The Waiting Room

This is a short fictional story based on the writing prompt “two strangers meet in a waiting room, what happens?” this story is available in audio, on my YouTube channel. You can find it here:

https://youtu.be/4llStyMjgcw

The sirens were deafening, and the flashing lights were blinding. I was having a horrible time running in my heels. I followed the paramedics as quickly as I could through the hospital doors. The tears blurred my vision. My throat hurt, but I didn’t really know what I was yelling. I didn’t know what the staff was yelling at me either. All I knew was my Stephen was headed into the hospital with tubes and machines making him live when we were supposed to be having dessert.

“Mrs. Cunningham? Could you come with me, please? We need some information.” A young blond nurse guided my elbow away from the scene but brought me to an area where I could still see. She was petite, Pretty. Her blond hair was perfectly secured in a low ponytail, and her eyes perfectly lined. Mine just looks a mess. The nurses’ name tag indicated her name was Tracy, and she was an RN in the emergency department.

“Mrs. Cunningham, can you tell me what happened, please?”

“Please, dear, call me Phoebe,” I requested.

“Okay, Phoebe, what was going on when your husband collapsed.”

“We were having dinner. It’s our anniversary. Ten years today, we have been married. We were having a perfectly normal conversation when he grabbed his chest and collapsed. I screamed. Luckily there was a doctor at the next table who did CPR, and the restaurant manager called 911.”

“I see. Phoebe, does your husband have any allergies?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s allergic to shellfish. I made sure the waiter knew, and he assured me the chef had everything separate.”

“Is he on any medication?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, He is on 40 mg of Lisinopril for his blood pressure. That’s it”

“So he has high blood pressure?” Tracy asked.

“Yes, he’s a lawyer; they all do.” II was true; all of his closest law friends were all on blood pressure medication. The girls and I exchanged healthy versions of their favorite junk foods to serve for rotating poker nights. We knew they threw them out and ate what they wanted, but we tried.

“Tracy?” My eyes filled with tears. “Is he going to be alright?”

Just then, the glass door to his ER room opened. “OR is ready. He’s heading up!” The doctor shouted.

I ran over with Tracy at my heels. She urged me not to get in the way. I watched the Staff wheel Stephen’s bed through the double doors to the Operating Room. The emergency doctor stayed behind.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” He addressed me

“Yes, doctor? How is he?”

“Your husband has a pretty serious blockage causing him to have a heart attack. He is headed to emergency surgery to clear the blockage. He should be fine once the blockage is cleared, but there is a chance part of the blockage could break off and cause problems.”

“What kind of problems?” I inquired.

Dr. Phillips gave me that look.

“Oh.” My eyes welled up again.

Tracy retook my arm. “Come on, Phoebe, let me bring you to the family waiting room.”

I nodded and went with her.

The room was stark. The fluorescent lights made the white walls whiter. Someone had tried to put up some cheer with a colorful flower border at the top. The pink padded chairs matched the pink in the roses on the border. There was a vending machine in the corner advertising overpriced, almost expired snacks. Next to it was a brochure wall about all the different hospital departments and underneath that was a table of magazines and local ad and coupon books. A TV was mounted in the corner. It was playing a documentary about horses.

There was a man already in the waiting room. He was likely late 50’s. His salt and pepper hair was thinning on top. The loose strands combed across his scalp. He wore an oversized sport coat and his gold-rimmed round glasses perched on the end of his nose, which was in a book. I noticed it was Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

I sat down a few chairs from the man and rested my head back against the wall. I let out a big sigh, trying to keep my composure. I could feel my eyes welling up again. The man offered me his pocket square.

“Oh, thank you, but I don’t want to ruin it.”

“It’s fine,” He said, giving me a sweet smile. “I have at least 50.”

I smiled back as I took the fabric from him. “Thank you,” I said, dabbing my eyes.

“My wife is in there,” he said. “Having heart surgery.”

I nodded. “My husband too. Today is our anniversary. He collapsed in the restaurant at dinner.”

“Ah, anniversaries. My Elizabeth and I celebrated our 25th last week.” He looked wistfully in the air as if recalling their wedding day. “Amazing how time flies.”

“Yes, it certainly is,” I noted his book. “What a classic,” I remarked.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then,” he quoted. “Seemed fitting for today.“

“You speak the truth,” I agreed.

“Have you been married long?” He asked.

“10 years today. They say he had a heart attack.”

“That’s young,” he commented. “You two must be in your 30’s.”

“I’m 39, and he’s 42.”

“Yep, young. Do you have kids?” He asked.

“No, children were not in the cards for either of us. Stephen is a lawyer. He’s always swamped. I have a condition that leaves me unable to have children. So I keep busy with my online craft store, and I do what Stephen needs. It’s a full-time job keeping track of him.” I studied the older man. “What about you?”

“Elizabeth has blessed me with two beautiful daughters. April is 22. She is finishing college, and Amber is 20. She chose a trade and is an apprentice to an electrician.”

“Wow, Impressive,” I commented. “It sounds like you two raised them well.”

“Well, we certainly tried. Elizabeth and I were raised in the city. We have known each other our whole lives! We’ve always gone to school together. We used to sneak onto the highway bridge and spit on cars” he chuckled at the memory. “I asked her to marry me right out of high school. She said no.” he chuckled again. “She went to college. I went to the service. When I came home, she had a degree. I tried again, and this time she said yes.” He leaned close to me and looked me in the face like he was telling me a secret. “We eloped to Vegas,” he winked at me.

“Ooooh,” I admired. “Saucy”

“Yes,” he chuckled. “Our parents were so mad. They didn’t forgive us until April was born. We moved out to the country. Horse farms everywhere. Our girls played in the dirt. All I can hope now is that my girls find the loves of their lives as we did.”

I smiled. The older man just warmed my heart talking about his beloved.

“Where did you meet your young man?” He asked.

“College. I’m the first female in my family to go. I grew up a country girl. Barefoot in the dirt and tire swings were my normal. I graduated with my BA, Stephen went to law school. He asked me to marry him on graduation night. We had a huge wedding. I felt like a princess. He’s treated me like one ever since. I adjusted well to the city. Made friends with his friend’s wives. We have a book club on Thursdays. The boys play poker on Friday. We rotate houses for both. It works.” I leaned back against the wall again.

“Are you a religious person?” He asked.

“I was raised in the church, but I haven’t been active as an adult.”

He held out his hand. “Would you like to pray with me now?”

I moved closer and took his hand. We said the “Our Father” together.

Just as we finished, a woman appeared in the doorway. “Don!” She yelled at the old man, “What are you doing?”

Don looked like a deer in the headlights. He gripped his chair. I think he was debating making a break for it. “Don’t you dare,” the woman warned. “Dr. Harper, Guys, He’s in here!” she called down the hall.

Soon there was a small gathering of hospital employees headed by a doctor in a white coat taking hold of Don. The doctor studied him. “Don, that’s my Jacket; where did you find those pants? Those are the nurse’s glasses. Oh, Don” The orderlies walked him away.

I stood up to the doctor. “I suppose then this is your pocket square?” I held it out but was still wringing it in my nervous hands.

Dr. Harper eyed it and my nervous stance. “Keep it,” he said. “I’ve got 50.”

I glanced around the room. The coupon book advertised a Spaghetti dinner at St. Elizabeth’s church, followed by Vegas night. The calendar was set in April, and the picture was “amber waves of grain” with America the beautiful set on it. The copy of Alice’s adventures in wonderland had fallen to the floor. I picked it up Quoting Don Quoting the book. “I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.”

“I understand you must be very confused.” The woman who had come to get Don began. “My brother is a regular patient here. He suffers from a type of dissociative disorder, and they believe schizophrenia. He just randomly makes up who he is based on his surroundings.”

“So nothing he said was real? He doesn’t have a wife having surgery? No daughters?” I asked.

“Sadly no, our parents passed away a few years ago. They managed him his whole life. I have been trying in their absence with the help of Dr. Harper, but clearly, I’m not doing well enough.” She sighed.

“I’m sorry.” I offered. “that must be such a difficult thing to deal with.”

“Well, I will leave you be,” she said. “I have to go deal with the consequences of his escape. I hope whoever you are here for is okay.” With that, she was gone.

I picked up the book and sat back down. I didn’t know how even to begin to process today.

“Mrs. Cunningham?” A doctor in surgical scrubs entered the waiting room.

“Yes?” I got up and approached him eagerly.

“We were able to clear the blockage, and your husband is doing well. He was fortunate! We’re going to be keeping him a few days to keep an eye on him and run some more tests, and then he’ll be ready to come home with you.”

“Oh, thank you, doctor, that’s fantastic news! I’m so relieved. May I see him?”

“Sure, the nurse will come to get you when he’s awake enough for visitors.”

I sat back down and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked up at the TV and saw the horses running around on the documentary. “Horse farms everywhere,” I thought of Don. I shook my head and laughed.

“Mrs. Cunningham, you may see your husband now.”

I followed the nurse into Stephen’s room. He looked so frail, laying on the bed in a hospital gown. He had tubes and monitors everywhere. He was still my handsome man, though. I walked up and kissed his forehead.

He opened his eyes. “Hey baby,” he said, taking my hand and bringing it to his lips, “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”

“I could say the same for you! How are you feeling.”

“High,” he answered. “I’m sorry I ruined our anniversary.”

“Not at all, my love. If anything, almost losing you made me realize how much I love you and how much I cherish our life together.”

“It was the strangest thing.” He said, “I blacked out, but then I woke up, and I was in… Wonderland? Nothing made sense.”

I put the book on his lap. I guess this was meant to come to us today.

Stephen studied me quizzically “where did you find this?”

“In the waiting room.”

“What a strange day.” He observed.

“Stephen, you have no idea.”

The End

Bad Service

This story can be found with narration on my YouTube channel https://youtu.be/G4VB_jMU2OQhttps://

The following is a short story based on the prompt “tell a crazy story of a waiter giving bad service.”

“Julia?”

I heard my name from behind me at the bar. I don’t know what I’m doing here. My friends made me sign up for this stupid “Blind date” dating app. You fill out an extensive questionnaire about yourself, your likes, your dislikes, and what you would like in a partner. The app then matches you up with someone in your area and suggests a place to go. I guess anything beats spending another Saturday night staring at the walls of my dorm.


“Kevin” appeared to play football for our rival college. His profile picture was in his uniform, kneeling with the football. He had his “Game face” on. I could find no emotion whatsoever in that pic. His description said he was athletic, loved animals, family-oriented, and was looking for a girl who could be both serious and fun.
My friends all but hit the “accept” button for me to select this date at a local bar/restaurant between our two schools.


“Come on! It’s been like a decade since you and Jeff broke up,” Stephanie encouraged.
“Steph, it was last month,” I argued.
Jeff was my high school sweetheart. We had talked about getting married after college graduation. The marriage conversation ended as I returned to my dorm early due to a canceled class and found Jeff getting it on with my roommate. I threw his clothes out of the third-floor window and kicked him out. I haven’t seen either of them since.


I spent the next week wallowing in tears and chocolate ice cream. I had since stopped crying, but my social interactions were limited. It seemed everyone on campus knew either of them. Luckily I had my life-long friends Stephanie and Jenna to keep my head on straight, until today.


I was standing in front of both girls in the middle of my dorm wearing a red wrap dress and black heels. Jenna was busy floofing my hair while Stephanie squirted me with body spray.

“Enough,” I said, waving my hand through the glittery cloud and coughing.” I’d rather he saw me before he smelled me.”


“Sorry,” Stephanie mumbled, replacing the cap and putting the sparkly substance back in her handbag.


I did a final spin in my mirror before tapping the notification button on the app that I had started toward our date destination.


I was halfway through my first glass of pinot grigio at the bar when I heard my name. I turned around, looking for the source of the voice.
“Hey, It’s me, Kevin,” the man standing behind me said.


“Oh, I’m sorry, I was expecting a college football player,” I replied. The man standing before me hadn’t played football in quite a few years.


“Yeah, I’m sorry. That was an old pic, but I am still in college! Just taking the 10-year plan,” Kevin explained.


A young waiter behind him appeared to choke on his gum, listening to our conversation. The waiter looked familiar. I was pretty sure he was in college, making Kevin look that much older. Kevin glared at the man, who quickly busied himself with the table behind him.


“Shall we dine?” Kevin asked me, gesturing to the seating area behind him.


I was already here and hungry. What could one meal hurt? I thought to myself. “Sure,”


Kevin let out a low wolf whistle as I climbed off the bar stool. “Wow, are you from Tennessee?” He asked.


“No,” I replied, “Florida.”


“Well, you’re the only ten I see,” Kevin said, winking and giving me the fake finger gun.
The waiter coughed, I downed the other half of my wine, Kevin glared at the waiter.


The choking waiter soon approached. “Good evening, I’m Nate. Can I refill your Pinot?” he asked me.


“What the hell did you just ask my date?” Kevin glared at him.


“Yes, please,” I replied, handing Nate my wine glass.


“Oh,” Kevin said, finally understanding that ‘pinot’ wasn’t a dirty thought.


“And what can I get for you, sir?” Nate asked.
“Beer will be fine,” Kevin replied.
Nate hurried away.


“So, what brings you to ‘Blind Date?’” Kevin asked.


“Oh, my friends created the profile for me,” I confessed.


“Oh, your’ friends,’ got it,” Kevin said, using air quotes at the word friends and winking at me.


“Yeah,” I continued, ignoring the fact he thinks I’m lying. “My two best friends, Stephanie and Jenna, said I needed to get out more.”


“Oh, your actual friends put you up to this,” Kevin replied.


“Yes, that’s what I said. What brings you here?”


“I like that app doesn’t stare a lot of personal Info,” he said. “After the date, you can just disappear.”
Nate returned with our drinks. I took the wine right out of his hand. “Thank God for that!” I replied to Kevin.


Nate sensed the tension and gave me a sympathetic look. I realized he went to my school, and we sat near each other in psych. He was always super quiet. Looking at him now, he’s kind of cute with his dark curls and blue eyes.
“Can I get you an appetizer this evening?” Nate asked.


I looked at Kevin, wondering what he thought. “Nah, we’ll just take a minute to order dinner,” he said, without asking if I wanted an appetizer.


Nate backed away, glancing at me. I rolled my eyes, he smiled, showing me just a hint of a dimple in his left cheek.


Kevin ordered spaghetti and promptly stuck his linen napkin in his shirt collar. Nate stood just out of his field of vision and gave me a look like, ‘Is he serious right now?’


My return look must have signaled pain. Nate stuck his lip out in an adorable pout before transforming his face into a mischievous grin. I watched him walk away.


Kevin saw where I focused my gaze. “Can you believe that guy?” he said. “He’s been kinda rude and not the greatest service.”


“Yeah,” I replied. “We definitely shouldn’t come back.”


“So after this,” Kevin began, “Maybe we can head back to your place?”


“Um, no. I live in the dorm.” I informed him.


“Oh, alright then, my place. My neighbors are out of town, and their hot tub is open.”


“You know what? It’s been a long day, and I’m pretty tired. I think after this, I’ll just go home,” I informed him.


“Aww, come on, babe, the night is young, you’re young, come to have some fun!” Kevin encouraged.


Nate came back holding two large dishes. He set my chicken down gently and then dumped the plate of spaghetti in Kevin’s lap, missing the linen napkin entirely.


“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Nate exclaimed. He winked at me as Kevin jumped out of his seat and tried to get the hot food off his lap.


“I’m out of here!” Kevin yelled. “And I’m not paying for this!” He stormed out the door.


I crumpled into a fit of laughter after he left.


“I’m sorry, it looks like I ruined your date,” Nate offered.


“Are you kidding? you’re my hero!” I replied.


“Wow, it’s not every day a pretty girl calls me a hero,” Nate said. Our eyes met and held for several seconds.


“Can I buy you a drink? I can hang around until you’re off, maybe,” I asked him.


“I’d love that, but I’d rather buy you dinner, and I’m not off until 2 am. I’d kill to get out of here tonight.”


Soon the restaurant started to fill up. “Ah, I gotta seat these people while my manager naps in the back. He’s too lazy to work. Your dinner is on the house tonight; enjoy the chicken.” Nate said, walking off to handle the rush.


I did enjoy my chicken, left Nate a tip, and walked outside. “I don’t feel like going home,” I said out loud. I had a thought.


I sat on a bench around the corner and dialed the phone number of the restaurant.


“Hello, Marco’s,” a man answered. He sounded like he had been asleep.


I plugged my nose before saying, “Hello, this is Julia Murphy from the health department. I’m afraid I’m at the college, and I will need Nathanial Hargrove to return to campus right away.”


“Health department? He’s working right now, and he’s my best waiter.”


“Sir, you can send Nathanial to me, or I will come to the restaurant and get him. Do you want someone from the health department to come to your restaurant right now?”


“No, ma’am!” the man said. “I will send him home right away!”


Shortly after I hung up the phone, I saw Nate leave the restaurant and head back to campus.

“Ahem,” I cleared my throat.

He turned around and gave me a huge heartwarming smile.
“Julia Murphy of the health department, I presume?” he teased.


“Guilty,” I confessed.


Nate and I caught the bus to a coffee shop across town. We had coffee and pie and talked for hours. He escorted me back to my dorm and asked me to a movie the following night. I gladly accepted.


The next evening I stood in my room in jeans, boots, and a sweater. Jenna and Stephanie eyed me as I put on makeup with a smile on my face.


“Where are you going tonight?” Jenna asked.


“Nate is taking me to a movie and then probably a late dinner or drinks.”


“I thought you went out with a guy named Kevin?” Stephanie asked, confused.


“I did,” I replied as I grabbed my handbag.
I winked at my friends, sitting side by side on my bed, studying me.

“Don’t wait up,” I said and walked out the door.

The End

Princess on a Whim

Norah stared at the wine glass she had just cleaned. It sat in the dish rack, upside down and empty, just how she felt. 

She headed to her bedroom. Forgoing the routine of getting ready, she flopped into her bed, leggings and all. She glanced around her room, illuminated by the light of the full moon shining through her window.

“That explains a lot,” She said to herself. Norah was never one to believe in superstition, but blaming the day’s events on the bright orb in the night sky was easier than accepting the truth. 

The curtains blew in the breeze, and a chill filled the room. “That’s odd,” Norah said aloud to no one. Her window was not supposed to be open. 

Crawling out of bed, Norah sauntered to the offending window. She frowned as she found it to be shut and locked, just as it should be. 

Norah was about to turn back to her bed when she spotted a prominent shadowy figure off in the distance, making her gasp. She looked again but saw nothing. She headed back to bed and stared at the ceiling.

Today had been a day to end all days. Norah had worked hard for the promotion. She had put in extra hours, generated report after report showing how her ideas would make the company more money and ease the workload. Her plan was sound, but her boss gave the promotion to the newest employee, a man, before even hearing what Norah had to say.

Rumor had it, Colin had taken Mr. Stencoach to the country club where his wife’s family were members, and that golf outing had sealed the deal. 

Norah was not expecting to walk in this morning and be assigned her own workload, But there it was. Her well-thought-out plans and research looked up at her in black in white from the new program her boss just doled out, except the name on it was Colin’s, not hers. 

Having her work stolen was one thing, but the way it happened set Norah’s soul on fire. 

A month ago, on a late Friday afternoon, Norah stopped for a drink at the hole-in-the-wall bar on the corner by her office. She’d had a rough day, and the muscle-bound bartender that liked to wear form-fitting shirts was easy on the eyes.

“Whoa, that one is on me; looks like you could use a break,” The handsome man had said about her filling wine glass as he slid onto the stool next to her. 

“Thanks, I sure could,” She’d replied as she glanced up to catch a wink from the bartender. 

At the time, Colin was a friendly stranger who’d bought Norah a drink and asked what made her day so bad. She hadn’t thought anything of it when he flirted and asked her all about her work. She’d thought less about his questions when she took him home. 

Imagine her surprise the following Monday morning when Colin showed up at her office, taking a desk across the hall from hers and wearing a wedding band. Norah couldn’t cause a scene in the middle of her office. All she could do was shoot daggers from her eyes until she could corner him by the water cooler. 

“What is going on?” She demanded. 

“Hey, I’m Colin. I’m new here,” He’d said, offering his hand to shake as if that same hand hadn’t learned every curve of her just three nights ago.

“Don’t give me that; you know what we just did!” Norah snapped at him. 

“Whoa, lady, I don’t know what your intentions are, but I’m a happily married man, and this is a place of business,” Colin had said, loud enough to attract the attention of their boss who came out to investigate. 

“What’s going on here, guys?” Mr. Stencoach had asked, his eyebrow raised. 

“Nothing, sir. I was just welcoming Colin to the team,” Norah assured her boss. 

“It was just a friendly hello, new guy. I’m not sure what you were thinking,” She’d said back to Colin before returning to her desk, more confused than ever. 

Norah could have turned Colin in. She’d saved the work on her computer with dates of backups. But then Norah would have to confess how Colin got the information. She’d rather suck it up than tell her boss how she’d brought home a married man she’d just met from a bar. 

Tears welled up in Norah’s eyes as she tossed and turned in her bed. She was one of three women who worked in the corporate office of the national brand and the only woman on the sales team. She’d impressed Stencoach with her college internship in his office; He’d promised to take care of her. Little did Norah know, taking care of the little lady meant just giving her a job. He had no intention of her advancing in the company. She was just a placeholder. 

Norah wanted more. She wanted a title. She wanted her work to be recognized. She wanted to move up the ladder rungs of her career, and she wanted to earn it through hard work and dedication. 

The tears started to spill over, and Norah cursed herself for crying over her situation. She must just be overtired, she thought. Norah stared up at the ceiling while the tears stained her cheeks. Her vision was blurry, but she saw a shadow at the window again. “I must be losing my mind,” She said and flipped onto her side, putting her back to the window. 

Tap tap tap came from the window.

“Okay, I’m not seeing and hearing things,” Norah said as she got up.

Norah gasped when she pulled back the sheer curtains and came face to face with a large white horse on the other side of the window. She could see the mare’s eyes, of a rich coffee color, and her white snout. From behind her head, she could see the horse was large, larger than any horse she’d ever seen. 

“How did you knock on my window?” Norah asked, studying the beast. 

It was then the horse backed up. Norah looked down to her fur-covered hooves, in white tresses like a Clydesdale, up her strong legs, noting her snow-white mane and tail, her large frame, and then, when she got to the top of the horse’s head, she saw it- a horn. 

“Where did you come from?” Norah asked the horse. “How did you get here? How am I supposed to get you home? I wonder where your home is. I don’t suppose they microchip unicorns?”

“This is ridiculous. Why am I talking to a horse?” Norah said to herself. “This is a dream. I’m going to go outside, and there won’t be anything in my yard.” Norah threw on her fuzzy slippers and threw a hoodie over her tank top. She ventured out the back door to the wall her bedroom was on. The magnificent beast was still there. 

“Where did you come from?” Norah asked again, dumbfounded by how her night was turning out. 

The horse neighed and pawed the ground. Norah didn’t get the impression this movement was threatening; it was more impatient. The animal seemed to be asking, ‘why aren’t you over here yet?’

Norah approached the animal cautiously as not to startle either of them. She paced around the animal, studying her features for what seemed like the hundredth time. 

Norah suddenly found a giant white horse head on her shoulder. She giggled and patted the unicorn’s nose; then she couldn’t resist; she reached up and touched the horn. The animal bent her head forward, allowing Norah to inspect the horn closer. She ran her finger along the grooves etched into it, then put her finger on the tip discovering a unicorn’s horn is very sharp!

“Ouch!” She cried, sucking her bleeding finger into her mouth. 

“This better not need stitches. No one is going to believe me how I got it,” Norah scolded the unicorn. Luckily, her finger stopped bleeding quickly. 

“Now, how do I get you home?” Norah asked again. 

The animal laid down, tucking her feet underneath her. Norah reached out and wove her fingers through the unicorn’s silky mane. The animal nudged her head, trying to get Norah to climb on her back. 

“You want me to sit on your back?” Norah asked. The horse let out a soft neigh and a snort. 

“Well, it looks like seven-year-old me is finally getting her wish!” Norah said as she climbed on the animal’s back. 

The second Norah’s legs landed in riding position; the unicorn took off. 

Norah gripped onto the animal’s horn with everything she had and screamed. 

The majestic beast raced around houses and landscaping. Norah was impressed until she realized they were headed to the forest at the back of her subdivision. 

Not only were they headed to the forest, but there was no way they were going to fit under the branches of the trees that were coming closer and closer.

“Uh, unicorn? You’re going to get us killed,” Norah said. The animal kept running. 

“Heal,” Norah commanded. The animal kept running. 

‘Whoa,” Norah said, the animal kept running. 

“STOP!” Norah yelled. The animal kept running. The trees were just in front of them. 

“No, no, no, no!” Norah yelled and squeezed her eyes shut. She saw the bright flash of light through her eyelids. 

Norah opened her eyes, and suddenly it was daytime. She looked around and realized she had no idea where they were. 

“Are we dead?” Norah asked the unicorn, who was still running. The animal snorted. 

Norah could see a town in the distance, the unicorn running toward it. As they reached the outskirts, there was a farmer’s market going on. The unicorn was about to run through it. 

“Whoa, Nelly!” Shouted a male voice. The unicorn came to a sudden stop; Norah didn’t.

Norah let out a yell as she flew off the unicorn’s back. “Oof,” She said, landing in someone’s arms. 

“Oh my gosh, are you okay?” The man asked, gently setting Norah down. 

“I think I am very far from okay,” Norah admitted, her legs shaking. The man grabbed ahold of her again to keep her steady. 

“Thanks, Nice catch,” Norah praised him. 

The man studied her. His gaze went from the messy bun piling her dark hair on top of her head to her puffy eyes, over her hoodie, tank top, and leggings, and landing on her pink fuzzy slippers. “You’re not from around here, are you?” He observed. 

“No, I’m not even sure where here is,” Norah confessed. 

“Pandock Island,” The man said, gesturing his arms wide at the land. “Where are you from? He asked with furrowed brows. 

“Um, Connecticut?” Norah said, unsure of herself. “I’ve never heard of Pandock Island.”

“Well, we’re not quite the boondocks, but we’re not really around anything else. And there’s always pancakes somewhere. We’re a happy people,” he explained. 

“Pancakes?” I questioned. “Pancakes make happiness?”

“Have you ever seen anyone, not happy eating pancakes?” He asked. 

Norah considered this question for a moment. “Nope, can’t say I have.” 

Norah took a second to study her companion. The man was tall and had broad shoulders. She could tell when he caught her he was in great physical shape. His dark hair was longer, the front wisps reaching his chin, and it appeared he had a habit of running his hands through it. His dark eyes were warm and welcoming, yet there was trouble behind them. Maybe he needed pancakes. He smiled at her, and his smile was perfect and sincere. He might just be the most attractive man Norah has ever seen.

They started to walk toward the town. “Could you perhaps tell me how I got here?” Norah asked. “One minute I was in my bed, trying to go to sleep, the next thing I know, there is a unicorn outside my window who urged me to climb on her and brought me… here.” 

“Nelly has a habit of wandering off,” The man said. “She thought you made a great souvenir.”  

“Nelly?” Norah asked. 

“Yes, that’s her name,” He said, grabbing a carrot from a vegetable stand and offering it to the unicorn. Nelly gladly accepted the treat and trotted away. 

“That’s why I yelled ‘whoa Nelly!” To get her to stop,” The man explained.

“Ah,” Norah gave her understanding. “Where I come from ‘whoa Nelly!’ Is a phrase used in surprise. 

The man chuckled. “I assure you I didn’t name my Unicorn in surprise.” 

“Wait, how do you know what the boondocks are, but you don’t know ‘whoa Nelly?'”

“You are not our first visitor from the world,” He said.  

“The world? What is the world?” Norah asked. “And who exactly are you?”

“My name is Ivan,” he said. And you have reached what seems to be another realm. 

Norah stopped in her tracks. “What?” She said, amusement in her voice. 

“At the edge of the island, there’s a force field. Nelly can travel through it. On the other side is where you came from.”

“Wait, Nelly can travel through it. Did she not know whether or not I could?” Norah asked. 

“Eh, she’s usually right about these things,” Ivan said, continuing to walk. 

Norah jogged in her fuzzy slippers to catch up. “Usually? Did that mean she didn’t know for sure?”

“Well, it appeared to work, here you are, whoever you are.” 

“Oh, I’m Norah; my name is Norah,” she explained. 

“It’s delightful to meet you, Norah,” Ivan said with a big sweeping bow that made Norah giggle. 

“Are unicorns… natural around here?” Norah asked, looking around. 

“Yes,” Ivan confirmed. 

“So what are you? Like a wizard or something?”

“Ha! I wish!” Ivan said. “No, the wizards live on the other side of the island. 

Norah looked at Ivan to see if he was kidding, but she just nodded when he didn’t laugh. 

“So, is Nelly going to take me home?” Norah asked. 

“You want to leave already? Normally worlders want to stay forever.” Ivan questioned. 

Norah looked down at her outfit, pulling on her hoodie and glancing down at her fuzzy slippers. “I don’t think I’m quite dressed to stay, and I have work in the morning.” She said. 

Then it struck her what Ivan said, “Wait, did you say there are more people here from where I’m from?”

“Of course,” Ivan explained. 

“So, what, they chose to stay, or they couldn’t return?” Norah’s anxiety was coming in full force. 

“Oh, they chose!” Ivan said. “Worlders usually find something, or sometimes someone, that makes them want to stay. They offer us their knowledge that has brought our community lightyears ahead of where we were, so we allow it.” 

“I see,” Norah said, looking around. She had to admit; the land was beautiful. Stone buildings and shelters were surrounded by rolling hills of green and meadows of wildflowers. The market offered fruits, vegetables, baked delicacies, and several stands of trinkets. Off in the distance, Norah spotted a whole herd of unicorns led by Nelly herself. 

Nowhere in her field of vision did she note a series of skyscrapers like where she worked. 

“Okay, I’ll stay for a tour,” Norah agreed. 

“Excellent. It would be my pleasure,” Ivan replied with a smile that warmed Norah’s heart. It’s been a while since Norah had seen a sincere smile from a man. 

The two walked as Ivan outlined the history of everything they saw. Norah was fascinated, but eventually, she had to sit down. 

“Pink fuzzy slippers were not meant to be hiking boots,” Norah explained, rubbing one of her feet. 

“Of course, we should have ridden. My apologies,” Ivan offered before whistling loudly. 

Nelly and another white unicorn answered his whistle. 

“Nelly is the most accommodating of the bunch. Climb back up on her,” Ivan instructed. 

“Okay, but only if she promises not to throw me off again,” Norah replied as the animal laid down. 

Norah climbed up Nelly’s back, and once again, they were off but at the pace of a leisurely stroll. 

Norah and Ivan talked freely, sharing jokes, Ivan answering all of Norah’s hundreds of questions. He never belittled her, as the men at work do. Ivan was interested in everything she had to say, asked his own questions, and wanted her opinion on every topic they discussed. He treated her like an equal. Norah had to admit she could get used to this place. She’s never done things on a whim, always worried about her security and responsibilities. She never fought for herself. She just always accepted what was given to her, even when it was less than she deserved. Even now, she was having a great time with a handsome man, but she couldn’t fully enjoy it because she had an internal struggle, knowing she should be home, in bed, and get a healthy amount of rest before the next day at her dead-end job. 

Norah looked up and saw a rainbow. “Oh, is there a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of that?” She asked jokingly. 

“I don’t think so,” Ivan replied. “Last I heard, Sheamus was off visiting family.” 

Norah glanced at Ivan, again waiting for the punchline, but none came. “Unicorns, wizards, and leprechauns,” She mumbled to herself. “This must be a dream.” 

They reached one of the shores of the island. Norah looked out over the vast blue sea, and for the first time in a long time, she relaxed. 

Right up until there was a loud thud, and the air seemed to ripple in front of her. 

Norah glanced over at Ivan, who was shaking his head. “What was that?” She asked. Then, “Let me guess, mermaids?”

“Don’t be silly,” Ivan said. 

“Oh right, because after learning of unicorns, wizards, leprechauns, and hidden islands, a mermaid existing would be ridiculous,” Norah spat. 

“Oh, they exist,” Ivan replied. “But they can get through the barrier. Whatever that was, did not.” 

Norah’s eyes widened as she looked from Ivan to the water. “Ivan, what would happen if I ran through the barrier on foot?” She asked. 

“Unaccompanied by one of us, you would make a loud thud,” he replied. 

“So then I’m stuck here?” Norah asked. 

“Norah, I’ve very much enjoyed your company so far, but if you would like to leave at any time, Nelly will take you,” Ivan replied. 

Norah studied the handsome man on the unicorn. His eyes were sincere. She looked around the island, and a feeling of serenity washed over her. When was the last time she felt at peace and had a man who enjoyed her company, just for being her?

“I’d like to stay a while longer,” Norah replied. 

Ivan flashed her a genuine smile. “Good, I’m glad.” He looked down at the ground for a minute before speaking again. “There is this event thing this evening that I have to attend. I would like it if you came.” 

“Event thing? What is an event thing?” Norah chuckled. 

“It’s a party my father is hosting. The whole island will be there; It would give you the whole picture of what’s here,” Ivan replied. 

“I can’t go to a party in a messy bun and fuzzy slippers,” Norah countered. 

“I will take you to a boutique, and they will get you all set,” Ivan replied. 

“That would be lovely, but I didn’t exactly bring my wallet or any money,” Norah spoke up. 

“No need. The shop owner will know the price is on me,” Ivan replied. 

“That’s really not necessary for you to do unless money here works the opposite and ball gowns are cheap?” At this point, Norah thought anything was possible. 

Ivan chuckled. “Don’t worry about it. Any price is worth the continued pleasure of your company.”

“Oh, you mean like a date?” Norah asked; she couldn’t help but notice the butterflies that seemed to awaken in her belly suddenly. 

“Unfortunately, my obligations this evening don’t allow me to have a date, but I would send a car for you, and I would love for you to save me a dance,” Ivan replied. 

Norah immediately felt let down. “Of course, you can’t have a date with a mere mortal when you’re from magical fairyland!” 

Ivan hung his head. This invitation was not going the way he wanted. “Norah, I promise everything will make sense later. Please, come this evening and dance with me.” 

Everything about this situation screamed to have Nelly take her home, but Norah had already come this far, and she had to admit, her curiosity got the best of her. 

“Alright, mysterious magical man, it’s a non-date,” Norah said, offering a handshake. 

Ivan took her hand and brought it to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on the back. Norah’s butterflies returned. 

“Nelly, take her to Midge,” Ivan instructed. “Tell her, Ivan said, Sapphire.”

“How is Nelly going to tell her anything?” Norah asked.

Ivan snickered. “You, my love. You tell Midge Ivan said Sapphire. She will know what it means.” 

Norah poised to voice a rebuttal when Nelly took off, whisking her away. 

Nelly stopped in front of a small shop. The door immediately opened, and out came a petite older lady with curly gray hair, round cheeks, and a friendly smile. Norah liked her immediately. 

“Hello, my dear, I’m Midge,” The woman said before turning to the unicorn. “Nelly, who have you brought me?”

Nelly laid down, allowing Norah to climb off. “I’m Norah. Ivan sent me here for help for a party and said to tell you ‘sapphire'”

The woman’s eyes were as big as saucers. “Oh my, well yes, come on, we have work to do,” She said, grabbing Norah by the wrist and pulling her into the shop. 

“Ladies, it came true; the prediction came true!” Midge yelled, “She’s here!” 

A swarm of women gathered around Norah, each with a different function. One was taking her body measurements, one measured her foot, another took down her hair, and yet another was holding swatches up to her cheek. 

Norah was confused, but she had to admit, it was nice to be fussed over. “What is this prediction?” she asked.

“Oh, she doesn’t know!” Midge said. “Norah, love, where are you from?”

“Connecticut,” Norah replied. 

The ladies all gasped. Norah looked even more confused. 

Midge stepped forward and spoke up. “When the prince was born, his parents were visited by an enchantress. She predicted that when the prince was fully ready to lead the land, to step in after his father’s retirement, a woman from afar would be brought to him on his birthday. The woman is the only one the prince would find capable of ruling beside him, as a partner and a spouse. She is said to arrive to him in blue.” 

“Blue as in sapphires?” Norah looked around to all the women, who nodded. 

“Blue as in blue,” midge declared, pulling on Norah’s royal blue hoodie. 

“So Ivan sent me here to fluff me up and be handed over to a prince? Like an arranged marriage? Is that what the party is for?” Norah couldn’t remember ever feeling this much anxiety. 

“Oh dear, the poor love is even more lost than we thought,” Midge said to the other ladies, who looked at Norah with solemn expressions. 

“Tonight is the prince’s birthday party. If you are brought here as the Sapphire, we shall doll you up and send you on your way for you and the prince to find your souls in each other’s eyes and dance the night away,” Midge said. All the women sighed with longing in their eyes. 

“Wait, I’m not here to rule a country. I’m merely here because a unicorn appeared at my bedroom window and brought me here. Ivan said I could go home any time I want!” Norah was gearing up to full-blown panic. 

“Love, of course, you can. The marriage is consensual. No one is going to force you to do anything,” Midge assured.

“I don’t know about this,” Norah said; something seemed not right. 

“Okay, forget about the prince,” Midge said, making the rest of the ladies gasp. “Let’s get you ready to party and just go enjoy a night in Pandock. Get to know the place. That’s all we ask.” 

“Why are you so on board with this? What’s in it for you?” Norah asked Midge.

“Besides the dress commission, I’ll make? We like when worlders come to see our humble little island. There’s so much we can offer to each other,” Midge reported. 

Norah wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but thinking of the dress commission Midge could have; she planned to stick the price tag to Ivan with as much as she could. 

She took a deep breath and smiled. “Do your best, ladies,” She said, holding her arms out. 

The women squealed in excitement as they surrounded Norah, measuring, adjusting, measuring again. Then they all ran into a back room, leaving Norah alone in the middle of the shop, more confused than ever. 

Norah started to wander around the shop, she sorted through racks of open-backed dresses and stands of lightweight ballet-style shoes, but the surprise came when she got to the shelves of bottles lined along the wall. The labels read things like ‘wing glitter, horn paint, magic dust, and wand polish.’ “Who are these ladies?” Norah muttered to herself. 

As if answering her question, a woman rushed into the shop and shouted for Midge. 

Norah eyed the woman, who looked frazzled. “Midge and the other ladies are in the back.” She explained. 

“Of course. There’s never a fairy available when you need her,” The woman whined. 

Of course, the dress shop would be run by fairies. What else would she expect?

Midge emerged from the back upon hearing the woman’s frantic cries of her name. “Joanie, what’s happened?” She asked her. 

Joanie pulled a shoe out of a bag and showed Midge its broken heel. “How will I ever attract the prince if I’m limping because one shoe has no heel?”

“Of course, dear. Go and sit down. I’ll get this fixed right up,” Midge said, taking the shoe and giving Norah a wink. 

Great, Not only am I being served to the prince on a platter, but now I compete for his attention? How did I get here? Norah thought. Oh yeah, a unicorn, she remembered. 

Midge came back out with a fixed shoe. There was no indication anything had ever been wrong. Joanie planted a kiss on Midge’s cheek before hurrying out the door. 

Once Norah was alone with the ladies in the shop again, she observed them. “So, you’re fairies?” She asked. 

“Yes, dear. That’s right,” Midge replied. 

Norah nodded, then got distracted by two other ladies carrying a pouf of blue fabric out from the back room. They turned it upright and hung it on a rack to show Norah the most beautiful gown she’s ever seen. A square-lined neck topped the fitted bodice that was covered in jewels and led into a full skirt. Norah’s jaw dropped. 

“Okay, well, let’s strap you in there and see what we need to adjust. Time is of the essence!” Midge shouted. 

Norah soon found herself undressed from her yoga pants and then fastened into the gorgeous blue dress. She spun around, looking at herself in the mirror. “Oh, if this is mine, then Ivan is forgiven for handing me over to a stranger,” Norah declared. 

The ladies ran around, tucking and pinning before getting Norah back out of the dress and into a robe. The dress was retaken to the back as Norah plopped in a chair. She was groomed and plucked, curled and glossed, and eventually, the dress came back out. This time, when Norah looked in the mirror, she hardly recognized herself. 

“You’re stunning!” Midge announced. The other ladies held each other’s hands and nodded agreement with Midge. 

Just then, one of the ladies ran to the front of the shop. “Norah, your ride is here!” She announced. 

Norah, Midge, and the rest followed to see a sleek black sedan parked out front. 

“What? No unicorn-drawn carriage to bring me to the castle for the ball?” Norah said sarcastically. 

“Don’t be silly, child. This isn’t a fairy tale. We have cars.” Midge scolded, but she was smiling. 

The ladies helped Norah get in the car in her dress, and soon she was off. The car wove through the island, passing building after intricate building. It twisted around the shoreline where merpeople did, in fact, sit on rocks. The vehicle wound around pastures of unicorns, pegasus, and other mythical creatures, grazing openly on the plush green grass. Norah’s excitement grew with each turn the car took. Eventually, the sedan entered a line of vehicles. Norah looked out the window, and her eyes widened at the sight of the magnificent castle. 

The sedan pulled up to the front of the line, and a uniformed guard opened Norah’s door and offered his hand to help her out. She thanked the guard as she stared at the striking scene before her. Mythical figures of all types greeted each other with affection and respect. Norah could pick out some of the so-called Worlders like herself and saw expressions of pure delight on their faces. They were genuinely happy to be here on the island. 

Norah gathered her skirt and proceeded up the steps into the grand entrance of the castle. She scanned the crowd looking for Ivan but was quickly ushered into a gigantic ballroom. An orchestra lined one wall, playing classical music. Waiters of all types wandered through the growing population offering drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Children ran in between all the adults, and some occupied the middle of the ballroom, swinging each other around. 

Norah again looked for Ivan, but he was nowhere to be seen. She recognized Joanie, the woman with the broken shoe, and went over to say hello. 

“You look amazing,” Jonie told her. 

“Thank you, and you do as well,” Norah replied. “Especially without the limp,” she said, making both women laugh.

“I heard a rumor that Prince Ivan’s Sapphire is supposed to be here. I guess that casts out the rest of us.” Joanie confided. 

Norah felt the blood drain from her face. “Prince Ivan’s Sapphire?” She questioned. 

“Yes, legend has it; a prediction was made when the prince was a baby that when he was ready to rule the land, a woman would appear to rule at his side. He would find someone strong and beautiful yet humble. She would be intelligent, logical, and innovative while caring and able to do what is right for the island overall, not just in her best interest. 

Norah found a chair and sunk into it. 

“Honey, are you okay?” Joanie asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” 

Norah didn’t have time to answer before the trumpets blared, announcing the royal family’s arrival. The king and queen were introduced, followed by none other than Ivan, the prince of Pandock Island. 

The king welcomed everyone to the castle and led everyone to sing happy birthday to the prince. He then announced the first dance should commence, and the single women of the land should present themselves. 

Ivan then took the microphone from his father and announced that it would not be necessary. A murmur went through the crowd as Ivan scanned over the faces. “Norah, are you here, my sapphire?” He asked over the crowd. 

Joanie gripped onto Norah’s arm in glee. “It’s you! You’re the chosen one!” She squealed. A smile spread across Norah’s face as she made her way to the front of the crowd of single women. 

Ivan’s eyes widened as he saw her. “You’re breathtaking,” He said, earning him a series of Awww from the female population of the room. 

He made his way down the riser, stopping in front of Norah and offering his hand. “May I have this dance?” He asked. 

“You may,” Norah replied, placing her hand in his. The orchestra began as Ivan effortlessly swung Norah around the ballroom. 

“You, sir, have been keeping secrets from me today,” Norah scolded. 

Ivan gave her a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you, but we seemed to be having a decent time when you didn’t know who I was. I wanted that to last for a while.

“I understand,” Norah said. “But tell me, today I’ve met unicorns, and fairies, heard of wizards and leprechauns, what exactly are you?”

Ivan laughed. “My family and I are Worlders. I was born here, but before my arrival, my parents discovered this population and inhabited this deserted island to create a haven for the mythical. The magic makers created the barrier to keep out the danger of whoever may stumble upon it. In exchange for creating their haven, The population here appointed my parents as their leaders. When I was born, my mother asked the enchantress to protect my heart so I may rule as they have and keep the island safe. I would only give my heart to someone worthy, who would see my parent’s vision, and here you are.”

Norah nodded, processing the information. 

“I know this is sudden and a lot to take in, but I would like it if we could spend more time together; you may go home, of course, you can come and go as you please if you’d like until one day perhaps you will be ready to lead at my side.” Ivan offered.

Norah had decided about staying in Pandock on the way there before she knew about Ivan, the prince. “I have some things to take care of in my little world, and I’m not ready to lead a country or marry you yet, but I think I could be one day. I want to stay and see what happens.” 

“Well then tomorrow we shall return to your land, and I will assist in whatever you need. Then we can bring your belongings back here and start a new life. For tonight, we can dance.” 

Norah nodded and smiled. “Happy Birthday, prince,” She said as she rose on her toes to place a kiss on Ivan’s lips. 

“Best birthday ever,” Ivan declared. 

Norah stayed the night in a guest room of the castle. In the morning, she was surprised to find Joanie with a change of clothes. “I heard you might need to borrow an outfit for the day,” she smiled. 

Once Norah was presentable, she met Ivan, who was waiting with a large SUV and driver. They got in the vehicle and flew back through the barrier onto the property of Norah’s subdivision. Norah gathered together the information she needed and got in her car, headed to her office. 

“Where have you been, young lady?” Mr. Stencoach met her outside his office. 

“I was gathering some information to present to you,” Norah said, with her head held high. 

“Alright, well, make it quick and get back to work. We can discuss your absence later,” The man said, shuffling paper around his messy desk. 

“No, sir, I’m afraid we cannot,” Norah’s statement piqued the interest of the older man. 

“What did you just say to me?” He asked. 

“This will be our last discussion, as I quit. Here is my resignation, effective immediately.” Norah handed him an envelope. 

“Also,” She continued, “Here is all of my work on the project Colin presented to you and you implemented yesterday morning. You will discover the notes are dated and go back to before Colin was a thought in this office. The work he presented was mine. He stole it from me when he spent the night at my house before I learned he was married.” 

Mr. Stencoach was staring at Norah wide-eyed and open-mouthed. “You can’t just quit!” He said. “You were lucky to get this job. I did you a favor. What do you plan to do for money now?”

“Well, sir, it turns out that outside of this office, my attributes are recognized, and I have a much more fruitful offer on the table, so I’ll be taking it. I’m here to get my personal belongings.” Norah turned and left the office. 

She was packing up her belongings when she heard Mr. Stencoach bellow from his doorway. “Colin, My office, NOW!” 

Norah smiled all the way to the elevator. 

Back at home, Norah found the fairies packing up her house and some of the guards loading the SUV. 

“Have you gotten everything situated?” Ivan asked her. 

“Yes, and it feels fantastic,” Norah admitted. 

“Good,” Ivan said. He took Norah’s hand and led her to the SUV as the last of her belongings were loaded up. 

The caravan returning to the castle was a sight to see, and the entire island gathered around the streets, cheering in parade fashion. Norah smiled as she looked out into the friendly faces. She had made her decision on a whim, but her heart knew she was where she’s meant to be.

The car door was held open as they stepped out and gathered in the castle’s throne room. Norah greeted the king and queen, who welcomed her with open arms. 

A sapphire tiara was placed on Norah’s head as she took her spot next to Ivan as Pandock Island’s new princess. 

The end.

This story is available, narrated, on my YouTube channel!

https://youtube.com/channel/UCLvo9P3cgCk8sTXqrrW5F7Q

Check out my Amazon author page for novels www.amazon.com/author/catbanks