of fruits, vegetables, crackers, cheese, flatbreads, pastries and wine lay on beautifully carved platters.

Mara stood at one end of the table, a crown of white flowers adorned her hair. She offered me a smile and gestured towards the food on the table.

“Come, let us partake in the bounty prepared specially for your arrival.”

Orein pulled my chair for me and pushed it back as I sat down. He served me a small portion from each of the platters and poured me some wine. Mara watched him with an indulgent smile on her face.

“I’ve waited hundreds of years to see my son this way. I am so happy that he finally found someone who has sparked his interest enough to take her home.

I turned towards Orein who was sitting beside me. His cheeks were flushed as he looked me in the eye.  A shiver ran down my spine. I tried to smile but something in Mara’s statement bothered me and my heart started to beat faster. Something was not right.

“Orein is my only son. Heir to the throne in all of Feyland. Maybe now that you are here, I can look forward to having grandchildren.”
I gasped.

“Don’t worry, my beauty, I will do my best to make you happy.”

“But I can’t stay here. I have a life in my world, a family and a job to go back to.”

“We are your family now,” Mara insisted.

My breathing started to become faster and I could feel the panic starting to rise within me.

“But I have to go back.”

“I’m sorry, my beauty, but once you cross through the magical walls, there is no going back.”

“How do you cross back and forth?”

“I am Fey. Humans can only cross through them once. There is no going back.”

“No. No. No, this can’t be happening. Please take me back. I can’t stay here!”

Suddenly, the beautifully set table disappeared with Mara and I was left standing with Orein.

Tears streamed down my face as I looked pleadingly at him.

“Please, Orein, please take me back.”

Orein was looking at me with sadness in his eyes.


He takes my hand and suddenly I found myself looking through a misty wall. On the other side, I recognized the green rain jacket and khaki pants I put on before I went for a walk.  A body lay on the forest floor.

“Who…who is that?”

Orein did not respond. I blinked in an attempt to make the image clearer. I could not stifle the gasp that escaped my lips. Tears blurred my vision as a sob rose from my throat.

“No! That can’t be me! I’m alive! I know I am!”

Orein took me in his arms and hugged me tight.

“I am sorry, my beauty, but you were not in great shape when I found you. If I did not take you with me through the walls, you would already be gone.”


Leaves gently fell on the forest floor, covering it with a carpet of brown, orange, red and green. Its layers cushioned each step creating a squishing sound every time my foot hit the ground.

A rustling of leaves to the left attracted my attention. I turned my head and right before me stood a stag in all its magnificence. Its antlers were spread wide, its stance proud and strong, its muscles firm. I almost felt like I had to fall on my knees in deference.

My eyes were drawn to its brown ones and a strange feeling envelopes my whole body. Almost like a sense of peace seeped into every pore and made me feel like I was floating. I closed my eyes and reveled in this wonderful bliss.

When I opened my eyes, I found myself standing in the middle of a clearing. The green grass felt marvelous under my feet. The sound of a waterfall caught my attention, making me turn around. A beautiful mini waterfall flowed from a hill, the clear water flowing into a small stream where a fish or two swam within its depths. The trees that surrounded the clearing were all green and their pine scent filled the air. The freshness of the air seemed to cleanse me to my very soul.

I frowned as I looked around. The stag was gone and I was by myself.

“Where am I?” I asked aloud. A gentle breeze blew from behind me and a shiver ran down my spine.

“You are in the land of the fey,” a voice behind me replied. I turned around abruptly.

There before me stood a beautiful lady in flowing robes of iridescent white. Her long, light hair gently fell on both sides of her shoulders, covering the whole length of her torso. Her skin was creamy and looked so soft and smooth. Her eyes had a gentleness that immediately put me at ease. There was a small, indulgent smile on her full, pink lips. Her regal nose slightly upturned, indicating some sort of royal blood flowing within her. Her whole being oozed of power, yet exuded a sense of peace.

“Who are you?”

“I am Mara. Welcome to our realm.”

“But how did I get here? One moment I was walking in the forest, the next I’m here in this beautiful place.”

“Orein brought you here. It would seem that he was drawn to you. He couldn’t explain it but something told him to take you with him.”

“Orein? Who is Orein?”

“He is the leader of our warriors in this realm. Orein was on his way back from an errand when he came upon you in the forest.”

“You mean the magnificent stag I saw as I was walking?”

“Yes. He is in another form when he goes on missions to the other side.”

“I am sorry if I confused you, my beauty.” The masculine voice that came from behind me made me jump and turn towards it’s direction.

I had to blink twice to get rid of the surprise on my face. The Adonis that stood before me looked like a Grecian god dropped down from the heavens. He stood over six feet tall, with muscles that were carved in perfect form. His long, dark hair flowed behind him in the gentle breeze. But it was his cerulean eyes that mesmerized me, holding my gaze and trapping me in limbo.

“Are you alright?”

I shook my head to free myself from his entrapping gaze.

“Yes, I am, thank you. You must be Orein?” He nodded and bowed in response.

“You brought me here?”

“Yes, I did.”

“But why?” Orein gave me a sheepish look and I heard a chuckle come from Mara.

“Orein, I shall leave you with our guest for now. After you explain yourself to her, take her with you when you come to the celebration.”

“Yes, my lady.”

I looked between the two strangers before me, my confusion evident on my face. Right before my very eyes, the air around Mara turned shimmery as she slowly disappeared. My eyes bugged out and my jaw went slack with shock. I must be dreaming!

My Lolo

I’m sitting on the floor in front of the coffee table. A plate of mangoes set before me.

Hmmm…this mango is surely sweet. A dribble of sweet mango juice flows down my chin and I wipe it with the back of my hand. I’m so engrossed with what I’m eating that I’m startled when a finger makes a quick swipe behind my ear.

I look behind me but grandpa is busy reading his newspaper, oblivious to the world around him. He is sitting in his favourite chair, one leg crossed over the other, swinging up and down. No one else is sited near me and I narrow my eyes at him suspiciously.

I turn my head back and continue enjoying my fruit.


There it goes again, that finger swiping. This time it’s at the back of my head, touching my hair. I quickly look back, but grandpa is still reading his newspaper. His leg still swinging.

I carry on eating, but I look behind me out of the corner of my eyes. My focus is no longer on what I’m eating. I’m intent on catching grandpa red handed. Before I know it, the fruit is gone and it’s time to bring the plate back to the kitchen and wash my hands.

Lolita, the housekeeper, helps me reach the sink so I could wash my hands. It’s not easy for an eight year old.

I go back to the living room and sit beside him. It’s not even five minutes and I feel the swipe again. I quickly look and I could see the twinkle in his eyes now. I smile and hug his neck tight. He encircles me with his arms and squeezes gently.

I love my grandpa. He was the best. In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him lose his temper. He was always jovial, rarely formal. What I always saw was his love for his grandkids. He would do anything for us.

He and my grandma had nine kids. That’s right, nine! And his grandchildren? There were 32 of us, ranging in age from 2 to 19 years old.

We used to have family vacations at the beach every year. Each family would have their own vehicle, though grandpa used to have a driver who took him everywhere in a jeep. When it was time to go swimming, it was a race to get a spot in that particular jeep. Regardless of how many other vehicles were available, a spot in grandpa’s jeep was always in demand.

However, as the number of grandkids grew, he realized that there was no way his grandchildren would fit in his tiny jeep. One summer, he arrived with a Jeepney that could seat 19 adults including the driver. 😂 With kids, he could practically fit almost all of us in there.

Memories of our younger days fleetingly cross my mind every once in a while. We are all grown up now, some of us even have grandkids of our own. Yet those moments will always stay in our hearts.

Grandpa’s been gone for more than twenty years, but I still miss him. There was no denying his love for all of us. Looking back now I realize that we were his life and joy.

When he passed on, it was the darkest day in all of our lives. Each of his 32 grandkids felt the loss. We were all adults then, maybe one or two who were teens, but it was as if we all wanted to turn back time and be kids again…racing for the prime spots in his jeep.

Last night, I dreamt of grandpa. And when I close my eyes, I can still see the smile he used to give us…full of love and some mischief.

I miss you, Grandpa. Wish I’d get a chance to hug you even for just a minute or two.

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