Two stories from Nicky today!
we are a little different this year:
some contributions are exclusive stories, others are excerpts
from the authors' novels,
but all have our traditional format of...
Read the Story - Guess the Song
Here's a clue to the song title
Thoughts On The Masks Of Two Kings
You have no imagination. You never did. Creativity was never your strong point. You always relied on others to get you where you are. Well, good luck to you.
You were laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, a crown on your head and a princess at your side; you, the start of your dynasty; me, the end of mine. Yet, you are still there, shrouded, entombed; incarcerated in a gilded cage. Whereas, I am free.
What did you think when you looked on me, on my broken body on that field, allowed your men to humiliate me, to desecrate me, and leave me in Leicester. Did you rejoice to see my head cut open, my body defiled with a dagger? Did you smile? Or did you turn your face and look away, knowing that whatever they did to me, I was always the man you wanted to be.
You laughed, I’m sure; twisted as my body was, fine and elegant, slender; feminine, some said. And yet, you could not laugh too hard for I was the man who fought and died on that field; I had the courage to face you, but you could not do the same. You were no soldier. I was born fighting, and I died fighting—a warrior king. Because that was what I was, what you could never be.
You sat on my throne, knowing it swayed beneath you. It was never stable, else why so many bodies to make it fast? On your head sat a crown that was not yours, beside you a woman who was stolen. Convenient, wasn’t it, that those boys vanished. On my watch? Not on my orders. How about yours? How far did your treachery reach? How deep was your betrayal? I can take it, the blame. My shoulders—for all they are uneven—are stronger than yours.
How fared your dynasty, that for which you killed me? Your glorious Arthur, destined to succeed you on the throne of the Plantagenets. Dead. Before you. Your neglected younger son, a tyrant who saw treachery in old women, who murdered his wives because he could not give them a son to carry. The only king in history that no woman wanted. Your progeny. Did he make you proud? All that blood and horror, more than you spilled at Bosworth drenched the ground in his name at Tower Hill.
Fame. He has that, and your name along with it. Tudor. Not a king. Even the French agreed there. A parody of a prince.
A boy followed, and died young. Just desserts. A slaughtered girl—oh how your heart must sing—and two more Tudor women, one short lived having flooded the country with more blood. And Calais lost. Our Calais. Oh, miserable neglect! A second Tudor queen; she could only hold what was already hers and her new land was found on the coattails of the Spanish. And as remarkable as she was, your line died with her; oh, Gloriana indeed.
You thought me hidden, forgotten, buried with the grey friars; delighted in your son’s destruction of all the Holies for I was then unmarked. Passed beyond memory.
And yet, your plan was thwarted. Was it chance, or was it divine intervention that marked my grave with an R. R for Richard; R for Rex. Did anyone fight for you after Bosworth as hard as they fought for me? Not with swords, but with pens and passions and belief in me. I was remembered for myself where you are only recalled because of me.
|© Wikipedia: Richard Buckley, Mathew Morris, Jo Appleby, |
Turi King, Deirdre O'Sullivan, Lin Foxhall
They dug and their first spade cut found me. I was waiting and when my bones were revealed, you lost. How many kings are anointed twice? First with the tears of my kingdom at Bosworth, and then when I was raised up once more—an outpouring of joy across the world. The impossible made manifest.
And now I look on your face. I never did see you so clearly; you dared not come so close. Masks. We all hide behind masks, but they reveal the truth in the end.
A glass case, in a museum. We both ended our days there, didn’t we? You are in a small room in the Victoria and Albert; I reign over a new court. People come to see me, drawn to me and me alone—though I am not there in that new tomb in Leicester. People pass you by, see you by chance, wonder who you are, and walk on and forget. Is that why you are so haunted, why your eyes peer at the few passers-by, pleading for understanding? You look desolate. Defeated. Because you are.
|Tomb of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, |
with his motto
Loyaulte me lie (loyalty binds me)
I live again. I am loved again. You are dead and gone to dust. The world has seen me. None see you. No one cares for you. You are alone. I am surrounded by acolytes and believers. Five hundred years and people still talk of me as if I had just passed. And my spirit soars, free of the stone, free of the asphalt—oh, laugh all you want for the last laugh is on you. England is mine once more and I am free.
You don’t believe me? Look at your mask—you are trapped and fearful. I am content and I smile.
Song: You Wear a Crown But You’re No King
by: blessthefall (beware – LOUD!)
ANOTHER STORY by NICKY
Read the Story - Guess the Song
Here's a clue to the song title
I was blissfully happy on my wedding day. Throwing a perfectly balanced car into a corner trusting it would accelerate through it smoothly and not understeer was one of life’s magic moments. Much more fun than standing at an altar.
It would be unfair to say Cassian was the root cause of what happened. Of course, he played his part but our affair was over by then. But he understood me and it was natural that I would turn to him even if I hadn’t realised straight away that I needed his very clear point of view.
Cassian had always been out of my league, being truthful. I mean, just the name tells you that. He’s tall and blond and slim and just beautiful. Why he actually liked me, I still really don’t know. He won’t say. He just laughs at me and shakes his head at what he sees fondly as my self-conscious silliness. Cass has never been cruel to me, never hurt me. He hasn’t got it in him. He’s gorgeous, he’s wealthy—self-made—and he’s my favourite person.
And if you were to learn that Cass wasn’t my fiancé, not the person who had been expecting to meet me at the altar, maybe you’d begin to see the problem. Except, that isn’t it at all, not really. We understood that the fifteen year age gap was Not Going to Work so we chose to be friends instead; he, my mature, calm confidante; me his acolyte to guide and nurture. So, no, it was something else entirely.
My wedding to Thom, the bright, successful solicitor, was being planned as I sat in the cocktail bar with Cass. June next year, in a country pile that I hated, with his next-best-friend Dave as best man—a poor choice of descriptor for a drunken misogynist. In front of me stood a tall glass flute containing something very elegant and pink, ordered by Cass before I had arrived.
‘Rose champagne. It seemed appropriate.’
‘For our little celebration?’
‘You’re getting married. That is a reason to celebrate. Let’s see the ring.’
I dutifully proffered my left hand as I had so often. I’d been wearing the ring for, what, four months now, and I had only just pulled together the courage to tell Cass. Not that he would feel anything other than happiness for me, and I suppose therein lay what I was avoiding. I wanted him to be upset. But he wouldn’t be. Cass never misbehaved.
The stone in the ring was not big. Size doesn’t matter, I know that, it’s the meaning and the feeling behind it that counts. But showing Cass something that small felt, well, small.
‘It is very lovely,’ Cass said, perfectly poised and genuine.
‘Thom chose it. I’m very lucky,’ I returned, and realised that I didn’t feel quite as lucky as I had. I had been thrilled when that little ring box had opened as Thom sank onto one knee and proposed in a rose garden at a National Trust property the June before. Onlookers had cheered and I had said ‘yes’. It was my validation that someone wanted me, that someone loved me enough to want to make me his wife.
I sipped my drink and then stopped. It wasn’t helping. Pink rose champagne was something I’d have to give up. Not that I would have time to grow accustomed to it. It was sweet with syrup, fragrant with rose water. A delicate, sugary froth sat on top and laid perfectly on that was a crystalised pink rose petal. It really wasn’t Thom’s thing. He was a beer man, wine on special occasions.
I looked back at the ring that I had previously admired and tried to conjure the feelings that usually came to me when I looked at it—a sign, a symbol, that someone wanted to marry me.
I hardly hesitated. This was Cass, after all. ‘I don't know if I’m doing the right thing. Or if I’m doing it for the right reasons. I love Thom but I don’t feel the same fluttering I think I should.’
‘Sometimes love isn’t hearts and flowers. Sometimes it just is.’
‘Is that right, though? I think I should feel more excited, and for more than just the chance to go dress shopping. More ‘new car’ excited. ‘New husband’ excited.’
‘You’re comparing him to a car.’
‘I am excited,’ I said as if he hadn’t spoken. ‘I’m here to get my dress, after all.’ I grinned, trying to persuade him I was balanced and normal. ‘I have set aside ten thousand pounds to pay for my half of the wedding, money I’ve saved up. And I will spend whatever I have to to get the dress I want. Here,’ and I pinged my phone on and showed Cass some photos from magazines and from shops. ‘This one I like, and it will be a June wedding so it should be warm enough with the short sleeves and organza.’
He looked and made the right noises, right up to the point I put the phone down, my face flushed with retail therapy and the prospect of choosing a frothy confection that I’d never wear again and was probably unsuitable for a woman my age.
‘And when the gown is put back in the carrier and in storage, what’s left?
‘What do you mean?’ I loved the way he said ‘gown’. Did I say Cass was Australian? No?
‘It’s easy to get carried away by the glamour of a wedding, to be the centre of attention, to be a queen for a day in a gown that makes you look like a fairytale. But what happens when the front door closes and it’s just you and Thom and the washing up and the bills?’
‘Are you trying to dissuade me from marrying?’
‘Not at all. I’m concerned that you haven’t seen beyond the wedding day to the life you’ll lead. Will he let you dream? Will he let you fulfil your desires? We used to see more of each other. Now I only see you when you have a reason to be near where I am. Is that him, or you?’
‘I’ve been busy, the wedding won’t plan itself.’ ‘OK,’ Cass said, leaning back in his bar stool. ‘Answer me this. What are you driving?’
‘I came by train.’
‘Don’t be obtuse.’
I knew what he meant and I knew what he was going to say when I answered his question. ‘A Fiesta.’
His eyebrows lifted in mock horror and he looked both amused and disgusted—and vindicated. He wasn’t a car snob, but he wanted to make a point. This is the man who, when presented with a choice of fabulous car—Ferrari, Lambo, Maserati, McLaren—chose none of them and instead had a Porsche built from the ground up by a race car team. Only the chassis and bodywork came complete from the Porsche factory. I began to feel a bit sick.
‘A Fiesta.’ He stated it flatly, the antithesis of the meaning of the word. ‘Where’s the MG?’
‘It has aircon. The Fiesta’
Cass laughed aloud, a sound that carried as his voice always carried. But he stopped again and sobered, took a sip of his Old Fashioned.
‘Want another one?’ he said, tipping his glass towards mine.
I nodded and we both drained our glasses.
‘What happened?’ he asked once the fresh drinks had been placed on the white marble bar on those little paper doilies.
‘I had to be sensible—’
‘And what do you think?’
‘I think that Thom and I have to compromise to work as a couple.’
‘And what has he compromised? What has he given up for you? You sold your car, he’s done...’
‘Of course he’s given up things.’ And I began to list them, in my head at first, how he didn’t see his friends as much, but then, he had fallen out with Seb so maybe that was why, and he was still going to rugby on a Friday evening, and he still took Sunday morning to go to the gym at seven in the morning. And that Wednesday midweek drink with his friends from work. He still had his BMW.
‘He loves me.’ It sounded weak and defensive, even to me. And it was humiliating in front of Cass. Cass, who wasn’t going to be invited to the wedding because Thom felt threatened by my Aussie friend. I had made a deliberate choice to not be with Cass but Thom hated that we were still friends.
‘And your MG?’
‘How did you know?’ I asked, my voice small.
‘It is obvious. He won’t let you see me, he made you sell your sports car. He wants you to be the kind of safe woman who drives a Fiesta. You aren’t that woman. You never were. You are a balls out, seat of your pants, petrol head.’ I screwed up my eyes as if I could blot out the image he was creating of me. ‘You aren’t you if you aren’t breathing petrol fumes.’
‘Not for you, not your love of cars. I was there, remember, when I handed you the key to the Porsche.’ He pronounced it without the ‘a’ on the end. ‘And you are driving a Fiesta to please Thom. Let me guess, a one-point-two, sedate, not too fast and, God forbid, easy to park?’
He didn’t mean to be mean. He wasn’t being mean. He was being honest. He was always honest. And he was right. I had sold my old MG when I moved in with Thom. The parking permit was expensive, the road tax was high, and it was loud and disturbed the neighbours. The money from the MG had contributed most of my part of the fund for the wedding—the Fiesta had been less than four grand. The MG had fetched closer to twenty.
I sat on a bench at the station as my train home arrived and departed without me. I was staring at a copy of Auto Trader I had picked up at W.H. Smiths. There was a feature dedicated to MGs. Not mine, that was long gone, but ones like it. Not the ones with the black bumpers, too new and ugly. I preferred the older ones, the 1970 or earlier. There were several that had to catch my eye: restored; not restored and original. A few sheds, but I didn’t want a project. I wanted something I could play with straight away.
I clicked with some guilt on the banking app on my phone and checked my balance. My balance. I owed no one.
What do I do?
Cass replied to my text message straight away. Whatever you want, that makes you happy.
I paused, swallowed sudden tears that came with my decision—the only one that mattered.
Can I stay over tonight?
I admit that maybe I shouldn't have spent the night exactly in Cass’s bed but, by then, the decision was made. Which was the bigger betrayal—me sleeping with my best friend or Thom making me sell my beloved car?
Cass drove me the following day to a car dealer in leafy Surrey—such a clear demonstration that I was doing the right thing because I didn’t stop grinning the whole trip in that wondrous Porsche—and I transferred the fifteen grand I’d negotiated to the dealer. No frothy white for me; this trip was about British Racing Green and chrome wire wheels and a bonnet that seemed to go on longer than a Ford Capri (remember those?).
The car fitted like a glove, new to me and yet deeply familiar like an old friend in a new suit. I knew I was doing the right thing. Cass had scouted the engine, pushed a few things, peered at the suspension, and declared it in as good condition as the dealer claimed, and that was that. My wedding gown was now a 1965 MGB Roadster—no aircon but she had a soft top to make up for it. Tan leather interior, triple spoke leather-bound steering wheel, overdrive; she looked better on me than a frilly gown I’d only wear once.
Over lunch at a country pub that we’d driven in convoy to, Cass helped me decide what I had to do—tell Thom as soon as I could, was the most obvious and pressing, and do the decent thing and leave him the Fiesta. I didn’t want it, so it was a neat solution to the effort of having to get rid of it; the four thousand it was worth was compensation enough for breaking off the engagement. I’d move out and find a short let on a flat until I settled myself again and found a permanent place—with off-road parking—and Cass would have an open invitation.
Despite the speed it all happened, I knew I was doing the right thing—for me and Thom. I suppose I had been on the rebound when we met but I hadn’t noticed, or refused to acknowledge it, thought that any affection after Cass was good, and I hardly noticed how I was slowly losing myself to the point I had been persuaded to sell my car.
Maybe that was all I really needed in life—my car, my MG; my new MG.
And maybe Cass, because my life was so much better with Cass in it, a fellow petrolhead with an amazing car that he let me drive…
Song: I'm In Love With My Car
Nicky Galliers is our Discovering Diamonds technical advisor, and regular reviewer.
She is working on ideas for her debut novel
images via: Pixabay or Unsplash unless otherwise stated
Note: it is illegal to copy lyrics but there is no © for ideas!
our stories or excerpts to enjoy
1st Deborah Swift - an excerpt from Pleasing Mr Pepys
2nd Graham Brack - The Clock Struck One
3rd Cindy Vallar - Rumble the Dragon
4th Barbara Gaskell Denvil - The Great Forest
5th Nicky Galliers - Two Stories
6th Annie Whitehead - excerpt from To Be A Queen
7th Judith Arnopp - an excerpt from The Winchester Goose
8th Paul Marriner - First Love
9th Loretta Livingstone - Labour of Love
10th Marian L. Thorpe - excerpt from Empire’s Heir
11th J G Harlond - excerpt from A Turning Wind
12th Amy Maroney - excerpt from Island of Gold
13th Richard Tearle - excerpt from the North Finchley Writer's Group
14th Inge H Borg - Excerpt from After the Cataclysm
15th Juhi Ray - the movie Jodha Akbar
16th Clare Flynn - Excerpt from The Green Ribbons
17th Anna Belfrage - A Light So Bright
18th Elizabeth St John - excerpt from Written in Their Stars
19th Nicky Galliers - Duty
20th Erica Lainé - La Belle Russe
21st Anna Belfrage - Excerpt from A Rip In The Veil
22nd Kathryn Gauci - Excerpt from The Poseidon Network
23rd Cryssa Bazos - Excerpt from Rebel's Knot
24th Debbie Young - The Secret Ministry Of Frost
* * *
you might also enjoy books by Helen Hollick
or direct to an Amazon near you
* King Arthur Trilogy
* the events that led to the Battle Of Hastings 1066
(includes US The Forever Queen USA Today Bestseller)
* the Sea Witch Nautical adventure series
* Cosy Mysteries