Excalibur Returns (An Original Short)

Contest Host: WOW! Women on Writing

Contest Title: 2016 Flash Fiction Contest (With Critique)

Placement: None


The ethereal world around me shames even my most whimsical dreams. I feel perfectly at home here even if I have no idea how it is I’ve even arrived. This place is so hauntingly beautiful that I can only presume that it is luck that I’ve stumbled upon this paradise.


“But why is it that I feel so lucky?” Not even the tiniest piece of me felt afraid to be somewhere with which I was unfamiliar. There were no questions as to whether I was in danger. My admiration for the scenery left me dumbfounded but put my simultaneously at ease. Why is it I would consider myself lucky instead of concerned?


“Because you are,” A divine harmony echoes throughout my mind. Surely it was the single most brilliant voice in all of time and space. Hearing it speak is distracting in the moment that I hear it but also in the seconds that tick by with slow deliberation afterwards. I nearly forget to look around for a person to whom the voice belongs but in my heart I know will not find one. Regardless, I twirl halfheartedly knowing in advance that no human could so sound divine.


When I stop my eye catches the slightest glimmer of sunshine bouncing off of a dewy patch of moss. Clouds pass overhead breaking what little light shone through the vast canopy. The moss that was just radiant green is now as dark as night, barely recognizable as any form of plant life. Something in my heart propels me forward to explore this patch of moss very specifically. The closer I get to it the harder my heart pounds behind my sternum.


Once I am hovering directly above the chameleon moss I notice that there’s a strange sort of light around it. The way it moves reminds me of a small stress on the countryside. Alas, it is not actually bright light, like what you would see from the sun, but rather palpable nothingness that casts a demanding aura. I cannot resist the urge to stare into the abyss.


Unsure what it is I am experiencing makes me curious rather than frightened. I slowly poke each hand into the void in hopes of discovering something with which I can make a deduction about this strange patch of plant life in this oasis. Why does is radiate power in such a way that is distinctly different from the rest of the forest?


At first I feel nothing more than a soft breeze. For a second I shiver due to a chill that is best described as a wind tiptoeing up my spine. Since I have no reason to believe that there is any danger I lean in further to take a deep breath. Does it smell as harmless as it looks?


“On the ground,” the voice returns only to alert me to the mistake that I’ve made. Agony washes over me as violently as the Thames. The pain is tangiblly audible to the point that I cannot even tell if I am screaming. My eyes remain clamped shut as I suffer through whatever has overcome me.


Time seems to stop so that my punishment may hold the attention of the entire universe. My palms are hitting the ground with flagrant protest. I found this paradise to be alluring and perfect but now I damn it for what it has done to me. Through the aching I force my fingers to inspect each frill, blade, and bulge in hopes of identifying an escape. The only thing that exists in me is the will to survive. It is only several cuts, bruises, and rashes later that I finally identify something that is foreign…


Something that does not belong…


And it is so very, very cold.


It is lean.

It is sleek.

And it is cold.


Without justification I bring the item to my chest, eyes still closed as the pain continues resonate through my bones. In a way, the echoes of suffering are worse than the initial inflictions. In my heart I know that this punishment is somehow instrumental to my escape. Perfect as it seems, I have no desire to continue my adventure here.


Silence begins to fall around me. Clamped eyes begin cracking open so that I can examine the trinket that I have discovered. The cool temperature that had stood out in contrast to my hot pain is wholly refreshing. I find myself absently attached to this object in a way that I find myself describing as ‘victorious.’


It is almost as though I had achieved the task for which I was brought to this place. As I suspect this presently, it is also confirmed; “What you hold now is a necklace fashioned from the shattered remains of a scabbard once known as Excalibur. For far too long I have waited for another to carry its burden once more.”


Enthralling as the voice is, as the setting is too, I cannot resist laughing at this premise. Tendrils tug in the back of my mind insisting that this is reality but in the forefront of my mind I have the slightest suspicions this is little more than a dream. The feelings, sensations, and pains that I experienced are remnants of regret and accomplishment that I feel in a real world somewhere beyond this place. I would be mad to believe that this luxurious getaway is real.


When my laughter fades, though, I find that there is a soft denial. The rhythm in my heart changes and my lungs breathe air differently. I am not independent. The voice seems to instruct me how to feel and what to think. Within seconds my mockery of the possibility twists away from that rooted doubt. As it lifts it is quickly replaced with acceptance; “And yet as much as you lack belief you are equally as easily swayed. Does your necklace not feel as icy as a winter’s night? Those are Excalibur’s remains in your very hands. Your presence in Avalon is not some innocuous hallucination. Of this I can promise you.”


I command myself to wake, or so I believe that I have done as much. The brilliant world around me is replaced with dull gray walls. Stained cream curtains billowing in the polluted wind cover a cracked window. I am instantly reminded that I live in a city plagued by crime and anarchy. Displeasure flows steadily in my veins. The largest part of me regrets leaving Avalon. Real or not, I already prefer to be there in spite of the dangers it may contain.


“You are meant for great things,” The voice asserts finally as my gaze settles on the blankets that cover me. A heavy object seems to be weighing them down. My fingers feel a breeze rolling off of a necklace that is immediately familiar to me. Excalibur is real and it is here in my lap. The peace that I felt in Avalon returns and I find myself trusting in the words of my invisible guardian.


I easily clasp Excalibur around my neck. It was much heavier in my hands. A second passes in which I consider removing the jewelry but the thought feels insidious. A soft whispering in the deepest crevices of my mind is insisting that I was meant to carry this burden. To exist without Excalibur would defy the universe.


A gunshot yanks me back into the world beneath my window. I rip the curtains back with assurance. This world must change. I must change this world.


A Teenager’s Essay

Author’s Note: I apologize for posting this a day late. I’ve had a couple of personal things come up on top of being sick. I had this done yesterday but hadn’t had enough time to edit before posting. But it’s here now! Enjoy!



A Coming of Age Essay


Cassie Appleton



When I grew up the only thing I knew was church every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. In a country where Christianity is the prominent religion it never once occurred to me that it could also be a bad one. Sure, there were plenty of headlines that suggested that Christians weren’t the great people I was raised to believe. Nonetheless, for fifteen long years I was genuinely convinced that the media was wrong. The stories had to be wrong. No proper Christian would ever behave in that way.

Unfortunately, shortly after I got my learner’s permit I found out that maybe Christians were not the people I thought they were all along. My generalization sometimes seems unfair, but how is it any different than my experiences with generalization? Two wrongs don’t make a right – but I think it gave me a clearer outlook.

Last year when I moved here I kept my lips shut about why. People don’t ask many questions when you only have one parent anymore because it is pretty normal. There are so many good, bad, and understandable reasons for having one parent that nobody really cares enough to ask anymore. The few people that I became friends with never asked why I lived with just my dad but asked if I had a second parent. They didn’t even so much as assume that my second parent was a mother. I love that I live in a world that doesn’t make presumptions – or at least I am thankful to have found a social circle that is so accepting.

Even with all of my new friends and a reasonably happy home, my father and I still attended church. He made it very clear that if people asked about the reason for divorce it was not to be discussed. The only response either of us uttered was “unresolved differences.” He told me that people don’t care to know about the sexual failings of a marriage. My father assured me that it would be easier for us in the long run to just fudge the details about my mother’s slew of affairs.

Maybe my father suspected we would have a bad reputation if fellow patrons knew about my mother’s interest in other people. As a Christian I could understand on a surface level how that would be perceived as a terrible, sinful thing. Selfishly I didn’t want people condemning my mother to hell for making a mistake. I had considered many times how very different murder and sex out of wedlock truly were in the grand scheme of things. Nobody deserved the same condemnation for unfaithful sex as a violent crime. To me there was no question. That seemed to be only to me…

One day I went to church with my older brother. He was visiting for the weekend while he was on break from school. Since he can drive and my father was feeling off, I told hard-working pops to take a personal day from church. I was ecstatic that he actually agreed. I’ve never seen that man take time for himself – not even through the tough days going through the divorce. What better way to spend a Sunday than at church and brunch with my big brother?

Well, my brother hadn’t really known that my father was keeping the affairs a secret. I was expecting him to just know, I guess, and didn’t follow him around to hear what he was saying. The horrifying truth was that he had no problem telling everyone my mother was a filthy whore. If you want to fail me for using a ‘swear’ word – then please allow me fail you for being extremely outdated in this generation.

I walked into to the lobby to get my coat so that my brother and I could get going – I was so ready for brownie waffles and cough syrup cola. Okay, so maybe it doesn’t actually have cough syrup but it’s a grape soda that reminds me of cough syrup my dad always gave me when I was sick. Anyway, I was walking by and I heard a group of ladies condemning a couple that recently divorced due to marital affairs. My brother was saying what he’s been saying all along…

“My mom was just a selfish witch and it sounds like this guy would be her best friend. People that are unfaithful are a disgrace to our religion.”

            That has basically bee his mantra since he found out the truth about the divorce. He wasn’t home when they broke the news but he hasn’t missed texting me every single day about how angry he is at our mother. All of his social media profiles are filled with rants about fidelity and faithful matrimony. Even though I was disappointed in my mother I never thought to be as upset as my brother. I thought his rage it would burn out and he would forgive the woman. All of her affairs were on her personal time and she never once compromised her time with us. Maybe she didn’t love my father anymore, and maybe he didn’t even love her back either to let this happen so calmly. The only thing I was sure about was that there was never a concern as to whether she loved her children. I hoped so hard that my brother would be able to see that with time and space.

Concerns about his general attitude fell to the background when I heard the other adults arguing with my brother. Each person disagreed with him. “In what ways,” you might be asking yourself. How could these grown ups possibly disagree with what society would generally deem as truthful statements. What I heard made my heart sink but it forced me to grow up in the course of two whole minutes.

It’s important for you to know that I had never doubted my faith in religion. My devotion God and the Bible were genuine. My dedication to being the average, Plain Jane, Christian teenager was probably a little obscene at times. There was a whole six months when I had posters of Jesus in my bedroom while my friends had posters of boy bands and stolen road signs. I stood by my faith when those around me picked and chose which pieces of the Bible they chose to believe– I thought they were just falling for the Devil’s tricks.

Perhaps you don’t get that vibe from me? Perhaps that is hard to believe considering I don’t act that way? You never will see that part of my past. Nobody will ever see it again.

These adults who struck a conversation with my brother about our parents shamed not just my mom – who did do something dishonest – but they also blamed my father for the results of their marriage. They didn’t stop there, no! These vicious baboons also claimed that my brother and I were at fault for not divulging questionable behaviors that we noticed! Fun fact – WE DID NOT NOTICE!

Overhearing this conversation changed how I see myself. These people who didn’t know us were speaking ill of our situation. When my brother got to the car he was swearing up a storm, he was smacking his steering wheel, and he even drove a bit like a maniac. I didn’t feel safe but I was also amped up about these horrible people that I barely noticed at the time. What made them think our personal lives were up for speculation? When our car jerked into park at the waffle house it dawned on me…

Having faith in my religion was stupid. A lot of good people do everything “by the book.” They follow the guidelines of the Bible and take each word so literally that they would abandon their family and friends if they stepped outside of the outdated lines. Being so strict, though, could result in the chastisement of their iron first by more liberal Christians. No matter what, sects of Christianity will attack one another. Seeing that in action in the smallest way possible brought a light into my life. I used to it reevaluate the worth in my faith.

Should I believe? Should I become more liberal in my faith? Should I approach these women? So many questions filled my head as my brother vowed to make our mother pay for her sins – like a tried-and-true Christian boy. I was appalled at these people at the church. I was mortified by what my brother was saying – so very loudly in the restaurant. My decision to leave my faith behind me wasn’t final when I left the restaurant, but I did get there very quickly.

My brother left the next morning to make it for an evening lecture. My dad missed work because he was still sick and I skipped school because I didn’t feel like facing any rumors. I actually wondered if the reactions would be positive. Don’t most people experience empathy when you’ve been screwed over by a cheating parent? I think that is what socially happens more often than not. The truth was, though, I didn’t trust anything about the world. Those idiots at the church were happy to hang my laundry out to dry without any sort of consideration or compassion. Why should I bother having faith if I couldn’t trust it?

Foundation shaken – it was an official decision inside of myself. All I needed was my father’s support. I’ve never seen him make a decision as fast as he did that day. I told him what happened and he laughed so loud. I mean it was really loud! It actually kind of hurt my ears. Nothing about this incident surprised him either. It was him who voiced the question I’d been practicing in my head.

“Do you want to keep going?” As though I would want to keep going where I see liars rather than people? A place where I fear I will be judged for not being from a perfect family? Somewhere that requires me give up everything for the God that is supposed to give me everything I deserve in life for being devout? A religion that would tell me that my family is unnatural and destined for Hell? Extremists or not, this church was not a place I belonged to anymore.

Or any church for that matter.

I told him I was quitting Christianity and he agreed that it might be for the best. We have been filling those glorious voids by exploring different cultures and faiths. During this time we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and I have never been so happy without the shackles of religion. The expectations have changed in such a big way. Nobody can impose their ideals upon me any longer and I am in control of the person I will become someday.

Everyone’s coming of age story is going to be different. Some people will go through truly harrowing experiences to reach the next level of growing up. Others will write you a short story about a scary dentist appointment using twelve point five font with two point five spacing to reach the three-page limit. All I know is that after hearing the way religious people wiling spoke of near strangers – I have no desire to be controlled by something that doesn’t motivate people equally.

I just want to be a good person. I can only do that if I have an open mind. Maybe they can’t but I am more than capable. I promise I will remain motivated only by good intentions.

The Darker Side of Politics

*Disclaimer: This work is controversial. It may include triggers for some readers. This fictional piece will discuss the actions of a politician which negatively affect a teenager. If you may find this content uncomfortable it is no recommended that you read it.


As a politician on his way out of office, I’ve found that I am less inhibited by the social norms of not only being in the spotlight but of being an “upper class” gentleman. When the voters started complaining about my frequent inability to pass laws, I fired at them that I would work harder. When there was a scandal involving my leading political ally, I assured my constituents that I was unaware of the wrongdoing and would disassociate myself with any politicians of the like. Unfortunately, the lies were easier than the job. I would never suggest that I made for a great governor. I wasn’t even a good governor. Regardless of my quality of work, however, I have found a way to ensure that I will never be forgotten. I will, at the very least, be an infamous governor.

“Good afternoon! My studio has demanded me to listen to your proposal. I am going to give you five minutes to tell me a story that will capture my attention. Consider this the first five minutes of your movie.” Henley Bridget has always been a brash sort of man, from what I’ve read, where his work ethic is concerned. Everyone is to work as long as hard as him. Not a single moment can be spent on meaningless things; “Your time starts now.”

And that damn man actually has a stopwatch.

Thankfully for him – and I do mean for him – I am a seasoned politician. I can speak on a whim about anything regardless of my level of knowledge. So with a smile on my face, I pick the story that I know has never been heard. I will share my own story – a scandal that will surely get me put in prison. Or at least put someone in prison.

“In one of my more recent elections I was becoming desperate. My republican counterpart was gaining a lot of momentum. Everyone on my campaign team was urging me to take action. They didn’t care how, but I needed to do it immediately. I was flustered because they needed me to do something big. Something that would completely defame my opponent!” I pause for a moment, drinking water to prove that I’m not intimidated by his time limit. There’s nothing about this that scares me anymore than the idea of future politicians continuing this sick game of cheating, lying, and blackmailing in order to achieve success.

Of course, there’s something even worse than simply cheating and lying and blackmailing… There’s full on sabotage. It is worse than cheating in the sense that you’re not just taking advantage of something and swaying the vote in your favor. Sabotage is the full and intentional wrongdoing that will absolutely end someone’s campaign dead in its tracks.

“The thing is – sabotage ruins a career for life. In the end, this is exactly what I would need to do to keep my career alive instead. Days passed and there was no questioning of my game plan or my intentions. I wasn’t even asked if I wanted assistance in finding a way to get the deed done. It was so hushed that I almost convinced myself that the conversation never happened!” Henley is scrolling through his phone now and lifting a Bluetooth piece to his ear. As passively as I present my idea for a documentary I want him to direct called “The Darker Side of Politics,” he is just as casual and disinterested as one might expect.

So that is my cue to drop my bomb, “After a night of seeing my polls drop almost ten percent, on a pharmacy television, luck fell upon me. I saw my opponent’s daughter dropping off a prescription. I pay close attention and realize that it’s birth control. This is scandalous information but not enough to derail a campaign. I decide in that moment, having known the pharmacist on duty for many years, that I have the power to ruin a career.”

Henley doesn’t seem to move but his eyes dart up and hone in on the topic. I’ve given him a reason to be listening now. After flashing a nervous smile, I realize that I’ve never admitted aloud to anyone ever about what I did to this girl. Guilt and self-loathing pump through my veins, but it motivates me to prove that politicians are disgusting; “So I waited for her to step over to her security guard and ask him to grab some snacks, preferably chocolate. He walks away but not far enough to lose sight of her. With both of them distracted, I sneak into the back – greeted hesitantly by my friend. No, I wasn’t supposed to go back there, but I pulled out my phone and drafted a message. On the screen it reads – ‘Switch her birth control out with a placebo.’ My friend shakes his head. He can’t, I know he’s trying to say that he just can’t do it. So beneath that message I type a number.” Henley is fully enthralled now. His earpiece is in his pocket along with his phone; and his feet are crossed and propped on a chair. This is a man that is ready to take on a project – I can see it in his face.

All I have to do is seal the deal.

“After he smiles, because affirming this deal verbally was too direct. We share a brief hug and he escorts me to a private bathroom. In there I review the best ways to get this money out without raising eyebrows. This is an intelligent man I’m working with, so I know he won’t expect a lump sump. Politicians have to be coy if they want to sabotage careers, after all. The act itself is risky enough, why make the finances suspicious too?” I break it up for another quick drink, but I don’t linger too long; “So he changes the birth control to a placebo. It is nearly identical to the pills she already gets so when he slides them into a blue plastic case, nobody is any wiser to the swap. And the placebo’s presence doesn’t prove fruitful right away, but in my greatest hour of need – the announcement comes. Headlines everywhere are calling out my opponent for being a hypocrite.”

Henley is laughing, probably predicting what is going to be said next. The story itself becomes obvious once birth control is mentioned. This horrifying story is predictable a best but no less horrifying. All that is left for me to finish saying it out loud to this director so that he can confirm that he’s interested in yet another groundbreaking documentary that will move the people to address issues in our country that are still left unnoticed.

“Churches and pro-life clinics had been financially carrying my opponent. All of his children wore purity rings. The girls even sometimes did advertisements discussing the value of abstinence. This was a politician campaigning for a local government, and a state government, that rallied for the families. When his middle daughter stepped down as a spokesperson and representative for abstinence, eyebrows were raised – but they screamed ‘S.A.T.s!’ and “FINALS!” as though school was becoming too stressful. Then there were whispers that she stopped teaching Sunday school, and that her purity ring was gone. The announcement finally had to be made that she was pregnant.”

There’s a moment of silence between us. I barely even notice him turning the stopwatch off. I have convinced him that this is a lucrative project. Not just now in revealing that the young girl was pregnant, but in general proving that attending this ‘mandatory’ meeting was valuable to him. If this is how low I was willing to stoop just to remain in office – what had other politicians done? Bigger politicians? There are nastier stories than this to be exposed.

Henley seems to know this so he pulls out a stenopad from a briefcase that I didn’t pay any attention to when he arrived. He starts scribbling in it, asking me only one question after focusing intention on his pages; “Did you remain in office after this act of sabotage, governor?”

A smile that must speak volumes about the things wrong with me curls my lips. Isn’t the answer obvious? I didn’t come here because I lost. I came here because I won and I didn’t deserve my seat leading my home state. I didn’t deserve any of the success I obtained.

But he needs to hear it from me. He needs to know that I’ll speak up and be the voice leading this project forward. Henley is requiring me to prove that I won’t shy away when this project takes a turn for the cringe-worthy. So I just keep grinning at him and drop my chin deep into my chest; “I wouldn’t be a proper politician if I didn’t, now would I? Of course I won. And I won because I was willing the pay the price with someone else’s head.”

In All Fairness

Hands are tangled in his graying hair as he remembers that one of his stars is going to be in Keller’s talk show for a segment pertaining to her growing foundation. The clips are vital to the documentary, since any recorded material pertaining to Doctor Celeste Gonzalez is valuable to his work. The visit is last minute, but thankfully Henley recently had studio put into his home with proper equipment to record and store data. Everything in it was top quality, too. Henley demanded it.

At some point, Henley can’t be sure when anymore, he became a bit of a Director/Producer for his work. This allowed him to become more familiar with the equipment and technical work behind a movie – not just the aesthetic of it all. And as of late, he’s also become more familiar with the acting part of the work too. Being that his daughter, Ithaca, has been taking Hollywood by storm – and not just for her acting.

Even though Henley could have given her a great career with his money and reputation, Ithaca refused to use him as a reference; refused to work with him; and constantly turned down jobs that she felt were degrading to her personal character. It took her longer to make it into the limelight, but after doing a dozen or so B-rate fantasy movies – she did it. Henley isn’t sure how, really, but she emerged victorious without ever doing a project that was criticized too terribly.

In fact, many critics applaud his daughter for being selective about her work. She has only ever worked under female directors. She has played doctors, scientists, professors, and war heroes – and she has done it in a way that empowers women to pursue similar career paths. It was never easy, though, because Ithaca took the roles seriously. The young lady has a hodgepodge of medical, science, education, and military skills that she actually learned through universities and training facilities. Her work ethic is envied by many of her peers.

And Henley couldn’t be more proud of her, or the fact that she was voted as one of the top ten most influential women in the last decade.

Midway through his thought, he flicks his hand at the television – ensuring that everything was in place to record the interview. As soon as he turns all his knobs, checks all his cords and lights, and verifies that he’s on the right channel at the right time; Henley takes a seat and tousles his hair once again.


Nearly fifteen minutes go by before the segment for Doctor Gonzalez comes on, but it is certainly worth it. Keller introduced her with a commercial produced by individuals who use the services offered by the Mental Illness Awareness Foundation. It was provided to the company (for free, Keller emphasizes) as a ‘thank you’ for the help provided by her company.

“So – do I understand this correctly – M.I.A. is a not-for-profit company?”

Of course it is, the doctor tells Keller. It was never anything but that – she always intended for those in need to receive the help they deserve without concerning themselves with cost. She goes on to explain that mental illnesses are easily the most ignored medical affliction because many people who suffer cannot afford proper treatment.

“This woman is magic,” Henley comments to himself, “She is literally the embodiment of feminism!” Of course, that is true for all ten women on his list. Each woman has done amazing things by creating a generation of awareness. Doctor Gonzalez ranked the fourth most influential woman behind only Disney stars and politicians. It’s hard to beat the following of a politician or a Disney star. Both have pretty well nabbed the two most active parts of the population.

The clip-clop of stilettos in the hallway alerts Henley that his daughter must be home. Well, not home. She has her own condo in town, but she often spends her nights in his mansion because she hates knowing that he is there by himself. At least that’s the excuse that she always gives him. Secretly, he thinks that she gets lonely in her condo. It really was more or less a convenience while she’s promoting her work. At best, it’s a vacation home.

Ithaca, predictably, walks in without an announcement and sits herself next to him on the couch. They watch the screen together in silence. Keller questions Doctor Gonzalez about her plans for the M.I.A. Foundation – to which she assures him that right now they’re trying to expand down into South America. The conversation is brief, but she believes that if M.I.A. Foundation can get a strong foothold there, then perhaps their company can also start specific center for drug rehabilitation focusing on the aspect of addiction that stems from mental illness.

Neither of them speaks until the end of the interview, and it is only in response to Keller’s question to Doctor Gonzalez that makes the conversation relevant… and apparently pertinent…

“An honor was recently bestowed upon you, isn’t that right Doctor?”

            The honor to which he was referring was being named in Henley’s list of influential women. Of course, she already knew this was going to happen. Henley had contacted the women personally as soon as the top ten were determined. Doctor Gonzalez is presently reviewing her contract for the documentary, which she explains to Keller. Although, she confirms in no uncertain words that once terms are agreeable for both parties – she will undoubtedly participate in the documentary as needed. Henley already suspected as much.

Once the interview ends, Ithaca stands with the remote in her hand; “I refuse to be a part of your documentary, papa.”

If he’s honest with himself, he’s not perplexed when she declares this to him. Why would she change her deliberate decision to work with only women to date just to work for her father? Ithaca has been extremely vocal about the fact that she wants to use her fame to bring attention and positive light to up-and-coming women in the industry. Henley is neither up-and-coming nor a woman. The criterion was not met, so he shouldn’t have predicted anything but rejection.

“You were voted. It would be a violation of the voters if I do not place you in this documentary.” Henley remarks passively, still hopeful in his mind that her love for him would make her compliant. It isn’t even that he wishes her to be compliant but rather that he wants her to receive the honor she deserves. Suggesting that she is anything but worthy would be preposterous, but he’s sure Ithaca will manage.

And with a tapping foot and arms folded neatly behind her back, she does exactly that; “If you do not voluntarily remove me from the list then I will publically refute the contract for your film. You know my terms, and you know that I will not budge.” Her stony gaze falls from the ceiling to his eyes. They remain locked this way for an unnecessarily long period of time before Henley, ultimately, must look away. It was silly of him to be even so much as hopeful that she would willingly participate in his documentary.

But she would be just as daft to think he would let it go so lightly. So he offers her the alternative; “You may refuse my offer, my darling. But remember that your public display is also a public commodity. I can put you in my documentary just the same. You are deserving, and no more than you will I budge.” His announcement brings a grin to her face, albeit an angry one.

“And you will prove why I refused. Be prepared, and remember…” Ithaca proclaims only before leaning in to kiss his cheek. Even standing on opposite sides of an argument, she is polite and loving to her father. Henley isn’t sure he raised her that way but is nonetheless grateful. At least he is until she proves that Henley is very much her father, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Little need exists for them to argue the matter any further, and as such Ithaca leaves the room. Although, not before she designates that she’ll be making lunch for the two of them shortly.

“All is fair in love and war, isn’t it?” Henley laughs.