Picnic by the Pond, Part 5 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)


Adelie shares a little bit about herself and discovers that her almost-fall earlier had painful consequences.

How they’d left casual conversation and made it to the nitty-gritty of personal preferences was beyond Adelie. His gaze drifted from her to the pond to the bushes and back to her. He rubbed the back of his neck, hunting for words. Then he cleared his throat.
“She needs to be a home.”
The way his jaw ticked told her that he probably got once hurt as much as she did. Interesting. His face brightened again. “Liking my cake is a start, though.”
She shoved him with her shoulder, desperately needing to reach shallower waters. He shoved back. She giggled as she had to steady herself with her hand to not keel over. He caught her around her waist and drew her to the dangerous safety of his body. “Sorry. Rugby player. Don’t know my own strength.”
“Yeah, sure.” She was more out of breath than the giggles should have caused. His hand slipped from her waist to her bottom, and she gave him a warning glance. He put it on the ground but his arm remained behind her, providing a quite comfortable backrest for her. She shouldn’t lean against it. She did it anyway. They munched the cake in companionable silence, only interrupted by pointing out the occasional dragonfly darting over the sunlit pond.
“Your cake is delicious,” she eventually tried to jump-start the conversation again.
“Thank you. It’s left-over from yesterday. It was Bob’s birthday.”
“Who’s Bob?”
“One of my housemates. The other one’s name is Eddy. It’s Eddy’s house – he’s a mechanic and runs a workshop. Bob’s a professional guitar player and travels a lot. He gets booked for concerts often.”
“A musician, a mechanic and a pilot – what a mix. I live alone, I have rented one of the studio apartments in the Starcity complex. Immaculate, dull.”
Behind their backs, their hands had found each other, and his thumb was stroking hers. Little gestures. His proximity was maddening, she needed to put space between them.
“This is really a beautiful place. I should paint it,” she declared, rummaging in her purse for her travel-sized watercolour kit. It would give her a reason to get up and fill the little water bottle at the banks of the pond. But as she got up, a sharp pain shot through the foot that had gotten caught in the root.
Nate was up and next to her in the blink of an eye. “What’s the matter? Are you hurt?”
She steadied herself with her hand on his chest and tried putting weight on the foot. Again pain flared up. “I don’t know. I can’t walk. Maybe I twisted it earlier on the way down.” She somehow managed to sit again.
He squatted before her. “May I take a look?”
Adelie nodded. Gently he took her foot and twisted it. “Does this hurt?”
He stretched it. “And now?”
Only as he flexed it, she winced. This time, he needn’t ask, it was evident she was in pain. “Guess you overstretched a tendon. It’s not swollen, and it’s not hot… but I can drive you to the doctor if you want.”
“It’s okay, thank you. I don’t think it’s that bad. But you need to fetch me some water now.” She grinned at him, and he grinned back. Before he left, he took off his jacket to prop up her foot. “Even when it’s not swollen, I think putting it up would be a good idea.” He strolled over to the pond and filled the bottle. Then he pulled out a clean white handkerchief out of his back pocket and wetted it before he returned to her. His movements were poetry, his walk a song. She’d never seen anyone moving with such grace, such harmony. It would be a pleasure to just watch him all day. With a shy smile, he kneeled next to her propped-up foot, folded the dripping piece of fabric into a neat rectangle and carefully draped it over her foot.
“Guess a little cooling wouldn’t hurt.”
Their eyes met, and the inexplicable feeling of being in good hands rushed through her. “Thank you.”
He settled down next to her on their makeshift blanket again.
“Have you been painting for a long time?” He asked.
“Yes. Classically trained baroness.” She smiled. “Although it’s the only role-appropriate thing my mother could get me to do besides playing the piano, I much preferred racing cars against my brother. Unlike my sister, who always did what she was supposed to do, I was a tomboy.”
He blinked. “You mean toy cars, right?”
Setting up her sketchbook and the kit, she shook her head. “At first, of course. But as soon as we were tall enough to drive, we switched to real ones.”
“You raced cars?” His mouth stood open, and his eyes were wide. She put her finger on his chin and closed his mouth.
“I’m the youngest of three kids. My sister will inherit the barony, my brother my father’s mines – the only role left to play by me was the one of the renegade. I’m well off, I’ll probably never have to worry about not having enough money… I was a spoilt brat who needed some thrill in her life.”

Picture by Y Nakanishi on flickr.

Picnic by the Pond, Part 4 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)


Nate makes an unexpected apple cake discovery.

Nate hunted for his pen hiding in some parallel universe or crevice deep inside his backpack to distract himself from the fact that Adelie sat so close to him that their elbows brushed against each other. Instead of his pen, he found a box full of apple cake. “Oh, I totally forgot I packed cake this morning.”
“You carry around a box of cake, and you forget about it? I have a very hard time believing that.” Her face lightened up as he took out the sweet treasure and placed it on the grass in front of them. “But I’m certainly not complaining. This makes our little adventure all the more perfect.”
That Adelie found this little spot and the prospect of cake perfect filled him with unexpected delight. With her perpetual mask of indifference, he had assumed it was hard to please her. “You like it here?”
She raised him a mocking eyebrow and stretched out on the scarf, tucking her arms behind her head. “What’s not to like? Blue skies, this enchanted little place, a surprise picnic and pleasant company… I’m willing to postpone thinking about how many other women you brought down here.”
“Why d’you think I’ve done that?” Shit, he sounded more offended than he’d wanted. Why was he even offended? He had a reputation, after all, she was right in assuming everything.
“Oh, come on – this is the place to woo a woman. You can’t tell me you haven’t tried.”
“I haven’t.” Their eyes met, and she quizzed him with a searching squint to see if he was honest. He was. He could never lie while being held accountable by the large brown eyes of his guardian angel. Darn it; this woman had a power over him he was unable to resist. “But would it work to win your heart?” He couldn’t help asking either. She smiled, looking up into the sky above them.
“Certainly. If I enjoyed being courted in an overly romantic way.”
“But you don’t.” Disappointment settled in his chest. Why? He wasn’t the romancing guy. He was not after a relationship. All he wanted was to get her out of her clothes and explore the body he had the unexpected pleasure to briefly get acquainted with as she had stumbled into his arms. Unaware of his emotional troubles, she lay next to him, cute toes wiggling in the green grass, giggling as the blades tickled her soles.
“What do you like then?” He had to ask; he needed to know.
She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair, picking out pieces of dried grass. “Little gestures. Honest interest in me. Bringing cake was a good idea too.” Her eyes focused on him, twinkling with a smile. “What about you? What does a girl need to do to win a wanderer like you?”

Picture by Javier Lastras on flickr

Picnic by the Pond, Part 3 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

"Out of this world"

In which Nate tries to score with a magical place.

The sun painted glowing rectangles on the wooden floors of the library. Nate’s eyes were riveted to how the chestnut of Adelie’s hair suddenly had threads of gold woven in.
“You’re staring again.” Her voice had lost her sting as if she’d gotten used to his gaze. Like she’d gotten used to him showing up every Thursday in this room, taking the place opposite from her and studying in silence.
“Your hair shimmered lovely in the light.” The remark won him an almost imperceptible smile. To his surprise, she then shut her book and leant back in her chair, looking into the gardens around the library.
“The weather is too beautiful to be inside.”
“How about taking our notes outside,” he suggested, hoping she would agree. The brown eyes abandoned the window and focused on him. For two heartbeats she just watched him, considering the offer, then her impassive face lit up in one of her breathtaking smiles.
“This is a swell idea.” She closed her notebook and stuffed it into her bag. “Let’s go.”
The weather was indeed beautiful, and for a while, they walked along the garden paths in silence. Bees hummed and from open windows, they could hear teachers’ voices lecturing. Under the oak trees, groups of students were sitting on blankets, discussing problems. All the good sites had already been taken.
“I know a beautiful and quiet place, very secluded. It’s behind the greenhouses.” He had no idea why he told her that, but it made her grin.
“Why doesn’t this surprise me in the least? Of course, you have a private spot for charming unassuming women.”
Her grin got even wider as he tried to look offended. “I haven’t said anything about charming you, have I? But it really is a beautiful place, with a pond and waterlilies.”
She stepped closer to him, eyebrows arched and eyes brimming with the thirst of adventure. “This sounds quaint and pretty. Why don’t you show it to me?”
“Are you not afraid I’m going to try and seduce you?” Two could play this game, and nobody was a better partner in scurrilous teasing than her. She chuckled.
“Over our notes of the history of space travel? Hardly. This always puts me asleep in ten minutes flat.”
“Oh, come on then.” With a laugh, he walked with her towards the greenhouse, built for the non-hardy plants adorning the campus over the summer.
He led her past some trash bins and a compost hill, around a hedge, and then an old structure reminding Adelie of an old bomb crater became visible. It was now overgrown with white and pink blooming bushes. The air was full of the sweet scent of honey. At the bottom, there was indeed a little pond, dotted with pink and purple waterlilies. A steep and stony path went down the slope in a zigzag course.
“Ta-dah!” Nate made a flourish as if he wanted to introduce the scenery to her. “What do you say?”
“It’s beautiful. Like from a fairy tale.”
“Do you want to see the waterlilies from up close?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
Descending wasn’t as easy, though. She carefully balanced on her heels to not slip on the uneven path. Sneaker-clad Nate watched her efforts with unbridled amusement. “Women and their impractical shoes. It’ll take a week until we’re down there.”
She huffed and grimaced at his back. “Oh, excuse me, if I’d known that I’d go mountaineering today, I’d have picked more sensible shoes than these sandaaaaa…” Not looking where she was going inevitably led to her heel catching in a root. Flailing only seemed to speed up her fall. Nate turned around as she squeaked, opening his arms to catch her just in time. “Ooomph.”
“Careful, Princess. Don’t sprain your ankle. You okay?”
Grumbling she peeled herself away from his chest, trying to catch her composure before she had to face his inevitable smirk. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
He offered his arm with a gallant smile. “Allow me to be of assistance, Baroness.”
“Thank you.” She grabbed his shoulder for balance and slipped out of her shoes. “Before I faceplant myself on the ground. Why didn’t I think of this earlier?”
With him to lean on, it was a lot easier to pick her way, and they eventually reached the grassy bottom of the crater-like hollow. It was a truly enchanted place, filled with the hum of insects feeding on the blooming bushes, a duck paddling through the waterlilies and there was even a hidden frog croaking. Adelie pulled out a scarf from her purse to use as a makeshift blanket.
“Ha, I knew this would come in handy!” She sat down, fluffed her petticoats and smoothed her full skirt over her knees. Finally decent and comfortable, she patted the place next to her. “Come and sit here.”
“This is an offer I can’t refuse.” He made himself comfortable beside her.
Cautiously Adelie eyed her companion going through his backpack seemingly without a care in the world. No matter how much Leslie tried to talk her out of it, she enjoyed his company. Nate was pleasant and fun to talk to. He liked motorcycles and books and played rugby for the varsity team. Not to mention that he was easy on the eyes and had manners to match.

Picture by Claire Tresse on Flickr

Picnic by the Pond, Part 2 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)

4months_after_new_years_by_ flattop341

In which Jake tries to figure out why Nate is not moving on.

The men’s locker room of the airbase gym was stuffy with its usual stench, a weird mix of sweat, shower gel and too much testosterone. Nate welcomed this gut-churning odour today, and he nearly craved it. He hoped it would take his mind off a pair of brown eyes, lips pursed in a superior smile and a warm, mellow voice.
“You look like you’re ready to bench two-twenty today. What’s gotten under your skin? Trouble with Payne?” Jake leant against one of the grey locker doors, watching him carefully.
“No, not Payne.” Nate took off his t-shirt and stuffed it into his locker.
“Can’t believe that you’ve got girl trouble. Did a nurse finally capture your heart?”
He only huffed a reply, stepping out of his trousers. Pulling a muscle shirt over his head, he eventually said: “Nope, not a nurse. And no girl will ever capture my heart.”
“It’s the Princess.”
Nate’s locker door slammed shut.
Jake folded his arms across his chest. “Lemme guess – she’s still indifferent to you?”
Nate huffed again. “She wandered into the Lemon Tree yesterday afternoon. Drank a lemonade, showed me a picture of her cousin’s adorable puppy, and we thought up names for it.”
“Sounds like you two had fun?”
“She’s like a slippery fish. Every time I think I grasp her, she wiggles away again. There’s a witty reply to everything I say.”
Jake laughed. “You’re so not used to women who are on par with you. She’s a pilot, Nate. She’s not going into headless chicken mode just because you smiled at her.”
“I’m not sure she even has a headless chicken mode.”
They walked out of the locker room and into the gym. A careful glance around assured him that Adelie wasn’t working out too. Not that he would mind seeing her in skin-tight workout attire, but he wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to handle it. Stepping on a treadmill for warm up, Jake said: “Somehow I suspect you’re so interested in her because she’s not falling for your schemes. She’s challenging your ego.”
“Women are not game, mate.”
“Duh, I know that. But she has something that makes her irresistible.”
Jake chuckled. “A sense of self-preservation maybe? Sure, she’s a total doll, and knows how to handle a ‘ray – but you won’t be the first guy noticing that. It’s not like her squadron is only made up of other women.”
Nate laughed. “So? You think she’s already taken?”
Jake shook his head. “No. But she probably has a lot of experience in how to keep a cocky guy at arm’s length.”
Nate fell silent for the rest of their five-mile warm-up run. Jake had a point. Moving over to the free weights, Jake added: “Be careful buddy – don’t get burned.”
He went over to the bench press, putting on Jake’s predicted two-twenty. “Bah, humbug. Not gonna happen.”
His friend chuckled, shaking his head. “Even a heartthrob like you is not immune to falling for someone. Why else are you still pursuing her, and not moving on to the next one, like you usually do?”
Jake could call himself lucky that there had been a barbell in his hand, and not a rugby egg; otherwise, he’d thrown it after him. Instead, he funnelled the energy into lifting the weight out of its stand and held it, not taking the bait laid out for him. Even the burn in his muscles couldn’t take the mental image of her face away. The way she looked at him, how her eyebrows arched defiantly, her smile. Oh god, her smiles. They turned her impassive, unreadable face into something else entirely. Into the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. But falling for with her? Wanting her for something else than the pure pleasure of sex? No. Someone in a former life had made sure that he would never risk his heart like that ever again.

Picture by flattop341 on flickr

Picnic by the Pond, Part 1 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 2)


In which Adelie learns that there’s a thing called rosemary limeade and it’s delicious.

The next time she saw him was entirely by chance. Adelie entered the little diner near the airfield, and there he was, standing behind the counter, washing up some glasses. The Lemon Tree was a classic diner, with a black and white checkered floor, chrome accents around the table edges and red faux-leather benches. The wall behind the counter was covered with shelves filled with glasses and cups. Through large windows, sunlight poured in over the tables. Nate looked up as he heard the bell above the door and a broad smile appeared.
“What a lovely surprise. Hello there.” He put the glass on the rack and dried his hands with a towel that was tucked into the band of his apron.
She should have taken a seat somewhere in a corner, to not give him any ideas, but after a long and tiring afternoon in the simulator, she was in need of a little small talk. She slid on one of the bar stools in front of him, flashed him a smile and said: “Hi. How’re you doing?”
His level of handsomeness was ridiculous. Braced on the counter, his arms showed corded strands of muscles and honey-coloured tanned skin. Even the white apron tied around his waist couldn’t diminish his appeal. Blue sparkling eyes drenched with flirtatious mischief. “What can I bring you? Another lemonade?”
She forced her eyes up to the menu above the shelves. “Wow, you have quite a selection on offer. Which one’s your favourite?”
“Trudy takes great pride in making her own lemonade. The question is not what my favourite is, but what you need.”
“Okay then, what do I need, doc?” She couldn’t help but smile at him, and he smiled right back.
“You look thirsty and in dire need of a refreshment. So this naturally calls for something with citrus. But your call sign is Princess… so it can’t be any old boring lemonade then. It needs to be exquisite. Unusual!” He waggled his eyebrows at her, and she giggled. With a flourish, he opened the big red fridge behind him and fished out a bottle. “How about Trudy’s prized Rosemary Limeade?”
“Rosemary Limeade? This sounds indeed unusual.”
He laughed. “Trust me; it’s heaven in a bottle. It’s delicious.”
“Well… I think I trust your taste and have one then.”
He chuckled as he reached for a glass. “With or without ice?”
“With ice please.”
He placed a coaster in front of her and put her drink on it. Ice cubes clinked. Carefully she took a sip. A small firework of different flavours exploded in her mouth. The sour but fragrant zing of real lime, the sweetness of sugar and then the tangy note of rosemary. “This… this is delicious. I like it. Spot on selection.”
“I’m glad you like it. It’s even better in Gin Fizz.”
The ceiling fan above them filled the silent diner with its whooshing sound. She realised she was the only guest. “Not many customers today?”
He had returned to cleaning glasses. “It’s always slow between three and four. What you’ve been up to? You look like you had an exhausting day.”
She laughed. “Is that your polite way to say I’m looking tired?”
He flashed her a grin. “I worry about my guardian angel.”
“I’m not your guardian angel. And I just spent the better part of this beautiful sunny afternoon stuck in a Stingray simulator. I’m friends with on of the engineering students, and she wanted to test something. Sadly, it didn’t work as we both thought it would.”
“That sucks.” The bells over the door tinkled as two nurse cadets entered. “Good afternoon, ladies.” Nate dried his hands again and followed them to their table. “What can I offer you?”
They were all aflutter, and it took them quite a while to decide on their order, giving Adelie plenty of time to observe him. He was indeed charm personified but in a genuine way. She could see why Leslie’s fellow nurses fell for him head over heels without him having much to do. She pushed back a strand of hair and took her InstaComm out of her purse. There was a message from her cousin Cosima, with an attached picture of a sleeping blonde puppy. It said: “Look what I got! Isn’t he cute?” She typed a quick reply, as she heard Nate’s rumbly voice behind her.
“Got an amusing message?” She swivelled around on the bar stool, glaring at him, and he took a step back. “Uh, sorry – didn’t want to intrude on your privacy. You smiled at your screen.”
Adelie kicked herself, taking a deep breath. Leslie’s overly cautious nature was rubbing off on her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you coming, and you startled me. My cousin got a cute puppy. She sent me a picture of it sleeping in its basket. That’s why I was smiling.”
“Can I see it?”
“Of course.” She pulled up the message and the picture again, and he stepped closer to be able to see. The warmth of his body radiated out to her and with it his unique blend of aftershave and personal fragrance. Also the faint scent of coffee and chocolate syrup. It tickled something deep inside of her.
“Awww, that’s adorable. No wonder you were smiling. What’s his name?”
“She hasn’t told me yet.”
“He looks like a Eustace to me.”
Adelie snorted. “I’m going to tell her that, right now.”
“No, no, no – that was a joke! The poor dog. How about Ajax?”
They spent a considerable amount of time thinking up silly names for the puppy until the diner slowly filled up and he had to serve customers.

Picture by Maia C on flickr.

Friendly Fire, Part 4 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 1)


In which Nate is the victim of relentless teasing by Jake and meets the power of Adelie’s noble glare.

The library was the oldest building on campus. It sat in the middle of everything, surrounded by old oak trees and lush lawns scattered with rose bushes. Stone steps led up to a pillar-framed entrance, which gave the whole building the touch of a Greek temple. Nate couldn’t stop thinking about Adelie, and he needed to see her again.
“Are you sure you’ve got the right place?” Jake asked, sitting on the steps and squinting because of the sun. Nate leant against the low wall that framed the raised beds of roses around the entrance. Their rich fragrance scented the warm summer air.
“Yes. Rojas told me she’s always in the library here on Thursdays, right after Foreign Cultures 101.”
“I sure hope he was honest with you.”
“Stop worrying, there she is!” He could see her tall figure weaving through the other students, swiftly coming up towards the building. She was even prettier than he remembered, wearing slim black cigarette pants and a cream coloured blouse, a satchel with books over her shoulder.
“Hey, Adelie! How’s your knee?”
“Hi, Nate! It’s doing fine. Sorry, I’m in a hurry – See ya!”
And with that, she vanished into the library with graceful, springy steps, leaving him standing there like an idiot. Jake snorted.
“I never thought I’d live long enough to see this.”
He huffed. “See what?”
Jake had a grin plastered on his face. “A woman who doesn’t stop, spin and fling herself into your arms. You’re not used to the cold shoulder treatment, are you?”
Nate gave him the stink eye, causing only more laughter on his friend’s side. But Jake was right. The tall, attractive Baroness, with her brown hair and superior smile, wasn’t answering to his advances like women usually did.
“Forget it, she’s only interested in books and jets.” Jake consoled him with a pat on the shoulder. “There’s Patricia.”
He didn’t even check, he was already halfway in the library. “I just remembered, I should really brush up my knowledge of the Warburton drive.”
Jake’s laughter followed him through the door. “Yeah man, sure! Good luck!”
“Hi again.” Nate placed his books on the table and took the seat across from her. Instead of the anticipated smile, Adelie looked up with an impassive expression and nodded briefly, then continued reading and scribbling notes. He tried once more. “What are you reading?”
“A book.” She didn’t even look up.
“I can see that. But which one?”
This time, she made eye contact, but her glare nearly made his balls shrivel up. “Nate – I came here to study. This is a tricky topic, and I have to concentrate. I’d love to chat, but can we postpone that until I’m done? Thank you.”
He sat down and grabbed one of his books to hide his burning cheeks. The room was secluded and empty, and only the tall cherry wood bookshelves had been witnesses to this encounter, but he was embarrassed nevertheless. Peeking over the rim of the book he saw her diligently copying parts of the text into her notepad. Her hair was in a neat braid, falling over her shoulder. Concentration furrowed her brows.
“You’re not going to get anything done if you keep staring at me,” she suddenly said.
He cleared his throat. “True. I’m sorry.”
The usual tactics were not working. Maybe he would win her attention if he studied too and didn’t try to keep her from it. An hour passed with neither of them saying a word. The long shadows of oak trees painted black fingers on the lawns around the library when she finally pushed her pen aside and stretched her back. Heat crept up his neck as he forced his glance down. He was not sure what would happen if she’d caught him staring at her chest, but he wasn’t keen on finding out.
“Gee, is it that late already?” She exclaimed as she looked out the window.
“Time flies, eh?” He said. She had a beautiful profile. He was staring again.
“Absolutely. I’m hungry — want to grab a bite at Todd’s?”
Hell, did she just ask him to go out with her? He blinked confused at her unreadable face. “Sounds like a brilliant idea, unless you’re going to bite off my head…”
She laughed, her frown dissolving like melting ice cream. “I promise I’ll behave.”
The expression on his face was priceless. Adelie bit her bottom lip to keep herself from smiling. “I’m sorry. I’m sometimes too focused on my work. I hope I haven’t been too harsh?”
He rubbed his neck, his glorious blue eyes sparkling with mischief. “I’m not made of sugar. I assume you have a license for those eyes of yours?”
License? She blinked at him, and he grinned. Standing up and putting the books away, he explained: “They’re dangerous weapons. I nearly got hurt, you know?”
“Do you need a band-aid?” She raised him a defiant eyebrow, and he stepped towards her, close enough for her to smell his aftershave. It was a warm, subtle scent. His voice was a deep rumble, his eyes intense. Talk about having a license, Mister.
“A bag of ice might be more helpful to ease the burn.”
She tilted her head, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Are you sure you can risk going to Todd’s with me, English? I can’t vouch for your male pride surviving this without more burns…”
He chuckled. “I’m willing to take a gamble, Princess. It’s nothing compared to what you risked jumping in front of that stupid truck.”
Jumping in front of the speeding truck to push him out of harm’s way had been no conscious decision, she had acted purely on instinct. The same instinct told her now to be careful — he displayed all the traits of a confident man knowing how to charm a woman. Traits that brought up painful memories.
“What’s wrong?” His voice plucked her out of her thoughts.
“Uh, nothing.” She pushed the pain and the memories away. They belonged to another time, another planet. She picked up her bag.
He studied her with a questioning gaze but didn’t say anything. Instead, he followed her out of the library.

Picture by blue me away on flickr

watercolour life lessons

I’m trying to work more with traditional media lately, mainly sketching with pencils. A few days ago, though, I pulled out my little watercolour field box, firmly set on developing my not-yet existing skills. Watercolour is a challenge, in more than one way. It requires you to think from light to dark, from background to foreground and you can’t just paint over mistakes due to its transparent nature. Not mention that it has its own mind. Perfectionist me has a hard time learning to just go with the flow (of water and colour) – but if I do, magic happens. I set out to practice clouds, but instead I learned how to put depth and structure into the foreground mountain range. I learned that a colour that at first feels like it has no business of being there can actually make the difference between bland and vibrant.

I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to watercolour is actually its rebellious nature. It forces me to let go of the perfect picture in my head and work instead from a rough idea. And in that lies a valuable lesson of life. Let go of that perceived perfect image of how things should be, how you should be. Take a breath and take chances and something beautiful will happen.

Friendly Fire, Part 3 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 1)


In which our heroes finally get to sit down and learn each other’s full names. Nate’s in for another surprise, though, the poor chap. We also meet Leslie, who has some vital information about him.

The cafeteria was almost empty and pleasantly cool. They found a table in the back, and Nate went to the counter to get their drinks, ignoring her protests. Her knee must hurt, and he wasn’t going to see her hobbling around the tables. They both could use something with lots of sugar, so he opted for two lemonades.
“One elderberry lemonade coming up.” He placed the glass with the sparkling beverage in front of her, getting a broad smile in return.
“Thank you.” She took a sip and sighed happily. “This is refreshing after the heat outside.”
“Yes, it is.” He cleared his throat. “Before this gets even more awkward – I never learned your first name. And I can’t call you Princess all the time, can I?”
She brushed her hair out of her face and answered with a smile: “No, English, you can’t. Especially because I’m in fact a Baroness.”
“You’re what?” He nearly dropped his glass, and she laughed.
“My full name is Baroness Adelie von Klaiber, but the USF likes to shorten me to Adelie Klaiber. I’m from Eden.”
“You’re a long way from home.”
“I am.” She smoothed an invisible crease on her skirt and avoided his glance.
“I’m Nathan Havisham, but I guess you know that already since you didn’t ask. My friends call me Nate. I’m from Earth.”
“Why did your friend call you Prince Charming?”
Heat rushed over his face and neck. “Insider,” he murmured, and she laughed softly.
“You didn’t seem too thrilled with him telling me that.”
A piece of dry leaf was stuck in her hair, and he reached over to pluck it out, happy to be able to create a diversion.
“Thank you.” Their eyes met. Hers were brown with golden speckles, sparkling with amusement. “I must look like a rat, dust all over, a bloody knee. Maybe I should go to the restroom and adjust my appearance.”
He shook his head, unable to divert his eyes. “You look fine. Give your knee a rest.”
“You saved Nathan Havisham? The Nathan Havisham half the nurse population suffers heartbreak from?” Leslie plunked down in one of Adelie’s armchairs, shaking her head and causing her blonde victory rolls to quiver. “I seriously thought you’d be capable of better judgement.”
Adelie laughed, sitting down in the other chair, placing a cup of tea in front of her friend. “Sorry, next time I’ll ask for credentials before I save someone’s life. I’m getting a hunch you don’t like him. What’s he done to you?”
Leslie huffed. “I wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole, just so you know.”
“But why? He’s gorgeous and charming. Did he ignore you?”
“The thing with gorgeous and charming men is that they’re aware of it. And they take advantage of it. They don’t care if they break hearts in the process.”
Adelie poured herself a cup of tea, thinking back to the hour with Nate. He was pleasant company and hadn’t behaved like the woman-devouring bird of prey Leslie tried to colour him. He hadn’t tried to touch her nor had he made any double entendres. Instead, they chatted about Major Payne’s antics and the curriculum. “I don’t understand why you’re so riled up about him. Sure, he’s confident, and yes, he knows he’s not an ugly looking kid, but he was a perfect gentleman in all our interactions. What’s he done to you?”
Leslie tugged exasperated at her starched white uniform blouse. “Listen, Sweetums, be careful, okay? I don’t want to see you as devastated as the others when they understand he’s not doing relationships.”
Adelie gave her a long look. “Leslie – how do you know all this? Did he dump you?”
Her friend crinkled her nose in disgust. “No. He never even spared me a glance. Eloise got lucky, though, or so she thought.”
“Sounds like a cracker of a story.” Adelie stuffed a pillow in her back and made herself comfortable for one of Leslie’s famous rants about men.
Leslie put her cup down with an audible clink. “Men like him are assholes. They exploit our weaknesses ruthlessly. They know that a woman would dream of being “the one” and they still sleep with her, instead of backing out and not hurting her.”
Adelie stirred her tea, thinking back to how much enjoyment she got from men Leslie readily called assholes. “Maybe that would be the gentlemanly thing to do. But you can have a lot of fun with them. They’re gorgeous and generous, and usually know what they’re doing. We’re all grownups, and they’re not responsible for what a woman hoped when they’d been open about their intentions from the start. Plus they have a lot of experience…”
“And give you STIs!”
“Leslie!” She laughed. “Stop it. I can assure you, right now I have absolutely no interest in Nathan Havisham, or in any other man, no matter their intentions. I’ll be safe from heartbreak and catching nasties. You can relax.” After all, a man on his knees with a ring in his hands was what had led to her ending up in Westerhaven after all.

Picture by Daniel Go on Flickr

Friendly Fire, Part 2 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 1)


Warm air rose from the downtrodden stone steps leading to the entrance of the Faculty for Tactical Aeronautics. It wafted over her bare legs as Adelie left after a long and busy morning in one of the library’s reading rooms. After the quiet inside, the noise of campus life engulfed her like the surf of the sea, as she headed into the direction of the cafeteria. Groups of students sat on the lawns in front of mighty red brick houses, enjoying their lunch break. Some kicked around a football. Heat hung over the academy like an invisible cheese dome and not only the gardeners wished for a thunderstorm. Walking down the tree-lined street, she mulled over Wilfried Kittendorf’s theories, and she paid not much attention to her surroundings. Alarmed yells plucked her out of her thoughts. One of the football players was about to collect the escaped ball from the street and oblivious to an approaching speeding ice cream truck! Without hesitating, she dropped her books and ran towards him. She tackled the unsuspecting player and pushed him out of harm’s way. Together they rolled through the dust, as the truck passed them by a whisker, brakes screeching. For a split second she remembered that she wore a dress with a full skirt, and hoped for a decent landing. Their tumble came to a halt at the border stone. Her shoulder would complain in the morning, and her knee burned like it was scraped, she thought while staring up into the blue sky, trying to catch her breath.
He found his bearings first, scrambling to his knees.
Nate stared at the woman lying in front of him. His heart hammered in his chest, and he had trouble keeping up with getting enough air into his lungs. Blood rushed in his ears. Her chest was heaving as well, and he could see red trickle down a pale knee.
“English?” She blinked at him, then a sly smile spread across her face, and she sat up. “I told you to check your six.”
Shouts pierced his bubble of adrenaline.
“Shit, man, are you alright? This idiot must’ve won his license in the lottery!” Jake sounded upset as he reached them. “You can thank your guardian angel your career didn’t end right here and now.” The eyes of his friend fell on his rescuer. He didn’t even know her first name, dammit. “Woah, isn’t that the mighty Princess who eliminated our Prince Charming?”
“Shut up.” Suddenly Nate wasn’t keen on giving her an idea how much this had bruised his ego.
“Prince Charming? Is that your other callsign?” Her mouth twitched as her eyes wandered between him and Jake.
“Are you telling me he hasn’t tried to charm you yet?” Jake waggled his eyebrows.
“Will you shut up now!” Nate glared at his friend as he heard her giggle. Others reached them. They were helped up, dust was brushed off their shoulders and several student nurses checked if they were unharmed. One applied a band-aid to her scraped knee. Some others yelled at the driver, asking him if he had lost his mind. As it was evident that neither of them got hurt, the hubbub subsided, and the spectators left the scene. Jake returned to the rest of their group, to report that Nate hadn’t been injured.
Adelie turned to collect her books, which were scattered all over the sidewalk, as Nate freed himself from the over-attentive nurses and followed her.
“Hey! Wait. I want to thank you.”
She awkwardly brushed a fleck of dust from the skirt of her red gingham dress. “Don’t mention it, it was no big deal.”
“No big deal? You’re joking, right? You could’ve ended up under the van! You risked your life, your career!” He was right, of course. She had risked a lot without thinking about it, and it hit her unexpectedly. Black dots danced in front of her eyes as she realised what could’ve happened. Had she lost her mind?
“Hey, you okay?” His arm was around her shoulders to support her until her vision cleared again.
“Yes, I’m okay. Thank you.”
He kneeled down beside her and helped her picking up the books. Without being grumpy, he indeed seemed to be made entirely out of charm and gallantry and had a terrific smile. No wonder the student nurses had been so occupied with checking if he was alright.
“I was on my way to the cafeteria.” She pointed towards the narrow yellow building at the end of the street. “And I don’t know about you, but I certainly could use a drink now.”

Friendly Fire, Part 1 (Alpha and Omega, Chapter 1)


The summer sky was a limitless blue expanse and the sun a gleam on the metal nose of the Stingray. Perfect flying conditions. Acceleration pressed Adelie into her seat, and only a thin brown line on her left reminded her of Westerhaven Academy. She scanned the blue until she spotted the little black dot moving towards her. The cadets of Squadrons Albatross Alpha and Omega were pitched against each other in a bout of one against one, and Nate “English” Havisham, Alpha’s top dog, was her adversary. He was as cocky as they came and wouldn’t be an easy opponent. Her fingers gripped the stick harder. The planes engaged in a waltz across the sky. Beautiful to observe, but deadly for those participating in it. They pulled each other into an endless progression of loops, rolls, and turns, but the only result was that they both pushed the limits of their planes and bodies until nausea unsettled her stomach. Sweat trickled down her back; the cooling system of her flight suit had trouble with keeping up. Neither of them managed to bring the other in front or even into shooting range, and concentration began to wear thin. Eventually, he was coming up behind her, and she forced her ‘ray into a sharp turn, almost causing the bird to skid across the sky. Her attacker hadn’t suspected her move, or he was getting tired too, but he overshot considerably, ending up in front of her. The opportunity to fire. The crosshairs almost aligned themselves with his tailpipe and she pressed the trigger.
“English, you’re dead. Princess, excellent shot. Fantastic fight everybody. Return to base.” The confirmation from Mission Control was music in her comm and delighted she pointed the ‘ray into the direction of the airbase. Time for a shower.
The air flickered over the tarmac of the runway. A light breeze brushed as hot as jet exhaust over his face as Nate popped open the canopy and it wasn’t helping with cooling his mood. He climbed out of his jet and narrowly resisted throwing the helmet across the ground. It hadn’t been his day to begin with and now he lost to a girl, after such a rookie mistake. Next to him, the other pilot exited her plane. She was tall, and even the baggy flight suit couldn’t hide the fact that she had more assets than just being an ace pilot. Because she was, he grudgingly had to admit to himself. She had pushed his limits like nobody had before her. A long brown braid fell over her back as she pulled off the helmet. Her eyes met his as she turned around, her face unreadable and professional.
“English.” She gave him a commendatory nod.
“Princess.” He forced himself to smile.
“Thanks for the excellent fight. You kept me on my toes.” A smile broke through her aloofness, lightening up her face with mischief. Wowza.
“You’re welcome,” he grumbled, crossing his arms in front of his chest. He leant against the body of his plane and glowered at her. “When are you free for a rematch?”
She laughed, delightedly even. “You don’t like losing to a girl, eh?”
“I don’t like losing at all.”
Her opponent was a poster boy for the United Space Force: tall, athletic and cheekbones commissioned from Michelangelo. Tanned skin and bright blue eyes which were trained on her in an upset glare. Jet-black hair stuck up in every direction, damp with sweat. ‘rays weren’t known for being cool rides.
“Should I get you some ice for the burn?” She teased.
He huffed and pushed himself away from the hull, getting close enough that he blocked the sun. “Next time you won’t defeat me so easily.”
“I’m looking forward to it.” If he thought he could intimidate her, he was wrong. Years spent racing overconfident guys had steeled her for any sort of encounter. But her remark lit up his face in an unexpected smile. He extended his hand and said: “Challenge accepted.”
She shook his hand. “You better check your six, English.”